The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2018: Best Picture Nominee: Phantom Thread

by Jay Cluitt · March 3, 2018 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · 1 Comment

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Nikhat Zahra from Across the Universe is here to look at another Best Picture nominee, Phantom Thread.

“Whatever you do, do it carefully.” I don’t think any of the excellent lines of dialogue in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest opus, Phantom Thread, describe the film as well as this one does. Of course it gives us a hint to how the central relationship between Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis in reportedly his last roll *sniff*) and Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps in what I hope is the start of a lustrous career) will progress, but also it applies to the way the film has been made. Carefully, detailed, delicate – like one of the dresses made by the House of Woodcock.

The film starts off with an introduction to Woodcock, who is a revered fashion designer in 1950s London. He is the “troubled genius” who cannot handle confrontations with jilted lovers and relies on his cutthroat sister Cyril (a deliciously nasty Lesley Manville). He meets Alma when she is a waitress and immediately starts treating her as his muse, someone he thinks he can mold and dress and potentially discard anyway he likes, but she is no mere damsel, challenging the Woodcocks at every point.

I am supposed to write about why this film is deserving of the many Oscar nominations it did (and perhaps didn’t) get, but the first thing I must mention is how surprising it is. No other film of 2017 has defied my expectations more. I’m not even sure anymore what I had expected but definitely not this. Anderson is arguably the most revered filmmaker of his generation, almost to the point of absurdity at times in my opinion. Having said that I have really liked the majority of his work. I don’t claim to be an expert on him but I really did not think he was capable of this film. The film’s beauty is one that could only exist in films and it’s a shame that Anderson, who also shot it wasn’t nominated for Best Cinematography.

Of course the look of the film is only one of the reasons to love it. The other is the characters and the way they deal with each other. At the heart of this film is a dysfunctional love story. I guess any real romantic relationship has an element of that, especially when one of the parties is a creative person, which is why the way Reynolds and Alma navigate theirs is so fascinating. The only other film that comes to mind with a similar dynamic is Darren Aronofsky’s mother! of all things. Phantom Thread is obviously subtler and more equal in the tussle for domination. And that is made even more fun with Cyril’s presence. The actors are obviously up to the task, giving great, complicated performances. At the risk of being banned from calling myself a cinephile, I really felt that Day-Lewis was the worst performer of the three and that’s saying something. I am really happy for his and Manville’s nominations and wish the same luck had been bestowed upon Krieps, who was a real force of nature in the film.

The two other things that stood out for me were the score and the writing. Johnny Greenwood has finally been nominated for an Oscar which is so great because that score is so beautiful but a bit off in the perfect way to compliment the movie. Writing wise, I’m still a bit baffled about how to feel about it completely because of how off-guard the movie caught me, HOWEVER the dialogue in this is a thing of thorny beauty. So fun. I really cannot wait to rewatch this film which isn’t something I’d say about many of the other Best Picture nominees.

The last thing the film is nominated for is Best Costume Design. The actual dresses that Reynolds makes in the film aren’t actually that spectacular but the everyday costumes, especially those worn by Reynolds himself are completely deserving of this nomination. In my opinion, his pyjamas in the dinner scene is probably the best article of clothing of 2017 films. Period.

Finally, coming to the big question – whether or not it will win Best Picture. It won’t. It’s too strange and beautiful to be embraced like that. However, I think unlike some of the nominees/potential winners, this film will stand the test of time because even though it is set in a very specific time, it almost exists out of it, in a universe of its own. It’s perfect and it’s not. It’s intimate. It’s frustrating. I really can’t say enough about it because I really don’t know what to say except that I am completely in awe of it.

What do you think of Phantom Thread’s chances on Sunday?

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