As we come closer to the Academy Awards on March 4th, we’ll be posting short profiles of each Best Picture nominee, attempting, in our own ways, to not only sum up what the movie is about, but why we believe it scored one of the nine coveted nominations, and why it could possibly take home the big prize come Oscar night.
Enjoy today’s nominee, Phantom Thread!
Forget the Star Wars universe, there’s a real phantom menace infiltrating the Oscar conversation this year.
On paper, it totally makes sense how Phantom Thread has flipped the script of its own award season narrative from being virtually ignored to nabbing a surprise six nods from the Academy.
Look no further than its critical darling writer-director, Mr. Maya Rudolph, a.k.a. Paul Thomas Anderson. His earlier films Boogie Nights (set during the golden age of porn in San Fernando Valley) and Magnolia (set in San Fernando Valley NOT during the golden age of porn) established him as an auteur talent to watch. Despite more polarizing releases since then, PTA is a highly respected voice in the industry with a prestige-y glow that actors and producers alike clamor to bask in.
But the biggest news story about Phantom Thread leading up to its release is that it would feature the final performance of one of cinema’s G.O.A.T.s., Daniel Day-Lewis. One of DDL’s record three Best Actor wins comes from his other collaboration with PTA, 2007’s There Will Be Blood. Phantom Thread gives DDL his sixth nomination and, while he’s unlikely to win, there is no way the Academy could omit him if he indeed does retire.
After seeing the movie for myself, I’m still wondering about how it crept its way in the Best Picture and Director categories. Full disclosure, I was half asleep throughout the 9:45pm showing of Phantom Thread I saw. And, even though I’ve come to appreciate some of its themes, I still feel it is a meandering bore. Despite being an original story, everything about it feels like its one those dry, pretentious biopic/”based on a true story” movies the Academy loves like another big nominee this year, Darkest Hour.
Phantom Thread is centered around the impossibly brilliant 1950s English couteur designer Reynolds Woodcock (clearly a name PTA didn’t get to use for a character in Boogie Nights). One day, he meets and proceeds to court a young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). Alma becomes Reynolds’s muse and, in more ways than one, moves into The House of Woodcock. Unfortunately, Reynolds is a cantankerous dick who constantly prioritizes his work over Alma. In order to gain the upperhand in the relationship and inspire codependence, Alma decides to [SPOILER] Reynolds!
Honestly, I would be depriving you of one of the movie’s few memorable elements by telling you any more about the plot. Believe me though, what transpires after Alma makes that fateful choice is more fucked up than anything we’ve seen happen between Cersei and Jamie Lannister.
What are those other two enjoyable elements you ask?
Without a doubt, the savagely subtle performance by Best Supporting Actress nominee Lesley Manville is one of them. She spends the whole movie reading every other character for filth without ever breaking a sweat. I also have to give kudos to Jonny Greenwood’s resplendent score. It’s haunting and melodic themes have been dominating my Spotify queue for the last few weeks.
For me, Manville and Greenwood are the only people who nail the tricky darkly comedic tone that critics are praising the movie as a whole for striking.
Sadly, it seems that the movie’s best chance to win the gold lies in the immaculately constructed yet yawn-worthy threads of costume designer Mark Bridges. Whether Phantom Thread wins an Oscar or not, in my opinion, this emperor has no clothes.