Tuesday, February 27, 2018

That other time I chose the Aussie film over the best picture nominee

Remember back on February 5th, when I told you about opting for the Australian movie Sweet Country over a chance to see Phantom Thread?

Well, I've done it again, this time with a movie I liked a whole lot less over a movie I'm sure I'll like a whole lot better.

And I also placed that second movie, the best picture nominee, in danger of not being seen by me before the Oscars -- or possible in the theater at all.

That's right, last night I went to see Winchester, or Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built, a subtitle I am happy to report appears nowhere in the actual movie. I opted for it over Lady Bird. And if I don't see Lady Bird tomorrow night -- which I won't, since I'm scheduled to watch my second Audient Auteurs movie of February on the last day of the calendar month -- I will miss the two-week window in which I can watch the movie for free on my critics card at Cinema Nova. (It's playing at other theaters, but this feels like a "Cinema Nova type experience.")

At one point it was going to be a no-brainer, and I hadn't even bothered to find out that Winchester was even out yet. We were supposed to do a podcast on Lady Bird and it was supposed to be Wednesday night. But then one of my fellow podcasters had to go out of town for the week, with the alternate out of town for the week already. We don't do two-person podcasts, so the whole idea was shitcanned. Which is just as well, since I wasn't necessarily feeling LB as a topic of discussion on the podcast. Not only would it have already been out for two weeks here, but it's been out since the beginning of November in the U.S. Everbody, and I mean everybody, has already said everything they need to say about this movie.

I still felt a desire to see the movie, but freed up from this commitment, I decided to do something I hadn't done since the last time I made this "Australian movie or best picture nominee" choice -- watch something I could actually review. It had been three weeks since my Sweet Country review, and if you go too long without reviewing a movie, you start to feel a bit itchy.

Now, Winchester isn't totally an Australian movie, though you'd be hard-pressed to characterize it as something else. To your average filmgoer elsewhere in the world, it probably just seems like the latest off the Hollywood horror assembly line, seeing as how it has a trailer full of jump scares and is set in California. However, the movie was shot mostly in Australia, is directed by two Australians (Peter and Michael Spierig), stars an Australian (Jason Clarke) and features a lot of Australians in bit parts (Sarah Snook and Angus Sampson, and Bruce Spence gets honorary Australian status by being from New Zealand). I also know the film's art director. She was at my wedding.

Well, I'm glad to say that the art direction was the best part. Fortunately I didn't have to worry too much about a conflict of interest or hurting her feelings, as though I didn't like the movie as much as I wanted -- 5 out of 10 on the ReelGood rating scale -- I have nothing but positive words on its production design. My friend kicked the ass that the rest of the movie didn't. Good on her.

As for Lady Bird ... first I diss it in comparison to Black Panther (which I had not yet seen and didn't totally love), then it loses out to a fairly standard issue period horror movie. Will it ever catch a break?

Maybe. Especially in hindsight, I'm thinking I might use my Thursday night to get out there and finally watch this movie before the Oscars on Sunday. If I do, I'll be in a position that has become fairly unusual for me, though I did accomplish it last year: having seen all of the best picture nominees before the ceremony.

And chances are, Lady Bird will be better than Sweet Country, Phantom Thread, Black Panther or -- last and definitely least -- Winchester.

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