Ep. 108 – Call Me By Your Name and our Top Ten Films of 2017

January 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week, The CineSnob Podcast returns to review “Call Me By Your Name” and Cody and Jerrod run down their top 10 films of 2017.

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Call Me By Your Name

January 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”)
Written by: James Ivory (“Maurice”)

As the calendar turns to a new year and the quality of box office options are about the plummet, the one savior is the slow roll of award-worthy films slowly leaking their way to wider releases. Next up for audiences is the highly-acclaimed love story “Call Me By Your Name.”

In the Summer of 1983, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is in Italy with his parents. His father, who is a college professor, has a student intern named Oliver (Armie Hammer) come to live with them in their summer home. As Elio shows Oliver around town and spends time with him socially, he begins to realize that he has deeper feelings for him. As he expresses this, he finds out that Oliver may feel the same way as the two head down the path of summer love.

The acting is across the board phenomenal, but much of the credit deserves to go the Chalamet, who plays the part to perfection. The role calls for much internal conflict and Chalamet has a piercing empty stare that is simultaneously expressionless and emotes deep agony. Beyond that, he’s magnetic and endlessly likeable, two qualities that will serve him well in almost any role in what is sure to be a bright future. Hammer, for his part, is great as well, as the confident Oliver. In a relatively low-key role, veteran actor Michael Stuhlbarg plays Oliver’s father. It’s a role that is solid throughout, but absolutely comes to life in a monologue later in the movie that is, hands down, the best scene of the movie and possibly the best bit of acting of Stuhlbarg’s career.

The ever evolving relationship between Elio and Oliver is at the center of the film and takes a more slow-burn approach. This allows for the film’s earlier moments to showcase gorgeous views of Italy and all of the care-free summer activities it has to offer. Even though they drift apart for various reasons (some of them intentional), Elio and Oliver eventually find themselves drawn back to one another, which is where the film takes off. The film almost takes a different tone altogether at that point, switching from a snapshot of summer life and fun to the intricacies and courtship of a new relationship, especially one which features so much self-discovery.

So often in modern “forbidden” love stories, the relationships feel more lustful than full of love and thus the films emotional moments feel unearned. That is not the case with “Call My By Your Name.” Perhaps it’s the slow build and push and pull of Elio and Oliver’s relationship, but there is not one false note between them in the entire movie. Sure, their sense of attraction is palpable, and there is plenty of sexual discovery, but their sense of true connection is even more powerful as the relationship feels less like a summer fling and more like two souls uniting. Elio and Oliver’s relationship is almost doomed to fail just by design and circumstances. There is something intrinsically beautiful, however, about two people who put their entire beings into a relationship they know can’t work. That pure display is exactly why “Call Me By Your Name” is a transcendent love story.

A Serious Man

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”)
Written by: Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”)
 
If there ever was a film to support the theory that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always someone worse off than you, it’s “A Serious Man.” Academy Award-winning directors/writers Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”) take that central theme and create their best dark comedy since 1996’s brilliant, accent-filled “Fargo.”

In “A Serious Man,” the Coens feature their most defeated film character in Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Jewish physics professor who’d feel on top of the world if he could just make it back to rock bottom. It’s almost as if Larry is cursed. The film’s opening scene, which is set in 19th century Eastern Europe, supports that idea as we see a Polish couple invite what may or may not be a “dybbuk” into their home for soup. A dybbuk is a harmful spirit in Jewish folklore.
 
While the Coens leave the fate of those characters to interpretation, Larry appears to have met his fair share of dybbuks in his lifetime. Set in 1967, he is disrespected by his soon-to-be bar mitzvahed son (Aaron Wolf), who smokes marijuana and listens to Jefferson Airplane, and his ungrateful daughter (Jessica McManus), who is saving money for a nose job. Larry’s troubles start at home but hemorrhage into his work environment.
 
Along with an aggravated wife (Sari Lennick) pushing for a divorce so she can marrying family friend Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and a slouchy brother (Richard Kind) camping out on his couch and spending most of his time in the bathroom draining the cyst on the back of his neck, Larry’s job also has him wound in knots. One of his students is trying to bribe him for a passing grade and someone has been sending defaming letters about him to the panel in charge of granting him tenure. Slowly but surely, everything Larry has worked for is being pulled away from him.

Despite his problems, Larry is determined to get his life together and to be taken seriously. His longsuffering disposition, however, tells a different story. Larry is pushed around by everyone and accepts it as second nature. His only hope is to find spiritual guidance by setting an appointment to speak to an always-occupied senior rabbi.

“A Serious Man” is an obscure piece of work that very well may be the most provocative film to hit theaters this year. While it is painfully funny, the Coen brothers have also conjured up some uncomfortable questions about faith and religion and dragged them into an unremorseful parable that’s sure to ruffle the feathers of all God-fearing men.

In Coen fashion, the duo controls the film in every aspect. They allow you to see only what they feel is vital. While they may shroud the surface, the emotional intensity still penetrates through each character and scene in both aggravating and mesmerizing ways. One could almost see the Coens winking at each other during the making of “A Serious Man.” It’s all so outrageous, yet so personal. It’s the type of film that will have you talking about it long after the credits roll. Why do bad thing happen to good people? The Coens might not offer answers, but enlightenment is overrated. For them, it’s the tormenting that conveys the most though-provoking ideas about man’s place in the world.