THE OSCAR PROJECT
Yan Wong's Reviews
Todd Field’s TÁR is a masterfully crafted 158-minute character study of fictional conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). The film opens with a long interview scene highlighting Tár’s various accolades and career achievements, establishing her as a sophisticated, successful woman standing just before the climax of her musical career - the adaptation of Gustav Mahler’s most difficult symphony.
The following scenes feature one-on-one conversations between Tár and other characters, making clear the film’s distinct style. We see entire conversations in scenes lasting minutes and this slow start to the film gradually creates a powerful tension that becomes apparent in the second half of the film, leading to quicker pacing between scenes and shorter segments of dialogue.
After introducing Tár’s success the film details her descent into ruin, beginning with an off-screen alleged affair with a mentee who ends up committing suicide. We witness many blows to her reputation and career, including the aforementioned suicide, and watch as she behaves increasingly inappropriately to her success and position. Tár is not at all a likable character but the film never passes judgment on her actions. The story of this queer female conductor’s fall from grace is so real and contemporary that it could be about a real person. TÁR depicts a story told so thoroughly, it seems real, with incredible attention to the detail. The music is performed on-screen by an orchestra composed of professional musicians and Blanchett speaks impressively accurate German, making for thrillingly realistic storytelling. The musicality of the sound design is subtly brilliant with no music in the film apart from what the characters are playing and much of the sound around the music is very rhythmic and musical.
TÁR is undoubtedly a masterclass in storytelling, but while its quality is elevated by the details, it also felt too perfectionist at times. The film tries to do everything perfectly which simply isn’t feasible. Blanchett’s German accent, though impressive, was too stilted and strained to me as a native speaker. The German was inaccurately translated in parts and the portrayal of the classical music ensemble felt too serious, too sophisticated and uncomfortable. Yes, I am nit-picky, but these tiny errors completely ripped me out of this grand fantasy about somebody’s life falling apart.
Blanchett’s undisputedly wonderful acting and gravitas were a true highlight. Needless to say, there was not a single acting performance in TÁR that wasn’t remarkable. This film is an absolute must-watch and I guarantee it will give you something to think about by the end.
8 out of 10
Pig is a directorial feature debut with arguably one of the best performances by Nicolas Cage to date with a surprisingly profound message.
This movie was expected to have a revenge plot rich in action scenes. I have seen it described as ‘John Wick with a pig,’ but it turned out to be an incredibly touching story about loss and grief.
The premise of a lonely truffle farmer (Nicolas Cage) going on a quest to retrieve his abducted truffle pig is simple enough. Along the way, we learn about his past in the highbrow culinary industry of Portland and watch his relationship to his slightly eccentric regular client (Alex Wolff), who accompanies and helps him, fluctuate and grow. The film also delivers a touching commentary on passion, talent and the capitalization of any craft.
The use of sound, the focus on hands throughout the movie, its artful imagery, and other details make for a beautifully told story. The elements of friendship, the father-son relationship and the depiction of loss and trauma show how well crafted the characters are.
Nicolas Cage’s character, Rob, is unkempt and not very concerned for his appearance. In fact, he doesn’t really care for anything other than his beloved truffle pig and his quiet life in the woods. This is in stark contrast to the opulent lifestyles and manners of the luxury chefs in the city. Rob is not there for revenge, he just wants his companion back and he refuses to accept the possibility of replacing his pig, because it is not about the truffles.
The film is very well paced and builds to an emotional finale that shows us how the mentality of letting yourself care about the little things and feel love and loss is worth so much more than selling your skill, and your craft for success.
Pig is an unexpectedly wonderful film that had me bawling my eyes out while the end credits rolled.
10 out of 10
As someone who keeps giving musicals a chance while knowing they aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, I was expectedly disappointed by Rocketman.
The movie opens with Elton John (Taron Egerton) joining a support group in full devil costume, flashy with glitter and complete with devil horns and wings. He breaks down, tells of his various addictions - sex, drugs and alcohol - and then circles back to where it all started: his childhood.
As the narrative begins, we see a young Reginald Dwight (who would go on to become Elton Hercules John) grow up in the 50s and 60s, discover his musical talent, be abandoned by his father and develop a difficult relationship with his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). He goes on to dream of Rock ’n Roll and stardom, meets his lyricist Bernie Taupin and skyrockets to fame.
Elton starts an affair with his future manager, John Reid (Richard Madden), who later discards Elton once he is successful enough. He spirals into a vicious cycle of drug abuse and addiction that culminates in an attempted suicide followed by rehab.
All this is interspersed with musical numbers and choreography to Elton John songs, which were well performed by Egerton and the rest of the cast. But not only did the musical numbers feel a bit utopian and disconnected from reality, as musicals often do, the rest of the narrative did as well. Considering this is a biopic about a queer person going through many struggles in life, it was missing a certain seriousness.
I watched this as part of a ‘Queer Cinema’ series in a room full of queer people, and while we were all sufficiently entertained, we were not convinced by the portrayal of queer loneliness and other hardships.
Kit Connor excelled as young Reginald Dwight and Bryce Dallas Howard was outstanding as a mother struggling to understand her son, though she had much more potential in the role than what the script gave her.
Ultimately, Rocketman is a flashy, entertaining biopic that left me emotionally untouched, but is worth a watch if you’re into musicals or a die-hard Elton John fan.
6 out of 10