It’s too far out to say which film will win Best Picture, Call Me By Your Name is marking itself out as a major Oscar contender. Awards season is on, meaning the eyes of Hollywood will be on those anointed favorites as well as the surprise critical darlings that could very well sweep the big night come next year. Usually, these films build up buzz until their premieres in the fall season, but Call Me By Your Name, one of the year’s most beloved dramas, has been a frontrunner since January, when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival and blew the critics away. Since then, it’s managed to hold onto that enthusiasm and is arguably the film to watch for Best Picture success in a year of tough competition from Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and I, Tonya, Margot Robbie’s biopic of Tonya Harding.
Currently sitting at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, the latest film by Italian director Luca Guadagnino (the director of the upcoming remake of Suspiria) is an adaptation of André Aciman’s acclaimed novel about a 17 year old in Italy who has his sexual and intellectual awakening with a visiting American scholar, played by Armie Hammer. LGBTQ stories are hit and miss with the Academy, but following the shock Best Picture win of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the general consensus is that the frequently staid and old-fashioned voter-base of the Academy may be more susceptible to such narratives (the membership of the Academy has also gotten younger and more diverse in recent years, which could help its chances).
Pretty much every aspect of the film has been rapturously received, from the performances to the direction and music (courtesy of Sufjan Stevens), but it is in the script that the film’s Oscar narrative becomes especially enticing. Adapted by the legendary James Ivory, the director of Merchant-Ivory fame responsible for films such as Howard’s End and A Room with a View, this is his first script credit since 2003 and a true labor of love. While he has 3 nominations to his name, Ivory has surprisingly never won an Oscar, and at the age of 89, he very well could take home his first.
Even during Oscar season, it’s rare to see films as near universally loved as Call Me By Your Name, and even when it does happen, it tends to be limited to critics and not the people who actually vote on the awards. Oscar bait tends to be safer, less queer, and more in line with the stuff James Ivory was making in the 1980s. Yet, as Moonlight signified, times are changing in Hollywood and the Academy has taken suit. Previously, the accepted narrative would have been that you couldn’t reward “a gay movie” two years in a row, but thankfully such notions of tokenism are becoming less inevitable.
If the Oscars don’t interest you in the slightest, you should still see Call Me By Your Name. Watch it for the beautiful direction by Guadagnino, who paints a stunning portrait of sexual longing over a hot Italian summer; see it for the trio of astounding performances from Hammer – never better – Timothée Chalamet, who may give Gary Oldman a run for his money in Best Actor, and Michael Stuhlbarg, whose heart-wrenching monologue is one of the best scenes of 2017; see it for a rare and tender depiction of young love that never judges or sneers; if nothing else, watch it for a scene involving Hammer, Chalamet and a peach!
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