Movies: Keep The Lights On The Road Toward Fall Oscar Hopefuls

History tells me that Hedlund's potentially star-making sexually charged performance will have trouble finding solid ground with AMPAS voters. "Dean" beds so many people in the film, men and women, that his sexual appetites are both thrilling and unsettling. His sexual journey starts to feel like its own alternate On the Road odyssey — unwilling to slow down and unable to feel at home at home, no matter which marriage (Kristen Stewart or Kirsten Dunst) or romanticized friendship (Sam Riley and Tom Sturridge) is offering him one.  Future Oscar traction or no, it's a major step forward in a career heretofore known for far less compelling performances like the naive Mormon who Lindsay Lohan blows in Georgia Rule or the arrogant heir to a computer world in Tron: Legacy

Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman in THE MASTER (Sept. 14)
It's been an astounding 28 years since the last double dip in the Best Actor category (1984's Amadeus). It's not that there haven't been two-lead films but that the studios have long since perfected fraudulently campaigning. One of my proudest psychic Oscar pundit moments was declaring, a year before its release, that whoever was the bottom in Brokeback Mountain would go supporting and I was right. Will Oscar finally reject category fraud and vote for a double lead again?

SilverlawrEveryone in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Nov. 21) and ARGO (Oct. 12)

The year's biggest Oscar story out of the fall festival circuit is that Ben Affleck's third directorial effort ARGO and David O. Russell's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK are both major quality crowdpleasers and therefore bonafide Best Picture threats. It's still early but it's unwise to vote against Jennifer "Katniss" Lawrence (Silver Linings) in Best Actress. Word is she gets mid-film applause and when you get mid flim applause you might take home a statue.

Naomi Watts & Ewan McGregor in THE IMPOSSIBLE (Dec. 21)
The acclaimed stars play a married couple ripped apart by violent waves in this true story set during the 2004 tsunami disaster in Thailand. Disaster pics are definitely out of fashion with The Academy after their 70s heyday and with good reason. These days, more often than not, disaster pictures are merely excuses for massive CGI setpieces which dangle like plot markers along slim implausible storylines. But The Impossible's highly watchable if not always succesful mix of Epic Sentiment (capitals intended) and Disaster Pic Thrills may mark it as something of a golden throwback. Naomi Watts's trademark intensity is an easy match for the material — we spend most of our time with her — but its Ewan McGregor, that absolutely endearing star that Academy voters have mysteriously never fallen for, and his screen son Tom Holland who bring out the waterworks. If critics and audiences can get past its uncomfortable focus on Very Blonde White People in a foreign disaster that killed thousands of non-whites, it could be a sleeper hit.

An accidental bonus: The Impossible doesn't open until December which means that none of you will have the misfortune of chasing it with a trip to the beach. I don't recommend hitting Fire Island beaches immediately after watching tsunami pictures which is what I did. I have terrible timing.


P.S. I was asked a couple of times at the beach "Which Oscar hopefuls should I already have seen?" Here's my standard response if you need to get caught up: 1) Beasts of the Southern Wild (the surest thing from summer though it's hardly a lock) 2) Moonrise Kingdom and Magic Mike (if you want to get angry when they're snubbed in various categories) 3) The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Prometheus if you want to stay up on the possibilities in the too-rarely discussed craft categories. The Studios habitually save the Oscar hopefuls for the last four months of the year from the common wisdom that Oscar has a short memory; we've only just begun.

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.


  1. Arrant says

    Saw Keep the Lights On at Lincoln Center two weeks ago with a Q&A with Ira Sachs afterwards. I’ve never seen a film that was so beautiful but difficult to watch, and I can’t wait to see it again. The thing that made it somewhat harrowing for me is the way it does not shy away from showing the many ways we as gay man fall into addictive self-destructive behaviors (a scene set in the late 90’s of a man compulsively working a phone sex line late into the night rang more than a few bells). But the real break through in this film is the intense co-dependent relationship of the two main characters, Eric and Paul, the depiction of which includes extended but not graphic sex scenes. Sachs made the point in his Q&A that he wanted to make a film about gay men in which sex fully played its part–neither being downplayed for a straight audience or overplayed for a gay one. In this he brilliantly succeeded. I came away from this movie a new fan of Sachs’ work–and a passionate fan of Thure Lindhart–who is a revelation.

  2. Steerpike says

    Urg, I’m all for impeccable performances but I dunno if we need another movie about how horribly dysfunctional, drug-addicted, serially unfaithful and totally miserable we all are. Plus extended but not graphic: I gues that this is another of thsoe gay films that will please Joel Schumacher by being ‘not too butt-fucky’. High on misery, low on eroticism and all spirallign towards the inevitable dead of HIV ending. That’s how they like us.

  3. Meh says

    “…KEEP THE LIGHTS ON stars Danish actor Thure Lindhardt and Damage’s Zachary Booth as gay lovers beset by drug and sex addictions over their long dysfunctional relationship. I’m slightly mystified by the reaction to this one — we’re talking unqualified raves — since its intermittently potent scenes feel super repetitive and unshaped for the audience (in short, it feels like an essential exorcism for filmmaker Ira Sachs but a tough sit for anyone hoping for their own catharsis).”

    Had the exact same takeaway. More ‘pretty’ than ‘gritty’, sanitized even, for those of us who’ve lived through that dynamic (or worse). Personally cathartic for the filmmaker, perhaps, but not particularly revealing (or coherent) about dysfunctional relationships, gay relationships, or gay life generally. I applaud the effort, but have no interest in seeing the film again anytime soon.

  4. Alejandro says

    I quite loved KEEP THE LIGHTS ON.

    I felt as uncomfortable watching it as I did watching a horror film. Just extremely sick . . . because it was so incredibly real. It brought back all those relationships I had been in when it just starts to get really ugly. I also applauded Ira Sachs for casting men who were not model perfect in the lead roles (something I also loved about Weekend).

  5. says

    I, too, am mystified about the overwhelming positive response to Keep the Lights On. None of the four people I know who have seen it loved it. It is in many ways well-made, but it lacked perspective.
    They get together and break up a million times, but the we’re supposed to think they have finally figured things out the last time they break up?

  6. Brian in Texas says

    I just wish the Academy would go back to 5 DEFINITIVE best picture nominees rather than the clown car that is 10.

    Moonrise Kingdon is a really sweet and charming movie.

  7. says

    I’ll throw my gay-two-cents in for CLOUD ATLAS!

    Saw it at TIFF, can’t wait to see it again. One of the great epics, there’s nothing else like it. And yes, there’s Gay in it :-) Its gonna sweep technical nominations, and will likely win something like Best Original Score (deserving. the music be A M A Z I N G )

    And can we all applaud our honourary-Sister Anne Hathaway who’s likely to score a Supporting Actress nod (and possible win!) for Les Miserables?

    She sings and then she dies. Oscar loves that :)

  8. will says

    I haven’t seen “The Master” yet. It opened to record-breaking numbers in limited release this past weekend. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character is modelled on L. Ron Hubbard. the leader of a cult called “The Cause”. Tom Cruise apparently threw a tantrum at a private screening and it’s said to be exceptionally beautiful, so I’ll see it next weekend. (Matinee prices are now FOURTEEN DOLLARS at the Sherman Oaks Arclight!)

Leave A Reply