Sean Lemme

Oscars Fortnight: Past Lives

Past Lives (2023)

The 96th Academy Awards (2024)
Nominations:
2
Wins:

What do Casablanca, Titanic, Brokeback Mountain, Atonement and Call Me By Your Name, all have in common? They all were nominated for Best Picture, of course! But beyond that, they’re all tragic romances about missed connections. The right people meeting at the wrong time. This year’s Past Lives participates in that proud tradition but very much in a cool, In the Mood for Love slow, unspoken way. Will that be enough to bring first time writer-director Celine Song Oscar gold in a few weeks? Probably not but it’s nice to dream.

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Oscars Fortnight: American Fiction

American Fiction (2023)

The 96th Academy Awards (2024)
Nominations:
5
Wins:

I’m really glad I saw American Fiction in theaters. Based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett, this is a tricky movie because it openly challenges audiences (especially white audiences) to question their taste. It’s the story of an author choosing to forgo artistic integrity and self-respect in favor of people-pleasing drivel, and how that farce leads him to unbelievable success. So then when I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder how in on the joke was I? Am I watching a satire or is the real satire that American Fiction is garnering critical praise and award nominations? Thankfully, I saw it with a crowd who were engaged and laughing at the jokes, so I was able to remember the important thing: if I’m having a good time, the rest doesn’t matter.

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Oscars Fortnight: Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman (2020)

93rd Academy Awards (2021)
Nominations:
5
Wins: 1

If you don’t mind, let me jump us forward now all the way to the pandemic, that ghastly period which, among the many, many tragedies, snatched away a normal release for Emerald Fennell’s feature debut after a successful premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Denied its scheduled April theatrical run, Promising Young Woman ended up limping into theaters on Christmas Day and went onto VOD a couple weeks later. You might think that was a tough go for a low-budget indie, but actually I think this worked out great because I can’t imagine a better time for a movie like this than a year after Joker.

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Oscars Fortnight: Marty

Marty (1955)

28th Academy Awards (1956)
Nominations:
8
Wins: 4

Well, I’m sorry to report that none of this year’s best picture nominees are remakes of previous Oscar-winning best pictures, which means I needed a new gimmick for the 2024 Oscars Fortnight. The one I settled on were best picture nominees that were made by first-time directors, since there are actually two of them up for the award this year, American Fiction and Past Lives (I’ll be writing about both). Now, you may be wondering, how often does someone’s first feature get nominated for film’s most prestigious award? I don’t know! I didn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere, but I know some of the movies we’ve already covered, like Citizen Kane and Dances with Wolves, were directorial debuts so it can’t be insanely rare. Who cares? All that really matters is I got the perfect movie to watch around the Valentines season, so let’s get into Marty!

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Sean’s Top 10 Movies of 2023

Early on in 2023, before a very necessary pair of strikes screwed everything up, it seemed like we had a really easy theme all set up for my annual wrap-up: unfinished business. Between the likes of Fast X, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One we had an absolute glut of (perhaps arrogantly conceived) half movies. And then there were all the franchise pay-offs on the other end of the spectrum, John Wick: Chapter 4, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and plenty more were all slated to wrap-up some other long-running stories. Then things went off the rails and we all started to wonder if the recovery we all thought we were promised in 2022 would never actually come to pass.

Well, all that chaos aside, I’m sticking with that theme. Because I’ve got some real unfinished business. I thought I had a pretty good handle on 2023 until I started seeing my friends’ lists and award nominations and realized I actually still had a ton of homework to do. And then I went and had a really weird couple of weeks that sapped my motivation to pay attention to movies. So I created a living document here. And I’m gonna keep trying to work on 2023 as we continue on into the new year. You got a problem with that? Too bad!
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Sean’s Top 10 Shows of 2023

Every year we do three weeks of top 10 posts: first albums, then TV shows, and finally movies. We do them in exactly that order because that roughly reflects how late into the year each of those three industries are putting out noteworthy new releases – it’s a survival strategy that gives us the most time possible to consume interesting media. But in 2023 we had a big strike that fucked things up, and it made it even harder to deny an uncomfortable truth. So this year I’m trying something: dropping the word “television” from this post’s title.

I think maybe we’ve outgrown the term “TV show,” since shows (and movies) are now made for online streaming platforms and definitely not over-the-air broadcast television. Maybe “series” would be better than “shows” on its own? “Series” maybe more evocatively hits on the most meaningful distinction between the stuff on this week’s list and next week’s: duration. Seasons have gotten shorter and binge releases are common, so how do we differentiate a season from an eight-hour film? This is a bit of a stretch, but are shows and movies really that much more different now than LPs and EPs are? Are there a generation of kids right now who don’t really differentiate between TikTok, YouTube, shows, and movies? It’s all just “content” we watch, right? Does Killers of the Flower Moon (now streaming on Apple TV+) not have an intermission because that would bring it too close to being a miniseries?

TV may be dead but at least I got to hear my friends complain about MILF Manor and The Idol.

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Sean’s Top 10 Albums of 2023

There’s no denying that 2023 was the year of Taylor Swift. Her tour set all sorts of records, including here in Seattle, where she caused record-breaking seismic activity; she saved the NFL just by showing up (debatable if this is a good thing); then her concert film revitalized post-Barbenheimer cinema; and of course she was the person of the year. This was, without a doubt, peak Taylor Swift (arguably as big a peak as anyone has ever had) and while you can feel another backlash coming on (and also people just naturally starting to look for someone new to worship) as a relative newcomer, this has been a lot of fun. That said: despite releasing two albums and being the artist I listened to the most, Taylor Swift will not be appearing on my top 10 this year. And the very simple reason for that is that the majority of Swiftie-ing I did was a playlist of the Eras Tour setlist, most of which did not come out in 2023. To make up for that, I’ll give you some Taylor opinions after the break.

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