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Silence, Scorsese’s Masterpiece, Enters the Awards Race

I wasn’t going to write about Silence because of the review embargo. But I see that Kris Tapley wrote about it quite extensively. Steven Zeitchik at the LA Times steers clear of reviewing the film but does cover the Q&A afterwards.

My only objection to Tapley’s review of the film is this: “nothing feels as promising as it might have previously felt on paper. Silence is a passion project for Scorsese, but that passion won’t translate universally.” I think he means in terms of awards prospects, not necessarily his own anticipation of what the film would be, which is why I wanted to clarify it: how much the awards community embraces Silence will depend on how willing they are to pay respect to Martin Scorsese, to the masterpiece he held within him all these years that had to be made, and to their patience for the rumination and meditation therein. I can’t imagine them not. On the other hand, the preferential ballot may make it a little harder when it comes to a Best Picture nomination. It’s possible that the film might land in every category except the top category because of the threshold imposed by the nominations ballot and the way the preferential tabulation system is less friendly to passionate but perhaps divisive acclaim.

Silence is the kind of film we rarely see anymore unless one of a handful of auteurs like Martin Scorsese made it. Two of the biggest studio films of the year in the awards race are both from Paramount, and both will be challenging for mainstream audiences — Silence and Arrival. Fences is also from Paramount, another ambitious offering from a major studio, so props to Paramount for their extraordinary year.

Martin Scorsese is my favorite director — readers of this site well know this — so it goes without saying that I will tend to lean in to anything he creates. The same goes for the Coen Brothers, Kathryn Bigelow, David Fincher, etc. But even given that, I was unprepared for the powerful impact Silence delivers. I can’t wait to write my review, but suffice it to say that it’s unlike any film you’ll see this year, just as its probably one of the last gasps of this kind of film from a major studio, where the shock and awe comes from expert artistry of the hand drawn variety rather than CGI (which Scorsese mastered in Hugo). This is old school, top down, organic American filmmaking. Real film. Real sets. Real actors. Lighting that almost makes makes you burst into tears for the beauty of it.

The Oscar nominations that should be a slam dunk for Silence:

Cinematography (bow down)
Production Design (bow down)
Editing (bow down)
Supporting Actor for Issey Ogata (bow down) or Liam Neeson
Best Actor – but does Andrew Garfield get in for this or for Hacksaw Ridge?
Director (bow down)
Adapted Screenplay

And yes, Best Picture. But you’re going to need roughly 300 or so Academy members who can be down with a meditation on Christianity and faith who will put that movie at number one. I don’t know if they will. As Tapley suggests, it’s hard to say for sure what people will make of it ultimately. I know what I personally make of it, but we’re about consensus agreement with the Oscar race. Nonetheless, I myself will continue to predict it because you just don’t walk past something like this. It should be the very thing film awards were invented to honor. It is the very thing the word “masterpiece” was invented to describe. And the last 30 minutes of this movie? THey unquestionably prove Martin Scorsese is the greatest living director. They would be fools not to nominate him for this. Cut to…

So it’s not hard to figure Silence in since we’ve already been holding a place for it across the board. It will be a test for many and I suspect that it will hit hardest with those who have an extensive knowledge of film history or those who grapple with faith or for those of us who have been raised on Scorsese films in all of their versatile ambitious sometimes imperfect glory.