Carol Directed by: Todd Haynes Written by: Phyllis Nagy (screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (book) Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson
When Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) see each other for the first time, at a department store in 1950s New York City, their first shared look is a barrage of confusion and longing, of instant connection stifled by societal codes. In other words, it’s love at first sight.
Moments after that frozen-in-time first glance, Carol shows up at the doll display where Therese works, and asks about Christmas gifts for her daughter. Therese doesn’t have the doll she wants in stock, but she suggests a new state-of-the-art miniature train set. “I like your hat,” Carol says of as she walks away, Therese’s eyes widening as as she stays behind with the other Santa hat-donning store clerks.
12 Years a Slave Directed by: Steve McQueen Written by: John Ridley (screenplay), Solomon Northup (memoir) Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Sarah Paulson
Connecting 12 Years a Slave immediately to its Oscar buzz because of when a studio chose to release it would be a disservice to it. To put it simply, this is the most powerful film about American slavery that I’ve ever seen, and diminishing that accomplishment by asking if the white male establishment of the Academy can handle it enough to nominate it for anything is at the bottom of my list.
Steve McQueen’s previous two features, Hunger and Shame, were visually brilliant, but at times lacking a crucial human element. This was especially true of Shame, whose miserabalism was supposed to be its own profound reward but ultimately registered as empty. There is obviously a great deal of suffering in 12 Years a Slave, but also an intense humanity.