The 55th New York Film Festival kicked off last night, and we may have a new major Oscar contender. While the love wasn’t quite universe, and almost everyone had a few nitpicks about things, it seems that Richard Linklater’s newest film, Last Flag Flying, has made itself a legitimate contender for several top prizes at the 90th Academy Awards.
The film serves as a spiritual sequel to 1973’s The Last Detail, and follows versions of those three characters, now retiring Vietnam veterans, as they deal with the death of one of the men’s sons in Iraq. The film deals with the issues surrounding life, consequences, and choices made, both by citizens, veterans, and a government that has been at best mistaken, at worst lying for the past twenty years, just as much as it was in the Nixon days. The film supposedly feels a little more controlled than Linklater’s former works, which have a very fluid relationship with time and style, and it supposedly suffers for it. However, it’s cleverly written, classically executed, and perfectly acted. Laurence Fishburne is working at his very best with a small role, and Bryan Cranston is a tough pill to swallow, but does his best with a demanding role (he’s standing in for Jack Nicholson, after all), but the real star is Steve Carell. As the father of the KIA son, Carell is silent and morose throughout the film, adding a soulfulness to every scene, with several comparisons being made to Bruce Dern in Nebraska. In such a weak year, Amazon would definitely be able to earn him a Best Actor nomination, or perhaps even a Best Supporting Actor nod if they played the campaign right. Oh, and I should mention that while she only appears in two minutes at the very end of the film, 92-year-old legend Cicely Tyson shows up and steals the movie in a heartbreaking turn. Should other performances fall away, Tyson may become both the oldest nominee in history and the winner with the shortest performance.
It’s still early in the race to figure out how exactly this will fall. Perhaps the Academy will respond lukewarmly to it. Or perhaps the film, despite possessing a fairly straight-down-the-middle message (both sides have made it clear helping the veterans is a top priority to them, even if they haven’t acted on it), will be deemed as “too political” for audiences, the Academy, or both. But Linklater is one of our most vital directors, and if the film has been receiving this much love, I can’t help but make it a top prediction, and move it as high as I can on my list of must-see movies for this winter. The film will be released on November 3rd, and you can see my updated Oscar predictions right here.