In recent years, the Portland filmmaking world has observed the courtesy of only producing one critically adored movie each year. This year, that truce has been shattered by the dueling achievements of Gus Van Sant's Milk
and Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy.
This week, the skirmish turned into a war.
First the Toronto Film Critics Association
on Tuesday declared its affection for Michelle Williams' dog-losing skills, naming Wendy and Lucy
its best picture of 2008 and handing Williams best-actress honors. The Screen Actors Guild
shot back in Milk
's favor today, nominating Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and the ensemble cast for top awards. (Milk
also got a "Film of the Year" nomination from the London Critics' Circle this week, and finished second in the Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics poll.) And when the American Film Institute
announced its Top 10 movies on Sunday, both Wendy
made the cut.
Clearly, this town isn't big enough for both these movies.
Portland likes to celebrate itself, sure, but it is far more comfortable when it knows what trendy cause it is congratulating itself for. Two movies of such stature is just confusing. Is Portland raising the national consciousness because it's the town with a gay mayor and a gay director who has honored the first openly gay politician?
Or is it because Portland cares about abandoned animals
and has attracted a director who captures the plight of penniless pet owners? We're already losing focus here! When is brunch?
There's only one way to settle this. We'll ask A. O. Scott, film critic for the New York Times
, the newspaper that understands Portland better than Portland understands itself. What say you, wise oracle?
Kelly Reichardt's latest film, "Wendy and Lucy," is 80 minutes long — it would fit inside Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" twice, with room to spare — and does not contain a superfluous word or shot.
"Milk"...is the best live-action mainstream American movie that I have seen this year.
Well, thanks for nothing, Tony. Now we're just going to have to settle this the hard way: by posting about it until there is a clear winner.