Monday, December 5, 2011

What I Saw: Shame

What I Saw:   Shame

In Steve McQueen’s Shame, Carey Mulligan plays a woman who is addicted to intimacy. She is incessantly on the phone with her relatives and past lovers trying to get closer with them, and shows up at her brother’s apartment unannounced when he doesn’t answer her calls. She is afraid of being alone, even sleeping with a married man in a desperate attempt at connection. In her world, the upbeat tempo of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” loses its luster of independent self-sufficiency and instead becomes a ballad of unrequited love to all those who will not let her “be a part of it.”

What’s that you say? You live in a society where intimacy can’t be an addiction because it is a value instead? And therefore I’m supposed to limit my review to counting nude scenes and shaking my head at the sexual addictions of Michael Fassbender’s character? Not on this blog, faithful reader.

McQueen’s second feature film unveils more than mere body parts. It also unveils the structures of anonymity and intimacy upon which our society depends. From the crowded yet impersonal subway trains, to the private yet open-windowed architecture of luxury hotels, McQueen’s settings evoke a culture of conspicuous non-disclosure. We live in a world where we are supposed to be instant friends with our waiters, while making meaningless small talk with our dates. A world where a wedding ring broadcasts personal information to every stranger we meet, but is just as easily disregarded. A world where one’s boss can use the office’s video chat software to lie to his son about his whereabouts the night before, then skip right over the obvious and wonder why the intern is “filthy.” It is a world where sex hides in plain sight, and where the hiding itself is taken to be real.

Overcoming this deceptive onslaught of culturally determined words, clothes and customs requires intensely physical acting from the cast. Michael Fassbender transforms from a confident, handsome professional to a weeping, apprehensive shell of himself. Carey Mulligan flashes from woe to whimsy, and from despair to desperation. Nicole Beharie embodies how the nervousness of a first date opens the way for compassion and sensitivity. In each of them, we see how our human vulnerabilities place us constantly on the brink of our culture’s definitions of the acceptable versus the addictive.

Oscar Chances:

McQueen and Fox Searchlight are very wise to embrace their NC-17 rating as a “badge of honor.” And since most of the Academy is over 17 years old, I remain hopeful that the film will be given fair consideration by enough voters to receive some recognition.

Lead Actor: Michael Fassbender (currently ranked 6, likely to move into the top 5 in my next predictions)
Supporting Actress: Carey Mulligan (currently ranked 10)
Best Director: Steve McQueen (currently ranked 13)
Original Screenplay: Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen (currently ranked 13)
Best Picture (currently ranked 26, likely to move up in my next predictions)
Supporting Actress: Nicole Beharie (currently ranked 40 in lead category, will be moved to supporting in next predictions)
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt (currently ranked 40)

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!

My Lamb Score: 3 ½ out of 5 Lambs
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Read more of my reviews HERE.


  1. Again thanks for introducing me to the LAMB.

    As far as Best Actor goes I've been predicting Clooney, Dujardin, Pitt, DiCaprio and Oldman. After having seen J. Edgar and Shame I guess it'd be wiser of me to replace DiCaprio with Fassbender. Too bad J.Edgar got awful reviews though I love love loved DiCaprio's turn as such an unlikable man as Hoover.

  2. Thanks Dalurae! And Welcome again to The LAMB.

    Your actor predictions are identical to mine at the moment, although I'm beginning to think that Oldman might be the one who gets left out in favor of Fassbender (but I haven't seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so this is just a hunch). I praying that Leo is still in the race, as I really liked the film and am hoping that a critical mass of academy voters will feel the same.

  3. BTW, my Oscar pudates for December:

    Hope you like them. The game has started in full speed. Next week we have the nomination for SAG, BFCA and HFPA.

  4. Nice predictions lime_vortep! I see that you've moved Oldman out of the top 5, much as I've been thinking of doing.

    Next week will indeed be a bit one. I can't wait!

  5. Oops, I meant next week will be a BIG one! Hahaha!

  6. loved this film! i think fassbender should be nominated but this is pretty gritty stuff for the academy. i also thought carey mulligan was surprisingly good in her role.

  7. Great review. Unfortunately, the film hasn't been released in my are yet, but I am dying to see it.

    I think Fassbender is in at this moment. He seems to have the buzz to get in ahead of Oldman, Leo, Harrelson and Shannon. I also think Carey Mulligan could get into Supporting Actress. Even if she misses with the SAGs and Globes, she seems like the type of candidate that could pull a Maggie Gyllenhaal or Michael Shannon.

  8. Nicely written review. Glad you liked it, I'm certainly highly looking forward to checking this out although it will probably another week before it gets to Minneapolis.

  9. i would be keeping leonardo in my top 5 no matter what,....he was great in J.Edgar

  10. @MrJeffery, I think the challenge with a lot of movies is getting Academy voters to see the films. In this case, the buzz seems to be loud enough that I think it will be ok.

    @Ryan, I hope it gets to you soon. I can also se Mulligan getting in, and you are right that it is the kind of performance that may not need the precursors as much

    @Castor, IndieWire had a list of when the film would be released in different areas, and it looks like it will be coming to Uptown on Dec 16.

    @F.Franklin, I agree about Leo. I was one of the few folks who loved that film, and I think that there will be a base for it within the academy.

    Thanks all!

  11. Great review, looking forward to seeing the movie. I thought most of the reviews focus way to much on Fassbender's physique, I love how you too time to write about Carey's character, it seems most of the reviewers omit her.

  12. Thanks Sati! To be honest, there's a lot more female nudity than male nudity, so I'm not sure why everyone is getting worked up about his. Or maybe it's because male nudity is so seldom shown while female nudity is ubiquitous in film. Mulligan is fantastic, and I really hope people pay attention to her character, as I don't think that his problems make as much sense without understanding hers.