Chances are you’ve read a review of The Lighthouse by now. ‘Dems the breaks for critics who see a film the week of release and not a month or two in advance. So in lieu of a review, I’m going to break down the film’s Oscar prospects and what Robert Eggers’ new film deserves rather than what it will or won’t get. The Academy is a body of thousands of individuals, and while it is true they have their favorite genres and their favorite actors, it’s foolhardy and self-defeating to assume we know what they’ll jump for in the end. There’s no use in adding to some self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Lighthouse is one of the best horror films of the decade and, if genre is no issue, absolutely deserves a nomination for the top prize. Multi-layered and bizarrely entertaining in the midst of grim happenings and disturbing images, it’s an absurdly funny chamber piece and wicked cautionary tale.
Eggers does for seagulls what he did for bunny rabbits and a black goat in The Witch, and has crafted a formally impressive piece of folklore that pecks at the black heart of men. His command of language is second to none currently and the attention to detail, period or otherwise, is incredible.
Robert Pattinson’s best performance, bar none. He matches Dafoe mug for mug, verbal lick for lick, and comes to inhabit the crazed visage of a young man gone mad at sea. A third-act monologue disparaging Dafoe’s Thomas for his foul attitude and smelly farts is by turns funny, explosive, and ultimately foreboding. Between The Lighthouse and Good Time, Pattinson has signaled his arrival as one of today’s best working actors, and he deserves recognition for it.
Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe is an acting legend and has yet to take home the coveted trophy. For his near-lead performance in The Lighthouse, he deserves at least a nomination for a florid, spell-binding turn as a flatulent, pipe-smoking, tall-tale-telling Captain Ahab type in the flesh. Dafoe had to learn an old seaman’s dialect from the 1890’s, limp around like a peg-legged pirate, and grouse about such grimy predicaments they find themselves in. He enjoys more than one lyrical outburst directed at the meandering ne’er-do-well working under him, and he is as good as he’s ever been.
High-contrast black and white photography, with a gyrating beam of light and the house itself casting a shadow, all in the service of disorienting and disturbing. While Eggers and DP Jarin Blaschke utilize plenty of modern techniques, there’s a proper old texture to it all that recalls turn-of-the-century silent films. Gorgeous and terrifying in equal measure, and a shoo-in if there’s any justice in the world.
There’s still plenty more to see, but as of October 28th, 2019, if I had my way The Lighthouse would be nominated for the five awards above plus Production Design (Eggers and co. reportedly built the entire lighthouse) and Original Screenplay. It’s a filmmaking tour de force featuring two dynamite performances and some of the creepiest imagery you’re likely to lay two eyes on for some time.