FBC Oscars Coverage, Part XII: The best moment in 2022 film…

I am super-bummed out that Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans isn’t going to win any Oscars. Also, it made no money. It’s all super sad because this was the brilliant director’s look back at his childhood and how his parents helped shape the way he is. It’s a brilliant film (I had it as my #2 film of last year) and deserved a bigger audience and an Oscar for Michelle Williams had Universal put her in the supporting category as opposed to lead, which they did not.

It was a rough year for Steve all over in terms of his most personal movie.

However, The Fabelmans does have one thing no other film made last year can say. It has the best moment in all of 2022 cinema. It’s a moment that blew me away when I saw it, and I don’t know that a week has gone by since then when I haven’t thought about it. I’d like to share it with you. Maybe you haven’t seen the movie yet and this will change your mind. Maybe you did see it but glossed over it. Maybe you just liked Lyle Lyle Crocodile more. But nothing impacted me more in movies last year.

This is gonna be a quick little essay but there are two short things I need to say beforehand. The first is that I will be slightly spoiling this movie. The second is that I tried but could not find this scene anywhere on YouTube. So my description is going to have to be enough for you. Got it? Let’s go. Here’s some context:

The Fabelmans is about Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a young man who falls in love with making movies, despite his father (Paul Dano), who wishes he would have a more practical hobby. On a camping trip, Sammy uses his camera to film everything and while editing the film as a way of attempting to cheer up his grief-stricken mother (Williams), he realizes that she is in love with his dad’s best friend Bennie (Seth Rogen). Obviously, he becomes resentful and when tensions rise between the two of them, Sammy shows his mother the footage and, for the first time, she is really coming to terms about how she feels about Bennie. She decided to repress those feelings and try to make the marriage work, even through move after move as Dano’s character climbs through the workforce.

That is, until everything breaks. And that brings me to this moment:

Williams and Dano have sat the children down to explain that they will be getting a divorce, and Spielberg shows us Sammy’s face as he looks around the room and sees the carnage. His sisters are crying and screaming. His mother is trying to explain herself. His father is trying to keep the peace as best as he can. And then Sammy looks over and sees… himself. Holding a camera.

This is how Sammy (and Spielberg) let us know how they process grief and where their safe space is when emotions get too high. Instead of dealing with it head on, they choose to think about the best place where they could put a camera, so an audience can deal with it for them. It’s a brilliant (and very honest) reflection with all of the ways we use art to process grief. Spielberg isn’t using this shot to tell us this is what we all should be doing. And he’s not using it to tell us that it’s wrong to not have a more personal reaction. He’s just being honest about how his feelings and his art mix.

Which is why he’s one of the best to have ever done it.

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