Best Picture Nominees, 2018 edition

It is another year, another Oscars, another marathon for me to watch all 9(!) nominees for Best Picture before the ceremony. Some years are tougher than others, but this year it just felt like the volume was the most overwhelming thing. Really, Academy? Nine movies? Too many! Especially when you get like 30 minutes into one of them and say “Unless something truly bananas happens in the next 60-90 minutes (depending), this is no Best Picture!” You say this alone, because this is a solitary journey.

(spoilers for all films)

 

Call Me By Your Name

callmebyyourname2017

This is a nice, slight film about a teenage boy living with his parents for the summer in Italy who falls in love with his father’s research assistant, who is played by Armie Hammer and is indeed the hottest thing you’ve ever seen. Hammer is one of those people who is so tremendously good looking that either the role needs to acknowledge that or they have to cover up his face with a fake beard or something, otherwise a lack of acknowledgement ruins the suspension of disbelief. Thankfully Call Me By Your Name has everyone commenting on how hot and tall Armie Hammer is from literally the first moment he shows up, so you can enjoy the rest of the film knowing that they know what you know. As a gay coming of age tale it is surprisingly devoid of any scenes of homophobia or violence against the gay leads and that completely took me by surprise, which is kind of bummer if you think about it. We’re so accustomed to the violence and abuse in tales about the gay experience that to see it unfold without any of that felt like a minor miracle. And yet, it is slight film. It can meander and become navel gazing, but that is it’s nature. Do you shame a turtle for it’s shell? The dance sequence is indeed transcendent, and Michael Stuhlberg’s monologue at the end is incredibly touching, though I would argue that he didn’t get a snubbed by the Academy because before that scene he isn’t really doing much but nodding and smiling. Armie Hammer didn’t get nominated because he’s too hot and the Academy was afraid that he’d show up and they’d have to hide in the back of the Dolby Theater and say to themselves in a mirror,  “Just play it cool, he’s just a guy, just play it cool. God, look at you, you’re a fucking mess. Oh god, he probably doesn’t even know I exist!” Relax, Oscars.

Darkest Hour

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I thought this movie would be really boring but instead it’s only kinda boring, with little bits in that you go “Haha, no fucking way that ever happened, nice try though”. Gary Oldman benefits from some great makeup that doesn’t make him look like a melted candle, but ultimately this a movie about a bunch of old guys grumbling at each other and teeters way too much into hagiography. The Academy loves WW2 though, and couple that with a biopic, this was Money In The Bank.

Dunkirk

dunkirk_film_poster

Hey, it’s the same story as Darkest Hour but we get to actually see Operation Dynamo in action, instead of watching known Eugenics fan Winston Churchill meet an interracial couple on the subway and say “Cool, nice to meet you!” It’s our boy Christopher Nolan, so we got some wild timeline shit going on, we got Tom Hardy only showing his eyes, but we don’t have any exposition and it is under two hours, a very un-Nolan move. Good job, Chris. Dunkirk is tense and plays out as a nearly non-stop barrage of “Oh fuck we’re all gonna die” moments for the entire runtime. It is visceral and lean in a way I did not expect from Christopher Nolan, considering he was coming off of Interstellar, which is a lumbering ton of shit. The hot buzz is this might win Best Picture because of the way the voting system is set up, which isn’t the most interesting choice, but it would be a surprising choice, and I am all about 1) surprises and 2) good movies winning awards.

Get Out

teaser_poster_for_2017_film_get_out

I’ve watched Get Out twice now, and what really hit me on the second viewing is that it is tight as fuck. It leaves little clues throughout and has scenes that can play two ways at the same time, and it is great. Tense, scary, and funny in ways both expected and unexpected, this is obvious choice for Best Picture, but I think it is just too good to win. Jordan Peele will have to settle for making a film that has altered the zeitgeist and modern culture forever. Certainly better than an award. Welcome to the Fury Road Club!

Lady Bird

lady_bird_poster

Even though it has been almost five years since he passed, I am still struck with sadness when I realize a new film that I love won’t ever have an Ebert review. Not because I walked in lockstep with Ebert, but because his reviews, especially his great ones, were written from a personal and humane perspective, and often they didn’t take themselves too seriously, as I’ve discovered going back through his archives over the years. Sometimes he would see a bad movie and just throw his hands up and say “What a dumb picture, everyone should have walked off set and bought an early lunch.” When Ebert found a film that he loved and connected with, you’d find no better review. Reading through his list of the best films of the decade, 2000-2009, he said the following:

“All of these films are on this list for the same reason: The direct emotional impact they made on me. They have many other qualities, of course. But these evoked the emotion of Elevation, which I wrote about a year or so ago. Elevation is, scientists say, an actual emotion, not a woo-woo theory. I believe that, because some films over the years have evoked from me a physical as well as an intellectual or emotional response.”

I had already watched Lady Bird before reading this, but Elevation is a great way to describe how this movie made me feel. Greta Gerwig somehow found a way to tell this story of a girl in Catholic school who fights with her mom and is just figuring out her shit and make it instantly relatable and resonant. If I’m laughing and nodding and even crying, you’ve got something special. I love how Lady Bird isn’t afraid to make it’s characters unsympathetic, or have them love bad music, because high school is all about bad music(though Alanis is good). I don’t agree with the complaints about “indie quirk”, because this is a film with an empathy for all of it’s characters, never more so than the shot of the dying father after Lady Bird loses her virginity. Lady Bird is the subject of this story, but she is just one inhabitant of this world. Just like you and me. I don’t think this will win anything, which is too bad, so it’ll have to settle for it being wonderful and true.

Phantom Thread

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Toxic masculinity will be the end of us. If you read a newspaper you can see that it can only bring us down, and so I am not that surprised that a lot of people look at Phantom Thread as some kind of throwback to difficult men and the women who love them. But what about the story surrounding this difficult man? Over and over we are shown that he is coddled and weak, that perhaps his genius is overstated. Vicky Krieps performance as Alma couldn’t be more direct in how she feels about Reynolds Woodcock and his particular ways. Yes, this guy is a jerk! And the option is that you either change him or kill him! Lucky for Reynolds, he is willing to be changed, even if it is through regular poisoning sessions. This film is astounding, like a more direct The Master, and I look forward to basking in the wildness for years to come. Oh, and it’s hilarious.

The Post

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Why not, The Post? It’s wonderfully directed, well acted, and is paced like a runner, and maybe the ending is too on the nose for sophisticates, but at least it isn’t shy about it’s politics. This late period of Spielberg’s career has people for some reason underrating him, probably because his non-animated features come off on paper like dry civics lessons, though anyone who actually watched Bridge of Spies would know that it’s better than half the movies that came out this year. It won’t win a thing, and that’s ok, Spielberg will just have to settle for being one of the greatest of all time. He didn’t win for Munich either!

The Shape of Water

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A movie about outcasts, as a period piece, who love to watch old movies, with a surprise song and dance number hidden in the back half, what could turn off the Academy? I guess the fish guy sex, which I thought was handled romantically(as much as monster sex can be). Guillermo del Toro has always made films that reach harder into sentimentality and cheese than many of his peers, which is how you get the Tokyo sequence in Pacific Rim and the absurdity of all of Crimson Peak (a terrible film). With Shape of Water, del Toro’s deep love and empathy for the characters lifts the film where it would fall, a kind of earned confidence from a guy who has been doing this for 20 years now. Skillfully made, with fun performances throughout, it is just too whimsical and sincere to dismiss. Also, if you nominate Michael Stuhlberg for a 2017 performance, he sure has a lot more to do here than in Call Me By Your Name. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Every year, without fail, there is one film that gets into the Oscar race that turns out to be completely terrible. I did not see this one coming. It looked like a romp, albeit one about injustice and a terrible crime. That is not what you get. Instead, Three Billboards is this strange, broad dramedy about forgiveness and disappointment and contains exactly zero real people you would ever meet. The performances run from Frances McDormand’s terse and quippy wronged mother to Sam Rockwell’s aw shucks racist cop(an actually pretty bad performance from a guy who up until now could do no wrong) to Peter Dinklage’s long suffering character who has to put up with terrible jokes about his height. Dinklage, why put yourself through this? He got more respect from Cersai in the last season of Game of ThronesThree Billboards is a natural descendent of a film like Crash (2005), a “gotta hear both sides” kind of story, where a mother is made to feel bad because the cops who can’t find her daughter’s killer are just some misunderstood racists and a guy dying of cancer. Everybody hurts, y’know. The film also wants to be an equal opportunity offender, so we have blithe moments about spousal abuse, police brutality, little people, and assault. So much vicious assault with little to no consequences. At one point McDormand’s character brutally maims her dentist and it gets played like “Haha, you fucked that guy up for no reason, who cares? We, the filmmakers, certainly don’t. Let’s not bring it up ever again.” The closing moments of the film are the most flippant, as McDormand and Rockwell embark on a quest to possibly murder a man and say to each other, “Well, maybe we will, who knows? Maybe we won’t! We’ll figure it out on the way.” What a statement! Oh god, I almost forgot the suddenly Australian wife of Woody Harrelson who is at least 20 years younger than him and has to say the line, “You have a beautiful cock.” Put this movie in the trash. (Because I know it’ll come up, my ranking of bad movies nominated for Oscars in the last 5 years from most worst to least worst: Birdman, American Hustle, The Revenant, Three Billboards)

 

There you have it, I watched em all. Here is my prediction:

Will win: Dunkirk

Should win: Get Out

 

Hell, why not? Here are my top 10 of 2017.

  1. RawRaw
  2. Brawl In Cell Block 99brawl_in_cell_block_99_fight_scene
  3. John Wick: Chapter 2download
  4. mother!142528375-12f8f8fc-7043-4e3d-97d1-39e036671a18
  5. Lady Birdf9c0b8_f30e66a244b046bd91fba6d26ef1d2d4_mv2
  6. Get OutGet-Out-910e
  7. Phantom Threadgiphy
  8. Splitmcavoy-split
  9. King Arthur: Legend of the SwordKING ARTHUR
  10. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage31580358463_7eeedac6b7_b
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