Making one of my rare and unsolicited film posts because as of an hour ago I’ve seen all of the Oscar best picture nominees and as usual I have Things To Say.
I’ve decided to rank them by personal preference, from worst to best… but this is a very subjective list.
directed by: Joe Wright
Imperialist garbage that brings no depth or complexity or nuance or pathos to Churchill’s character. And on top of that, it’s boring and utterly lifeless. I expected to at least be grudgingly impressed by Oldman’s performance (grudgingly because I do not like him), but I was not. I thought Churchill’s big speech was delivered better in a totally deadpan tone by Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk. I’d rather see Denzel Washington, Daniel Kaluuya, or Daniel Day Lewis take home the Oscar, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Oh well. The only thing I enjoyed about this was Lily James being her normal adorable self.
directed by: Steven Spielberg
Listen, I am going to be completely honest here, I think I zoned out for a solid 70% of this movie and I had to have my friend explain to me what was going on. This was a complete snoozefest, not helped along by Hanks and Streep essentially playing themselves and bringing no heart or passion to this story. I don’t understand Spielberg’s direction, either – he tried to turn a simple story about tenacity and perseverance into a dramatic thriller, and the pieces didn’t add up. That was 2 hours of my life wasted.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Okay, I apologize in advance because I know this is a #controversial opinion, but… I very much did not like this movie. I did like the book (with a lot of reservations), but my dislike of the movie had nothing to do with ‘the book was better!!1!!’ (anyone who’s heard me talk about book to film adaptations knows I am NOT a stickler for book accuracy – and CMBYN was a rather faithful adaptation, so that wasn’t my problem). But the way Elio and Oliver’s relationship translated to the screen made my skin crawl. In the book, there’s a 7 year age gap between them – 17 and 24 – which, though legal in Italy, raises a lot of questions about the fundamentally imbalanced power dynamic when you have a relationship with an age gap like that. In the film, Armie Hammer looks 30 and Timothee Chalamet looks 15. That’s a 15 year age gap that’s visually being portrayed, which, in and of itself I’m not terribly comfortable with – but then the visual cues we get on top of that are so misguided without Elio’s accompanying commentary that we get in the book. e.g., at one point in the book Oliver touches his shoulder and Elio pulls away because he finds it so arousing – we see that exact same scene in the film, but it just has such a predatory air to it since we don’t know why Elio is pulling away. And I mean, aside from that, this movie is too long and meandering. Good soundtrack, though.
THE SHAPE OF WATER
directed by: Guillermo del Toro
I always have such dispassionate reactions to Guillermo del Toro films, which is odd since, as you guys know, I love books and films that are just plain weird. I mean, Yorgos Lanthimos is my favorite director, so that probably says a lot right there. But del Toro’s brand of weirdness doesn’t quite match my own, I guess, because I always end up thinking ‘oh, that was good,’ but not quite feeling it. That’s how I felt about The Shape of Water. This film is beautifully constructed, wonderfully acted, compelling, strange, different, just… not really for me. It was probably a bit too fairytale-like for my personal preferences. But I still wouldn’t mind seeing it win. del Toro is a passionate filmmaker with truly unique visions – I’d love to see him recognized for it.
directed by: Greta Gerwig
I had the strangest reaction to Lady Bird. I saw this movie twice – first at theatres then at home. The first time I saw it, I loved it. I related so much to the titular character and to her relationship with her mother in particular. Obviously all coming of age movies have a certain formula to them and this one was no exception, but I found it so heartfelt and compelling and I saw so much of myself in it that I didn’t mind at all. And then I saw it again, and… man, did this not hold up in a rewatch. I don’t know what happened, but none of the passion I found in it the first time was there the second time. I think it’s because it’s a film that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of depth. It has a story to tell and it does it well, but it’s not the kind of film that has a lot to offer that’s lurking beneath the surface. So, I never really know what to do with it in rankings like this. I guess it’s fitting that it’s just floating somewhere in the middle. Anyway, this was my hard reminder that not all films are made to be watched again and again. I’d still die for Saoirse Ronan though.
directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
This film completely crept up on me. It’s slow moving, and the first act sets up a rather formulaic story: older man falls in love with younger muse, they try to change each other, love perseveres. And then that is just… not where it goes. At all. There’s such an undeniable artistry to this film’s construction – it was hard not to be compelled by the score and the top-tier performances. And Alma is one of the greatest characters I’ve ever seen.
directed by: Jordan Peele
One of the most important films made in recent years, which fearlessly tackles anti-black racism through a lens which specifically examines microaggressions. And on top of that, it’s entertaining as hell. It’s horror, it’s comedy, it’s suspense, it’s just a damn good story, and I’d love to see it win best picture simply for the important conversations it’s started, both in and out of the film industry.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
directed by: Martin McDonagh
Full disclosure: I’m a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Martin McDonagh since I first saw In Bruges in 2008, which quickly became my favorite film of all time. I’ve since read the majority of his plays, seen one of them performed live, seen all of his films multiple times, including his Oscar-winning short… anyway, I’m biased. I love this man’s storytelling. I love that he deals in complex morality – I love the almost surreal twisted fairytale quality to the darkness of his scripts. I love that none of his characters are ever fully redeemed – we’re just shown glimmers of hope that maybe one day the cycle of anger and revenge can be broken. I think that’s the point of Three Billboards – it’s not a straightforward redemption story like some think it is, and while I understand some of the backlash and criticisms, I still think it’s one of the most interesting and thought-provoking films I’ve seen in ages, and I’ve enjoyed really digging into these characters’ motives and divining their twisted moral compasses.
directed by: Christopher Nolan
Love, love, love. I saw this three times in theatres and I cried a lot. The sheer tension and heightened emotionality of this film is incredible. I think one of the most annoying things you can say about a movie is ‘it’s not a film, it’s an experience’ so I’m trying to resist putting this into those words, but that’s basically what it comes down to. This film really challenged everything I thought I knew about how to tell this kind of story.
And now, all this nonsense for the main categories, if you’re curious about my wants & predictions:
Prediction: The Shape of Water
Want: Dunkirk or Get Out for very different reasons
Prediction: Gary Oldman
Want: Denzel Washington
Prediction: Frances McDormand
Want: Margot Robbie
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Prediction: Sam Rockwell
Want: Sam Rockwell
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Prediction: Allison Janney
Want: Mary J. Blige
Prediction: Guillermo del Toro
Want: Guillermo del Toro
Prediction: Call Me By Your Name
Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Want: Get Out
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Want: Loving Vincent
Prediction: The Shape of Water
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Dunkirk
Prediction: The Shape of Water
What do you guys think of this year’s Oscar nominations? Comment and let me know!