This is probably the strongest set of Best Picture nominees since the expanded format was introduced in 2009. I’m well aware of the limitations of the Academy Awards; but, as a symbol of Hollywood, it is moving in the right direction by embracing a more diverse range of films. Following on from my 2015, 2016 and 2017 editions, here are some thoughts and predictions.
Call Me By Your Name
With the breathtaking Italian countryside as a backdrop, this portrait of intimacy and first love is cinematic art at its finest. The attention to subtle emotions through the performances and Guadagnino’s direction creates a deep sense of authenticity. Chalamet makes vibrant choices throughout, investing Elio with a youthful exuberance that makes the final act all the more heartbreaking. Absolute perfection.
Will win: Adapted Screenplay; Should win: Film, Actor, Adapted Screenplay.
The Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman does a Winston Churchill impersonation and some smart people have built an effective enough film around it. Certainly not a deep examination of history or character, particularly when the film lurches into earnestness to avoid anything remotely biting.
Will win: Actor, Makeup and Hair; Should win: Makeup and Hair.
A pretty fine example of ride cinema, but not exactly insightful to any degree. Because it is 2017 the question needs to be asked: There were women involved in this story too – so where are they in this film? Dunkirk is ultimately quite dreary and isn’t much more than a highly entertaining ride. Nolan focuses on the immediacy of the situation making cinematic moments that have impact, but they hardly resonate after the credits roll.
Will win: Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing;
It’s outrageous that this should be nominated in the Academy Awards given this film is fresh, relevant and so original. Its potent satire is on point and it’s masterful construction makes it easily one of the best films of last year. Welcome to the year 2017 Academy voters. I would love to see it upset in the tight best picture race.
Will Win: Original Screenplay; Should Win: Original Screenplay
Another wonderfully authentic exploration of meaningful characters. The highlight is the textured world created by the supporting characters; some only have a couple of scenes, but their stories resonate. The heart of the film, Ladybird’s relationship with her family, is a special journey. I’ve always loved Greta Gerwig and I’m very pleased the success of this film means more people will seek out her work.
Should win: Supporting Actress
The story of Reynolds Woodcock and his complex relationship with Alma is totally absorbing. The film is intoxicating with its finely realised world of fashion, family and desire. Anderson’s craft is at its finest here, creating sustained unnerving tension.
Will win: Costume Design; Should win: Director, Costume Design
There is social importance plastered over every frame of The Post. That’s not necesarily a criticism, because while it reinforces liberal beliefs in a mildly smug way, it is also incredibly well-crafted. The Spotlight procedural works on the intimate level, but the efforts of the film to take on an epic scope with protests on the streets of Washington and a trip to Vietnam are clumsy. Very timely, but ultimately very safe.
The Shape of Water
Incredible design realising the 1960s context with classic Del Toro vividness. The film is best when it plays more artistically with its form; elements that are played more straight like the Russians land less effectively. It’s a sweet allegory and contains some nice accessible social commentary, but I’m pretty surprised that it is leading the awards conversation.
Will win: Film, Director, Production Design, Score; Should win: Production Design, Sound Editing.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Much has been made of the tone mosaic of McDonagh’s film. I really enjoyed the jarring cuts between comedy and tragedy making for something more realistic and complex. There are no clearly drawn villains or heroes, no redemption of comforting resolution. The film is shaky on race but I loved the ambiguity of where it settles.
Will win: Actress; Should win: Actress.
Other Will Wins:
Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049, Song: Coco, Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes, Animated Feature: Coco, Documentary Feature: Faces Places; Foreign Film: A Fantastic Woman.
More Should Wins:
Best Editing & Sound Mixing: Baby Driver; Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049.