Nothing like being too late to the party! This year, for the first time in awhile, I've seen a big chunk of the nominated movies. I'm aided by the fact that the films seemed a bit more spread out this year and I was more interested in the films. I mean, I think I saw Get Out before getting around to Moonlight and I am still meaning to catch up on La La Land.
But this year! I'm genuinely looking forward to this Sunday's show, even though I feel like I don't have a serious horse in this race. I'll be happy if a myriad of films win. Yay!
Here are the Best Picture nominees, then the other films I saw/have opinions about from other categories.
Call Me By Your Name - I understand there's some serious love for both the film and the lead actor. I will get around to seeing this and Timothee Chalamet will win an Oscar eventually (though he seems very sweet on Instagram).
Darkest Hour. Another one I'm totally going to get around to. I mean, the Churchill museum in London really turned me around on this guy. Still side eyeing the inevitableness of Gary Oldman winning Best Actor, given the Me Too-ness of it all and what similar accusations did to James Franco. It seems like a very 'Career Achievement' Actor Oscar. In general, the four acting nominations seem so locked up, I just want to see a surprise. Though I love Janney and Rockwell and am warm on McDormand.
Dunkirk. This was a movie I was 'meh' on seeing. I've had brief periods of Christopher Nolan fanboy-ness, particularly his Christian Bale films and Memento. But this one just didn't pull me into the theaters. While home for Christmas, my brother picked up this movie and Logan Lucky from the Redbox. I was mostly waiting to get around to the second film but we agreed to watch this one first. Luckily, my brother has a decent TV. Because this is really one I should have seen at the theater. A well-done, tight, and extremely stressful movie. A podcast I listened to called this the movie Nolan has been building up to for decades and I agree. There are so many pieces he's honed from other films at work here - the intricate time layers (Inception), a muffled Tom Hardy in a mask (The Dark Knight Rises), stranded pretty boys (Interstellar), and a frazzled Cillian Murphy. It's just an excellent piece of story telling and a unique way to really get a grasp on the enormity of Dunkirk (for fun, I recommend revisiting that incredible Atonement scene afterwards. Or just revisiting Atonement in general). Some other podcast pointed it out (my fondness for a film is directly related to how many podcasts I listen to about it afterwards) - we never really see the Germans. This is a very British film that this American loved. It was nice to see WWII that wasn't USA-centric. And yet another podcast actually predicted, due to the preferential ballots, this film will probably be the one that takes home the top prize, being the one least divisive. I'm here for the surprise, so sure. But also, with Best Picture, I try to think about the historical take and Dunkirk seems pretty unimpeachable a pick. This is always going to be a very good movie from a very good director. Speaking of which, I know Nolan will get one eventually and I'm fine with the inevitability of del Toro, but he's so accomplished and this was quite a feat. And finally, while we're on the topic of preferential ballots, can we please do that for President next time, so swing staters can vote for their Jill Steins and their Bernie write-ins first, their reasonable candidate second, and not fuck over our country?
Get Out. This is the one we all really want to see win, right? Personally, I really want to see it pick up a win in Best Screenplay. Another podcast pointed out how much the script has seeped into our culture. Got the keys, babe? Welcome to the Sunken Place. Etc. It's a very of the moment film (though, as one Oscar voter put it, we gave the black movie the aware last year) that I think history will look back kindly on, if we're going to look at Best Picture from that lens. I mean, it's already been out for more than a year. And the longer it sits with me, the more powerful the story is. It's also just an immensely watchable movie. I bought it on Amazon and have it perennially downloaded on my tablet. It's my go to movie, whether to zone out the crying baby in seat 12B or to fall asleep to when I need a break from Netflix or just something known and comforting. Maybe that doesn't mean it's Best Picture material, but it's the movie I'll have memorized and still have on rotation in a decade. But seriously, Best Screenplay, at least.
Lady Bird. Maybe you have to be a woman of a certain age, but I loved this film. I watched it with a relatively new boyfriend and afterwards we shared our own high school stories that the film invoked. And of course there's the honest, complex relationship between the daughter and the mother that is rarely so well-captured. I bought this one on Amazon as well and will be watching it with my mom and sister before the latter's graduation in a couple of months. As for its odds, probably not picking up Best Picture. I would love to see Saoirse Ronan win this. She's an incredibly accomplished actress for her age (second shout out to Atonement here!) and will absolutely pick one up soon, so let's please try to figure out how to pronounce her name already. Metcalf is also excellent in a complicated role. I'm of the mind that Allison Janney can do no wrong but I wouldn't be mad if Metcalf ran away with Best Supporting Actress. Otherwise, I'm guessing Lady Bird walks away empty handed. Let's just look forward to watching this again and whatever Greta Gerwig does next.
Phantom Thread. I recently watched this out of boredom - I had gotten back from a trip and had one day left before going back to work and the real world. Instead of doing anything productive, we watched this, mostly to cross it off our Oscars To See list. And wow, I'm so glad that we did. It's a surprisingly dark and funny movie, more about relationships than the tortured genius (Thank God, we only need one mother! a year). The performances are all fantastic, especially Day-Lewis and Manville, who steals the thing. The clothes are beautiful and we should riot if it doesn't win Best Costume (the fucking fish suit in Shape of Water shouldn't count!). While I hope Day-Lewis isn't really retiring, this is one to go out on. May we all be as confident and full of ourselves as Reynolds Woodcock, when necessary. And I can always just go rewatch The Age of Innocence for the dozenth time. Paul Thomas Anderson continues to inspire and confound me. And I'm going to have to watch this again. I've never seen cooking poison or sewing clothes filmed so beautifully and which such love. While Get Out seems of the moment, I have heard rumblings that this couldn't have come at a worse time. I disagree. If anything, the film seems to prop up the gender inequality and Me Too ideals, as Reynold's genius is only propped up and possible by the work of a myriad of women, from his controlling sister to his dainty muses to the women who sew or buy the clothes themselves. And then there's the power struggled between his sister, his muse, and himself that anchors the whole thing. But really, go see it. Best Costume really seems like it's only shot at taking anything home (too divisive for Best Picture and really, there are better ones out here), unless those Gary rumors convince enough people to give Day-Lewis a going away present. As for me, this will be a film I think about a lot and revisit when I'm feeling melancholy, along with PTA's other films (except The Master, which I still don't get).
The Post. Another one I'm really, totally going to get around to. Mostly this just impresses me with how quickly it got made, though I think there were less subtle stories to tell if you want to just jab at Trump's 'fake news' bullshit. But I'm sure when I do get around to it, it will be a well-made, perfunctory film that makes me want to go watch Spotlight again or finally read All the President's Men.
The Shape of Water. I've heard this is a love it or loathe it movie. For me, it was a shrug. Sure, there was something fantastical about it, akin to the mood del Toro created for Pan's Labyrinth (and that film's a strong 'love it' for me). Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins were all doing lovely things (I like Octavia Spencer as much as the next person but I don't understand why she got a nomination for her very small role here and I also look forward for opportunities for her that don't involve cleaning up after white people in the 1960's). But the romance with the fish thing never really clicked for me and the ending seemed too scripted. I mean, give it some technical awards and del Toro should probably already have an Oscar already, but Best Picture? Of the year? If it wins, I'm blaming preferential ballots.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I watched this on a nine-hour flight, so I might seem a bit jaded. Woody Harrelson made me cry, though Abbie Cornish just confused me with that accent. And sure, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand have earned their Oscars. But I don't get the hype on this movie. Again, well-made and perfunctory, yes, Best Picture, no. It's a movie that will be on TNT once a month in a few years but one I'll probably skip when I see it. A podcast compared it to Crash. I don't think it's that tone-deaf and tortured and maudlin, but it's not inspirational either.
And those are the Best Picture nominees. Of the bunch, I would probably go with Get Out but I'm fine with Dunkirk taking it. And now, for the other stuff.
I, Tonya. Okay, I loved this movie. Maybe it's the age I was when the whole thing really happened or my love for Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, but I really enjoyed this film as a whole. There's no way Margot is winning but hopefully this leads to more interesting stuff for her than leading guy's pretty girlfriend. And unless Metcalf has a stronger following than realized, I'm looking forward to seeing Allison win.
The Disaster Artist. I watched The Room for the first time, then went and saw this. Real talk - The Room is terrible for a lot of different reasons, but I don't know that the cult following is warranted. Maybe the hype was too high by the time I finally saw it? You can have your Tommy Wiseau, I'll take Rocky Horror Picture Show or the like instead. As for The Disaster Artist, sure, it's fine. The film is a fun inside joke made by a bunch of friends who seem to have a lot of affection for Wiseau. And if not for the recent round of allegations, it probably would have gotten Franco a deserved Best Actor nod (though only the nod is deserved, he isn't the best on any lists).
Logan. Well, comic book movies can be that? It's exciting to see a film like this nominated here. And hey, it was a really great script! Sure, Call Me By Your Name is going to win, but this is really a case where the nomination is the award itself.
The Big Sick. It's not quite When Harry Met Sally but almost. I want those characters as my parents. Just a great story, all the more heart-warming by being true. It's only nominated for screenplay and my guess is it doesn't win (every other nominee in Original Screenplay is also a Best Picture nominee). But hey, it was probably my third favorite screenplay of the year, after Get Out and Lady Bird.
War for the Planet of the Apes. Those goddamn apes have never won an Oscar, which is a tragedy. On the same flight I watched Three Billboards, I also fell down a Planet of the Apes rabbit hole, watching parts of Dawn (for the fifth or sixth time, at least), then Rise and War. I'm just impressed by all of it - the restrained action, the tidy story-lines, the complex characters, whatever Andy Serkis is doing, and the CGI. Seriously, those goddamn apes are a marvel. So give them a visual effects here and we'll pretend it's for all three films.