I've really let this blog go. Been so busy. I do miss it, creating the posts. But, no guilt will stop my Oscar post. This is mostly what I think should win, not what will actually win, so don't bet your Oscar pool money on what I have here. Onward!
Best Actor: The only one I haven't seen in this category is Denzel Washington's Roman J. Israel, Esq. From what I've heard, it wasn't that great.
Why was he nominated? Well, he's Denzel Washington. I think the Academy from here on out will start treating him like they do Streep. And (and this will be a refrain you will hear a lot in this post, so you can go ahead and call me racist and sexist right now), the Academy has drastically changed its voting body make-up within the last year, so you're going to start seeing films and performances nominated that you wouldn't see before (sort of like how the literary canon started changing in the 1960s and continues to change today). That's also why Daniel Kaluuya is up, too. Get Out was a good film and made a significant statement that is to be applauded, but when you compare Kaluuya's performance to, say, Christian Bale's performance in Hostiles, it's pretty obvious who did heavier lifting. And, although Daniel Day Lewis says this is it for him, he cannot beat what Gary Oldman did in Darkest Hour. No one can, or should, beat Oldman. As for Chalamet, who was flipping in everything (I saw Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird on the same day, not knowing he was in both, then he pops up in Hostiles as a French Union solider and is in the movie for literally 5 minutes, I was like "Jesus, what else is this kid in this year?" [answer: a film called Hot Summer Nights]). If you like emo teens, you'll like him. Guess where I fall on that.
Best Actress: Here's another category where I think there should be little debate on who gets the prize. FRANCES MCDORMAND. Why is there anyone else nominated? Yeah, the other actresses did that whole acting thing, whether they were romancing sea monsters, tolerating high-pressure board meetings, being emotionally obliterated by their mothers, or just shopping with their mothers (just realized 3 of these 5 performances focused on mother / daughter relationships, all of which are fraught with problems). McDormand just owns so hard in Three Billboards. I didn't see I, Tonya and honestly don't want to but may.
Actor in a Supporting Role: Ok, yet another easy one. Sam Rockwell. I didn't see The Florida Project, and Willem Dafoe is good in everything, but from the clips I've seen of Dafoe's performance, it doesn't look like he had to reach far. Nor did Plummer (he's getting the nod for the situation he acted in, not his acting). Jenkins was solid. I'm hoping the vote for Rockwell doesn't get split with Harrelson, because both guys did such a great job in Three Billboards. But Rockwell had more to do, and he did it a little better than Harrelson.
Actress in a Supporting Role: This is going to be weird, because if I end up not seeing I, Tonya, I'll still be maintaining that Allison Janney should win this. One, she's great. Two, I've seen a lot of interviews with her about this role, and she's flexing here. Three, the clips I've seen of her performance are devastating. I saw everyone else nominated. Blige was good in Mudbound, but she's not in it very much. Metcalf is good, too. But, she's lost the role of belligerent mother to Janney. Spencer is good, too. But, she's not incredibly central to the film. She's almost token in it. If anyone gives Janney a run for the money, it should be Manville from Phantom Thread. She was totally delicious and elevated every scene she was in. And that's big when you're playing tennis with DDL. And she wins a lot. Still, Janney should take it.
Best Animated Feature: Why are Boss Baby and Ferdinand up for this? Where's Silent Voice? Was this the best group they could field? Don't get me wrong, I loved Coco. I saw it twice in theaters. But, there's simply no comparison to how drop-dead gorgeous Loving Vincent is. It is in my top 5 films of the year. See this movie. It won't win, because it isn't Pixar. But damn. The Breadwinner looks pretty serious and is from the same people that did Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. Will try to catch it.
Best Cinematography: Oooohhhhhh, boy. Please give Roger Deakins his Oscar. He's earned it. My god, John Bailey's the damn President of the Academy right now. They can't mess this up this year. And, honestly, Hoytema should probably win for the feat that was shooting Dunkirk in flipping IMAX and the pure scale of that film. But … this is Deakins' THIRTEENT nomination. Seriously. Stop it.
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges for Phantom Thread. Yeah, the other films have good looking costumes in them. But, PT was about dress making. If Bridges doesn't win and it goes to Durran for Beauty and the Beast, that's just people giving something to Disney because they only make box office pictures and don't have a prestige piece that can win something in a significant category. But, everyone wants some of that Disney Money©®.
Best Directing: While everyone is twitterpated with Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, I don't see anything particularly stunning with the film. It is a TV movie which is elevated by its actors and writing. Straightforward narrative storytelling. The Oscars wanted to nominate a woman. They should have nominated Katheryn Bigelow for Detroit, but gee, she's 67 years old, and this is all about new, fresh, young. Sad. I think it is interesting that Peele is nominated. Get Out hit people like a slap in the face. But, I think he's being nominated more for who he is and what the film did, and not the film itself. That really leaves three candidates. del Toro did a lot with a little budget on a passion project that was very close to his heart. It's an interesting film, and I'm surprised it is getting as much attention as it is. I love Phantom Thread, but I think it may be a bit too restrained for this year (look at the other entries in this category – PTA's movie was just too quiet). The obvious choice, to me, is what Nolan did with Dunkirk. That film is a technical achievement.
Best Documentary Feature: So, I did something really dumb. I had a day on the weekend to myself and found out that four of the five documentaries were available on streaming services that I have (Amazon and Netflix). So, I said "fuck it! Let's watch them all!" I forget how depressing documentaries can be. And, I just happened to watch them in the order of least to most depressing. Yay. The only one I didn't see was Faces Places, the doc on Agnes Varda. I'm sure that's lovely. I probably won't see it by Oscar Night. As to the other four, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a PBS Frontline show. It's a nice David and Goliath story, but ultimately, PBS looks like it was trying too hard (too many staged shots of the family and Chinese Americans looking defiant). Strong Island is brutal, but it's also self-indulgent (and to say that is risky, since it implies denial of the situation, of which I am not doing). The two that are competing here are Icarus and Last Men in Aleppo. Both are very different movies. One is about the Russian state-sponsored doping of athletes and the other is about the White Hats in Aleppo trying to dig bodies (mostly dead and in pieces but every once in a while, they get to save someone). Last Men packs a more immediate, visceral punch, but the lingering sting of Icarus is frightening, especially when the news is blaring how Russia is GOING to interfere with midterm 2018 elections. There are people in this world that are truly unscrupulous, and they will do anything to get what they want. I'd be happy if either picture wins.
Best Documentary Short: I saw Edith+Eddie, and if you click on the link, you can, too. I saw Heaven Is A Traffic Jam on the 405, and if you click on the link, you can, too. Heroin(e) is on Netflix. You can watch Knife Skills here. Traffic Stops is on HBO, so I can't see it. Enjoyed Knife Skills for its message of empowerment. The other three I saw were significant downers, as most documentaries are. Heroin(e) does have somewhat of a possible message of hope, but mostly people are dropping like flies because of opioids, and very little seems able to stop that. I felt like I was only getting one side of the story with Edith+Eddie, and a pathos-based one at that (if the daughter in Virginia is the one closest to Edith and takes care of her, why does the distant daughter have POA?). 405 was too difficult to watch for me – just because it was hard to track what was going on with Mindy.
Film Editing: The only one I haven't seen is I, Tonya. Three Billboards and Shape of Water don't really do anything interesting or innovative – they are cut for narrative effect. Two films that do do interesting things with their cuts are Baby Driver and Dunkirk. Both qualify as "action" films. I have to go with Baby Driver on this, as there's some really interesting editing to music in this film that made it fresh and engaging.
Foreign Language Film: I have seen NONE of these. A safe bet would be that Loveless won't win because Russia.
Makeup and Hairstyling: I haven't seen Victoria & Abdul or Wonder, but that doesn't really matter because Darkest Hour will win this, no problem. Gary Oldman doesn't look a THING like Churchill in real life, but damn it if you think that's Churchill on the screen.
Musical Score: Ok, can we STOP nominating John Williams? You think the score for The Last Jedi was noticeable? Stop fooling yourself. Everyone else in this category could win, because all four other scores are effective. But honestly, this should go to Jonny Greenwood. The music in Phantom Thread was so perfect for what the film was doing. Spot on.
Music (Original Song): "Remember Me" from Coco!!! Why is anything else in this category? Granted, I watched Mudbound and Call Me By Your Name. The music in CMBYN is 80s pastiche. I don't remember what played over the credits in Mudbound, but the song sure wasn't in the film, so whocares? Didn't see the other two. My personal favorite? "Un Poco Loco."
Production Design: This is maybe the hardest category to vote on, since these five movies had such a distinct look. I'd say this is a race between Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water. The edge goes to Blade Runner 2049 - the world-building is amazing.
Animated Short Film: Didn't see any but will be seeing them before Oscars – may update.
Live Action Short Film: Didn't see any but will be seeing them before Oscars – may update.
Sound Editing: Honestly, this is hard, because I cannot tell if the sound in Phantom Thread is production or post-production. If it's in production, it should win this, but IT ISN'T EVEN NOMINATED! Assholes. This should probably go to The Shape of Water because it seems the least likely to have had a ton of post-production done to it. But, that isn't saying much, and that may not be accurate.
Sound Mixing: ALL these films look like they had a ton done in post. So now the decision is about which had the most heavy lifting. Geez. Tough. WWII film. Sci-fi film. Car stunt action film. Obligatory Star Wars. That's why I put Shape of Water in sound editing. Um … DAMN! This is HARD!
Visual Effects: People are really high on giving War for the Planet of the Apes something, since the series is A) groundbreaking technologically and B) at its end. I couldn't get into GofGV2 - something was off (probably plot), but as a result, I don't remember much about the visual design. Star Wars was actually kind of sloppy in places (mostly notably the Planet Monaco sequence). Didn't see Kong: Skull Island. Give it to Blade Runner 2049.
Adapted Screenplay: This one is tough for me because I really liked Molly's Game and The Disaster Artist. I've been listening to the audio book of TDA, which is read by Greg Sestero. And, I love Sorkin. And, from a storytelling perspective, Mudbound was solid. There's going to be negative blowback on James Franco, so that might shoot any mention of TDA in the foot. Going with Sorkin.
Original Screenplay: I honestly don't know how much hate is now leveled at Three Billboards, but it should really win. Otherwise, people will be dying to give the awards to either Gerwig or Peele. I'd go with Peele, if people can get over stupidity and just give it to McDonagh.
Best Picture (in order from least to most deserving):
Call Me By Your Name (Guadignino, 2017) – Full disclosure, I loved Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash (2015). And, it wasn’t just for Matthias Schoenaerts (but, he was good in it) and that it was a great adaptation from the novel (from Alain Page, which was already adapted into the movie La piscine (1969)]. You had a bizarre love square with Schoenaerts in a relationship with rock star Tilda Swinton (this movie was so well-cast), having this amazing villa in an Italian south sea (read Mediterranean) island villa to try to recoup from speech loss (because she’s a singer). But Ralph Fiennes and his “daughter” Dakota Johnson show up, and things get way complicated. It is the first film that I’ve seen to incorporate the Syrian crisis that wasn’t a documentary. It was a compelling story, well-acted, well shot (my god, this film was gorgeous). And, the use of food in this movie was so sensuous. I couldn’t understand why ABS wasn’t better received. So, my expectations were high for this film. And this film was so BORING. Holy shit. Ridiculously educated archaeology professor and his wife take his ridiculously educated son to the north of Italy, which they do every year, and there is the promising grad student working on whatever paper or theory they are working on. There literally isn’t anything that happens in this movie other than two men fall in love (I guess) while they are able to swim, ride bikes, eat al fresco, and go into town to pick up wonderful wine. It is so goddamn boring. The interjection of 1980s pop songs, the awkward editing, and overall content of this film lead me to believe that even in the face of knowledge of actors and timelines, this film was made before A Bigger Splash. It seemed so more sophomoric, with casual errors in editing and an abrasive use of music that is trying to mirror 1980s John Hughes films but ultimately is lifeless. I am so disappointed in this. A Bigger Splash was so much more tightly edited and written, and this film is so loose and pointless. When I explained this to Kim, she made a great point that the things that happen to this kid and the level of acceptance that the protagonist in this film experiences is almost like a re-writing of history. Few teenagers in 1983-84 would have expected a pass like this.
The Post (Spielberg, 2017) – I love Spielberg. I love Streep. Hanks is pretty loveable. He's pretty much the modern-day Jimmy Stewart. However, this movie was boring. People talking in rooms. People talking on the phone. And it was so message-heavy. It felt to me like a WWII studio propaganda film, but instead of supporting the war, this was about supporting a leftist agenda (women's rights, freedom of the press). Ok, maybe "leftist" or "liberal" isn't the best way to peg it, but it certainly seems very anti-Trump message. I'm not for Trump, but this was extremely blatant. If you compare / contrast this with Spotlight (2015), I'd argue you see a more even portrayal of journalism in Spotlight. It was just a disappointment. Hopefully, Ready, Player One will put Spielberg back in charge of something more suitable to his style.
Lady Bird (Gerwig, 2017) – Yes, the relationship between the mother and daughter seems real and unaffected. That's largely due to the great performances of Metcalf and Ronan. Ronan is a great young actress. I've liked her in everything I've seen her in. But I'm too old to care about high school, and I'm not nostalgic for my high school days whatsoever, so I am not the audience for this film. Yes, it has good writing. But, it just came off to me as a Lifetime movie with talent. There was no need to see this on a big screen.
Darkest Hour (Wright, 2017) – Darkest Hour is like an action film if you replaced the action sequences with speeches. I enjoyed watching it because I love the era, Oldman, and Scott-Thomas. It is quite a good companion piece / double feature to Dunkirk. And both movies are trying to give a shot in the arm to countries who want so badly to be on the right side of things in an era where the bad guys are harder to detect. Remember when the Allies kicked Hitler's ass? Remember? Good times. Now, people just bomb subways and run over people in trucks. Not very sporting. Have hope, western civilization. If Churchill really did drink as much as he did, how did he ever get anything done?
Get Out (Peele, 2017) – This movie was refreshing, the same way that Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was a wake-up call in 1989. It's also a real rarity to see a thriller / horror film get nominated. Performances were good. Writing was good. Directing was good. I think people are reading an awful lot into it, which stands to reason, given the current political climate. But, best picture?
Dunkirk (Nolan, 2017) – I’m not going to change my opinion on this, no matter what I read (in fact, what I read reinforces what I think about this film). Have you ever gone to an IMAX theater at a museum? It was just for the experience. If you would ever like to experience what it was like to be a retreating force on the beaches of Dunkirk, I can’t endorse a movie experience like this more. Seriously, if you didn’t see this in 70 mm or IMAX, you missed this film. And no, watching it on your big screen TV is not sufficient. Nolan had a vision. A vision that required grown men to cart 70 mm cameras in these environments. Which is why if anyone other than Nolan wins best director, people don't get it. This is not a character or plot-driven movie. This is a movie meant to capture a moment in time. And Nolan is BRILLIANT in what he does here, and the scale is enough to make Spielberg choke (seriously, how would Spielberg have directed this?). However, this tells no story and has no characters. Why did Nolan squander Tom Hardy as someone behind a flight mask for the whole of this movie? Why? Seriously? Why did you do that, Nolan? He’s a great ACTOR. You wasted his time for a trailer marquee. I loved this, just not as a movie.
The Shape of Water (del Toro, 2017) – This film has an edge over Dunkirk because it has characters and a story. Everything about this movie loves movies. It really wouldn't shock me if this wins best picture, because Hollywood loves movies that love the industry (though you can't judge that by last year's best picture). It is a little weird, which is fine. And, it's got Michael Shannon, being creepy, which is more than fine with me. I didn't quite buy the relationship that grows between the mer-man and Elisa, so a lot of this movie was me enjoying the technical aspects (set design, cinematography, Shannon, the score). And, I like the whole Commie plot. And wouldn't you know it, Nigel Bennett popped up in it! I haven't seen him in years! Good to see he's working (though to check out his IMDb page, he's done a ton of TV up in Canadia).
Phantom Thread (Anderson, 2017) – Ok, so no every PTA movie is a masterpiece, but you can always tell he's trying for something meticulous. He definitely achieved that here. This movie is gorgeous. The dynamic of the relationship between Reynolds Woodcock (god, that name) and Alma is such a weird dance, and Cyril injects such necessary grounding at points. This is "dainty." Acting, directing, costumes, music, set design, cinematography, sound design – so much is right with this movie.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh, 2017) – Just got it in the mail yesterday, so can't wait to see this again. This is not, on a technical level, the best movie, but the acting is outstanding and the story is compelling. It's topical without being as in-your-face about it as The Post or Get Out or Lady Bird. This is great writing, but what else do you expect from an accomplished playwright? Everyone is acting so hard in this. One scene will always stick with me as one of the greatest moments in acting I've seen on screen – between McDormand and Harrelson where they are sparring and then he coughs blood on her. That obliterated me. Rockwell is great. I'm so sad to see the blowback this movie has received in the past month, almost like people are looking for a reason to hate it. Don't give me that b.s. about a Brit can't write about American racism. He's a writer. That's what they do.