The 90th Academy Awards: Calls and Wishes

February 14, 2018

The 90th Academy Awards: Calls and Wishes

As we approach the 90th edition of the Oscars, celebrating what some people, apparently deemed important, believe represents the best in 2018 cinema, the field seems as open as ever.

The 2017 edition of the Oscars presented a diverse field array of best pictures nominees, no doubt – from “Lion,” a story of a young Indian man seeking his birthplace, to “Arrival,” a film about a linguistics professor attempting to communicate with foreign beings (my favorite of 2016). However, there were always just two contenders for the top prize, and indeed, they both ended the night on the Oscars stage.

Organizers were left scrambling after “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as the 2017 best picture winner. And when the award was switched over to the team behind the (deserving) victor, “Moonlight,” stars of the former film, like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, were left standing on stage, awkwardly wondering what they should do now.

Luckily, the “La La Land” cast handled the debacle with grace, and for 2018, the Academy is promising the same mistake won’t be repeated. But drama may still unfold, as the Oscars caps off a movie award season filled with twists and turns, political rife and hardly any easy calls.

So we’re gonna make some calls and some wishes.

BEST PICTURE

The Nominees

Call Me By Your Name: Set in 1983 northern Italy, a 17-year-old American-Italian boy in a rich family spends a summer developing a romantic relationship with an older man. Sensual innocence.

Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill, leading Britain in the early days of WWII. Not much more to say.

Dunkirk: Chritopher Nolan’s latest about British soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk during WWII. The movie is all about atmosphere, utilizing minimal dialogue and non-sequential storytelling.

Get Out: A horror/suspense/comedy about a young black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family and discovering some disturbing truths about who they are. Simultaneously hilarious, scary and introspective.

Lady Bird: A comedy/drama about a girl growing up, who resents her mother but is very much like her. It’s a coming-of-age story, and it’s been done before but perhaps never this well. Greta Gerwig, the only female director in this category lends a deft touch.

Phantom Thread: Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), are at the center of British fashion. Sharp. Entertaining. Daniel Day-Lewis. Enough said.

The Post: Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks). An important story, and one that’s well told, though a media-friendly picture might not fit in this year.

The Shape Of Water: Set in Cold War America, a woman discovers a secret classified experiment, involving a sea creature, who she develops a romantic relationship with. A ridiculous romance that pulls you in close for every second of a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking ride.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: A woman hellbent on finding the murderer of her daughter uses billboards to call out the chief of the small-town police force, who she doesn’t think is doing enough. Frances McDormand is brilliant in the lead role, and the movie is funny, if sometimes uncertain.

Our Call

Where the 2017 Oscars had two clear favorites, the 2018 edition has a much mistier picture.

There are two frontrunners, heading into the show, based on a slight edge throughout awards season: Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The former garnered a record-tying 13 Oscar nominations, providing it plenty clout, while the latter scooped up Best Drama at the Golden Globes, often a precursor to the Oscars big award.

However, some of the field’s dark horses aren’t so dark this year. The success of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is a remarkable story – a horror/drama/comedy movie released last spring by a first-time director from a comedy sketch show goes on to dominate the box office for weeks and garner rave reviews everywhere. It’s an underdog tale that could inspire voters. Plus, it’s an excellent movie.

Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” hardly puts a single foot wrong. It’s one of the best reviewed movies of 2017, and voters would have a hard time arguing why it doesn’t deserve the highest acclaim. “Call Me By Your Name” is also received rave reviews, and it presents a storyline unfamiliar to Oscar gold. Meanwhile, some consider “Dunkirk” to be the best of Christopher Nolan’s work, and voters could easily hand over the best picture title as an ode to his craft.

But at the end of the day, this one is going to the film that provided the best material in a wide array of categories, and it’s hard to argue with 13 nominations.

Winner: The Shape of Water

Our Wish

In all honesty, “The Shape of Water” taking home the top prize would hardly be a slap to the face. It’s a great and deserving movie.

But what if the Academy voted bravely. What if it awarded a movie released almost a year before the ceremony took place, a movie that was never meant to be an Oscar winner, a movie that took on a concoction of genres that no movie should?

It’s those questions about “Get Out,” and the fact that it still succeeded, still stands proudly as one of this year’s nominees that makes it such an enticing choice for the best picture win. More than any of the other 2018 best picture nominees, “Get Out” spits in the face of what the best film of the year is supposed to be.

It’s just a damn good movie.

The Dream: Get Out wins

BEST ACTRESS

The Nominees

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water: Hawkins was given a rather wonderful character to play, here, and she made the most of it. Taking an inward-looking mute woman and revealing through romance with a fishman that she’s actually much braver than most anyone else around her. A sight to behold.

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: It would’ve been a crime to cast anyone else in this role. Frances takes a script and plotline that could easily steer into a concerning direction (and for some, it did), and elevates the entire film with some expertly delivered facial expressions and some aggressively belted lines.

Margot Robbie – I, Tonya: The only nominated actress in this category, whose movie isn’t up for best picture, Robbie and supporting actress Allison Janney shined in I, Tonya. Robbie, playing Tonya Harding in a sort of true life farce, was committed to finding the heart of her character, even if the real-life version didn’t really deserve it.

Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird: Ireland’s Ronan, 23, beautifully depicted an intelligent but completely clueless teenage girl, growing up with a mother she equally resented and admired. Ronan is at times funny, at times frustrating, at times horribly lost. She played the part to near perfection.

Meryl Streep – The Post: You might’ve heard of Streep once or twice before. She’s not the favorite, here, with several critics finding flaws in the Steven Spielberg film. But perhaps her performance deserves better. Streep, once again, elevates the film by deeply investing in her character like few other actors or actresses can do.

Our Call

Again, the field is relatively open. It would be difficult to make an argument that one actress clearly stood above the others in 2017, and that’s mostly because each of the five nominees hardly put a foot wrong. However, it’s McDormand that’s won the most accolades this awards season, and of any of the performances, here, hers seems the most irreplaceable.

The Winner: Frances McDormand

Our Wish

We secretly wouldn’t mind seeing Meryl Steep win yet again here, especially considering the sometimes unwarranted criticism she’s received from both sides of the political aisle, as she’s attempted to both lead and defend in the strong tides of the #MeToo movement. But we couldn’t mad either at a win for the incredible Frances McDorman or the sublime Sally Hawkins. Meanwhile, Robbie and Ronan are two rising stars who might catapult from a victory, here.

The Dream: We all agree 10 years from now that whoever won truly deserved it.

BEST ACTOR

The Nominees

Timothee Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name: The young Chalamet burst onto the scene this year, quickly developing a bright star and a bit of a teenage andom, which might’ve been unexpected considering his style of movie. In “Call Me By Your Name,” he managed to pull off an extremely difficult pairing of innocence and sexuality.

Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread: The only actor in Oscars history to claim the Best Actor title on three occasions, Day-Lewis is going for No. 4 with what might be his final film. As is typical of his career, the British actor gets lost in his character to the point it’s easy to forget that it’s a character at all.

Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out: Kaluuya was a new name to start 2017, but after a career-making performance in Get Out, he’s likely to rapidly become more familiar. His performance was simultaneously unpretentious and finely tuned. He never missed a mark, which is a serious feat when playing a part in an oftentimes outlandish movie.

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour: Oldman put out an award-baiting performance as Winston Churchill, and awards he did bait. Make no mistake, though, he deserves his nomination, bringing out Churchill in all his explosive and unrelenting drama.

Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.: Denzel wouldn’t often be labeled as a surprise nominee, but he could be here, snagging a spot for a performance that went under the radar at several other award shows. He earned his nomination, though, displaying a brilliant character within an average film.

Our Call

This category might be more clear than the others, as Gary Oldman took home Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards in this category already. While some voters might still believe no one can top Day-Lewis and others might see newcomers Chamalet and Kaluuya as newer, brighter stars, our money is the majority will follow suit with the season.

The Winner: Gary Oldman

Our Wish

Did we really need another portrayal of Winston Churchill? Is it really that impressive to put forward a fine-tuned performance that’s already been done several times before? Well, yes, it is impressive. But It’s not that impressive, and we definitely weren’t asking for another Churchill movie/show.

The Dream: Someone that didn’t play Winston Churchill wins.

BEST DIRECTOR

The Nominees

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk: Since “The Dark Knight,” Nolan has operated as a star director, one whose name is well-known in the general public. With Dunkirk, he provided his most likely awards winner yet. It’s a war movie, yes, but it’s presented in a way unique and subtle enough to make viewers believe this story truly matters.

Jordan Peele – Get Out: “Get Out” was merely an opportunity for Peele to show that he had interest, and maybe some talent, outside of sketch comedy. But it proved so much more, displaying a sense of vision and veracity that many filmmakers won’t reach throughout their entire career.

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird: Gerwig was that indie film actress, constantly starring in quirky little movies. But those quirky films, like “Frances Ha,” were also really good movies, and considering Gerwig helped write some of them, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise how she so elegantly handled “Lady Bird.”

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread: Anderson boasts a resume most directors would happily retire on. From “Boogie Nights” to “Magnolia” to “There Will Be Blood,” his films always seem to make the list of the year’s best. With “Phantom Thread,” he’s presenting something a little quieter, but no less riveting.

Guillermo Del Toro – The Shape of Water: If Del Toro is considered a cult director, he’s surely the most famous of them all. He’s amassed recognition for painting seemingly ugly scenes and twisting them to be beautiful. “The Shape of Water” is among his masterpieces.

Our Call

Every directions voters can go here is completely different from the last. Nolan is an acclaimed director yet to be recognized at the highest level. Peele is an underdog, announcing his talent with a firework. Gerwig is the only female, here, and would be only the second female winner after Kathryn Bigelow. Anderson is a proven reliable directing ace. And Del Toro, a definitive artist, would represent the third Mexican Best Director winner in four years.

Winner: Guillermo Del Toro

Our Wish

We’d take no issue if the Academy follows the award season trend and singles out Del Toro for the most coveted directing prize. But an even more exciting pick would be Gerwig.

She made the kind of movie that doesn’t often win a best directing Oscar, but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving. She took a ridiculously simple story –  the relationship between a hard-working mother and a daughter with stars in her eyes – and turned it into something so entertaining and watchable. And while we only want her to win if voters feel she did the best job directing, it would be icing on the cake to see a young female director get a boost that might open numerous doors in the future.

The Dream: Gerwig takes home the prize, because she truly deserves it

 

By Philip Weyhe

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