Oscars 2018

Could have been worse.

In short, this is my main gripe: I hate The Shape Of Water. Everything else, I can more or less live with. I give up trying to bet on the winners. One, because it could be a foregone conclusion and where’s the fun in that? And two, because they never make any sense to me. In any case, the members of the Academy tend to pick what makes them feel better about themselves, and that is rarely best picture material. So you’re on your own at the office pool. Let’s parse nominees and snubs:

Best Picture:

Call Me by Your Name — YES. A beautiful film. 
Darkest Hour — MEH. British schmaltz. 
Dunkirk — Haven’t seen it. 
Get Out— YES. My favorite to win, but a long shot. 
Lady Bird — YES. A lovely movie 
Phantom Thread — YES. Beautiful, bizarre and haunting. 
The Post — FINE.
The Shape of Water — NO. But it may win, because the Academy tends to pick the most mediocre of the bunch. 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — YES, but I think there are better movies in the mix.

As nominations go, this isn’t half bad. There are five good indie surprises and four old-fashioned Oscar stalwarts. BUT: Where is I, Tonya? And where is Alexander Payne’s Downsizing? These two movies are more complex and sophisticated than The Shape of Water or Darkest Hour, which are shameless crowdpleasers (and you know how I feel about those).

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name — I die. However, I won’t fret if he doesn’t win. He has a brilliant career ahead of him; he doesn’t need an Oscar yet. 
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread — He’s great, and it’s his last (BWAAAAAAH!), but I think someone else should get it. 
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out — Good for him. 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour — He totally rocks and is the probable winner.
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. — He rocks too.

James Franco deserved a nomination for The Disaster Artist. So did Barry Keoghan for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

They are all equally righteous and deserving. I have a soft spot for Margot Robbie. And if Frances wins again, GOOD. Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread was very impressive. So was the unsung Annette Bening in Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool.

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project — He is heartbreaking.
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — So glad they recognized him. 
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water — I adore him but this is not his best work.
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World — He’s meh, but it’s meant to be a kick to Kevin Spacey’s balls. 
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — He is great. Also, given the odds, he may get it.

Paul Walter Hauser was hilarious in I, Tonya.

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound — NO. It’s almost a non-performance. 
Allison Janney, I, Tonya — YES! Given awards season, a possible winner. 
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread — YES!
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird — YES!
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water — NO. I felt she is portraying a really tired stereotype.

Where is the extraordinary Hong Chau from Downsizing? Also Michelle Pfeiffer totally kicked ass in that abomination of a movie, mother!

Director:

Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan — Haven’t seen it because I hate his movies. 
Get Out, Jordan Peele — YES. Funny, scary, and real. 
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig — YES. Solid job from a first time writer-director. 
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson — YES. Wonderfully strange and beautiful and discomfiting, like all his movies. 
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro — HELL, NO. This is like giving the prize to the seven-year old in the room.

I, Tonya, Craig Gillespie. I thought he nailed a balancing feat of the darkest humor with truly harrowing abuse, yet the movie never makes fun of the violence. I do not understand why this movie is so underrated. I guess it may hit too close to home.

This is a toss-up. It may go to The Shape Of Water because of schmaltz, and Del Toro is Mexican and that would be wholesome virtue signaling. Or it may go to Greta Gerwig, because Lady Bird is a lovely film but also #MeToo. If anyone has any sense, and any sense of humor (they don’t), then Get Out would be a righteous win. Otherwise, the two most gorgeously realized physical and emotional worlds are Phantom Thread and Call Me By Your Name, and they are very long shots.

Animated Feature:

The Boss Baby 
The Breadwinner

Coco — This will win. It’s the pits of hell. 
Ferdinand — The trailer looks awful. 
Loving Vincent — This should win.

Adapted Screenplay:

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory — THIS SHOULD WIN. A masterful adaptation. 
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber — YES. It’s got lots of heart. 
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green — Didn’t see it. 
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin — Half of this movie totally deserves it. The poker half is brilliant; the daddy issues half will have you tear your hair out in despair. 
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees — The screenplay is better than the movie, but I found the film heavy-handed and by the book. However, it did make me think that the whole American south should explode in a ball of fire and be turned into ashes from which nothing should ever grow again.

Original Screenplay:

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani — Nice, but a tad overrated.
Get Out, Jordan Peele — THIS SHOULD WIN
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig — YES, funny, wise, and unsentimental. 
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor. — NO. 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh — YES

I also very much liked Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. His best movie to date. I, Tonya could be in this category, a darkly funny film about abuse, fame and America. Again, Downsizing is a flawed movie, but the script is ambitious and imaginative.

A note on the backlash against Three Billboards: People are objecting to this movie because it gives the racist character a change of heart. I guess they like their villains one-dimensional, and their characters one-note. Watching movies has become an exercise in virtue signaling. Movies are not judged by their artistic qualities but by the virtue of their content according to self-righteous viewers who take offense easily, and/or whether the participants have committed transgressions in life. But this is fodder for another post.

Cinematography:

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins. — FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GIVE THE GUY A BREAK. Also, it is stunning. 
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel — YES. 
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema — I’m sure it’s great. 
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison — Happy for her, but there are more impressive jobs in this category. Which begs the question, why haven’t Ellen Kuras or Maryse Alberti ever been nominated before? 
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen — YES.

Best Original Score

Please, let it be Jonny Greenwood’s lush score for Phantom Thread. Also, If Carter Burwell wins for Three Billboards, I’d be very happy. He can do no wrong. Alexandre Desplat used to be fresh and awesome, but now he just filches from himself (and in this case, Amelie). The rest is probably epic bombast from John Williams (he has enough Oscars) and Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk).

Best Documentary Feature:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places — I’ve only seen this one. It’s nice but too cute for my taste. 
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Best Foreign Language Film:

A Fantastic Woman (Chile) – A good film but not earth shaking. 
The Insult (Lebanon) – a gripping movie, and my favorite in this category. 
Loveless (Russia) — Good, but I like his other movies better. 
On Body and Soul (Hungary): I haven’t seen it. 
The Square (Sweden) — NO. Self-indulgent, over the top, and nowhere near as good as Force Majeure, his first movie. It may very well win.

If you watch tomorrow, stay strong and don’t forget the booze.

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