2018: An Oscar Primer

2018oscars This has been the worst year I can remember for staying caught up with movies in general, and getting caught up with the Oscar nominees in particular, but Oscar night is here and I’m forging ahead. Let’s start with my ranking of the Best Picture nominees:

Get Out (4 nominations) – This is the best horror film in years, maybe a decade, and also so much more than just a genre movie. I’m thrilled that it broke into the Best Picture category, but I shouldn’t be surprised. It very clearly deserved it. Jordan Peele nailed it, first time out of the gate.

Lady Bird (5 nominations) – What a wonderful lived-experience committed to film this is. To me, this was the most genuine, true film of the year. It helped that the main character is in high school when I as in high school, but her experience is still nothing like mine . . . and yet it felt so real and so familiar. The writing and the performances are so brilliant.

Darkest Hour (6 nominations) – This wins the period drama contest for the year, for sure. It’s nakedly Oscar-bait, with broad mass-appeal, and clearly exercising a certain amount of dramatic license with the historical facts, but still manages to overcome all my cynicism with its stirring, inspirational magnificence. I’ll watch Gary Oldman do just about anything, but when he does stuff like this . . . Wow.

The Shape of Water (13 nominations) – I adore Guillermo del Toro’s style, but I’m a little hit-or-miss with his films. This one was a solid hit. It’s been called a fairy tale, but I think it’s more a morality play . . . one designed to flatly repudiate the values of Eisenhower-era America. Not exactly a daring stance, but the film pulls it off with flair.

Call Me by Your Name (4 nominations) – An beautifully-made film that is surprisingly sensitive with its subject, and full of brilliant, subtle performances. I felt that it lagged a bit in spots, but watching these actors in this setting almost made that not matter.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7 nominations) – I really don’t quite know what to do with this movie’s broad, dark streak of mean humor wrapped around a weirdly-sweet quasi-redemptive center. But the fact that it makes me a little uncomfortable doesn’t really qualify as a solid strike against it. I don’t know how it will fare at tonight’s ceremony, but it feels like a bomb going off in the middle of this list.

The Post (2 nominations) – Spielberg probably played it a little too safe and straight with this period piece, though I continue to appreciate his films that burn brightly in the defense of real American ideals about truth and justice and freedom in the face of jingoism and corruption. He’s done better, but most other filmmakers still do worse.

Phantom Thread (6 nominations) – Man, this was weird and I did not get it. Just totally baffled by this choice from the great Paul Thomas Anderson. Which wasn’t to say that it was a poor movie by any stretch . . . The craft and the style and the performances are as masterful as anything else he’s done. It just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. And that’s almost certainly a poor reflection on me, not it.

Dunkirk (8 nominations) – I was disappointed in Christopher Nolan for this. He should be able to do better, but at the same time this is exactly the clockwork mechanical exercise in great technical skill that he has. Maybe that’s the limit of his power, and that’s fine when he picks a more appropriate subject or genre. It didn’t work for this historical piece . . . but then, I like my historical movies with some sense of context and of the larger picture, even in the midst of depicting the ground-level experience of those who were there. Nolan still hasn’t quite managed to get the human element of his films right, and this was no exception.

Nominees I saw that I loved (almost all of these are in my top 10 for the year):
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Last Jedi
Blade Runner 2049
The Big Sick
I, Tonya
Baby Driver

Nominees I saw that I liked:
Kong: Skull Island
The Greatest Showman
The Florida Project
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Nominees I saw that I didn’t like:
Beauty and the Beast
The Disaster Artist
The Boss Baby

Nominees that I’m most sad I missed (I plan to remedy these):
The Breadwinner
Molly’s Game
Roman J. Israel, Esq
All the Money in the World

As usual, I’ve done the worst on the Documentary and Foreign Film categories. I didn’t see a single one this year.

The non-minees (movies I was most surprised to see shut out):
Wonder Woman
A Ghost Story
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Paddington 2
Thor: Ragnarok
Logan Lucky
Cars 3
The Lego Batman Movie

I’ll let you know how my hopes for the ceremony pan out in a few hours!

~ by Jared on March 4, 2018.

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