Current Oscar Contenders
Having just seen The Shape of Water I have to wonder why it's in the Best Picture category. It's an interesting film -- more than a little strange -- but very interesting nonetheless, just (IMHO) not Best Picture. What I think it will win are multiple technical Oscars like Production Design, Sets Design, Sound Mixing. Maybe even Cinematography.
As to Sound Editing and Sound Mixing my bet is on Dunkirk. And as to Dunkirk it's an excellent coda to The Darkest Hour. And as to The Darkest Hour that could easily win for Costume Design and (again IMHO) hands down the win goes to Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Oh... and Frances McDormand as Best Actress for Three Billboards.
Now just six more of the nominees to get out to see.
I HATED the sound on Dunkirk. Found it as annoying as the sound on Blade Runner.
The sound on Dunkirk is a both good and bad. On one hand, seeing it in theaters was awesome, because of the sensory overload loud sounds. On the other hand, the mixing was kinda weird in that you couldn't always even hear what people were saying. I think Sound Editing should probably go to Baby Driver, right? I mean, wasn't sound editing the entire premise of the movie?
I just saw Three Billboards (literally earlier today!), and I liked most of it. It was better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it maybe had some problems in the dialogue department, but I liked it at its core. Fran McDormand and Sam Rockwell could, and probably should, win some acting Oscars. 100% honest question though: Did they cast Peter Dinklage in this movie simply to make a bunch of "midget" jokes?
As for the rest of the best picture nominees:
Get Out: I loved this movie, but I was pretty surprised at the amount of Oscar love for it. Cool, I guess?!
Lady Bird: I personally didn't see the greatness in this movie that everyone else seems to see. I liked it. I'd give it like a B-, though. I could probably come up with of a handful of coming of age movies in the last five years I personally liked more.
The Shape of Water: I liked this plenty. I guess I'm not surprised with the nominations. As weird as it is, it's still like a big flashy Hollywood-type movie. I agree with Nick that it will probably pick up a bunch of technical awards, but won't get anything major. I *hope* it wins for Production Design.
Darkest Hour: No real interest in seeing this. Not a huge fan of famous historical figure karaoke movies. Good for Gary Oldman, though, he's an awesome dude. I'm sure he'll win an Oscar, even if he deserved one for a bunch of other movies he's made over his career, before he played Winston Churchill fat-suit dress-up.
Phantom Thread: This is a movie subject I would never watch if it weren't directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. I might go see it later this week.
Call Me By Your Name: I'd watch it if it were easily available on Amazon Prime or Hulu or something.
The Post: I almost went to go see it last week, but then decided to play video games instead. I don't know if I want to commit two hours in a theater to Spielberg Oscar bait after I got burned (with mediocrity) on that Russian spy movie he made last time.
Oh, here's a super entertaining movie that I saw recently that I thought should have gotten *more* nominations: I, Tonya. That was historical figure karaoke done *right*.
A final note: I loved the screenplay nomination throws to The Big Sick, Logan, and The Disaster Artist. Those three all made my top 15 of last year (Big Sick was my #2)
[Scott Roberts] "On one hand, seeing it in theaters was awesome, because of the sensory overload loud sounds. On the other hand, the mixing was kinda weird in that you couldn't always even hear what people were saying."
Wouldn't that be a reflection of war at the time? My favorite scenes were of the airplanes. Quiet and calm, nearly serene with no radar beeps/blips, then all of a sudden you're being shot at with giant bullets that will cause you to put the plane down in shallow water. The enemy comes out of nowhere with no warning. Obviously early communications equipment that worked but didn't sound spectacular. I thought it was very smart sound editing, but I love Nolan's films and aesthetic.
[Scott Roberts] "100% honest question though: Did they cast Peter Dinklage in this movie simply to make a bunch of "midget" jokes?"
What's weird to me is that in his writing-directing debut, In Bruges, McDonough made a dwarf both a key minor character, but whose stature became the point on which the whole movie turned.
I think in this case, the point was to show how mean Fran's character is. "That's Peter Dinklage -- what the hell is wrong with you?" We can say warped by grief and rage if we're being generous, but I think the failure to address this dynamic is one reason the movie didn't work for me. I think Peter was cast because he can so easily portray sincerity and goodness when that's what's called for (as opposed to what he's called upon to do in GoT) that we're seeing that Fran being mean to him is only coming from Fran.
Throughout the movie, she's mean, and she's going to make sure that everyone around her is in as much pain she is, one of the most unpleasantly self-aggrandizing characters to stride across the screen in years -- and we're supposed to cheer for her because of an unspeakable tragedy? At least Charles Bronson only took his revenge on the actual bad guys in Death Wish, and there was catharsis in him actually working through his grief. HE wanted to die.
It would have been interesting if McDonough or the script had approached this as the story of the fundamentally self-aggrandizing nature of all parenthood, visiting the vengeance of one's own upbringing on future generations. 😂 (Speaking of I Tonya. 😎) I mean, it started to with Sam's character.
But as it is, the character Mildred felt almost misogynist in its one-dimensionality, and it's only Frances McDormand's personal force of will, inherent relatability, and uncanny skill that create anything resembling humanity. Honestly, do you get the idea that Mildred was EVER a kind character? Ever had any fundamental decency? Was a good parent? C'mon, she was ALWAYS this way, and the movie either doesn't know that or doesn't care.
And sure, what happened to her daughter is no less tragic, and the poor response of the police no more acceptable, as a result of what an unpleasant person she is, but Mildred's not the hero of the movie, she's the villain. She's not leading Dixon on a redemption arc. She's a combination of a femme fatale and a surrogate mother, manipulating his ignorance, racism, rage, and self-pity into murder for nothing more than her own satisfaction. Oops! Can't talk ourselves into being okay with murdering THAT guy, so let's get THIS guy. Doesn't matter that it's not THE guy. Any vaguely plausible guy will do. What the actual f.
It's no accident that the setting is fictional. The movie's a fantasy, and I don't think it has any idea what it's fantasizing about, what it could or should be fantasizing about. The violence and rage at the heart of America? Surely there's no accident that it's set in a fantasia of the American HEART-land...this violence has to find an outlet, appropriateness of it be damned...but they don't appear to KNOW that.
I'm reminded of Dave Marsh's critique of another Irish artist speaking about America, U2's "Elvis Presley and America" on The Unforgettable Fire -- "We get it, you're new here, but you're not THAT new. In the line of business you're in, it's kind of your job to know more about this by now."
Anyway, this movie is a mess that doesn't know it's a mess, or doesn't know why. It could have been better and should have been better.
I, Tonya was worse, for all these reasons and more. I'm once again sorry that so many people whose work I admire got sucked into this, and I hate that it's getting so much positive buzz. I'll save the ranting for the reporter who told the story at the time, then for Sports Illustrated, although she came from, and eventually returned to Oregon, where she knew Tonya and many of the players in this story personally. 'I, Nauseated': The Oregonian's ex-sports columnist nails what the Tonya Harding movie gets wrong Not enough time will ever pass for this to feel okay to me.
Actually, the one person I'll give a pass to is Margot Robbie, who had no idea when she started that any of this stuff actually happened. Not that the movie does justice to what happened, but she plays the character as Tonya's fantasy of Tonya, but the movie doesn't treat the story as a fantasy. It treats it as a comedy, with the real victim of the real tragedy (Nancy Kerrigan) played as the butt of the joke because, well, she wasn't victimized enough. I mean, she wasn't crippled, so no harm no foul, right? And hoo-eee that Mom is shore a piece of work! Har de har!
Now here's what would have made the movie work for me -- WRITE it, MAKE it, PLAY it as a movie about a sociopath composed of equal parts self-aggrandizement and self-pity, using imagined victimhood to become a bully with criminal intent, but lacking the actual spine for criminal activity and therefore surrounded by bumbling criminals riddled with the same toxic combination of fantasized victimhood and baseless boasting to rise all the way to the.....White House LOL...I mean gold medal stand.
Kidding aside, this would have been more interesting as a commentary on the toxicity of white people who imagine themselves as victims, the toxicity of self-aggrandizing fantasies of bullies in victims clothing, or any number of other possibilities that reflected some degree of self-awareness on the part of the writers or filmmakers. What a colossally wasted opportunity.
And another slam dunk for an actress I admire, though. I just wish she'd be getting the Oscar for literally anything other than this. Hell, give her the Oscar for Mom. Or West Wing. They can do that, right? I don't care. Please. Anything but this.
On to happier thoughts. I actually had a blast at the movies this year.
[Jeremy Garchow] "Wouldn't that be a reflection of war at the time? My favorite scenes were of the airplanes. Quiet and calm, nearly serene with no radar beeps/blips, then all of a sudden you're being shot at with giant bullets "
Man, I could not possibly agree with this more. Dunkirk is one of the most profoundly immersive cinematic experiences I've ever had. Those giant bullets sounded louder than bombs.
I really don't get how people aren't jumping up and down about this as the best thing Nolan's ever done. More than that, I really do think that it's a singular achievement in film history, and it'll be lucky to walk away with one Oscar, for Zimmer.
I did think it was the best picture I saw all year, and I'd love for it to at least net Nolan a Best Director nod.
btw, I can talk about this HERE because you folks understand: OF COURSE there's a split between Best Picture and Best Director. Different groups of people vote for these awards, with different agendas, and there are more picture nominations than director nominations. There's been a split 4 of the past 5 years, and I honestly think that that ratio is about right -- including last year, where I think the split was perfect. La La Land was an impossible to duplicate feat, but Moonlight was the better feature.
This time, there's nobody on the planet who could have done what Nolan did....but I'll be surprised if Del Toro/ Shape of Water don't win. I reserve the right to reassess this after the guilds weigh in, but these feel like the frontrunners.
I've seen all the Best Foreign Picture nominees, and I think A Fantastic Woman was indeed fantastic. Should win, will win, I think. There'd been early talk of Daniela Vega as a Best Actress nominee, which I ain't quite buyin', but that shouldn't stop you from trying to see this.
The best performance I saw all year, male or female, was by Meryl Streep in The Post. Too bad the movie's gonna get shut out.
While I think that neither Dunkirk nor The Post are getting the love they deserve, and I have a very low regard for some particularly hyped pictures and performances, Get Out is the one movie I saw that merited all the praise, and then some.
I absolutely see why Jordan Peele has been tapped to revive The Twilight Zone -- his script was old-school Serling at its best. Not just Serling the episodic TV guy, but Serling the playwright. Great characters, great language, backed by amazing performances (Katherine Keener in particular blew me away, but she always does), this feels like more than a career-making moment. It feels epochal. This is one of a very small number of before-and-after moments in contemporary movie history. If it had come later in the year, I'd even give it an outside shot at winning Best Picture, but for me, not even a close call on Best Original Screenplay. By a mile.
I'm glad that we're talking about James Franco as an example of directoral/professorial privilege gone off the rails (students pressured into nude scenes for acting classes and school films, with sexual scenes presented as simulated turning real without consent, etc), and I'd love it if this sort of thing stopped happening as a result....but I'm sorry that it's derailing conversation about the masterful adapted screenplay of The Disaster Artist.
I think Franco also did a terrific job as an actor-director on this, but when you strip away the glee over the so-bad-it's-good-ness of The Room and the almost-endearing weirdness of Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero wrote a terrific book that Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber did an amazing job turning into an even better script. I saw a panel with the three of them at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (which is where I saw the Best Foreign Picture nominees -- foreign film is PSIFF's thing) talking about this, so I admittedly have spent more time thinking about this than some others...but I think they did fantastic work.
I wasn't bowled over by any documentaries I saw this year, although An Inconvenient Sequel came closest. Its only problem is that the first one made such an enormous impact that I think most people didn't bother seeing this because they thought they knew what it was. They're all wrong. LOL A better movie in every way, hopeful, non-doctrinaire (the first all-renewable energy city in the country is the proudly self-proclaimed "reddest city in the reddest county in the reddest state" Georgetown TX, run by an extremely conservative Republican mayor -- who's also a CPA who was persuaded by the money he'd save his city), done with real wit and heart. Terrific, terrific movie that I'm very sorry is gonna get buried for stupid reasons.
Among the nominees, I loved Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, directed by Steve James. His Hoop Dreams is one of the all-time great docs. It only got a nomination for Best Editing, but should have been nominated not just for Best Doc, but Best Picture. The story this time is that the only bank to get in trouble for breaking the economy was a tiny, family-owned bank in New York's Chinatown -- the 2351st largest bank in America. The bizarre improbability of it all tells a lot of stories about race, class, money, and politics, but again, with lots of heart.
Nominations I'm happiest about:
-- Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water. I could give or take this picture tbh (Del Toro has never scratched my itch, and I haven't been really moved by any of it since Pan's Labyrinth....and I heard this described as "Free Willy, except a lady has sex with the fish", which I like better than the actual movie), but I adore RJ. He should have won Best Supporting Actor for The Visitor a few years back. I recently watched this again, and am even more amazed by it as time goes by. And his performance in the episode of Six Feet Under called "The Room" (years before Tommy W's movie) remains at the top of my list of all-time greats by anyone.
If you don't know that show, btw, you really should. I think it may be the best thing HBO has ever done. And the great thing is, you don't have to watch the whole series to get this episode. You really watch it on its own, and you totally should.
-- Any and everything to do with Lady Bird. Deserves to win? Hmmm, maybe not, but more movies like this, please. More Greta directing, more Saorsie Ronan, more Laurie Metcalf, more girls' stories, more small, humane pictures, etc.
Hey! Here's a wacky idea! Instead of awarding a fantastic performance of a terrible person in a terrible movie, how about giving the Oscar to a human, humane characterization in a terrific movie! Laurie Metcalf
-- Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water. She's one of a tiny handful of people I'll go see anything they're in. (As is Richard Jenkins -- there's no way I wasn't gonna see this picture.) She elevates everything she does.
Y'all probably missed this because it was a show about teens, and I'm apparently the only one who watches those, but she was fan-bloody-tastic in The Red Band Society, as the head nurse in a teen cancer ward. The first season came to an end just as they were starting to really open up her character, revealing a depth far beyond the "tough, but only because of how much she loves 'em" stereotype. In other words, the perfect part for her....and then the bastards canceled it. A fine quick binge for ya.
And here's another crazy idea -- how giving HER the Oscar! Yeah, she's got one already, but she really was terrific in this.
-- Any and everything to do with Jordan Peele. I hope this really does serve as the launching pad for his empire, and for work that reaches down through the generations. He's got the goods, and I hope it all works out for all of us.
-- Rachel Morrison, Mudbound. Not just because she's the first woman cinematographer nominated (wtf, Academy), but man o man, this picture is like Gordon Parks come to life, and then some.
Great article about her work here. I love this:
“We wanted to shoot on film but we couldn’t afford it,” Morrison said. “Our goal was to make digital look like film as much as we could. Where I landed was somewhere between 1280 and 1600 ASA to introduce a little bit of digital noise, and then we did a full grain pass in the DI. Also, I chose older glass to soften around the edges reminiscent of old photographs.”
Yeah, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, but I think she did something really special here.
My favorite movie of the year? Not a prayer of Oscars or any other awards because of the crime of being a family comedy most about people in their 40s with (entirely non-toxic) parents in their 70s, where love wins, and even the most bumbling of characters rises to the occasion.
Uhm, you speak French, right? LOL
Okay, I saw it with subtitles, with the English title Just To Be Sure. Keep an eye for it on your favorite streaming service, where I'm sure they'll subtitle it for you. An utter gem. I absolutely adored every second of it.
Just watched "Shape of Water" yesterday, and it was OUTSTANDING. DelToro certainly has a recognizable style and does great with Magical Realism as well. The actors were all outstanding. Production design and art direction were magical. Cinematography, amazing.
Obviously, the Academy agrees with me.