Saturday, March 3, 2018

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

I've been doing this for a number of years, ranking the Best Picture Oscar nominees from my own twisted point-of-view, and this year I found myself longing for the days when there were only five nominated pictures instead of nine.  For one thing, this hasn't been a normal year for me, so I had to sort of binge-watch as the Academy Awards got close.  Beyond that, though, I just didn't think there were nine films worthy of being nominated for the Best Picture of 2017.  Argue with me if you wish!

But the program is tomorrow (Sunday) night, and tradition rules my life – so here we go. My favorite to least-favorite:

  1. 1.  THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.  Of course you knew that I would love this movie!  It has an offbeat and compelling story, amazing characters, and, most of all, Frances McDormand!  There were a few unanswered questions – like, why didn't the doofus deputy (named Dixon!) get prosecuted for throwing the ad dude out the window?  And why wasn't it a bigger deal that the police department was bombed?  It is unlikely that this great film will win Best Picture – note that the director was not nominated for Best Director (But should have been!). 
  1. 2.  THE SHAPE OF WATER.  This is a silly idea for a story – a cleaning lady falling for an overgrown reptile --  but it's really a terrific movie!  It feels like a cinematic achievement of some sort while still being a film you want to talk about afterwards with your friends.  I wanted to see it a second time but ran out of days! 
  1. 3.  LADY BIRD.  How could anybody not like this movie?  It's a high-school coming-of-age sort of movie that has exceptional dialogue, especially the banter between Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mom, played perfectly by Laurie Metcalf.
  2. 4.  THE DARKEST HOUR.  London, 1940, Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman) becomes Prime Minister, and the country is faced with dreadful decisions in dealing with Hitler.  I'm not sure why this was "the darkest hour" compared with bombings yet to come, but whatever.  My favorite scene was when Churchill took the Underground to talk to real Londoners.
  1. 5.  THE POST.  This true story – behind the scenes at the Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers drama – is obviously aimed at viewers like me who lived through the Vietnam era and knew who Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and maybe even Richard Nixon were -- No explanations for younger, history-unconscious audiences.  Meryl Streep becomes Katherine Graham.  Tom Hanks is always Tom Hanks. 
  1. 6.  GET OUT.  This is a weird horror-movie mix of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Stepford Wives, and Rosemary's Baby (three films, all of which I liked better than this one).  I just disliked the whole nasty premise of the story.  I did like Allison Williams (from the HBO series, Girls) as the evil temptress.  This could win Best Picture, but I hope not. 
  1. 7.  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  Oh please, how desperate are we for Best Picture nominees?  This film, set in photogenic Italy, has some beautiful moments, but, to me, there is zero onscreen chemistry between the two main characters, and I just couldn't buy into any of it. 
  1. 8.  DUNKIRK.  If the purpose of the makers of this film was to make a bunch of impressive-looking battle scenes and make you feel the personal tension for those in battle, they succeeded.  If their purpose was to tell history-ignorant American audiences the amazing, inspiring story of the Dunkirk rescue in 1940, they failed miserably. Even The Darkest Hour explained the significance of Dunkirk better.
  1. 9.  PHANTOM THREAD.  OMG, this movie seemed to go on interminably.  Daniel Day-Lewis occasionally makes it almost palatable but not quite.  He says this is his last film.  I hope it isn't.

  2. Some of my preferences in other categories (although -- full disclosure -- I didn't see a few of the nominated performances):

  3. BEST ACTOR:  It's no contest.  Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Churchill in The Darkest Hour.
  4. BEST ACTRESS:  Of course!  Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri!
  5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Sam Rockford, playing "Dixon" in Three Billboards.
  6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird.
  7. BEST DIRECTOR:  Guillermo del Toro for Shape of Water.

  8. That's it for now.  Be sure to watch the program tomorrow night so that I have somebody that I can gripe about it to.  Thanks!