Yesterday the Academy revealed their nominees for the 2018 Oscars. In case you're not caught up, here's Popdust's previews of the Best Picture candidates:
The Phantom Thread
It's been a decade since the Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Johnny Greenwood dream team got together to make a film, and while The Phantom Thread may not be quite as seismic as There Will Be Blood, it's made with just as much quality and finesse. Methodical, detailed, and imbued with significance in every smallest moment of run time, it's also the film that pushed Day-Lewis to retire from acting, which makes The Phantom Thread worth watching on two fronts. For a more in-depth look, check out my review.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
For my money, Martin McDonagh is one of Europe's most talented dramatists alive today. Three Billboards plays like a stage show—small scale, modest production value, dialogue-driven, etc—and possesses the qualities of McDonagh's best works: icky moral dilemmas, harsh characters, every variation on sh*t, piss and c*nt. Perhaps no other film this year is as tightly written.
The Shape of Water
Not since Beauty and the Beast itself has a film concerning bestiality (or whatever the monster version of that term would be) garnered so much critical acclaim as The Shape of Water. Like much of Guillermo del Toro's work, Water is beautifully colored and shot, but lacks depth in its writing. In spite of an emotional climax that amounts to the sort of "he loves me for who I really am" sentiment most common to teenage dramas and rom-coms, The Shape of Water has been reeling in praise and Critics' Choice Awards. Plus, the monster character looks a lot like an Oscar statue up close, so that bodes well.
In tone and style, Greta Gerwig may be the closest equivalent to Woody Allen for the millennial generation. The character of Lady Bird, played by Saiorse Ronan, feels like a culmination of all the other pseudo-Gerwig protagonists of past films—Mistress America and Maggie's Plan come to mind—and the story a culmination of that character. It's also really funny.
I remember listening to the October 29, 2013 episode of Pete Holmes' podcast, when Jordan Peele, his featured guest, mentioned a script he was working out: a sort of comedy-horror film called 'Get Out'. He played it off as being early-stage and, frankly, I wasn't too interested in a movie with such a bland title from the Key & Peele guy. Evidently, I did a misread. Get Out isn't perfect—the acting is fine, it's (intentionally) corny, and it plays the Easter eggs meta-game with little regard for subtlety (He drives a Lincoln? Just hammer it into my skull why don't you?). But its concept is, basically, perfect—unique, hilarious, social commentary turned on its head—which is particularly refreshing in our age of sequels, revivals and rehashes. There's also never been a movie more suited to its cultural moment.
Dunkirk is another pique Christopher Nolan picture—heavy, shot in expensive film, meant for only the largest of IMAX theaters. Its subject—the battles at Dunkirk during the Second World War—is so significant in 20th century history that it's surprising how few films have gone there before. Most importantly, in addition to all the other young British actors you can think of, it non-ironically features Harry Styles in a dramatic role.
If every Hollywood movie ever made had a group baby together, it might look something like The Post. The product of three of the industry's most accomplished and least objectionable figures—Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg—with a current events tie-in and leftist political appeal, The Post may just be the most normal movie ever made, for better and for worse.
Faced with the fate of his nation—whether to fight or surrender to the seemingly unstoppable Nazi Blitzkreig—Winston Churchill steps out of his private car on the way to Parliament, and takes the Tube for the first time in his life. Of course, no single bit of this sequence occurred in real life, but even as you're sitting knowing that, the pure emotion of the scene compels you to just let it happen. Such is the tension of Darkest Hour: it's Hollywood-ization without remorse, though the product itself is a terribly compelling drama.
Call Me By Your Name
Starring the point guard of this author's middle school Safe Haven basketball team, Call Me By Your Name is beautifully deep and uncomplicated. Much more compelling than what the film is actually about—a teen summer romance, queerness, coming-of-age—is how it handles the minute-to-minute interactions and shifts in its characters. For more, read my review here.
For continuing Oscars coverage, stay tuned for Popdust's predictions and review of the show.