It’s the Oscars on Sunday, which will bring Awards season to an end, so I am going to be ranking all 9 of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees. As always this is just my personal list, and I would love to hear what your favourites from amongst the Best Picture nominees are in comments. I will also be bringing you my predictions for every category on Saturday, so look out for those.
9) Darkest Hour – This is the only Best Picture nominee this year that I actually didn’t enjoy. There’s no denying that Gary Oldman is excellent in a transformative performance as Winston Churchill, for which the make-up artists deserve just as much credit. But the film as a whole was fairly uninteresting. Maybe it’s because I find that period not particularly interesting due to my fascination with ancient or medieval history far more than modern events, and the fact that Churchill is a character who has been done to death. Darkest Hour is certainly a well made film, with a brilliant performance, but that was it for me.
8) Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan has left the fantasy/sci-fi world behind and instead decided to make a World War II epic, which covers the exact same event as Darkest Hour, but from the point of view of the soldiers in France. As you’d expect with a Nolan film it’s a brilliant technical achievement, and he manages to pack some incredible tension into some of the scenes, thanks to Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score all based around that ticking clock motif. But Dunkirk is a film that demands to be seen on the biggest and best screen possible. Even the drop from IMAX to a regular screening was significant, whilst it loses a lot of its magic watching it at home. The non-linear nature of the film also felt incredible unnecessary to me, and just like Nolan attempting to be a little too clever for his own good.
7) The Post – A lot of people are calling The Post a film calculated to win Oscars, thanks to it being a Spielberg film on an incredibly relevant subject starting Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. However the actual end product is certainly one of Spielberg’s better films over the past few years. The performances, particularly from Hanks, are all incredibly strong and it’s themes are incredibly timely. I can understand some people being a little disappointed that a Spielberg, Steep, and Hanks collaboration didn’t end up being something truly special, but it was a riveting watch of what could have been a dull subject.
6) Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is an interesting film. I don’t think that it is likely to remembered as one of his greatest works, a slow drama about an obsessive dressmaker and his relationship with a waitress he meets called Alma. Despite being a little too slow at times, Phantom Thread is the kind of film that really gets in your head with its twisted relationship, and wonderful central performances, particularly from Daniel Day-Lewis. What really stood out for me was Jonny Greenwood’s haunting, delicate, and beautiful score. It was the perfect accompaniment for the film, encapsulating the subdued yet powerful nature of the film.
5) Get Out – I would be absolutely thrilled to see Get Out win the Best Picture Oscar on Sunday, and the fact that I have it down at five on this list just shows what a brilliant year it was films. Jordan Peele’s horror/thriller is an incredibly powerful look at at race in America, whilst still being a scary and hugely entertaining film. Peele’s direction is superb, as a first time film director as well. The layers within the film means that it demand at least a second viewing to pick up on so many of the little details that you will have missed first time. It also has an excellent cast, led by a breakout performance from Daniel Kaluuya, who has been a staple of British entertainment for a little while now, so it’s great to see him finally getting his dues.
4) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy about a mother trying to get justice for her murdered daughter has faced a bit of backlash in recent weeks, but for me it’s still right up there with In Bruges as an incredibly darkly funny look at what would usually be a very bleak situation. Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, and the rest of the cast are brilliant. It also may contain the funniest interactions with a priest and suicide note ever. As you can guess from that Three Billboards isn’t a film to pull its punches, and McDonagh searches out humour in even the darkest of situations. This is exactly the kind of film that will have you in stitches laughing, but feeling bad for doing so at the same time.
3) Call Me By Your Name – Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel of the same name is a beautiful look at first love. Guadagnino gives the film a dreamlike haze throughout that really help encapsulate that first love tone. That feeling is heightened by the music used in film, particularly Sufjan Steven’s songs ‘Mystery of Love’ and ‘Visions of Gideon’. Call Me By Your Name is superb across the board, but where the film really shone was in the performances, particularly those of Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. I find it hard to believe that Chalamet is only 22, because his performance as Elio is one that displays such maturity, and it is a performance that I strongly believe is the best of the year by a long way. I’m also incredibly disappointed that Stuhlbarg hasn’t been recognised by the Academy because he gives such a beautiful and delicate performance as Elio’s father. I wish Call Me By Your Name was in more of the Oscar talk this year, because I believe that it is an absolute masterpiece.
2) The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy, romance, heist, drama is a genre spanning piece and may just be his best work since Pan’s Labyrinth. It manages to work across all these different genres, and never feels like a clash of tones, but rather one seamless blend. It is also a powerful film that retells some classic fairytale themes beautifully. Imbued with del Toro’s inherent love of monsters, and understanding them and their beauty The Shape of Water was simply a stunning cinematic experience. Sally Hawkins is outstanding, managing to convey so much without dialogue, Doug Jones similarly brings the creature to life and makes it feel unique. Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg round out an extraordinary cast (I really don’t know how this was overlooked for best ensemble at the SAG awards). The Shape of Water may be Guillermo del Toro’s English language masterpiece, and deserves to be thought of right up there with his best work.
1) Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is a beautiful, funny, heartfelt, and moving portrayal of adolescence and of the titular character’s relationship with her mother. Gerwig’s script and direction are superb, and bolstered further by wonderful performances for Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf who play that complicated mother/daughter relationship perfectly, and deftly. Lady Bird might not have the scope of a Dunkirk, the poignant social commentary of The Post or Get Out, or the fantastic wonder of Lady Bird, instead it is a simple, beautiful, and pure slice of life. Managing to walk that fine line between indie drama and a high school comedy perfectly, making it one of the great coming of age movies of our time. I would be delighted to see any one of my top 5 claim that Best Picture Oscar on Sunday, but a Lady Bird win might just make me happiest of all.