I’m sure I’m seriously violating some inter-web blog protocols by doing this but guess what? I love movies, too! I have seen seven of the nine movies nominated for Academy Awards this year, so I thought I’d give my two cents on some of the year’s best films. A quick shout out to I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist and The Florida Project that didn’t make the cut but are certainly worth seeing.
*Indicates an individual nomination.
Call Me By Your Name
Set in 1983, this beautiful coming of age story centers on 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet* is splendid), who is spending a lazy, idyllic summer with his parents at their villa in Northern Italy. When Oliver (Armie Hammer, swoon), a graduate student, arrives to intern with Elio’s father, a friendship blossoms and forces young Elio to acknowledge his attraction to another man. Subtle and moving, the two actors have incredible chemistry and convey a lot with little dialogue and raw emotion. Oh, and so beautifully shot, you’ll want to head to Italy for the summer.
The Darkest Hour
I didn’t see this one… it looked boring, but they can pretty much hand Gary Oldman the Best Actor Oscar for playing Winston Churchill when he enters the Dolby Theater on March 4th…he’s won pretty much every other acting award so far. Speaking of best actor, although he’s under a cloud of harassment accusations it’s a shame James Franco wasn’t recognized, he deserved a nod for The Disaster Artist.
Didn’t love it. I get that this is a great moment in history for Britain when many civilians came to the aid of soldiers trapped on the beach of Dunkirk during World War II, but I just thought the story lines dragged on a bit and it was hard to follow. I’m a fan of director Christopher Nolan*, but it was just ho-hum for me. However, I noticed that this was the number one pick on many critic’s end-of-year lists so there are surely many who would disagree with me and it is definitely one of the more main stream films of the bunch.
An African-American college student spends a weekend with his white girl friend and her supposedly liberal, open-minded parents in what turns into a “nightmare” of a satire on race. If I’m honest, I thought this movie was weird. Although it got critical raves and made a lot of money last summer, I just didn’t get the hype, so I was pretty surprised to see it get a nomination, especially instead of one of the snubbed movies mentioned above.
Yes, it was hyped as having the best review (ever!) from Rotten Tomatoes, and it truly is just. so. good. Director Greta Gerwig* (yay, only the fifth woman ever to be nominated!) gives us a semi-autobiographical account of teen-age angst that rings true from start to finish. Christine, who will only respond to Lady Bird, is in her senior year of high school and desperate to break out of the boring confines of her home town of Sacramento. At its heart is Lady Bird’s love/hate relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf* is fantastic), a parent stressed by finances and constantly frustrated by her willful daughter. Lady Bird encounters first love and it’s painful fall out, followed by a fling with the class bad boy…all of it forming (she hopes) who she will be when she hits the big city. Soirse Ronan* is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking as the passionate rebel (the anti-abortion assembly at her catholic school is especially gasp-worthy). Ladies, see this film.
The Phantom Thread
I love me some Daniel Day Lewis*, but I skipped this one (again, looked boring). Apparently it’s about a high-end dress maker in 1950s London, who becomes obsessed with his muse.
Loved! Although I had very little desire to see this movie, cuz, Pentagon Papers? Yawn. I should have known, Spielberg’s still got it and Meryl Streep* never disappoints. A fascinating, suspenseful story of leaked reports from the government proving that multiple administrations sent troops to Vietnam, knowing it was war we could not win. Streep, as usual, transforms into Kay Graham, publisher of the Washington Post in a (very) male dominated world of board members urging her not to publish the papers while Tom Hank’s Ben Bradlee and crew are fighting for freedom of the press. I know, Spielberg’s been nominated for best director a million times but still, he deserved one here, but alas, didn’t make the Best Director list.
The Shape of Water
I didn’t dig this one and it has the most nominations of the lot. Elisa is a mute woman (Sally Hawkins*), working on the clean-up crew at a creepy government lab during the Cold War, when she discovers and befriends a humanesque sea creature. For some reason the angry agent in charge spends his days torturing it, but the creature finds kindness and trust in his new friend, which is all fine and good but when things turn romantic it was like watching some one fall madly in love with their pet…! I was much more interested in Elisa’s relationship with her next door neighbor (Richard Jenkins* is awesome), a gay, recovering alcoholic and recluse. Beautifully shot, but not my fav.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best for last, this is my favorite picture of the year. Such a departure from the usual who-dunnit, I’m happy Martin McDonagh was nominated for best original screenplay since he was not acknowledged for best director (he was robbed!!) Taking place several months after the brutal murder of a teen age girl in this fictional rural town, the story focuses on a mother’s rage and frustration when the trail goes cold. Mildred (a ferocious Frances McDormand*) rents three billboards calling out the town’s police department for failing to solve the crime. There are so many surprising, intense scenes in this film, it is unpredictable and often hilarious. Where last year’s Oscar winner Moonlight was (to me) relentlessly somber, this felt more like a dark comedy. The performances are incredible, Woody Harrelson* is completely endearing as Ebbing’s sympathetic chief of police. Sam Rockwell* is a half-wit, racist cop who is just as dangerously impulsive as Mildred and their scenes together crackle. Both of these actors deserve the gold.