2018 Best Picture Nominee Round-Up

This year took a little extra work to see all of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.  I had no interest in two of the nine titles, so I only went to the theater for them because of their nominations, which had the unfortunate effect of making them feel a bit like homework. I won’t say which ones they are, but see if you can guess!  As I’ve done before, here are brief overviews of all nine nominees in alphabetical order. I do not make any predictions about winners and opinions are my own and do not represent Media-Geeks as a whole.  Also as usual, none of my top 4 films of the year were nominated for Best Picture.


Call Me by Your Name:

I think my impression of this as a “gay story” was the wrong one to go in with. It’s really about a memorable summer for an Italian teenager, that happens to involve another man. Unfortunately, it’s a lazy summer that translates into a slow movie where very little of consequence happens.  Even when the sexual scenes pick up, there’s not much sense of risk or danger. Even though the characters supposedly have to hide it from people, we meet another openly gay couple who seem to be suffering no ill consequences from society.  I was disappointed with the plot, although the sense of time and place are very good.  And one scene of fatherly advice is truly outstanding. 4/10

Darkest Hour:

An educational movie for someone who doesn’t know a lot about this aspect of World War II. I never realized how close England came to losing to Germany.  Seeing Dunkirk actually helped me understand parts of this film better, although I still had several questions about historical figures and actions that were taken. It kind of makes you want to hit up Wikipedia right away. The acting was unsurprisingly great, and I even noticed the cinematography, which is hard to make noteworthy in a very grounded, real-world story like this one.  7/10

Dunkirk:

For me, Dunkirk is a triumph of cinema art over science. The technical film-making on display is brilliant. Where Dunkirk is lacking is the storytelling. What seems to be a fairly simple story managed to leave me with many questions afterward. I did understand it overall, of course, but it felt like there were several unaddressed issues. Christopher Nolan once again plays with different timelines, which I enjoyed, although that certainly didn’t help smooth out the problems I had with the story. A great cinematic experience though. 7/10

Get Out:

Get Out is one of those movies that comes along periodically that I respect a lot more than I enjoy. It is absolutely effective at what I think it’s trying to do, and it has a great message, but it was rather uncomfortable to watch. I do think that’s part of the goal, especially for someone of my…ahem…ethnic background. It’s good, no doubt about that, but not one that I’ll be eager to re-watch.  6/10

Lady Bird:

Lady Bird might be most notable for how unremarkable it is. The story is a slice of life, about ordinary people doing ordinary things. This makes the entire thing rest on the characters, who are great. The movie is quirkily funny, relatable, and the Sacramento setting added a nice touch for those of us from that area.  It’s the most realistic of the nominees and its universal themes and situations can likely be appreciated by everyone.  8/10

 

Phantom Thread:

I assume this movie was nominated as a nod to Daniel Day-Lewis’ career, since he said he is retiring after this film.  I can think of no other reason, as I am baffled by its selection. Presented as a historical drama, the characters are so removed from reality that I’ve seen more believable sci-fi movies. Despite nonsensical choices, the movie obviously expects you to be invested in this absurd relationship between a famous dressmaker and his new lover/muse. They can’t even be absurd in an entertaining way, as their lives are fairly mundane. Through the modern lens of female empowerment, the lead female character was actually offensive. Although, I will give credit her good performance by a relative newcomer, Vicky Krieps. She and the sound design were about all I can recommend here.  3/10

 

The Post:

Surprisingly exciting, this may be the most overtly political nominee this year. While it manages to be uplifting in the moment, after the lights come up, it also makes you despair a little bit for the current government and its antagonism toward the press. Another historical story, the fast pace made it a challenge to keep track of names for those of us who don’t already know the major players.  Luckily, I never got lost; the story itself is clear, even if the individual characters are a bit foggy in the beginning.  8/10

 

The Shape of Water:

Likely my most-anticipated film of awards season, I wanted to love this. I almost did…but it fell just short for me because of what I call its fatal flaw. (Minor spoilers ahead). The movie is supposed to show a love story between two beings who are outcasts and lonely but find a companion in the other. I felt the relationship was mostly one-sided, like an owner and a stray dog, and I’m quite certain that was not the feeling I was supposed to get. I needed some more reciprocity to fully buy into the love story. Otherwise, I liked all the rest of it.  7/10

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:

From the trailer, I thought this might be half comedy, but it’s darker than that, so my mood sobered up fairly quickly into the story. There are still moments of dark humor though, and best of all, there are several surprising moments that hadn’t been spoiled. Another huge point in its favor was the ending, which really makes you think not just about what happens next in the story, but about yourself. This one is ripe for post-film discussion with friends.  7/10

 

My average scores for the nominees are down from last year, which was down from the previous year.  The double whammy of Call Me by Your Name and Phantom Thread really hurt the group. I don’t think Call Me by Your Name is bad, but it did not feel new or exciting to me.  Phantom Thread, on the other hand, made me angry over how bad I thought it was, and yet it was nominated over many more deserving movies.  Since the Academy’s tastes never line up with mine, I’m a bit used to it. However, I’ll still take this chance to mention my favorites:

Patriots’ Day was the story of the Boston Marathon bombing, and as a runner, I may have responded better to this than the average viewer. I, Tonya did get some Academy nominations, but not Best Picture, which is a shame. It’s not often a film can entertain you and also make you completely rethink everything you thought you knew on a subject. Wind River absolutely got snubbed, and it may have been collateral damage from Harvey Weinstein, since it was originally distributed by The Weinstein Company.  Finally, The Big Sick also should have gotten more recognition than it did.

The Shape of Water and Three Billboards have won most of the precursor awards, so they are the presumptive favorites. I can’t complain much about that, since they’re both really solid works, even if I don’t think either of them are their directors’ best works.

How many of them did you see? Were there any that you wouldn’t have even considered seeing if they weren’t nominated?

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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