I couldn’t sleep last night because I was puzzling over not, as you might imagine, my lack of employment, but a more pressing matter: my picks for the Oscars. No, I’m not a member of the Academy. But I am very self-important.
Last year it was easy because of Moonlight (although, admittedly, it’s not hard to choose “anything but Darkest Hour”), but this year the Oscars are graced with such beautiful filmmaking that I want everyone to win.
Also, there were hella snubs, which I’ll get to shortly.
I have watched all the nominees with the exception of the following (I ran out of time and/or didn’t care enough):
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
All the Money in the World
Victoria & Abdul
The Greatest Showman
Star Wars: the Last Jedi (I know)
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island (yes, this was nominated for an Oscar. So was Suicide Squad, which won, and which was The Worst Movie Anyone Saw In 2016)
War for the Planet of the Apes
I’m sorry to say that this means I did, indeed, see The Boss Baby.
If you want to skip the rest of the post, here are my must-see movies of this year, with a star if they are especially must-see:
*Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
*The Florida Project
*Last Men in Aleppo
*A Fantastic Woman
*BPM (NOT FUCKING NOMINATED)
*”DeKalb Elementary” (short)
*”Watu Wote” (short)
And, just to show how self-important I am, I’m going to start from the end just like the Oscars do.
Actress in a Supporting Role
It is so fucked up that Moonee from The Florida Project wasn’t nominated because she was so spectacular, and Mary J. Blige wasn’t that good (sorry, but she wasn’t). I know Allison Janney is going to win, but she really shouldn’t – it’s nearly impossible to choose between Lesley Manville and Laurie Metcalf, but in the end I choose Laurie Metcalf from Lady Bird from her performance in the car at the end.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Obviously Armie was snubbed – I could already see his potential when he was a featured extra in Arrested Development:
So was, of course, Michael Stuhlbarg. I’m glad The Florida Project was nominated for something, though. I didn’t watch All the Money in the World but this is definitely between Sam Rockwell and Willem Dafoe in my opinion. I personally loved Three Billboards – I know a lot of people didn’t like it, and maybe it’s my lack of discernment and obtuse taste, but I thought it was insightful, cutting, forgiving, funny, tragic, and enjoyable. I was captured by Sam Rockwell‘s performance – to me, he earns the win.
Blade Runner 2049 (mostly because it was the only one I saw – but why isn’t The Shape of Water in here?) Also, this:
Let the Right One In, because it should win every year (I mean Dunkirk, sorry)
Also Let the Right One In
Short Film (Live Action)
“DeKalb Elementary” (extremely difficult choice because “Watu Wote” and “The Silent Child” were both so beautifully made, but it ends up being “DeKalb Elementary” because of how simply it was able to depict an incredibly diverse set of themes, Fuck it I’m making this a paragraph)
“DeKalb Elementary” is creepily timely, and yet timeless, because to me, the central narrative is the fragility of white men and the necessity for black women to be our society’s caretakers, protectors, handlers, empathizers. It speaks to the power of empathy, but also the politics of empathy: who receives empathy and who is forced to give it; how can empathy be used as a tool to save lives on a micro and macro level; how humanity is just as important as (arguably more important than) strength and fortitude to manage aggressors. It touches on much more, and like so many of the films this year, holds so many conflicting themes in its hand.
Short Film (Animated)
Several of the animated films this year had what some might call “adult” themes, but to me, children are quite adept at understanding complicated themes. If we taught children that life is complicated (what up Miyazaki?) then they’d probably be better at life.
Anyway, “Negative Space” was delightful, melancholy, funny, and quite dark. But, with the exception of “Dear Basketball,” which was relatively bite-size and trite, the films were all creative, delightful, and multifaceted.
Not fucking Beauty and the Beast! That movie was a shining example of how throwing millions of dollars at a something doesn’t make it good, and in fact, can remove all the ingenuity and creativity that having less money creates. It’s insulting that this film was in this category, because it’s so hard to choose between Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, and The Shape of Water. But in the end I choose Blade Runner 2049 because it required the most imagination and bloomed because of it.
Music (Original Song)
If “Mystery of Love” from Call me By Your Name doesn’t win I’m going to throw a fucking fit. That said, “Remember Me” from Coco was pretty fabulous.
Music (Original Score)
I did a total 180 on this one by listening to the music without the film, which I didn’t like very much – Phantom Thread. However, Call Me By Your Name was snubbed AF.
Makeup and Hairstyling
The only one of these I’ve watched is Darkest Hour, but Gary Oldman is hot and Winston Churchill was not, so I choose that one.
Foreign Language Film
To me, this is where the worst snub happened, because BPM was one of the most arresting films I saw this year, and better than all five of these movies, and it wasn’t even nominated. That being said, all of these movies were masterful and so interesting, but A Fantastic Woman floats well above the rest. I really wish that foreign films had more categories at the Oscars.
Documentary (Short Subject)
I didn’t get to see these because they show them as two different programs and I just didn’t have time to go see them twice. It’s such a shame because they’re always incredible.
All five of these blew me away, but Last Men in Aleppo shattered me. Watching a film like this can make the struggles in films like Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name seem insultingly trivial by comparison, but the paradox this film exemplifies is that even with a backdrop of extraordinary suffering and imminent death, the minutia is what begins to matter most. In the quiet moments between the daily crises of pulling severed limbs and traumatized children from rubble, the White Helmets decide to make themselves a little fish pond with a cascading fountain to enjoy in their center, giggling as one pokes the other in the behind with a drill bit as he’s bent over the pond. It would be so easy to make a movie like this a total slog, like many films about suffering, but the thing about good documentaries and their relatively candid capture of reality is that they grasp that even in extreme situations there are always moments of humor and levity and joy because that is how humans survive.
Didn’t see Victoria & Abdul, but I think Phantom Thread earns it because the narrative and mood were so entwined with the costumes.
Ugh, why do I have to choose? I think I tend to gravitate towards sci-fi elements, because my first instinct is Blade Runner 2049. I’m sticking with it because of how integral it was to the story, but also because I don’t have the best eye and don’t feel like I can choose.
Animated Feature Film
Feature animated films as a whole this year were disappointing compared with the shorts, given the nomination of fucking The Boss Baby, but Coco truly was delightful, funny, and even educational. And, in classic Pixar fashion, tear-inducing. However, The Breadwinner is a close runner-up.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Lady Bird (Get Out and The Big Sick are quite close, but in the end I think the directing is better in Get Out and the writing is better in Lady Bird).
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Mudbound (so hard to choose this over Call Me By Your Name, but I think the writing elevated Mudbound while the acting elevated Call Me By Your Name).
This is where it starts to get really hard, especially because of the SNUBS (Best director was Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name), but of these the obvious forerunner to me is Jordan Peele for Get Out. But I can’t think too hard about it because I also think The Florida Project and Three Billboards should be here, and Dunkirk was also beautifully directed.
Actress in a Leading Role
I loved all of these performances (including Meryl Streep, who elevated a pretty conventional character and plot to something quite inspiring – what can I say? She does the damn job, every time), but to me it’s between Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand. In the end, despite Sally Hawkins killing it, I think Frances McDormand earns it. Why can’t they all win??
Actor in a Leading Role
Are you seriously going to make me choose between Timothée Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya? In the same category as fucking Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, and Denzel Washington, who are all regarded as masters in their field? It is between the two of them, as far as I’m concerned (although I didn’t see Roman J. Israel, but I feel like Denzel just gets nominated every time he has a movie, like Meryl Streep). It’s Timothée Chalamet by the teeniest, tiniest hair (probably because of the nature of that film having more actor-driven scenes), although I’ll probably change my mind to Daniel Kaluuya by the end of the day because of the hypnosis scene.
This year was so damn good for movies. I think what I love the most about movies (and I think this tends to be a little more evident in foreign films) is their ability to gather so many elements (both figurative and literal) and present them together. This is one of the reasons I loved almost all of these nominees, and why I tend to love films like them: human beings are blessed and cursed with contradictions and complexities, and we experience these things simultaneously. In a more literal sense, they take writing, visual storytelling, acting and all of these human elements and make them so much greater than the sum of their parts. Ugh, I’m just waxing poetic at this point, but the idea is that it was so hard to choose from all these films, and by the way, The Florida Project should have been nominated.
My choice is Call Me By Your Name. I loved it so much that I’m afraid to see it again – watching the trailer makes my teeth hurt like too much cupcake frosting. But can I also choose Get Out and Lady Bird?
I haven’t even gotten to the implications of #MeToo or #TimesUp or the fall of Harvey Weinsten – in fact, this post is surprisingly bereft of politics, but it’s mostly because other people have done such a better job than I will be able to at writing about that stuff. Here’s one!