Thoughts on the 2018 Oscars’ Best Picture nominees

This year, I decided to put my Cineworld card to good use and try to watch every Best Picture nominee for this year’s Oscars.

They’re quite a varied bunch, each film has something worth celebrating in it and, apart from Call Me By Your Name, I managed to see them all before the ceremony.

So here’s a quick little post with my thoughts on eight of the nine nominees.

Three Billboards
Copyright: Film4.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Frances McDormand plays a grieving mother who is fed up with the police’s lack of progress in their investigation of her daughter’s killer and decides to take matters into her own hands.

Her unpredictable quest for justice has consequences which are both darkly funny and immensely tragic -the film switches from hilarious to heartbreaking so quickly it can cause whiplash.

All the characters are believable, perfectly-performed, and well-served by a script that features verbose and vulgar one-liners mixed with moving sentiments.

The Post
Copyright: Amblin Entertainment.

The Post: Sometimes, it’s nice to just watch a group of actors you know and love doing some capital-A Acting, even if the film itself isn’t very remarkable.

Hanks, Streep, and a cast full of people from a few of my favourite TV shows stand around in newsrooms and mansions debating over whether or not to publish classified government documents about the Vietnam war.

The film flies through the plot and is always entertaining but it’s not as good as most of the other nominees.

One suspects it got in because it’s a Steven Spielberg film with topical subject matter and the Academy wanted to give Meryl Streep yet another nomination.

Near the end, there is quite a lot of slightly-melodramatic talk about how Journalism Is Very Important but, funnily enough, I didn’t really mind.

Darkest Hour.jpg
Copyright: Focus Features.

Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman is terrific in a film which is otherwise perfectly fine.

Joe Wright pulls off some distracting and self-consciously stylish direction in a failed attempt to make his slightly-above-average film look better than it actually is.

The true story of all the political infighting just before the Dunkirk evacuation is worth telling, but it would be more interesting to show the fighting on the beaches rather than Churchill talking about the fighting on the beaches.

Dunkirk
Copyright: Warner Brothers.

Dunkirk: Oh hey, what are the chances?

Watching Dunkirk was one of the best cinema experiences I had last year – a tense, terrifying and very very LOUD assault on the senses.

The soundtrack, the practical effects, the unusual structure, and the sound design all work together perfectly to make a memorably immersive experience.

I fear that its effect will be somewhat diminished when watched on the small screen because without the breathtaking spectacle, it’s fairly light on plot and character, which would make a re-watch at home underwhelming (I call this the Gravity effect).

Phantom Thread
Copyright: Universal.

Phantom Thread: Watching this was one of those odd occasions where even though it’s clear that everyone behind and in front of the camera is immensely talented, even though the film is immaculately made, it still left me cold.

There are flashes of brilliance in its exploration of the relationship between Daniel Day Lewis’ posh controlling man-child fashion designer and Vicky Krieps’ waitress who isn’t as innocent as she first appears, but when it ended I felt unsatisfied without being able to fully articulate why.

It’s been showered with praise but I’ve struggled to muster much enthusiasm for it.

Lady Bird
Copyright: A24.

Lady Bird: This gentle coming-of-age drama about a California teenager who is desperate to leave home and live somewhere more exciting is deceptively simple.

The way it flits through the life of its titular protagonist and sketches out the convincing and complex relationships she has with everyone else in the town is done with such seemingly-effortless ease that the film could be dismissed as lightweight or unimpressive when it is anything but.

It’s warm, touching, clearly made with lots of affection, and just really, really lovely. At the start I was amused but fairly nonplussed, then by the end I was moved to tears.

The perfect Mother’s Day film.

Get Out
Copyright: Universal.

Get Out: The fact that a comedic horror-satire got a Best Picture nomination is a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one.

Daniel Kaluuya is fantastic as the black boyfriend who is invited to his WASP girlfriend’s mansion and begins to suspect that something deeply disturbing is being hidden from him.

It’s strange, funny, topical, uncomfortable, and enjoyably creepy. Its nomination is made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s Jordan Peele’s first ever film.

It won’t win, though.

The Shape of water
Copyright: Fox Searchlight.

The Shape Of Water: Hopefully, this will.

Guillermo Del Toro’s visionary and unashamedly-sentimental fantasy historical-drama is one of the weirdest Best Picture nominees ever.

Bathed in beautiful blues and greens, accompanied by a romantic Alexandre Desplat score, and set in a wonderfully-realised version of 1960s America, the film portrays that classic, timeless love story of a mute woman who falls for a fish-monster.

Building an entire movie around a girl-meets-koi romance is a fairly risky decision, but Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones make this relationship genuinely convincing – no, I can’t believe I’m saying that either.

Any initial scepticism is destroyed by the scene where, without saying a single word, Sally tells her neighbour why the strange creature who was brought into the secret government lab where she works as a cleaner is so important to her.

The fact that this film works at all, let alone works as well as it does, is near-miraculous and deserves recognition.

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