The Academy Awards celebrates its 90th birthday this weekend and to celebrate this significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is only fitting that there is an excellent selection of films that are up for the most prestigious award of the night, this of course being the Best Picture. A total of nine films have been selected for the prize, but only one film will walk away victorious. The films up for this prize are certainly an interesting bunch. A story focusing on some brave journalists, a couple of love stories, a visceral telling of the evacuation at Dunkirk, a deeply unsettling tale of racism and one woman’s quest for justice. There was a lot to love about these films and so it is time to rank them from worst to best, starting with…
9. Call Me By Your Name
Now, I know that many people around the world have fallen head over heels in love with this film, I sadly am not one of these people. Something about this film just didn’t land with me as much as it did with many a film critic. It was undoubtedly a beautifully shot film, with lush cinematography and a terrific score. What really drags this film down for me is the story. Though both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet both give solid performances, with it being a love story, I just was not invested enough in their romance. The film’s pacing is severely slow and it means the film drags. Though it does have an extremely powerful closing scene that is memorable and very emotional, the rest of the film in my mind, sadly is not.
8. The Post
Full review here
Steven Spielberg as director? Check. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on board? Check. A film about a time when journalists and the White House clash over top secret documents? Check. All the ingredients for greatness, but sadly there’s something about this Spielberg picture that just doesn’t quite hit its mark. Given the current incumbent in the White House, it’s little wonder Spielberg fast-tracked it into production. The themes of this film are really relevant in this “fake news” era, but the film really struggles to get going in the first half, before finally giving a tense second half. You would expect something more from a director as gifted as Spielberg, but it just never matched those lofty expectations.
7. Phantom Thread
Full review here
Daniel Day Lewis is one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. The only man to win three Best Actor awards and for one final bow, back with Paul Thomas Anderson in this beautiful tale about a dress designer who falls in love with a woman, and the sometimes loving, sometimes extremely testing relationship that plays out on screen. As a film it is masterfully directed and the three central performances of the film bind it all together. Day Lewis is of course superb, but it’s the work of Vicky Krieps that captures the most attention. Going toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis is not easy, but she pulls it off, and it’s a fascinating relationship to watch. The costumes are stunning and the music is equally so. A worthy send off for a sublime actor.
6. Darkest Hour
Full review here
World War II. Britain at war with a tyrannical man threatening to wreak havoc on the continent. It was truly a desperate situation, and one man stepped up when his country needed him most. That man was Winston Churchill and what maybe a career defining performance, and one that is looking extremely likely to bag Gary Oldman the Best Actor gong this year. The actor is barely recoginseable under the make up, but it helps make his performance feel so powerful and authentic. You just see Churchill on screen and not the actor, and that is worthy of praise. With an impeccably acted cast, as Churchill faces a race against time to evacuate British soldiers from Dunkirk (more on that later). It manages to inject humour into this bleak situation, and serves a reminder of that indomitable British spirit that help this nation through the Second World War.
5. Get Out
If ever a film that was released in 2017 that felt timely, it was Get Out. A year that saw some horrifying events take place in America, hence making the directorial debut from Jordan Peele an extremely relevant and important piece of cinema. Fusing comedy and horror is walking a very fine line, but given Peele’s comedy roots, he absolutely walks that line perfectly. In that one minute it’s a happy scene and the next it’s utterly horrifying. Daniel Kaluuya is perhaps the best he has ever been in the lead role in a film that has such significant and relevant social commentary. It’s a remarkable achievement for Peele and all the more impressive that it has stayed in the Awards conversation all this time, despite coming out in February in the States.
4. Lady Bird
Full review here
Growing up, something we have all got to go through at one point in our lives, and though this is not anything new in movie making and story telling, nothing has captured it quite as well as this film. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, also making her directorial debut along with Jordan Peele, this film just captures those struggles that we all go through as teenagers so affectionately, that it made it really unlike any other coming-of-age drama. Saorise Ronan’s magnetic performance at the heart of it all is the reason why it all just clicks. Like with Oldman, you don’t see the actress only the character that she has become, likewise with Laurie Metcalf as her mother. Likewise with Peele, Gerwig’s debut behind the camera means that she has a very bright future ahead of her.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Full review here
Much like Get Out, when you fuse two genres that are so different like comedy and horror, the result can be a gigantic mess. Similalrly fusing comedy and tragedy can be equally problematic. Yet again this tale of a woman grieving over her daughter’s murder and her fury with the inaction by the authorities is both dark and in places deeply tragic. Yet it manages to be extremely funny, finding humour in the most unlikely of places. Frances McDormand has been winning plaudits left, right and centre, and much like Oldman, it would be an enormous surprise if she is not clutching that trophy by the end of the night, likewise for Sam Rockwell in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Full review here
Christopher Nolan, a director whose name will immediately capture the attention of cinema goers across the world. Dabbling in history for this film about the Miracle of Dunkirk, proved that as a director, he can take any genre and make an extremely compelling, magnificently crafted film. The film-making on show here is flawless, the use of practical models adds so much authenticity to the story and from a technical standpoint it’s just astounding to watch. Though there’s not much dialogue, and the characters do not have much in the way of character development, the story that Nolan crafts is edited, fusing three varying narratives into one so faultlessly. In terms of the technical categories, this film is bound to pick up a few awards in that area.
1. The Shape of Water
Full review here
Of all the things you can say about Guillermo del Toro, one thing is for sure, this man is a visionary director, and no film better exemplifies this than this absolutely stunning film. If you tell someone the basic premise of this film they would probably look at you in utter bemusement that a film like this could be so emotive and so heartfelt, but it is that and then some. McDormand is favourite but as a mute woman who falls in love with this creature, Sally Hawkins is mesmerising which is so remarkable given that she has no dialogue in the film, and is superbly supported by Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stulbarg and Richard Jenkins especially. It’s soaked in absolutely gorgeous visuals and the cinematography is equally dripping in breath-taking beauty. A truly magnetic and immersive piece of cinema and one of del Toro’s best without any question of a doubt.
Could/should have been nominated…
While for the most part, all of these films deserve to be awarded with this recognition, there are a few films that for my money could have been included. Here are three that for my money could have joined the above:
Blade Runner 2049 (review) – The sequel to the film that shaped science fiction, that in turn was a worthy companion piece and one of the best films of 2017. Denis Villeneuve’s film was technically astounding with breath-taking cinematography and a really emotionally investing story. While it’s technical brilliance has been recognised and one that should see Roger Deakins finally win the Oscar, it deserved a Best Picture nomination (#DeakinsorRiot).
The Big Sick (review) – Romantic comedies can sometimes be so generic, basically retelling the same story over and over, but The Big Sick certainly isn’t that. It was a tremendously funny film about the real life exploits of its star Kumail Nanjiani, who despite pressure from his parents falls in love with an American woman, who develops a very serious illness. It was a very sincere story, told with heart and though its original screenplay nomination is well deserved, it could have got a lot more than that.
Coco (review) – Pixar is synonymous with telling emotional stories that leave its audience members to absolute blubbering messes, and its latest is no exemption. This was a beautifully told story about one boy’s passion for what he wants to do despite being completely forbidden from doing so by his family. The animation is magnificent and the music is delightful. Incredibly only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3) and Coco had more than enough quality to join that category.