And The Winner Is…

By: Tyler Chuck

In large part thanks to MoviePass, I’ve seen more movies than ever this year.  And unlike in the music industry, this has been an excellent year for film.  Movies have expanded our imagination, taught us what it means to grow up, and taken us to places we only could have dreamed of.  After watching way too many movies this year, here are my picks for major category Oscar Awards for 2018 as well as a little bit on each film.  Like Katharine Graham’s decision in The Post, each choice was difficult, not only deciding a winner, but also who made the nomination cut.  The choice in bold is the one that I’ve selected to win.

Best Picture

I,Tonya

  • Told after the events in an interview style, this Tonya Harding film dives into the inner thinkings of each of each of the key players in the Tonya Harding saga.  This film is fascinating because each perspective differs so greatly.  It would be a perfect example to teach point of view in an English class.  I especially loved that in the credits, they played the real clips, revealing just how spot on the actor’s performances were.

Get Out

  • I’m not a fan of scary movies, but this psychological thriller was tastefully done.  Without the gratuitous jumping out from around corners, Get Out built and kept suspense through a series of racially charged, story altering twists that kept the viewer alert. It also boldly told a story of twisted racism and encouraged people to examine their own beliefs.  Well done, Jordan Peele.

Dunkirk

  • The most gripping film of the year, Dunkirk made me feel tense from beginning to end.  I’ve never felt so immersed by a film.  You feel like you are on the beach at Dunkirk, scared for your life at every turn.  With a cast of relatively unknown actors, Christopher Nolan immerses the audience in a history and setting.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Quirky, sad, depressing, and genius all come to mind as this film sets a basic story for the actors to shine through.  There’s nothing special about Ebbing, Missouri.  The bleak setting sets the focus on the performers, who come through in shining colors. More about this one later.  The acting is fantastic.

Call Me by Your Name

  • A coming of age story, Call Me by Your Name is set in beautiful Northern Italy in the summer.  As most of the country is hit by terrible weather, the scene is quite enticing.  One of my favorite scenes in film this year shows the beginning stages of Elio and Oliver’s romance as they playfully argue about how a piece of music can and should be played.

Lady Bird

  • I know, an early 2000’s piece on Sacramento that didn’t have any mention of the Sacramento Kings is appalling, but this film is just so good in almost every way.  When we look back at this film in 10 years, it will be this era’s coming of age story, full of awkward tensions and dialogue that reminds viewers of conversations that they had with their own parents.

Darkest Hour

  • This nod will be for Gary Oldman alone, who transformed his body and soul to become Winston Churchill.  To be honest though, the film is a little too dark for my liking and a little on the boring side.  Once you’re convinced that Oldman is Churchill (which is an incredible feat), there’s not much about this film to write home about.

Phantom Thread

  • Paul Thomas Anderson has done it again, building tension through stares, assumptions, and silence in a movie with no real events. The film is gripping and uncomfortable as Reynolds and Alma assert relational power. The film presents the life of a famous London designer that is relationally cursed. While Reynolds can’t stray from routine, he falls in love with Alma and their relationship is where the film’s action takes place. Daniel Day Lewis is just brilliant. And one early scene joking about staring in a film with the greatest percentage of pregnant facial pauses ever shows a nice metacognitive ode. The film is funnier than I expected, yet immediately makes you not sure if you were supposed to laugh. A true cinematic masterpiece.

Coco

  • Pixar’s visually stunning love story to music and family is great for children and adults alike.  It tells a story of the importance of music, family, and the importance of vulnerability.  As long as we don’t have to include the subpar Frozen short as part of this movie, Coco gets the nod.

The Post

  • It will possibly lose points for being strikingly similar to Spotlight in some ways, but I can’t think of a better movie to emulate.  The Academy often chooses a film with a positive message and this one fits the bill.  With reporters under attack being labeled as “fake news,” the Pentagon Papers are an important part of American history to remember.  But beyond just the message, Spielberg has done a masterful job with this film.  The audience feels Katharine Graham’s excruciatingly tough decisions as it pertains to whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers.  Streep and Hanks are both compelling, funny, and draw in the audience’s attention.  The suspense is much greater than one would expect, even implementing the Bourne-esque shaky camera for dramatic effect.  The Post is the movie we need to win the Academy Award in 2018.  Bonus points for a very creative ending.

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Best Director

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

  • In Nolan fashion, Dunkirk is epically cinematic.  It’s the kind of movie that should be seen in theaters to be experienced in its fullest.

Steven Spielberg, The Post

  • Spielberg makes a point that freedom of the press is essential in the Post.  By making heroes of the journalists, he shows the importance to fight for objective storytelling.

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

  • Gerwig shines in her solo-directing debut.  In a story based on her own life, Gerwig brings her own experiences to the screen, giving an insight into her personal struggles of growing up as a teenager.  She doesn’t confine herself to the typical movie-isms and instead tells her story her way.

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

  • This unique film takes comes from the unique direction of Guillermo Del Toro, who also created Pan’s Labyrinth.  Del Toro’s vision is just so different than anyone else in film.  When other directors zig, he zags.  Who else could come up with a love story with a lovable water monster from the Amazon?  And even more, there isn’t really anyone else that could pull it off.

Jordan Peele, Get Out

  • The genius behind this one and all its racial undertones come out through all the subtleties of Peele’s masterful direction. This film is one that we’re going to remember for a long time.  And hopefully, it causes people to think about their subtle racist beliefs that need to be corrected.  Props for carrying through a potentially controversial vision and tastefully making a point that racism is way too normalized and cultural.

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Best Actor

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

  • After watching this film, I had to remind myself what Gary Oldman is like in real life.  His portrayal of Winston Churchill is stunning.  He never breaks character and it’s amazing.  Oldman’s Churchill is quirky, sarcastic, blunt, and unapologetic, a great representation of the force that Churchill was.

Tom Hanks, The Post

  • I love Tom’s honesty in this film as he plays Ben Bradlee.  He’s a jovial character, yet you can feel his stress and pressure.  I love that he’s aware of his shortcomings, yet doesn’t try to hide in them at all.

James Franco, The Disaster Artist

  • What a creative idea for a project.  Franco does the ever so difficult job of transforming himself into the infamous Tommy Wiseau.  While most people have a couple of lines that they can jokingly imitate Wiseau with, Franco does it believably in a movie that is shockingly good.

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread

  • Daniel Day Lewis, the measuring stick by which all actors are measured, is the only reason this film is possible. I don’t think another actor could have pulled it off. Starring as the conflicted and micromanaging Reynolds Woodcock, the role requires Day Lewis to build tension and hold that tension throughout the film. The viewer is fixed on Woodcock’s face, waiting for the explosion that never comes. In each scene, Day Lewis is forced to push story forward with the minute details of body language and facial expressions. It’s an exhausting watch, but an amazing performance.

Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

  • Chalamet has had a fantastic year, also having a fantastic role as a “too cool for school” love interest in Lady Bird.  In Call Me by Your Name, he plays a teen, free to be himself.  Unlike other films where actors are pushed into playing a role in a setting, Chalamet gets the combined freedom of an accepting family and a vacation setting.  And thus, all of Elio’s struggles are his own, which Chalamet brings to life beautifully.  His summer fling with Oliver is a conflicted, slow boil, showing conflict, passion, and angst.  And the end credits scene staring at the fire is beautifully relatable and humanizing.  Welcome to the big leagues, young Timothee.  You’ve not only made it, you’ve shown that you are the best.  I’m extremely excited to see what comes next for this fantastic young actor.

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Best Actress

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

  • Robbie channels all the charming creepiness that she has portraying Harley Quinn and actually lands in a good movie.  And the results are refreshingly good.  Juxtaposed with the impossibly great Allison Janney as her mother, Tonya Harding comes off as a lovable as a child and aloof as an adult as she understandably is singularly focused on skating.

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

  • I’m quite impressed that a Scottish woman convinced everyone that she grew up in Sacramento.  Ronan had no accent at all and the way that she puts her emotions on screen are perfect.

Meryl Streep, The Post

  • Because she’s Meryl Streep.  But also because she plays a subtly conflicted Katharine Graham perfectly.  Nothing over the top, but a classic performance in a fantastic film.  Her elegance and leadership when needed help anchor the film as all characters turn to her for important decisions.  As she decides what is right, she harkens back to her father and late husband for direction, but ultimately makes the decision to publish by herself, realizing she has everything to lose.  Streep shows us that it’s not easy to make the right decision.

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

  • Hawkins plays a mute woman that falls in love with a water monster. This might seem like the plot from a cheesy comic book, but Hawkins pulls it off with great credibility, making the audience feel her struggle to be understood and known.  She really makes the film go and you feel the emotion on her face.  Props to the excellent sign language.

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • McDormand shows why she is a tour de force actor.  Mildred is a mother that has just lost her daughter.  She has a fractured family and her community is all kind of wacky.  In Three Billboards, McDormand balances equal parts crazy and badass.  She acts completely from what Freud would call her id, while lacking much of an ego, all while the audience watches as the superego.  McDormand’s performance is amazing and Three Billboards is fantastic.

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Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes

  • He didn’t win for being an evil bad guy in Foxcatcher, and he probably doesn’t win here either, but this is a role that allows us to see that Steve Carell can act.  Carell plays a chauvinist Bobby Riggs and somehow delivers a performance that makes the audience feel sympathetic toward him.  We see Carell’s depressed side that can’t seem to realize that the reason he’s depressed is that he won’t respect women.  While usually not cast in roles that win awards, Carell’s version of Riggs is tastefully done and deserves a nomination.

Mark Rylance, Dunkirk

  • What a hero.  While not exactly presented as one in the dark and intense film, Rylance calmly just does the right thing.  He risks his life to save his countrymen.  And it’s beautiful.  I love his confidence throughout the film, especially when it’s juxtaposed with the utter chaos on the beach.

Idris Elba, Molly’s Game

  • I really just loved the one speech where he stands up for Molly Bloom.  In typical Sorkin fashion, the speech is poetic, beautiful, meaningful, and epic.  The movie’s really just worth seeing for that one scene.

Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

  • If you can somehow get over seeing the Winklevoss twins from the Social Network when you see him on screen, Hammer is a good actor.  In Call Me by Your Name, he has a larger than life personality when around others, yet a private side that is quite honestly quiet and lazy.  His performance provides is crisp and insightful.

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Topping his larger name co-star Woody Harrelson, Rockwell plays an idiotic cop whose actions push the movie forward.  On some level, you are supposed to hate Dixon and his family’s rural, small town, backward values.  Yet you get an insight to his life living with an angry and oppressive mother and you start to understand the conflict and struggle.  Rockwell balances the conflict well, showing equal parts relatable and crazy.

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Best Supporting Actress

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

  • I’ll never be a mother, but dang, I’ve got a lot more respect for mothers with daughters after watching this film.  Metcalf tries so hard with her daughter, yet in most areas just cannot connect.  I loved seeing this tension in Metcalf while trying to keep the family together and afloat.

Julia Roberts, Wonder

  • Speaking of mothers, I loved Julia Roberts in Wonder.  She plays a character just so conflicted sending her son to school despite having deformities on his face.  This film is a tearjerker, but most of the scenes that got to me were the ones with Roberts and seeing the incredible care she showed for her son.

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

  • Spencer has to do the talking for two in Shape of Water as she co-stars alongside the mute Sally Hawkins.  I loved watching Spencer try to stay true to her moral compass as she contemplates doing what is right versus following protocol.  Her intense loyalty to Elisa is what friendship is all about.

Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

  • Okay, so the parenting theme is strong.  Along with Ray Romano, Hunter nails half of the concerned parent balancing tenacity and concern.  While she fights for her daughter Emily’s care she also defends her breaking up with Kumail, a sticky situation.

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

  • To be completely honest, this was my favorite performance of the year.  An absolutely must watch.  The only reason that there are others in this category are because there had to be, but Janney’s performance is next level good.  She’s volatile, smug, trashy, angry, and a total badass as LaVona Golden.  Her performance puts the audience on edge, yet totally drawn to the character.

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Overall, this was an exceptional year for movies and an exceptional year for women, who outshined their male counterparts across the board.  Capped off with Oprah’s amazing speech at the Golden Globes, I am extremely thankful that across the board women have been able to tell stories from their world as they see it.  It’s about time that we recognize their voices and create spaces where women are not afraid to say anything.  I highly recommend getting out and seeing the great developments in the art form that is cinema.  Trust me, they’re worth it.

Cover Image via Digital Spy

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