In this regular film series, Fiacha Harrington gives us an in-depth look at the front runners in the best film category at this years Oscars.
It’s that time of year again, when the best of the past year’s movies compete for accolaids and attention. Some award shows have already come and gone. The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri have been the big winners so far. However the race is now on to see who will come out the winner at this year’s 90th annual Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. The results will be announced on Sunday March 4th 2018.
There are nine movies in competition in the Best Picture category. Some of these films have been in the cinemas this past year while the majority have just been released or have yet to make it to theatres in Finland. Here is a look at those nine nominated movies. In my opinion this year’s contenders are made up two kinds of films; big epics like Dunkirk and The Post mixing with small movies with a big heart – Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird.
In my opinion this year’s contenders are made up two kinds of films; big epics like Dunkirk and The Post mixing with small movies with a big heart – Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird
As with recent Oscar ceremonies, politics and causes have somewhat overshadowed the main event. Although we’re unlikely to see the winner for best picture announced erroneously this year (NB: Warren Beatty) – one wonders if the influence of the #metoo movement and sexual abuse allegations that have rocked the film industry will influence the whole ceremony.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Set in the summer of 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells the story of seventeen year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) who is spending the summer in Northern Italy with his academic parents. The film explores the relationship that develops between Elio and research student Oliver (Armie Hammer) who is spending the summer with the family at their villa. This coming of age story is at times familiar yet so carefully played out that it’s both subtle and charming. Chalamet is also up for the Best Actor award for his portrayal of the sensitive Elio.
DARKEST HOUR Directed by Joe Wright
It’s interesting to see two films nominated for the Best Picture award that deal with the same important moment in history. Dunkirk looks at that moment in time from the point of view of the soldiers stranded on the beach as Hitler’s forces overtake France and the imminent threat to England in the early days of World War Two. Darkest Hour however looks at the same events through the eyes of the newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). Oldman is almost totally unrecognizable in the lead role, for which he too has garnered a Best Actor nomination. On screen, Churchill faces challenges from all of those around him as he tries to find a solution as to how to rescue the troops stuck on the shores of Dunkirk.
DUNKIRK Directed by Christopher Nolan
Dunkirk gives the viewer a look at those same events as covered in Darkest Hour – but this time it is the soldiers stranded on the beach that face the greatest odds. Nolan primarily avoids the use of big name actors in the roles of the foot soldiers. Only a handful of bigger names like Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance are cast in pivotal roles of authority or action. Dunkirk was one of the big movies that was released last summer and gave great exposure to the history of the thousands of Allied troops faced with the imminent threat from Nazi Germany. Dunkirk has managed to garner eight Oscar nominations in total including one for director Nolan.
GET OUT Directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out was one of the biggest break out movies of last year. This low budget indie horror movie – directed by comedian Jordan Peele – managed to find a wide audience upon its release last spring and is well deserving of its four Oscar nominations. Leading actor Daniel Kaluuya – nominated in his role as photographer Chris – is travelling with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her white parents who are unaware that Chris is black. Things take a sinister turn as they spend the weekend in the countryside with Rose’s family and friends. Avoiding cheap thrills and opting for a strong story instead, Get Out is both a creepy movie and an examination of blackness and white privilege in America.
LADY BIRD Directed by Greta Gerwig
Lady Bird is also a coming of age movie along the lines of Call Me By Your Name. This time the setting is 2002 and tells the story of seventeen year old Christine McPherson aka Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) – who yearns to leave her home town of Sacramento and to go to college on the East Coast. Lady Bird is another small movie with a big heart and is driven by a strong performances from Ronan in the lead and Laurie Metcalf who plays her mother Marion (both have received acting nominations for lead and supporting actress respectively). The mother/daughter relationship is at the centre of the movie and they spend most of their time at loggerheads with each other. Metcalf is trying to support her daughter and wants her to be the best that she can and to help her with life’s inevitable hardships.
PHANTOM THREAD Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Director Paul Thomas Anderson and his leading man Daniel Day-Lewis are no strangers to Oscar nominations – Day-Lewis having one three best acting Oscars – yet funnily enough Anderson, who has been nominated multiple times over the years, has yet to take an Oscar home. Uniting with his There Will Be Blood director, Daniel Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock, a famed dressmaker who works alongside his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) in 1950s post–war London. Reynolds is a confirmed bachelor whose world is turned upside down when he falls for a spirited young woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps). Alma becomes Reynolds muse and lover. This may be the last chance for Daniel Day-Lewis to take home an Oscar as he has retired from acting, apparently for good this time. His talent will be sorely missed.
THE POST Directed by Steven Spielberg
The Post brings together three Hollywood big hitters: director Steven Spielberg and actors Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. They already share quite a few Oscars between them. It is 1971, Meryl Streep is Kay Graham the publisher of the Washington Post, the first woman to hold such a position. Tom Hanks plays her editor Ben Bradlee. The two are considering the ramifications for both the paper and themselves if they are to go ahead and print the top secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers detail US involvement in Vietnam that spans the period of four presidencies. This historical look at past events is a timely reminder of how such publications are still a hot button issue almost fifty years later – especially in relation to modern day whistleblowers such as WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden.
THE SHAPE OF WATER Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro has an established career as director of fantasy/action films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. This year sees him with a mainstream crossover hit, The Shape Of Water, which has already won many awards and is nominated for a total of thirteen Oscars. This type of movie is normally noted for its technical achievements at the Oscars – but The Shape Of Water impressively has nods for directing and three acting nominations. The Shape Of Water is set in 1962 and tells the story of mute janitor Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works at a government facility and how she develops a relationship with an amphibious creature which is being held captive. This unusual love tale is one that benefits most by being seen rather than being talked about.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Directed by Martin McDonagh
Another popular award winning film this season is the aptly titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Director and writer McDonagh, who is best known for the indie crime movie In Bruges, has put together an amazing cast and story. This has garnered seven Oscar nominations including one for best original screenplay and no less than three acting nominations. Frances McDormand is a grieving mother who is looking for her daughter’s killer and considers herself poorly served by an inept local police force. Woody Harrelson is the chief of police and Sam Rockwell plays his deputy.
So there you have it, a brief look at the contenders vying for a big win in the best picture category come March 4th 2018. All nine Best Picture contenders have garnered nominations in other categories too. This year’s nominees are all strong in the acting categories. There are a few other films that round out the acting nods that don’t feature in the best picture category. These include a best actor nomination for Denzel Washington for his portrayal of the titular Roman J. Israel Esq. Margot Robbie fills out the best actress category for her role in I,Tonya, the story of ice-skater Tonya Harding. Willem Dafoe is nominated for his supporting role in the Florida Project – as is Christopher Plummer for All The Money In The World. Plummer’s role was shot in a brief period just before the film’s release as he was the replacement for Kevin Spacey. Mary J Blige is nominated for her supporting role in Mudbound with the supporting category filled out by Allison Janney’s role in I, Tonya.