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Friday, March 02, 2018

Oscars for 2017 Films

Rialto Theatre, Edmonton
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta
The Academy Award ceremonies are Sunday night and my wife and I have again been spending some of our leisure time viewing nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that we actually managed to see three of the films nominated for best picture during the 2017 calendar year. That was partly because two nominees were out in the summer and were not year-end releases. Still, thanks to various bad weather days in January, we saw six of the nine best picture films prior to the announcement of the Oscars -- all of them in the theater except for one of the early-year movies!

Even though I have seen a fairly good sample of the films and performances, I will as usual update this post as we watch more of these films. Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Moreover, as I do each year, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, obviously, I can only rank the performances I watched.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange or other sites if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: The Shape of Water is a slight favorite for Best Picture and its director (Guillermo Del Toro) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major category.  In other categories, Darkest Hour star Gary Oldman and Three Billboards star Frances McDormand are strongly favored to pick up best acting awards. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) are also now highly favored in the supporting roles.

Best picture

The Shape of Water **
Lady Bird **
The Post **
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri **
Dunkirk **
Get Out
Darkest Hour **

Call Me by Your Name
Phantom Thread

Comment: I would have put "I, Tonya" in this category as it was an excellent film. My oldest daughter saw "Call Me By Your Name" and really liked it. My spouse and I think "Phantom Thread" looks like a rental at home.

Best director

I saw four of these films prior to the Oscar announcements:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan **
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig **
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro **

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

Best actor in a Leading Role

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” **
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Comment: This actually seems like a weak crop compared to the women. Day-Lewis and Washington are frequent contenders in this category, but neither of their 2017 films made a big splash. Washington's film is on DVD, but we watched "The Florida Project" and "Mudbound" when facing the choice recently.

Best actress in a Leading Role

Remarkable, especially when compared to last year, I also all of these performances prior to the Oscar announcements! This is one tough category as I could see a case for any of these women:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird” **
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya” **
Meryl Streep, “The Post” **

I'd probably vote for Hawkins because she gave a remarkable and fearless performance that included very little dialogue. Yet, I knew exactly what she was communicating at all times.  McDormand was very good, even excellent, but she's virtually always very good. She won an Oscar for "Fargo" in 1996.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

I'm not sure about how well Rockwell's character was written, but he was excellent in his performance. Harrelson and Jenkins were also very good, as was Dafoe. This is a strong category.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” **
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird” **
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water” **
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Both Janney and Metcalf were fantastic playing mothers of young women coming-of-age. After seeing "Lady Bird," I was convinced Metcalf was a lock for this award. Then, I saw "I, Tonya." Wow.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Comment: Netflix had Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, and Strong Island available to stream prior to the Oscars and Abacus is on Amazon Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

And I haven't seen these and none seem to be streaming for free on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

** I saw these films or performances in the theater.

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