The Oscars celebrate their 90th year today with some of the most exciting nominations we have seen in a long time. The Reckoner has compiled a list of our thoughts on who the top three contenders are at tonight’s award ceremony.
Get Out is quite an unconventional horror movie, elements of satire present throughout classifying it as a comedy too. The movie is pretty fresh in the sense that its entire premise is something that has never been explored before, touching upon racism and furthermore the idea of white liberalism. It isn’t a bore to watch, and makes the point that it wants to make while being completely riveting. Not to mention, the acting is simply outstanding.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water, a fantasy/romance film, is one magical ride. The movie’s direction is something to applaud; from the start, I am drawn into this world and stay there for the rest of the movie, and more. It feels like a real experience. The actors have me reeled in from the get-go, and I can’t help but feel with the characters. The movie, while certainly moving slow, is very well planned out in all senses. It is something truly beautiful.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a drama/crime movie that is emotion-inducing while being completely blunt in nature. The film is so sharply written and well played out that I was fully immersed in it. It lets us see the characters at their worst but still makes us feel for them, forcing us to seek the humanity amongst the hard exteriors. From non-stop laughter to extreme distress to rage, I experienced a strange mixture of these emotions, but in the best way possible.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Appearing in the indie film Call Me by Your Name, Timothee Chalamet stars as Elio, the son of an archaeology professor. Call me by Your Name acts as a coming-of-age story that brilliantly illustrates the naivety of youth along with the longing and need for something more. With subtle inclusions of everything that defines youth, Chalamet, although not incredibly renowned, is nominated for multiple awards due to his brilliant acting.
With a knighthood for his contributions to film, Daniel Day-Lewis is a method actor renowned for the few films he has starred in. He is one of the only males to have three Oscars, and Time nominated him as the “World’s Greatest Actor”. Day-Lewis’ performance in Phantom Thread will be his last before retiring, making the incredibly intricate, yet childlike fashion designer he portrayed even more prominent. Set in 1950s, Reynolds Woodcock is an infamous personality in London, mixing in dashes of genius, vulnerability, and complexity that Day-Lewis brings to life.
Starring as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman is the favourite to win this title. When the film was first shown to Churchill’s descendants, they were astonished at the accurate portrayal of the complexities of his character. By illustrating both his imperfections and his strengths, Oldman is able to bring Churchill to the big screen. As a wartime prime minister, the man was involved in some of the largest decisions in history, and Oldman portrays that incredibly well.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
With a SAG award and Golden Globe for her lead role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand looks to be the frontrunner for this year’s Best Actress. Hilarious, angry, and heartbroken, McDormand’s performance as Mildred is as raw as it gets. Clad in an exterior sharp with swear words and a flair for violence, McDormand is unafraid to transform into the likeable terror that is Mildred Hayes on a mission.
Quiet and unassuming, Sally Hawkins plays the character Elisa Esposito with just the right touch of underlying strength. Under the radar in most of her other films, Hawkins’ underrated acting career perfectly mirrors Eliza’s ability to surprise not only the audience but the characters that surround her as well–and no, that was not a euphemism for the kinky fish-sex surprise. The movie is about quirk and romance, and although objectively plain, Hawkins becomes more and more beautiful the better we get to know Elisa and her universal desire to be seen and loved. Not to mention, the actress may swoop in to pick up this award after all on the account that she hasn’t been given anywhere near the amount of accolades or praise for her speechless (pun intended) performance.
Like fellow actress, Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan also won a golden globe for Best Actress only in a different category: comedy. But more than being funny, cringy, and awkward, Ladybird is a character that crackles both on screen and within the heart of audiences. A film critic favourite, she’s the girl that all other girls fear and yearn to be; brazen while also vulnerable, caught between the months before becoming an adult, nearing the day she’ll no longer be forced to always listen to her mother. But most importantly, she would not exist without Ronan’s heartfelt and transparent portrayal of girlhood angst. The highlights of the performance are caught within the everyday moments of Ladybird’s life and her interactions with the people she loves, hopes to be loved by, and will love forever.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Richard Jenkins second Oscar nomination is earned by his role in The Shape of Water. He plays the role of Giles, the fun-loving, secretly gay neighbour of the main character. Yearning to go back to his youth, he is often Elisa’s ear (and mouth) and is a humorous presence throughout the film. He also serves as the narrator, offering his own commentary on Elisa’s story.
This is Sam Rockwell’s first Oscar nomination, for playing the role of Jason Dixon, a racist deputy policeman in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His acting is the best acting I’ve seen in quite a while, being completely immersive as he had me in tears mere seconds into his introduction. Even as he portrays Dixon in a number of less-than-ideal scenarios, I can’t help but fall in love with the character and all his quirks.
Willem Dafoe is nominated for this category a third time after nearly two decades for his role in The Florida Project. Being labelled one of Dafoe’s most moving performances, The Florida Project depicts the innocence and struggles of childhood. Dafoe plays the role of a stern looking but secretly soft-hearted manager of “The Magic Castle” hotel, and acts as a father figure to both Halley and her six-year-old daughter Moonee. Bringing back some much needed Mr.Moseby vibes, Willem Dafoe completes this heartwarming tale with a heartwarming performance.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Allison Janney plays the infamous role of LaVona Harding, Tonya’s mother, in I, Tonya. With a cigar in hand at all times and a list of obscenities just waiting to spill out, Janney’s character is the definition of rebellion. Her blunt and very unreasonable behaviour towards her daughter earns her the reputation of a villian in Tonya’s life. Janney plays her character so well, I often found myself rewinding just to see her brash (and honestly badass) attitude over and over again.
Octavia Spencer is making history with her third time nomination for this category. Having won the title in 2012 for her role in The Help, Spencer ties as the most nominated black actress in the history of the Oscars. She delivers yet another stunning performance in The Shape of Water as Elisa’s co-worker Zelda. Displayed as a fiesty janitor, Spencer ties the audience with her signature sass and no-nonsense attitude.
Trying to capture the rocky relationship between a troubled teenager and her mother, Ladybird beautifully captures the depth of familial relationship. In the midst of all this is Laurie Metcalf, ‘Ladybird’s’ mother who is one of the most important elements in the film. Working seamlessly with Saoirse Ronan, she becomes yet another mother to be nominated for the category.
Christopher Nolan, the director of Dunkirk, is nominated for this title for the first time in his career this Oscars. Dunkirk is a war movie set in the times of World War II. The storytelling is done very well, with a unique storyline that aims to capture not the action but rather the often overlooked parts of World War 2. This film is truly a piece of art, the minimal dialogues and catching sceneries, aiming to capture the horrors and joy at Dunkirk without many words.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water isn’t the first hit movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. He has an army of fans supporting him from previous works, and that momentum will likely score him the title of “Best Director”. The Shape of Water is a fairytale brought to life through del Toro’s work, which makes artful use of frame, sound, and colours, painting a world that seems as if it has come right out of a picture book.
Jordan Peele, the director of Get Out, is also nominated for the title of “Best Director” for the first time this Oscars. His work is a true masterpiece, interweaving horror, comedy, and social satire together, a feat that seems next to impossible. Since the movie does not employ any fancy ghosts or monsters, Peele’s directing is all that can save the day, and it does. The basics are controlled and mastered artfully, letting the point of the movie make its way to our consciousness and being implanted there.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carter Burwell)
Southern twang doesn’t receive half the credit that it deserves. Sassy and rhythmic, the work of Carter Burwell beats and skips to Mildred’s dynamic anger and indignation. Mildred Goes to War jumps unapologetically into the claps and upbeat guitar finger work of a woman ready to get down to business: “why don’t you put that one on your Good Morning Missouri f*ing wake up broadcast, b*tch?”Yet still, there are pieces within the score that retain the classic nature of orchestra. The soft lulls of string instruments sprinkled throughout that settle with the gravity of every characters’ situation. The slow, explorative nature of My Dear Anne is as bewildered as it is heartbreaking, Burwell somehow perfectly capturing the aftermath of a suicide.
The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)
Spoiler: this movie culminates to a woman and fish-creature eventually making love. And although the supernatural nature of the movie couldn’t be more far removed from the quirky romance of French swing music, that is exactly what composer Alexandre Desplat has set out to complement through his score. With sultry songs like La Javanaise by Madeleine Peyroux thrown amongst playful and wistful songs like Eliza’s Theme, the movie has a touch of romantic magic that translates beyond the fantasy and action of the plot. But speaking of action, there is still a greater evil to be fought in this movie, and Desplat effectively racks up the tension with pieces like He’s Coming for You and The Escape.
Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood)
A movie with a classical feel deserves a classical soundtrack, and composer, Jonny Greenwood brings that to the table this year with his strings-heavy score, sprinkled with soft doses of piano. Every piece aids in subtly inducing the audience to the same imbalance that mirrors the movie’s plot. Greenwood’s opening Phantom Thread I is a choir of violins constantly building up to a final note that sounds like a question. And when it is finally answered with Phantom Thread III, the song is ominously filled with the beating of drums and deeper notes of the viola, cello, and bass, warning us of the characters’ decisions to come.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name (Sufjan Stevens)
“Mystery of Love” is possibly one of the most representative songs to date, capturing the essence of Call Me by Your Name effortlessly. The song is mellow and soothing while being sensual and stimulating at the same time, summing up the romance between the two main characters all at once. It has the power to draw listeners back into the premise of the movie, letting them feel love and sorrow and desire as if they are living the leads’ lives themselves.
Remember Me from Coco (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez)
Remember Me from Coco is written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the same duo behind Let It Go from Frozen. The song features heartwarming, thought-provoking lyrics with genuine meaning, and is sure to tug on everyone’s heartstrings. Similar to how Let It Go won the title of “Best Original Song” in 2014, Remember Me, is in good shape to snatch the title this year, being yet another well-loved Disney song.
This Is Me from The Greatest Showman (Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)
This Is Me from The Greatest Showman is written by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who also wrote the award-winning La La Land soundtrack. It’s a song full of strength and hope, touching upon acceptance in today’s society and having the courage to face all that challenges you. It is adored by the audience, resonating with and touching everyone.
It is very hard to find a prettier movie than Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. In a movie that relied heavily on visuals, film editing played a major role in determining Dunkirk’s success. Capturing the hardships that soldiers faced in Dunkirk, the shots were well planned out and carefully layered to recreate the desolate scenes in the small city. The film was edited by two times Oscar-nominated Lee Smith and its editing, perhaps, even trumps the storyline.
Baby Driver is the second frontrunner for the “Film Editing” award, neck-and-neck with Dunkirk. Its editors, Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, have worked with director Edgar Wright on multiple occasions previously, and are now used to his desire to create a cohesive audio-visual experience and his expectations for good storytelling. The movie was thought of as a project with multiple little moving parts that all needed to be “oiled”, so to speak, in order to function as a whole. That view of it seemed to do just the trick, with elements such as music, action, visuals, and dialogue coming together perfectly by the end.
Although not as popular of a contender as either Dunkirk or Baby Driver, I, Tonya definitely struck a note with its interesting editing style. The story was unfolded through a series of interviews with each of the main characters which often led to elaborate flashbacks. The movie broke the fourth wall a lot, but the editing ensured a flawless transition between the scenes so nothing looked out of place. In fact, this characteristic is what gave I, Tonya much of its appeal. The truly insane plot, which is in fact all true, was captured perfectly through the carefully edited scenes, and what resulted was a masterpiece.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
As a thriller that centers around racial discrimination, Get Out is an incredibly horrific movie based on our current reality. The writing brings out subtle hints of uncertainty and tons of hidden warnings. Get Out is a favourite to win this award and with good reason: Jordan Peele is able to bring symbolism and double meanings to a whole new level in this mind-blowing picture. With comedy and horror fused together, the screenplay is absolute genius. With every viewing, Get Out becomes even more incredible, the many hidden details and references being revealed with every watch.
Lady Bird is written by Greta Gerwig and is the first film that she has directed herself. Set in 2002-2003, the plot follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and her emotional story about growing up in the tiny town of Sacramento. Gerwig is a talented writer, as she incorporates details that add to the authenticity and complexity of every relationship she creates in this fictional world. The dialogues are insanely well written and extremely memorable, making Lady Bird a definite contender for this award.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh incorporates drama and crime to create a masterpiece about a horrific murder and a mother seeking justice for the death of her daughter. Although only 84-pages long, McDonagh is able to perfectly capture the complexities of the world he creates in such a short time. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri stuns the audience with all sorts of emotion, the anger and pain hidden amongst the dialogues. His writing definitely makes this film a must-see.
Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 has John Nelson’s talent written all over it. Renowned for his work on Gladiator and Iron Man, he does not disappoint with this film. The entire architecture in the film is designed based on a winter in Montreal. Another incredible visual effect worth mentioning occurs when Joi, the hologram, needs to merge. Two actresses are used to create the performance, with the aid of geometry from computers. With multiple awe-inspiring scenes, Blade Runner 2049 definitely incorporates incredible visual effects.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Christopher Townsend is the visual effects supervisor for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and as he worked on four different Marvel movies previously (and was nominated for an Oscar for Iron Man 3), Townsend definitely has the experience to make this sequel a success. The complex opening title sequence took him fourteen to fifteen months to complete. Baby Groot, a character in the film, performs dance moves with incredibly complex animations happening around him in scenes that are definitely able to astound and amaze audiences.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Anyone that has seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi understands its incredible visual effects. In particular, Ben Morris and Michael Mulholland’s creation, the villain Snoke, was a visual gem in the film. An active motion-capture suit and infrared cameras were the only the physical equipment used for this character. However, issues came up, when they had to expand the chest of Snoke to correctly capture Andy Serkis’ voice. Snoke is an incredible visual creation and has left a memorable impression on the audience.
Blade Runner 2049 (Roger A. Deakins)
Roger A. Deakins is the Leonardo Dicaprio equivalent of the Oscar snub. A favourite to win this year, fans of his work have been screaming “give the man an Oscar” for over a decade now. With currently 14 nominations under his belt and exactly zero wins, the matter has evolved from “better luck next time” to a three and a half minute long video by TIFF that endearingly begins with: “Roger Deakins is a loser”. But let’s look at his resume, shall we? This director of photography has been the behind the scenes genius of countless cinematic beauties. His subtle work in 1995’s The Shawshank Redemption lost to the sweeping landscapes of The Legend of the Falls; in 1997, Fargo was just a subjective hair behind The English Patient; the 2001 nomination for cult classic O Brother, Where art Thou led to another painful loss; the clean and fast-paced 2013 James Bond addition, SkyFall, lost to Life of Pi; and it was laughably sad when in 2008 he was nominated twice for both No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James, and despite these odds, lost yet again. And these are only to name a few, the list goes on–did I mention there were 14 nominations? Anyway, just a sneak peak at the trailer of Blade Runner 2049 speaks for itself. Deakin’s use of light, frame composition, geometric shapes, and colour flow across every inch of his favoured 2.35:1 widescreen. Set within the future and brimming with action, the movie relies almost solely on Deakin’s guidance. If the cards are played right this year, this movie will be remembered as one of Roger Deakin’s best work and be awarded as such.
No other nominee shall be mentioned in this category, for that would be futile and cruel.