Predicted Winner: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
Hopeful Winner: Call Me by Your Name
Possible Sneak Attack Winner(s): Get Out and The Post
Call Me by Your Name
Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Arnie Hammer) bring a lustrous and carefree passion that reminds us what it’s like to be in love in Call Me by Your Name. CMBYN shows the homophobia that may exist not only from others but also from within. (Spoiler alert) remember when Oliver calls Elio to say he is engaged—to a woman—and that his father would have thought he was “insane” if he knew he was homosexual? However, it also shows that there is acceptance of love between two human beings of the same sex. (Another spoiler alert) remember the unforgettable words of wisdom Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) eloquently shares toward the end of the film? It’s a juxtaposition of the social stigma of being gay and finally accepting oneself as he (or she) is and a reminder that love transcends social boundaries.
The first few weeks of Winston Churchill’s tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is depicted in Darkest Hour. If a war or history buff the wins of this film will be Churchill’s speeches and Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill. Darkest Hour parallels with Dunkirk in that both touch on British forces during World War II (including the actual Battle of Dunkirk). (Spoiler alert—sort of, unless you know your history). Churchill makes the decision to lie to the public that the British are winning against Nazi German forces thus, should continue fighting instead of negotiating. The losses of this film will be if you hold a deep disdain for politicians who lie.
A fictionalized account of the British defeat by Nazi Germany during World War II is told with 3 intertwining stories throughout the film. Dunkirk mostly portrays the humanity that is still found within war time and leaves out the visual gore that is usually depicted in war films. It tells the story of Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who is one of the over 300,000 soldiers that is eventually saved from Dunkirk. Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son and son’s friend head to help evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk with their own private boat (yes, civilian boats were actually called upon during the evacuation of Dunkirk). And Farrier (Tom Hardy), a Royal Air Force fighter pilot who spends a majority of the film trying to stave off German fighter pilots. All have their respective place of importance throughout the film but it is Farrier’s story (and ending) that brings the most unforgettable moment.
The oppression of blacks by whites is showcased as a horror film and brings to light what is deemed as the “sunken place.” Get Out takes on a serious subject in a way that makes it more understandable today (with the use of covert nuances such as “I voted for Obama”) to an artistically outlandish way of expressing what the “sunken place” is for blacks (how Chris Washington’s (Daniel Kaluuya) white girlfriend’s family transplants the brains of whites into the bodies of blacks that are auctioned off during lunch parties). With white brains transplanted into black bodies the host is forced to stand by with the inability to say or do anything to stop it. The film is extremely original and deserves more than one watch—especially with the state America is in today.
Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, Lady Bird, in what is more than just a “coming of age” film and more than a film that portrays a mother/daughter relationship. The dialogue between Lady Bird (which isn’t her birth name and reminder, has nothing to do with President Johnson’s wife Lady Byrd Johnson) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) is poignant even with the dry humor that is noticeable throughout the film. Lady Bird longs for a life different from her own but when she does (throughout numerous moments in the film) there appears to be a sense of regret and realization that she owns and admits to.
Reynolds Woodcock is played by the very private Daniel Day-Lewis who announced last year he’d be retiring from acting after Phantom Thread. The film is set during the fashionable 1950’s London that paints the brother/sister dressmaker duo as the “go to” for royalty and celebrities. Day-Lewis’ character is the definition of a narcissistic bachelor who won’t let love get in the way of his success or sexual conquests. Alma (Vicky Krieps) is a waitress who becomes the muse and lover that changes Woodcock’s methodical structure of his “perfect” life. As their relationship continues it turns dark and codependent—it shows how interpersonal relationships in comparison to now really haven’t changed.
If you know your films you’re well aware that The Post isn’t the only depiction of how journalism has unmasked some of the worst injustices (think of All the Presidents’ Men and Spotlight). It follows journalists of The Washington Post racing to bring the Pentagon Papers to the knowledge of the American public to show how they’d been lied to by their own government to gain support of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The unsettling part is that films such as The Post, All the Presidents’ Men and Spotlight are not works of fiction but actual coverups that caused harm to those they ignored and betrayed. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (you should have high expectations for this film). The ending of the film (again, no spoiler alert here) ties into another piece of history that seems to be repeating itself with today’s American government (just an opinion).
The Shape of Water
The only fantasy-like film nominated for Best Picture this year is stunning and colorfully depicted during Baltimore’s 1960s. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is mute (not deaf—there is a difference) and communicates with her gay friend/neighbor (Michael Stuhlbarg—remember him from CMBYN?) and others at a top-secret government facility. Elisa is a cleaning lady who forms a bond with the U.S. government’s latest test bunny with the hope of winning the Cold War: a water creature that was worshiped by the people of the Amazon. Both Elisa and (unnamed) water creature share stark similarities—neither can speak, both are found in the water and they use their love and understanding of one another as their strongest bond. Yes, it may sound creepy but think of it as the opposite of how King Kong lost the woman—this “monster” got the woman.
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
The list of character actors is unimaginable in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri! Each character in this small town could be superficially categorized as “backwards” but in actuality, they each hold a key to what becomes a witty dark comedy whose plot twists are realistically subtle but still take the viewer by surprise. The sarcastic tone of the movie’s dialogue does hold a serious subject just below the surface. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) asks Ebbing’s police chief why her daughter’s rapist/murderer hasn’t been found yet—on three billboards. One can’t help but to cheer on Mildred as she relentlessly kicks ass throughout the entire film! The billboards tear a town apart, however, in a way, (no spoiler alert here) makes foes into friends (you’ll have to watch the film to know what that means).