- By Teressa Berton, Staff Writer, Film Critic, Sassy but Classy Social Media Wizard -
It’s award season. Whether you love amazing film or just love a good red carpet, the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences annual awards show, best known as the Oscars. Of the many awards presented at the Oscars, but most illustrious, is the Best Picture award. This year the competition is fierce between nine films, with no two like quite like each other.
This surprise nomination for director Jordan Peele’s thriller Get Out is well deserved, as its compelling screenplay forces audiences to get woke. The film confronts institutional racism in the United States as it follows the narrative of Chris Washington, played by Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya, a young black man visiting his white girlfriend’s family for a weekend. The film subverts the traditional horror tropes for more realistic depictions. The film keeps audiences in suspense with its compelling writing as Washington fights for his life.
In Steven Spielberg’s The Post, the true story of the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 during the Nixon administration takes center stage as the staff of the Washington Post strives to bring to light the actions of the U.S. Government during the Vietnam War. The film’s pacing keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as tensions steadily rise over the course of the film. The narrative drives the film, while actors Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep reveal the complexities of the inner workings of the paper’s staff. Streep in particular conveys the mindset of women in the later half of 20th century and their shifting circumstances. Overall the Post will keep you enthralled every turn and just restore your faith in "the media."
Daniel Day-Lewis gives his "final" performance as Reynolds Woodcock, an acclaimed fashion designer in the 1950’s with many idiosyncrasies. The film’s director, Paul Thomas Anderson, fills this piece of cinema with many intimate tight shots of the Woodcock household, creating an attention to detail that only Anderson and Reynolds Woodcock could have. The film is punctuated by silence, making each sound a disruption to life for Reynolds. The narrative of the love between Day-Lewis’s Reynolds and Vicky Krieps’s Alma is an enigma that is both fascinating and frustrating to watch.
Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama tells the story of the evacuation of the beaches at Dunkirk. The film follows several storylines from the story of an individual foot soldiers, to an airplane pilot, to the citizen rescuers. The film fully utilizes the entirety of the screen to visually convey the severity of the circumstances at Dunkirk. Nolan utilizes long shots of soldiers boarding ships or waiting on beaches, as well as tight shots to establish emotional stakes for each of the characters in the film. This visuals are deeply striking, earning the film a nomination for cinematography as well as directing. Through these many striking visuals, along with use of archival footage to remind audiences of the reality of the situation presented, Nolan reminds viewers of the many sacrifices of individuals while assuring us of the resilience of goodness in humanity.
The Darkest Hour
As an excellent complement to Dunkirk, another film revolving around the evacuation of the beaches at Dunkirk comes The Darkest Hour. Gary Oldman stars as Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the military crisis leading up to the evacuation at Dunkirk. Gary Oldman is a triumph acting as Churchill, building in the tension surrounding the transfer of power between Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. Director Joe Wright continues his love affair with lighting in this period drama, playing with the lighting throughout the film to transmit tension, as well how actions of main characters are perceived. Much of the debate in the film surrounds the conflict surrounding the debate over what can be done to fight the spread of naziism, as well as what a government’s duty is to its people.
Call Me By Your Name
This coming-of-age film by director Luca Guadagnino follows the narrative of Elio a young man growing up in the Italian countryside. The film depicts the blossoming of his family’s orchard as well that of Elio as he explores his sexuality through a relationship with an older man. Elio is brought to life with the poignant performance of Timotheé Chalamet, which as earned him a nomination for best actor, making him the youngest nominee this year. Chalamet performance is moving and vulnerable allowing the audience to experience his frustrations, elations, and heartbreaks along with him. This performance along with the striking views open a window for viewers to observe the narrative up close and personal.
Greta Gerwig’s brings the story of Christine “Lady Bird" McPherson, a young woman exploring her identity, expectations for life, and her relationship with her mother in this 2018 best picture nominee. Saoirse Ronan’s performance as Lady Bird transports viewers to their own youths through her depictions of a first love, heartbreak, and frustrations of adolescence. Gerwig’s sincere writing and direction lends itself to a evocative performances from both Ronan and her co-star Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird’s mother. Between these three woman the films earned five nominations including best original screenplay and best director in addition to best picture.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
This deeply impactful film follow the narrative of a mother seeking justice for the rape and murder of her daughter in the small community of Ebbing, Missouri. Within the small town we see that it is plagued with many problems including loyalty to a police department with racist officers who often fail to enact justice. Driven by its complex characters the narrative earns a nomination for best adapted screenplay as well as best actor and actress nomination for its many players. While the film is powerful, its themes can be overwhelming leaving the audience with a lack of resolution or relief from the presented tension.
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s film The Shape of Water is captivating. The film surrounds viewers breathtaking cinematography in this narrative of human empathy and connection. The driving narrative of the film creates intrigue that builds into a suspense that is palpable by the end of the movie. Sally Hawkins earns a nominated for best actress with her performance as Elsa, a mute woman who discovers a mysterious sea creature within her workplace and forms a significant with him. The film has been nominated for a whopping 13 nominations, the most of any film this year and the second most nominated film ever.
Each of these narratives presents a great story and deals with timely issues, from the duty of a government to its people to the struggle of coming of age in the modern era. I implore you to see as many of these film as possible, whether it be for prepping for the awards on Sunday, March 4, 2018 or simply for the enjoyment of great cinema, each of these films are worthy of seeing at least once.