Crash Course On The 2018 Academy Awards

Let me tell you something.  It feels good knowing that I watched all of the Best Picture nominations.  I could be mean and say I’m better than you because I’m “in the know” and you’re not.  I could belittle you by saying there’s no point in you watching the Oscars when you’ve never seen any of the important movies.  I could emphasize that you’ll be out of the loop on just about everything other than Jimmy Kimmel’s low hanging fruit jabs at Harvey Weinstein.  I could say that my opinions on Oscars Sunday mean more than yours.  But I won’t say that because that would be mean and hurtful.

This will be a lengthy read because, again, unlike you (most likely), I watched all of the Best Picture noms plus more.  I’ll break down the major categories, the nominees, who I think should win what, and everything in between.  Think of this as a crash course on the Academy Awards.  If you read this, you may be able to impress someone else by dropping a tidbit while you watch.  There’s not much like flexing your pretentiousness on the inferior.  It’ll feel like you did watch the movies because of my insight and initiative.  No thanks necessary.  Wow, we’ve already come so far from being talking smack about you.  Consider it a Cliffnotes version, albeit an extended one.

As tradition, the most prestigious awards are towards the end.  Unlike the Academy Awards, however, you can easily scroll through this blog and skip right to Best Picture, pay half attention as you skim through it, and be on your way.  But out of respect for the almighty “Academy”, I ask that you stick it out word by word, line by line, and endure the mundaneness all the way through.  On Sunday night, we’ll have to sit through a many boring acceptance speeches from uppity old folks and self righteous “artists”.  Consider the majority of this blog all of those acceptance speeches that make you want to rip yours eyes and ears out.  Just playing, I’ll fast forward right to the good stuff AKA the awards people actually care about.  If you know anything about these awards shows, it’s understood that there’s a “path” to victory based on the recipients of other awards (Director, Screenplay, Cinematography).  But for the sake of (a sliver of) brevity, fuck that noise.  Bare with me please.


Actress in a Supporting Role
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound (did not see)
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Phantom Thread is the most fresh in my mind so I feel comfortable saying that Lesley Manville was forgettable.  She played Daniel Day Lewis’s sister, but her nomination belongs to Vicky Krieps if anyone.  Strange choice for the nominee, and I don’t want to make assumptions but she has virtually no chance at winning this prestigious award.  Laurie Metcalf was strong in her role as Lady Bird’s mother.  The two had a back and forth relationship as so many moms and adolescent girls do.  From what I’ve read, she’s getting a lot of praise and recognition for this award; personally, I thought she was somewhere between fine and good.  You can read my thoughts below on the movie itself, but based on the buzz surrounding Lady Bird, I’m not surprised people are so high on Metcalf.  All signs point to Allison Janney winning this Oscar.  As of when this blog is published, I haven’t yet seen I, Tonya.  I should be able to get to it within the week, but I wanted to get this out with ample time for others to read and hopefully catch up on some of the movies.  Mudbound is one of the few movies I was sure I wasn’t going to get to.  The hype around the movie was minimal at best, so it was not much of a priority.  Also, it doesn’t sound like Mary J. Blige has a real shot here, despite her undeniable, raw talent.  The Shape of Water should be a name you’ll hear repeatedly on Sunday, though I don’t think it’ll be said following Octavia Spencer’s name.  I don’t love her as an actress, but she’s in a ton of movies and was actually very good in this one.  If the main character and the movie itself weren’t so good, I don’t know if Octavia Spencer would have even earned the nomination.  She should be happy to be on the ballot.  I’ll trust the experts on this one; prepare to see Allison Janney make an acceptance speech next Sunday.  And if it’s not her, it’ll surely be Laurie Metcalf.


Actor in a Supporting Role
Christopher Plummer – All The Money In The World (did not see)
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water

Haven’t seen All The Money In The World yet, but I’d like to get to it.  I can’t say for sure it’ll be pre-Oscars, but I’ve heard it’s very good.  I hear Christopher Plummer was good; take that with a grain of salt.  I think Woody Harrelson is awesome.  I find him funny, talented, kind of goofy, but ultimately super talented.  He was all of those things in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but his role was minor especially to his counterpart, Sam Rockwell.  He was not the main character by any means (see: very next award below).  He was, however, a key role in a compelling story.  More than any other actor/actress mentioned here, Sam Rockwell saw the biggest evolvement in his character throughout the movie.  And, simply put, without him the movie would be different entirely.  It’s on my short to-do list to make time for The Florida Project.  The trailer this week.  looked great, and Willem Dafoe supposedly put on the performance of a lifetime, though I could argue he did that when he killed it as the Green Goblin in Spiderman.  It’s hard to look at Richard Jenkins as anything other than the dad from Step Brothers.  With that said, I liked his mild-mannered supplementary part in The Shape of Water.  Similar to Octavia Spencer, I think the acclaim surround the movie as a whole has earned him this nomination, but that shouldn’t take away from his performance.  The pick: let’s go with Sam Rockwell.  It wouldn’t shock me if Willem Dafoe gets it done based on what I know, but Rockwell was a beast in Three Billboards.


Actress in a Leading Role
Meryl Streep – The Post
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

This is probably the second most coveted award behind Best Picture.  Out of respect for her long, illustrious career, I won’t bad mouth Meryl Streep.  She’s not my favorite actress and at times I find her hoity toity and snobby.  However, she delivered as lead role of The Post.  If you’re a Meryl stan, she does not disappoint here.  Until The Shape of Water, I had never heard Sally Hawkins’s name.  And now I won’t ever forget.  Maybe that’s because the movie was as unique as any I’ve seen, or maybe it’s because she was superb in her difficult role as a mute.  Either way, Sally Hawkins deserves all of her admiration and then some.  Again, I haven’t seen I, Tonya yet, partially because I’m struggling to accept the fact that Margot Robbie isn’t a bonafide knockout in it; I guess we could blame the real Tonya Harding for that.  She may be the hottest actress in Hollywood, but it’s my understanding that her acting steals the show.  Frances McDormand is another name I did not know but will never forget.  She singled handedly made Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri everything it is, and no woman could have done a better job than her.  If there’s one individual “must see” performance, this is it.  Funny enough, Saorise Ronan’s name was a new one for me as well; apparently I’m not as big a movie fan as I once thought.  Nevertheless, I thought she was really good in her role as Lady Bird.  In real life, her Irish accent is mesmerizing, and her character in the movie was just as enchanting.  Unfortunately for her, she’s pit up against two monsters in Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand (no disrespect to Meryl Streep or Margot Robbie of course).  This is an easy one for me.  It’s Frances McDormand, and frankly it ain’t even close.  Sally Hawkins could pull off the “upset”, and I’d be a little upset but not astounded.


Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq. (did not see)

Obviously this is one of the awards people anxiously wait months to see handed out.  Typically it’s one of the more exciting moments of the entire Oscars ceremony, but this year it appears that everyone already knows what’s to come on Sunday.  I’ll make my case for all of them anyway.  Daniel Kaluuya put himself firmly on the map after starring in hit thrilled Get Out.  It’s hard to explain the character and the movie because it’s beyond any one genre.  You really have to see it to understand, but you’ll most likely root for him like you rooted for Mufasa to defeat Scar (RIP).  Timothée Chalamet was charming and lovable in Call Me By Your Name.  His role is relatable as a young man, searching for answers internally and in life; highly recommended that you set aside two hours to understand.  The most talked about candidate, and for good reason, is Gary Oldman for his brilliant depiction of Winston Churchill.  Darkest Hour is nothing without him, but he alone makes it worth watching.  Gary Oldman was impressive as hell in a seemingly daunting role.  In general, Daniel Day Lewis creeps me out.  Some people love him, but I’m skeptical on him.  His character in Phantom Thread is a stubborn, renowned dressmaker who you’ll love and hate at the same time.  I love Denzel as much as the next guy, but not enough to sit through Roman J. Israel, Esq.  I hear the movie was nothing special, and I have no plans to watch it.  I’m sure Denzel was great though as he so often is.  The Oscar for Best Actor in a Lead Role all but belongs to Gary Oldman.  I’m incredibly impressed whenever an actor or actress can immerse themselves in the role of a prominent historical figure, and Gary Oldman came through in spades.


Best Picture
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
Get Out
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
Lady Bird
Call Me By Your Name

We’ve finally arrived at the dance.  We got all dolled up, took some silly pictures for the press, took a few swigs of our flasks in the bathroom, and went through the motions so that we can finally get to moving and shaking that ass.  This is what the Oscars are all about.  The other awards are cute, but it’s all about Best Picture.  Who’s taking home the hardware?  Let’s run through the nominees.

Get Out – I can confidently say that Get Out is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen before.  It’s a pseudo-scary movie that leans more towards the “thriller” label.  It was front page news almost when it came out in theaters in late February and remained so for quite some time.  It tackled racial barriers head on with a unique approach, but not in a way that you’d typically expect in movies.  Daniel Kaluuya (see: Actor in a Leading Role) plays the role of a boyfriend going to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time.  But he quickly realizes that something’s off with them as well as everyone else he meets.  This is a movie you should make the time to watch.  Whereas many of the Best Picture noms are stranger movies that you won’t watch more than once, Get Out is a legitimately entertaining movie that kept me on the edge of my seat; I watched it twice.

The Post – I didn’t like The Post.  If it wasn’t directed by Spielberg and star studded with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, I can’t imagine it would be getting any real publicity.  It was a fine movie, but nowhere near the level of some of its co-nominees.  Meryl Streep plays the head publisher of the Washington Post, a young, smaller publication at the time.  A massive government cover-up is about to be exposed, but the people on the front lines aren’t all comfortable with risking their careers to bring three decades-worth of conspiracy to light.  Good story (based on a true story) but I won’t ever watch again.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – The title is a mouthful, but it’s one to remember.  The mother (Frances McDormand, see: above) of a girl who was raped and murdered is still seeking justice months after the fact with the feeling that the police have stopped trying to crack the case.  She’s bitter and angry, but kind of a badass, and takes it out on the police with a message (on three consecutive billboards) calling out the police chief (Woody Harrelson), all while fighting a personal vendetta with another jaded, overcompensating officer (Sam Rockwell).  I’ll be honest in that the plot doesn’t progress all that much in two hours, but the amazing character development is why it has rightfully earned all of its accolades up to this point.  It quickly becomes evident that the movie you thought you’d get is in fact not what you’re in store for; I loved that unexpectedness.  Expect the hot streak to continue on Sunday night.  Also, Peter Dinklage has a minor role (I was going to say small role but that seemed rude).

The Shape of Water – Full disclosure, this was a weird movie and it’s not for everyone.  When you can put aside the unrealistic story line of a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) bonding and communicating with a highly-classified aquatic creature in the lab she works at, then you should have no problem enjoying the movie.  It was odd and uncomfortable at times, but I thought the movie was really good.  Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins (the dad in Step Brothers) help round out a strong cast and a fairy tale-esque story.  The Shape of Water has more nominations than any other movie at the Oscars and will undoubtedly win a ton of awards on Sunday.  Again, it’s not for everyone and I understand the rejections of this movie, but I personally thought it was well worth my time.

Lady Bird – I was more disappointed with Lady Bird than any other movie on the Best Picture docket.  It has 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and although I have my gripes with that website, I was expecting a product far better than what I got.  It’s revered as a coming-of-age story of a high school girl, but I didn’t feel that her “journey” was so different from other alike movies.  A teenage girl has a volatile relationship with her mother, experiences the struggles that any high school adolescent does, etc., etc.  Saorise Ronan is up for Best Actress; she was easily lovable in Lady Bird but she won’t win.  The movie was fine, and there were some nice moments, but it was far from unique.

Call Me By Your Name – I’ve liked this movie more and more since I finished watching it.  After taking the time to process its message, it’s continued to rise in my personal rankings.  Ironically, that same feeling was prevalent as the movie progressed; the first hour was painfully slow, but the back half of the movie was compelling and fantastic.  Armie Hammer (great name) and Timothée Chalamet were both awesome, with Chalamet specifically putting himself on the map with his performance.  It’s a nice, easy-to-follow tale of a friendship that blossoms into a romantic relationship.  The movie tackles themes that we all deal with in our lives: Do we give up what’s convenient and comfortable in order to take a risk in pursuing real passion?  Why do we let fear impact our actions?  And how do those choices shape our lives?  It’s an artsy movie, maybe too artsy for some, but it’s as relevant and as topical as ever.  For what it’s worth, I’d watch this movie again, which I cannot say for most of the Best Picture nominees.  If you don’t have time to watch all of the noms, make Call Me By Your Name a priority.

Dunkirk – This is the only Best Picture nominee I saw in theaters.  When it came out in July, it was immediately esteemed as an Oscar-favorite.  I remember after having seen it the first time, I was very much bought into the notoriety around it, but wasn’t quite sure if it was actually Best Picture material.  I re-watched it so that I was as familiar with Dunkirk as I was the other nominees.  It tells the true story of the attempted evacuation of English, French, and allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during WWII; it wasn’t focused on the war itself but rather hundreds of thousands of men essentially stranded and awaiting a way out of the war.  It was so difficult to get rescue boats there that the only plan put in place would allow for the rescue of at most 40k troops (of the 400k “sitting ducks” awaiting refuge).  What I particularly enjoyed about Dunkirk was how different it was from most military movies.  There wasn’t one central, main character that was idolized but rather we were given multiple perspectives from different characters.  My key knock is that at times it was a little confusing the way the story jumped from scene to scene, back and forth between days, in a way to intertwine the characters but doing so without enough clarity.  That said, I really really liked it.  Even if you don’t like war movies, this unique, powerful story could be an exception.  Cillian Murphy was fantastic, Tom Hardy was stoic and badass, and Harry Styles (yes, that one) was surprisingly strong in his role.

Darkest Hour – Let me first say that Gary Oldman was incredible in his role as newly-appointed British Prime Minster, Winston Churchill.  As said above, he’s all but a lock to take home the hardware for Actor in a Leading Role.  I won’t go into the plot too much as I don’t want to create double spoilers; the events from Dunkirk are actually a major focal point in this movie.  Churchill was unorthodox in his methods at a delicate time when Europe was at the precipice of WWII.  His poor reputation led to struggles of converting skeptics to buy into his power, but he felt strongly that fighting back against the Germans was the best plan of action, instead of the popular choice of negotiating for peace.  It’s got no shot to win Best Picture, but I didn’t dislike the movie one bit.  Admittedly it was a bit dry at times, but the story was super interesting, and, again, Gary Oldman was unbelievable.

Phantom Thread – This was the last of the nine that I watched to complete the list.  Perfect timing that I was able to watch to as I wanted to publish this blog a week in advance.  I tried watching in order of expectation, and in that regard I was very pleased with this movie.  It wasn’t great, but I didn’t hate it whatsoever.  The storyline was simple and relaxed yet very interesting.  Daniel Day Lewis is a distinguished, successful fashion designer who’s enjoyed his life as a bachelor who doesn’t stray from routine.  He meets a girl who he likes very much until she starts to unknowingly disrupt his methods.  She becomes spiteful, but it’s clear they both love each other.  Good movie, nothing to write home about.

MY PICKThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  It’s in a league of it’s own in my opinion.  I’ve told many if there’s one Oscar nom to watch then this is it.  And I stand by that.  The latest odds list it as a slight favorite with The Shape of Water right there as well.  But because there’s no runaway favorite, anything could happen.  Last year, La La Land was a heavy favorite and (controversially) lost to Moonlight; Manchester by the Sea was better than both of them but we don’t have to have that conversation here.  My point is that nobody really knows what’s going to happen.  Could be Three Billboards, could be The Shape of Water.  I loved Dunkirk and would be thrilled if it won.  Some people are saying to keep an eye on Get Out as a dark horse contender; it’s consistently been in the conversation for months and is a great movie.  I doubt it’ll be anything else because I don’t understand the hype around Lady Bird, but there’s not telling what’s to happen Sunday night.  I’m all in on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as it was my favorite of the movies by far.  But if the movie experts can’t predict the Best Picture, I surely cannot.  And if I were to rank all of the Best Picture nominees, here they are in order:

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Dunkirk
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Call Me By Your Name
  5. Get Out
  6. Phantom Thread
  7. Lady Bird
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. The Post


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