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The Eagle's guide to this year's Best Picture nominees

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An outstanding year in filmmaking has resulted in no clear front-runner.

The months leading up to the 90th Academy Awards have been tumultuous for the film industry. The reckoning Hollywood is facing with many of its prominent male figures as a result of the #MeToo movement has created a unique dynamic this award season. This year has been significant for the viewers and industry insiders as they revealed an underbelly of sexual harassment and abuse.

Films such as “The Post” and “Dunkirk” that were obvious contenders for Oscar wins, along with some unexpected surprises (“Get Out,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) represented a spectrum of perspectives and genres, ranging from the typical Oscar-bait drama to even a horror selection. Given the current political climate on top of a near-flawless list of nominees, the 90th Academy Awards are going to be unpredictable.

Here is The Eagle’s analysis of the Best Picture nominees.

Call Me By Your Name

“Call Me By Your Name” is a minimalistic venture that makes a multi-faceted story out of a small cast. The film took something as complex as an LGBTQ relationship in the early 1980s and added additional elements, like the vast age difference between the couple and the unique dynamic with Elio’s ( Timothee Chalamet) parents. he film is a coming-of-age-angst story done tastefully.

“Call Me By Your Name” is certainly the most subtle film on this list, which may be enough to reduce its chances of receiving Best Picture. However, Chalamet and Armie Hammer, the two lovers that this film is built around, are both worthy of awards, with the latter being snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nomination and the former with a high possibility of taking the trophy for the Best Actor category.

Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman makes this Winston Churchill biopic, completely disappearing into the character while director Joe Wright recreates the tumultuous beginning of Churchill’s role as prime minister. The film focuses on the coup that formed within Churchill’s party as soon as he took office, his contentious relationship with the King of England and ultimately concludes with his legendary “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech, where he makes the decision he grapples with throughout the movie.

The film sacrifices a strong narrative and tertiary character development for its focus on Churchill, but still manages to be effective, with the concluding speech of the movie propelling it to one of the Best Picture nomination slots. It is worth mentioning that “Dunkirk” and the “Darkest Hour” share subject matter despite occupying different genres. They coincidentally compliment one another, exploring different elements of the same time period.

Dunkirk

In Christopher Nolan’s first major directorial credit since “Interstellar,” he takes on the harrowing escape of the Allied forces from the French town of Dunkirk during World War II. “Dunkirk” is scant on dialogue but relentlessly tense, as the stories of British soldiers and sailors trying to survive in the air, on land and in the sea are brilliantly interwoven until a dramatic conclusion where all three intersect.

If “Dunkirk” doesn’t win Best Picture, it is all but guaranteed Best Editing as it manipulates time to create tension, as well as to make all three stories fit together like a puzzle.

Get Out

“Get Out” exists in a very strange position this awards season. Not only has it been difficult to place genre-wise, with the Golden Globes categorizing it as a comedy and writer/director Jordan Peele going so far as to call it a documentary, it has been extremely divisive to both critics and audiences.

What is most important about this film is the fact that it is uncomparable. With his directorial debut, Peele has crafted an extraordinary picture that keeps viewers guessing from start to finish and strikes a balance between horror and comedy that doesn’t seem forced. While there is an obvious comic relief character in the film, he serves an integral purpose.

This was all done while seamlessly weaving in a biting social commentary on race and microaggressions, which was not necessarily overt upon a first viewing but gave viewers a reason to return to this film again and again. The fact that this film has remained in the cultural consciousness since its February 2017 release is a testament to its success.

“Get Out” faces steep odds, but it deserves the Best Picture nomination slot, and it would not be the least bit surprising if it walked away with the award.

Lady Bird

“Lady Bird” was a critical and audience favorite, briefly breaking the record of most reviewed film to receive 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. There is little to be said about Greta Gerwig’s coming of age comedy besides that it is flawless in the execution of what it is trying to do.

Viewers rarely get to enjoy a spectacle like Lady Bird (played by Saoirse Ronan), who manages to somehow be both relatable and impossible. Her indignance toward growing up in Sacramento as well as her bohemian inclinations toward becoming an intellectual allows viewers to relive high school and its drama.

Gerwig’s straightforward storytelling and emphasis on comic relief makes it a longshot for the Best Picture trophy, but it is a must-watch nonetheless and deserves all of its nominations (including its Golden Globe win for best Best Motion Picture -- Comedy).

Phantom Thread

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s fashion-designer-driven, pseudo-romantic opus, (and quite probably actor Daniel Day-Lewisfinal role), Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a renowned fashion designer in post-war England who lives with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). Woodcock becomes enthralled with a young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps), who serves the purpose of being his romantic interest and muse.

The fact that Krieps was not nominated for either Best or Supporting Actress for her role in this film is a crime, as she is a formidable opponent to Day-Lewis’ Woodcock, who usually dominates his roles.

“Phantom Thread” is a plausible winner for Best Picture since director Anderson has never walked away with the prize. However, since Guillermo del Toro is in a similar position, it remains unpredictable as to who may win. It is a safe wager that since Anderson has held more nominations at the ceremony over time than del Toro (5-2, respectively), it is possible that the Academy will finally give him something, especially since the former was snubbed for the Best Original Screenplay category where the latter made the list.

The Post

With the exception of 2016’s “ The BFG,” almost any Steven Spielberg movie that hits theatres is guaranteed an Oscar nomination. While this consistency is notable in its own respect, as well as “The Post” receiving favorable reviews, the competition this year makes the Spielberg procedural seem particularly dull. While there is nothing wrong with the film itself, and with the support of several marvelous performances from Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and a very convincing Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara, it failed to blow critics away.

While Spielberg's chronicle of the Washington Posts’ decision to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers is an engaging moviegoing experience, one could not be blamed for thinking this was a calculated decision, given the paper’s current reputation with the president or the unlikely (but foreseeable) possibility that Spielberg saw the success of “Spotlight” and thought, “let's give that a try.”

Regardless of its shortcomings, it has several Oscar-worthy -- and Oscar nominated -- components, including Meryl Streep in an extremely understated performance. It is unlikely that “The Post” will win Best Picture, but this is certainly not the last time we will see Spielberg or its star-studded cast holding an Academy Award.

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro returns to the big screen after 2015’s “Crimson Peak” to take on another romance with an unorthodox angle. Leading the nomination pool with 13 categories, “The Shape of Water” tells the story of a romance between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and a fish monster. A premise that would be scoffed at if any other director were to be attached to it, del Toro has a knack for crafting beautiful stories with outlandish concepts. For example, his most famous film “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the tale of a young girl who discovers she is the apparent heir to a fairytale kingdom.

Del Toro has mastered the craft of monster-making, but unlike his usual grotesque, creepy creations, he has decided to make the monster in “The Shape of Water” endearing. Instead of the typical fare he flips the narrative on its head and makes the man the monster.

Del Toro is another director who has yet to receive an Oscar for his prowess, but given having to direct someone who can only communicate through facial expressions and sign language, as well as a person in a giant fish suit, the time for his Academy Award is now.

Like “The Post,” the themes of “The Shape of Water” seem a little on the nose given the current political climate and the fact that the director is Mexican, but it certainly does not take away from the picture in the slightest. As a matter of fact, this relevance may be enough to push it toward the Best Picture Oscar.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This southern-based redemption tale was a Golden Globe darling, winning a total of four (Best Motion Picture -- Drama, Best Actress for Frances McDormand, Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, Best Screenplay). It was clear from the beginning that this was going to be a major Oscar contender, garnering universal acclaim. However, the controversy that this film has sparked since then due to its problematic portrayal of police violence and race has certainly slowed its momentum. That being said, with seven Oscar nominations, it is certain to walk away with something, and deservedly so.

Martin McDonagh’s portrayal of grief and the harsh realities that it brings has something for everyone: comedy, action, drama and a certain sequence involving a police baton and a folk rock song that is sure to stick in the viewers’ memory for a long time to come.

It is up to the Academy to decide whether or not the film’s merits outweigh its moral shortcomings, but some would argue that is the purpose of the film itself.

bermer@theeagleonline.com


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