Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My 2018 Oscar Ballot

It's the most wonderful time of the year: OSCAR TIME!!

I've never been one for making public predictions - there's something too final and kind of scary about it, almost like putting it out into the universe is an invitation for chaos, and frankly the chaos of the final five minutes of last year's Oscar ceremony is all I can take, thank you very much!

HOWEVER, I did recently share what my Oscar ballot would look like (if the world was a just and fair place and I was an AMPAS member) on The Film Scoop Podcast, which I was recently invited to co-host with Matt St. Clair, and I figured I would share it here in a slightly expanded version for you all to read!

In case you're wondering, my personal nominees will be posted after the Oscars - because that is when the 2018 film year TRULY begins, Roman calendar be damned!

Let's start at the bottom and work our way up, shall we?

Best Sound Editing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Vote: The Shape of Water
Considering how many "and what would THIS imaginary thing sound like?" questions the sound editors faced on Shape of Water, that's the one that gets my vote over the precise but mostly heard-it-before work of the other nominees.

Best Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Vote: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Even in the most chaotic scenes, I never had a problem hearing everything that was going on in The Last Jedi. And that one particular moment of silence is the most impactful use of sound in any film released in 2017.

Best Original Score
Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
John Williams, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk

My Vote: Alexandre Desplat
I don't remember a single note of Three Billboards's score, and while I love Williams's Star Wars work, we've heard it before. Greenwood's complex score is the perfect complement to Phantom Thread, and Zimmer was the MVP of Dunkirk with that score, the apex of the modern-day droning action score. But nothing put me so instantly onto the film's wavelength as Desplat's lovely, lilting melody for The Shape of Water.

Best Original Song
"Mighty River" from Mudbound
"Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name
"Remember Me" from Coco
"Stand Up For Something" from Marshall
"This is Me" from The Greatest Showman

My Vote: "Mystery of Love"
A great movie song keys us into what characters are feeling that they might not tell us otherwise, and no song in this category does that better than Sufjan Stevens's nominated song from Call Me By Your Name. "This Is Me" made me tear up, "Remember Me" is beautiful is its simplicity and how well it's used throughout the film in different contexts, but none gave me the something extra that "Mystery of Love" did.

Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet of the Apes

My Vote: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
I'm tempted to give it to Apes as an award for the entire trilogy, but it's essentially the same effects as the past two films, and I personally would have awarded it already. But mostly, I loved how colorful GOTG was, and more than any of the others, the effects here really had character and even humor! Plus, let's be honest: Things just don't get cuter than Baby Groot.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

My Vote: Darkest Hour
I mean... Wonder is the best work, but it's only one character, really. Darkest Hour wins for prosthetics that truly allow the performance to shine through as well as the most variety on other characters. This is the only category that I'm kinda indifferent to this category this year.

Best Costume Design
Consolata Boyle, Victoria & Abdul
Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
Jacqueline Durran, Beauty & the Beast
Jacuqline Durran, Darkest Hour
Luis Sequeira, The Shape of Water

My Vote: Mark Bridges
Simply put, the costumes in Phantom Thread are flawless and in many cases iconic. Some are even gasp-worthy in their romantic beauty. But then, they kind of had to be, given that the film was about a fashion designer. The only one that puts up a fight here are the lovely stylized duds of Shape of Water.

Best Production Design
Beauty & The Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

My Vote: Blade Runner 2049
Even given how much I loved everything about Shape of Water, there really isn't a choice here. The look of Blade Runner 2049 is jaw-dropping, from first frame to last.

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Rachel Morrison, Mudbound

My Vote: Roger Deakins
That Deakins is still somehow Oscar-less is mind-blowing, but still not quite as mind-blowing as the cinematography on Blade Runner 2049. Practically every frame could be hung on a wall, and practically every scene takes place in a completely different environment. Let me put it this way: When I saw it, the sound cut out for a significant part of an important scene relatively early on, but I didn't care because the cinematography told me everything I needed to know.

Best Editing
Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Vote: Baby Driver
Even if the opening chase scene was the only great editing achievement of Baby Driver, I might still give it the win, that one scene is THAT good. But every cut in Baby Driver is flawless. The way everything syncs up to the music is astounding, a feat for a film that isn't outright in the musical genre. Yes, the film itself should have been 20 minutes shorter, but I'm choosing to see that as a screenplay problem, not an editing one.

Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Vote: Get Out
This is where the true achievement of Jordan Peele's masterpieces lies, and this is where it should absolutely, without question, be rewarded. That script is a marvel, packed with double meanings and subtleties that only get better on repeat views. As if the scenario wasn't great enough on its own, the dialogue is so in tune to where the characters are at any specific moment, and the juggling of the multiple agendas within certain characters is deftly handled. This is a once-in-a-generation great screenplay.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly's Game

My Vote: Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name the novel feels like it's unfilmable. Leave it to the legendary James Ivory (and Luca Guadagnino as director) to make the unfilmable filmable. This screenplay is a model of adaptation, knowing exactly what is necessary to add, take out, change, and leave exactly as is. It's brilliant, and nothing in this category comes close.

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Vote: Sam Rockwell
For me, it's close between Rockwell and Dafoe, but Rockwell has a BIG, tricky arc, and he pretty much nails it. His looseness and commitment go a long way to making the contrivances of the screenplay work, and it never ever feels like he's condescending to Dixon, which would be an easy trap to fall into for any actor, given how he's written. I may take issue with the construction of the character on the page, or with some details of his arc, but I can't deny that Rockwell's performance is pretty great.

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

My Vote: Laurie Metcalf
It's a performance so subtle that the slightest downturn of a smile feels like a seismic shift, but Metcalf attunes you to the register she's working in right in the opening scene. Her razor-sharp comic timing and no-nonsense groundedness have found their perfect vehicle with this gift of a character (in this gift of a film), simple gestures and throwaway lines carrying near-impossible amounts of weight. There's a reason why mothers have been so moved by this, and why so many sons and daughters have been moved to call their mothers.

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel,Esq.

My Vote: Timothée Chalamet
I mean, that final scene should be enough. But the way he navigates the complexity of Elio's inner life throughout the film is just miraculous. I honestly thought I might miss the gorgeous words of Elio's first-person narration in the book, but in Chalamet's performance, I didn't need it - it was all right there in his face, in those watchful, deeply soulful eyes. It's a performance for the ages.

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

My Vote: Saoirse Ronan
Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is one of the most sharply-drawn teenage characters we've ever seen on film, and in Ronan's hands, she comes thrillingly alive. Ronan has her down cold, looking her (and us) square in the eye and accepting every single bit of who she is at every moment (which, given that she's a teenage girl, is a LOT), daring the audience to do the same. Her comic timing is a revelation, but it's the quieter moments when Lady Bird is making decisions that are the most riveting.

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

My Vote: Guillermo del Toro
It's a tight race between del Toro and Nolan, but given the tone and disparate elements of The Shape of Water, that pushed GDT's degree of difficulty just higher than Nolan's. No one else could have made Shape of Water, much less have made it this well.

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

My Vote: The Shape of Water
No other film this year had me as entranced from first frame to last as del Toro's gorgeously realized fairy tale. It has everything I go to the movies for, and achieved everything in often surprising ways (I was not expecting a musical interlude, but boy am I glad we got one). It's also full of parallels to today's society without being overly obvious about it. The simple message - if we treat others inhumanely, then we're just as inhuman as we think they are - resonates deeply and strongly, and I am so thankful we have this beautiful film to remind us of that.

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