This weekend, the pageantry and glamour of awards season is set to finally hits its zenith with the Oscars 2018. The Academy Awards ceremony at Hollywood’s glitzy Dolby Theater is the culmination of the awards calendar, allowing the best and the brightest from the world of cinema to congregate in celebration of the year that has passed. This year, as far as awards are concerned, it’s a straight fight between the nominations-leading The Shape of Water and the spiky favourite Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
To help you make sense of it all, and to provide a balanced view on one of the strongest Oscar races in years, we’re bringing you the Big Best Picture Row. For the fifth consecutive year, I’ve rounded up a team of guest writers to stand up for each of the nine contenders battling for the main prize at the Oscars 2018.
So, with thanks to everyone who took the time to write one of these, let’s go to battle and decide who deserves to win big at the Oscars 2018, leaving the Dolby Theater with their head held high.
Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is a rare beast in the sense that every aspect aims to satisfy mood over plot. From the direction and performances down to the cinematagrophy and script, the film is an expertly executed emotional journey through a summer romance. Its minimal plot – a romance growing between two young men in 1980s Italy – feels all-encompassing when you’re drenched in the chemistry of growing love, the euphoria of a relationship just beginning and the heartbreak of a summer coming to an end.
In the lead roles, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer deliver stunning performances and are able to leave you utterly engrossed in their romance from the first moment the pair see one another. With such capable leads and a perfect eye for the beauty of a remembered summer, Call Me By Your Name is a stunning movie that is peerless in its ability to put the characters’ emotions, and therefore the audience’s, right at the centre.
Winston Churchill was divisive. He could be selfish, he could be rude and he could be unforgiving, but it was his leadership that saw Great Britain come out of the Second World War on the right side. Churchill was a great orator, who managed to rally a continent into not giving up the fight, into refusing to give into the Nazis.
It’s for this reason that I don’t hate “that scene”. You know, the one on the Tube that is “a fictionalisation of an emotional truth”, according to director Joe Wright. It’s a representation of the people in hiding in Nazi Germany or occupied France who have credited their strength to Churchill’s inspirational words. Darkest Hour perfectly encapsulates how Churchill kept fighting for Britain, how he stayed as Prime Minister even though his party didn’t want him and how he rallied a nation into winning the war with his words.
This film is about a man who everyone bet against and how he managed to defy odds and succeed at leading us to victory. He was the right man for the right job at the right time. For me, the success of Darkest Hour isn’t in how it brings the darkness of the War Rooms to life, how the speeches sound or how it looks, but in the actual story, in the history, in its portrayal of the man himself and his groundbreaking, electrifying words. And that’s why it should win.
Elly Rewcastle is a journalism graduate and production editor interested in music and film.
It may be an outsider, but Dunkirk has proved its worthiness of the coveted Best Picture award. Immersive in a way that few films have ever been, it acts as a sober portrayal of the 1940 evacuation. Watching this film was about as close to a visceral experience as you can get in the cinema. From Hans Zimmer’s pressing beat of a score to the miraculous set pieces, Dunkirk offers a horrifying glimpse into those days at war. If it was up for Best Picture on ambition alone, I’d say it was a shoe-in.
Shot as an action film, Dunkirk fell under criticism when it missed out a central figure to focus on, instead assembling an ensemble cast of fictional characters. Although director Christopher Nolan did extensive interviews with war veterans, some felt that the film missed an emotional heart. However, Dunkirk didn’t need a big climactic moment to have heart. Instead, we’re dropped in to witness what ordinary men do in the most critical moments of their lives, seeing the little moments of bravery that the soldiers did to survive. There’s so much empathy there. It’s just not spelled out for audiences.
Dunkirk effectively uses ambitious filmmaking to show the horror of war. True to life, there’s no outright hero but rather we’re reminded of the ordinary heroism shown in times of immense strain. The result is profoundly powerful and a fitting tribute.
Jen Scouler is a journalist for a popular children’s magazine by day and a devoted film critic by night. She runs her own entertainment site Lost In Drama, focusing on covering every period drama and historical film under the sun.
Calling Get Out a satire in the tradition of The Stepford Wives might boost its chances of winning with the Academy, who are of course a notoriously horror-averse bunch. But to deny its genre would be to deny its powerful point – transposing the oppressive dread of horror filmmaking into the oppressive dread of being a black American in a very white space. It’s a reinvigoration of tropes that resonates so clearly that even whiter-than-mayonnaise critics such as myself can understand.
Jordan Peele’s debut is a little messy round the edges, but I’m not lobbying for him to be named Best Director this year. His film illuminates real issues with ruthless efficiency, giving us a polemical text on race in the 21st century that has already resonated enough to spawn perfect memes for the Trump age.
Love stories may be emotional, historical dramas come and go, but a film that changes the cultural conversation, explains how the world works and has some gore-splattered fun while doing it is very special indeed. If that’s not what Best Pictures are, then what is cinema even for?
Lady Bird is a deceptively ‘small’ story, set in the small city of Sacramento that actually has found universal appeal by being almost painfully relatable. Focusing on protagonist Lady Bird’s senior year of high school as she makes decisions about college, boys, friendships and the relationship with her family. This film is filled with realistic and recognisable characters.
Saoirse Ronan gives another impeccable performance as the protagonist – she would also be my choice for Best Actress – as she navigates her Catholic school. Meanwhile at home, she repeatedly butts heads with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is struggling to cope financially and with the realisation that her daughter will soon be moving away.
Set in the early noughties, the soundtrack and costume design subtly evokes the era without beating you over the head. Lady Bird has been underrated in the technical fields, such as cinematography and editing, but both are thoughtful and masterfully handled. The hilarious screenplay and impeccable direction, both by Greta Gerwig, are sublime. She has deftly achieved that trickiest of feats – a highly specific story that people all over the world can relate to. It’s totally anarchist, baller and hella tight and should be winning Best Picture at the Oscars 2018.
Fiona Underhill is a writer for Jump Cut UK and a former teacher of Media and Film Studies.
How do you dictate what classifies a movie as Best Picture? I like to think of it as all of the elements of filmmaking craft including direction, performance and editing, coming together as a whole to elevate each of those individual elements. With Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson has created a masterful tale of creative obsession, co-dependency and toxic relationships taken to their logical end.
The film is as visually textured as the dresses made by Reynolds Woodcock, who is expertly and mesmerisingly portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis. If this is his last performance, it is a beautiful exit. Vicky Krieps delivers a star-making turn as the female lead and the two actors share barbs and tenderness with an amazing and believable rapport.
The pace and editing are perfect and really drag you into the world of fashion. Never would I have thought a film about a fashion designer would have me so enraptured – sorry, Devil Wears Prada fans – but the fact is the movie uses fashion as the dressing of this story that zeroes in on these two characters and how their relationship evolves from tender to toxic. A best picture should enrapture you, captivate you and use every aspect of film to tell stories with rich character and purpose. Therefore, Phantom Thread is Best Picture.
It’s pretty hard to believe that it’s taken this long for Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep to star in a film together, and some might say that this alone makes The Post Oscar worthy. This film has arrived at a crucial moment in time, coinciding with the fact that public trust in the press is dismally low, not helped by confusion over what ‘fake news’ actually is.
The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, strives somewhat unintentionally to break down the stigmas about newshounds, instead highlighting the integrity of print journalists and how deeply they can value and respect the anonymity of sources. It follows the true story of newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, who had to decide whether to publish secret government papers in the public interest and risk going to jail.
Hanks gives a strong performance as editor Ben Bradlee, making him incredibly loathsome to viewers at times, with razor-sharp wit and a mean streak you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of. Streep, by comparison, is soft-spoken and endearing, making you feel genuine empathy for her as she’s thrust into a male-dominated culture, fighting for the mic. It means when she does eventually come into her own, conquering her inner fears, it’s all the more powerful.
As topical themes go, The Post has never been more relevant, and serves as an incredibly important reminder to all about the necessity of trusting in the fourth estate
Molly Mileham-Chappell is a multimedia journalist, currently reporting on local news in Kent. She also has a keen interest in films, Disney and musical theatre. You can see more of her work via her online portfolio.
The Shape of Water
There’s barely a cigarette paper between the two frontrunners for Best Picture at the Oscars 2018, but my vote definitely goes to Guillermo del Toro‘s mesmerising fantasy masterpiece The Shape of Water. It’s a beautifully poignant romance built on the unlikely outsider romance between a fish man and the mute cleaning lady tasked with maintaining the facility in which he is being confined.
Del Toro’s revisionist fairytale storytelling is perfectly served by this movie, which weaves a compelling narrative driven by the all-consuming simplicity of pure love and affection. Sally Hawkins is tremendous in the wordless central role, with the likes of Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins providing impressive support.
In the current climate, a movie that’s transparently about women rising up to take down the personification of the privileged white man could not be more relevant. It lacks the outright social potency of Get Out and the riotous entertainment value of Three Billboards, but The Shape of Water is a fascinating, poignant movie from the maestro of the monsters.
Tom Beasley is the editor of The Popcorn Muncher and a freelance film journalist published on New Statesman, Flickering Myth and What Culture.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
After having taken this year’s Golden Globes by storm and now, the BAFTAs, after nabbing a whopping five awards, it’s safe to assume that Three Billboards is going to be one hell of a serious contender to beat at the 90th Academy Awards. Over the last 12 months, we’ve been treated to such astonishing filmmaking and so many astounding performances at the movies, but Three Billboards stands out like a sore thumb as the only film that has the most going for it. I could write forever about why I think it’s so great and just so, so worthy of sweeping all of the awards, but I simply don’t have enough words here to get stuck into all of that.
The main reason why I think it will win really comes down to its much-needed representation of women in film. Here, we have a really badass female in the leading part, played by none other than Frances McDormand, who we can all really get behind and totally cheer for. She’s desperate to get answers to the conundrum of her daughter’s murder and will do just about anything to get them. Her motives are clear and entirely justifiable.
Add to this a great ensemble cast, a wickedly funny and dark script, surprisingly brutal moments of violence and a really thought-provoking open ending that can be interpreted in different ways. This stands out as not only a massive crowd-pleaser, but also a film that has all the boxes ticked to have that Oscar win for Best Picture totally in the bag.
Which film do you think will win Best Picture at the Oscars 2018? Let me know in the comments section and vote in my Facebook poll. Also, be sure to head back to the site on Sunday evening for all of our live Oscars coverage, from the red carpet to the inevitable envelope gags.