What a year we experienced in 2017. On and off the screen.
In a world challenged by truth, anger and relationships, we absorbed a collection of films that reflect what can fill the heart with hope, ground the soul in reality, and inspire people to believe the best may still occur. And many of the best movies are nominated for Academy Awards.
As much as I might wish, I can’t actually vote for the Oscars. Only Academy members can. But if I could, here’s how I would vote (and who I think will win).
Enjoy the 90th Academy Awards on March 4!
Best Picture: Get Out
What a year to pick one winner. So many nominees reach new places, reveal fresh feelings, make essential observations. For most observers, the likely favorites are Guillermo del Toro’s wondrous look at unlikely connections in The Shape of Water, Greta Gerwig’s study of complex families in Lady Bird, and Christopher Nolan’s audacity to reinvent the war movie in Dunkirk. But if we look at what the nominees dare to say, about film, about the world we live in, none deserve the award as much as Jordan Peele’s outrageous movie that reveals the horrors that surround us within the conventions of such a popular genre. This film shouldn’t have worked. But it does. And it won’t likely win. But it should.
Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name
While he’s certain to lose to Gary Oldman — who may win as much for his career as for his performance in Darkest Hour (with a nod to his makeup artist) — the acting honors should go to the soft-spoken Chalamet, who breaks our hearts as a young man discovering his layers of love. In Call Me By Your Name, the actor portrays a well-loved son given the permission to explore. Little does he know what he will find when his family enables him to embrace his discoveries. The performance is brave, precise and wonderfully spontaneous.
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird
Yes, Frances McDormand will likely win. Yes, Oscar loves to honor performances of such intensity. And, yes, she is wonderful in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But the delightful Ronan is the year’s surprise, making a teenager so fresh and immediate in a comedy with a lot to say about the quirks that define families. Relying on her ability to communicate so much with glance and expression, Ronan makes us believe in this girl’s dreams as well as her hesitations, her drives and her fears. She balances Lady Bird’s longings in a portrayal that dares to imagine what life can be.
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project
While all bets are on Sam Rockwell to win for his broad performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it just feels right for Dafoe to triumph for a quiet performance that could be easy to overlook if it wasn’t so impossible to forget. After playing complex villains in many films, what a treat to see Dafoe shine as a reel hero who manages to keep so many calm in a film that explores all the reasons people need to scream about their lives. The actor reminds us how much range he offers and how he can so effectively play warmth. Who knew?
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
No surprise, Allison Janney is the front runner for playing a controlling mother in I, Tonya. As much as I love Janney, in anything, I hope Metcalf is the evening’s surprise winner. The Tony-winning actress simply becomes this mother trapped by love she feels but cannot express, the fear she hides but will not confront. This lady knows that her daughter, a wandering high school senior, needs a mother’s guidance. But some days all she can manage is the laundry. And she must have something she can control.
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
While I am not thrilled by the Academy’s habit to split the awards for director and picture, what del Toro achieves with his vision can’t be denied. By daring to tell a conventional story in such a stylized manner, del Toro reminds us that, while the narrative may frame the film experience, the visual defines that experience. And when the camera must travel below water, he responds with sequences that defy convention, creating atmosphere that reaches beyond how filmmakers usually visualize this part of the world.
Interested in more Academy Awards predictions from The Reel Dad? Check out my online column below.
The Reel Dad Picks the Oscar winners (cont.)
By Mark Schumann
Father of Three
Best Original Screenplay: Get Out
I love Greta Gerwig. I cherish every moment of Lady Bird. And I would be thrilled to see her win the Oscar in this highly competitive category. But Jordan Peele had the audacity to tell a story as current as today’s news within the traditions of a genre as old as the first movie. What he achieves defines what it means to be original. And that’s a lot to say given that Greta Gerwig is also a nominee.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
How fitting for James Ivory, after a wondrous career directing such films as A Room With a View, Howard’s End and Remains of the Day, should finally win an Oscar for a film that uses the conventions of those pictures to tell a fresh story of how people discover how they love. Because Ivory brings such a sense of tradition to the piece, he is the one who can stretch beyond what tradition may dictate.
Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman
While all contenders in this category impress, the rich intensity of A Fantastic Woman reaches beyond what we often see from the finalists. As a trans woman mourns her dead lover, she must fight for the basic respect that anyone should experience. But the world can be an angry place. The film takes on its content and never loses its drive.
Best Animated Feature: Coco
While animated movies risk becoming too familiar – from relying too much on popular formula – this look at life and death, hopes and fears, highs and lows, makes us think as it entertains. By reaching beyond the conventions of new-age animation, creators Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina reassure us that nothing changes too much on screen.
Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places
In a category filled with thrilling work – and several worthy candidates left without nominations – this moving tribute to a 90-year-old woman who still makes movies pays tribute to the ageless potential of the creative spirit. It’s as uplifting and joyous as any film this year.
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Dear Academy: Please give Roger Deakins an Oscar. After nominations for such films as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men and Sicario, it’s time to finally acknowledge his contribution to movies. Plus his work on Blade Runner 2049 is as fresh, original and surprising as anything he has done. The man is due. Overdue.
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Yes, the movie is about high fashion, so it should have beautiful costumes. Which it does. What matters more is how the costumes in this film from Paul Thomas Anderson play a central character in a drama about the emotions people hide and the clothes that disguise what and how they feel.
Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
With his reinvention of the war film, Christopher Nolan refuses to follow the rules. Yes, we see conflict, but well into the narrative. Yes, we encounter colorful characters, but in the context of the narrative. Yes, we hear dialogue, but little, as if the director knows the number of words a powerful picture can be worth. And the editing makes it work.
Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
While Hans Zimmer’s score for Dunkirk captures the chaos and heroism of that story, it’s impossible to imagine this fantasy from Guillermo del Toro without this haunting score. Alexandre Desplat once again makes us feel what the music intends to inspire.
Best Song: Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name
In a category that begs to be reimagined, the haunting message of this song perfectly complements the intent and mood of the film. But it’s time for the Academy to ask what it intends to honor with this Oscar.
Best Makeup and Hair: Darkest Hour
If Gary Oldman wins an Oscar for playing Winston Churchill – partly because of the physicality of his performance – it’s only fair for the makeup and hair to be honored, too.
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
It’s no surprise this visual thrill ride should be an automatic pick for this award. Its depiction of a romantic fantasy is so specific in detail yet epic in scope that the design immediately transports us to a new world. Never do we believe we are in Kansas, Toto.
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Yes, Christopher Nolan’s film is as dazzling to listen to as to watch, with a collection of sounds that continually surprises. The movie becomes a symphony of audio elements that contributes to the sense of desperation it explores and humanity it celebrates.
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
The second sound category honors the creation of non-dialogue and non-music elements to enhance a film’s sound. The Academy should reward the film that uses sound most effectively to tell its story. That should again be Dunkirk, a film that relies on sound and image to tell its story rather than conventional dialogue.
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
We become so familiar with what a computer can do on screen that we can too easily forget that it takes creativity to decide where the software should focus. This follow up to the thriller classic creates a visual adventure that makes us forget the source material. And the original was, at its time, impossible to forget.