Ranking the 2018 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees

Mike Thomas and Jerome Cusson debated the 2017 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees in the form of a podcast. Deciding this year it was best to spare Matt Waters the extra hosting duties give his many Reel World responsibilities (wordplay!), we decided that this year we would discuss the nominees on (figurative) paper instead. After devising a secret formula to rank the nine nominees, we have come up with a definitive order for the Oscar films, ranked worst to best. Without further ado…

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Fuck this piece of shit film. There’s nothing fucking redeeming about this one at all beyond that its unearned accolades have caused fucking Banshee from X-Men: First Class to be in two best picture nominees in a single year. Other than that, this is some racist/Blue Lives Matter bullshit. Imagine thinking we fucking need a goddamn story about a racist cop wanting to be a better fucking person when the film uses black people as marginal objects just to service the arcs of our white characters. Who gives a flying fuck. – Mike

 

8. Darkest Hour

In the moment, this is a rousing two hour commentary on the needs to fight for freedom and democracy and to never compromise against fascists or those who would exploit people of other races or cultures. Unfortunately, the only different between this film and say Rocky IV is the filmmakers dress this up with British accents and all the jowls they can afford to put on Gary Oldman’s face. The reality is Winston Churchill was an imperialist who did a fine job holding people down. One of the most important scenes is a complete fabrication and in no way a representation of what actually happened. There is a message to be sent about leaders standing up to injustice and the importance of seeing evil for what it is. Winston Churchill isn’t that person. Gary Oldman as the man behind the myth also isn’t that person either. The category of this film should just be Oscar because this was specifically constructed to win awards. There’s the historical drama combined with the swelling music and the big climax to send the voters home happy. Not only this is a vast misrepresentation of history but for the second straight year, a problematic person is going to win best actor. – Jerome

 

7. The Post

Like so many of Spielberg’s recent movies, I walked away thinking I had just seen something incredibly entertaining and well made but ultimately forgettable. This was regarded as a potential front-runner for Best Picture because of its messages about journalism in response to leaders overstepping their bounds, but despite an incredible cast of Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and all your favorite prestige television actors, The Post doesn’t come close to matching the detailed examination of its subjects as All The President’s Men  and Spotlight have done previously.

Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee is a nice idea, but he doesn’t have the cantankerous nature or the smoking habit to come close to hitting the same notes as even Jason Robards did in the previously mentioned All the President’s Men. There are some nice moments. Matthew Rhys’ time as Daniel Ellsburg is limited, but the beginning scene was very well executed. Bob Odenkirk hunting down The Pentagon Papers is a great use of his skill ,set and was probably were some of the best scenes. Even though the film is presumably about Meryl Streep’s Katherine Graham, the only things we really know about her are relationships to the men in the film. Spielburg rushed this into production as a response to what the current presidential administration is doing, but with more time and precision, this could have been an actual contender for best picture instead of list filler. – Jerome

 

6. Phantom Thread

I will start this write-up by pointing out that it is an absolute travesty that this film is ranked so low on this list. I also would like to point out that two people voted on this list, and I am the one who is upset that it’s so low. Send your hate mail to appropriate person then.

With that out of the way, it’s time to gush over this glorious film. While there are so many aspects of this near-masterpiece that could be focused on (from the costumes, to the acting, to the continued criminalization of mushrooms in film), the aspect that I loved most was the takedown of the tortured male genius trope.

Reynolds Woodcock is clearly a master of dressmaking, and he is also an incredibly charming fellow. However, he is also the type of dude who treats the people around him (particularly the women in his life) with a level of condescension and emotional abuse that is all too common. This tortured genius archetype is often romanticized (or at least apologized for), but here it’s put on display for its full ugliness all while maintaining a level of nuance in Woodcock’s characterization necessary in great. It was just so well done. – Mike

 

5. Call Me By Your Name

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”

The big talk between Timothee Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg was one for the record books. It was not only the most powerful moment in cinema in 2017 but of recent history as well. In that scene, the warmth and love that Stuhlbarg showed for his onscreen sun was mesmerizing and inspiring. That sequence alone warrants the film getting all the accolades it has deserved. Watch the film and cherish that moment.

 

4. Dunkirk

An asterisk should be attached to this film. If you haven’t seen this in theaters, it’s almost a waste to see it unless you have a 100 inch television and a premiere sound system. As the shortest Christopher Nolan film he’s ever directed, this functions as a tremendous experience. What makes Nolan one of the best is his ability to establish an atmosphere through editing, cinematography , and the score. Even in some of his weaker efforts (think The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar), his movies are almost required to be witnessed in front of the biggest possible screen. The characters and dialogue are almost irrelevant for better or worse. What matters is the way time is played with and how it’s possible for hundreds of thousands of people to be saved.

This is a war film unlike any other that doesn’t attach itself to any tropes (besides the one where it’s required for the only important people to be white males) but still manages to get the audience to care because of all the tricks Nolan has rehearsed in all of his previous films. Dunkirk could easily be written off as another prestige warm film designed to win awards, but Nolan generates something that feels fresh. Even if his playing with time doesn’t completely work and even if the characters don’t seem to matter, this is easily the most spectacular theatrical experience I had in 2017, and for that reason alone, I’d list this as one of my best of the year. – Jerome

 

3. The Shape of Water

Unlike so many other film geeks, I’ve never regarded Guilermo Del Toro as one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve certainly enjoyed his three comic book outing, but I wasn’t over the moon for Pan’s Labyrinth, and I actively hated Pacific Rim. Maybe it’s the product of the current times we live in, but there’s something about a story involving a group of disenchanted minorities fighting back against a representation of toxic masculinity and system at large.

Sally Hawkins is delightful despite not saying a single word. You’re a monster of a different sort if you don’t root for Hawkins’s mute Elisa to get together with The Creature Not From the Black Lagoon. Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins nail their supporting roles. They are there for their friend but also get to exhibit their own agency in the process. Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland plays the clean cut square jawed government agent with gusto and at times cartoonish sensibility. I had no idea what to think when I saw the advertising campaign, but this was an enchanting romance that earned its ending and showed that interspecies erotica has a place in Oscar level filmmaking. – Jerome

 

2. Get Out

One day last January, my students swore to me I had to watch a trailer for this upcoming film that I had never heard of before. While I generally prefer to not waste time in class, I sensed the passion and enthusiasm in my students and decided this must be a worthy diversion.

Needless to say, the trailer got my attention.

I then saw the film opening weekend and was completely blown away. I had never seen a film like it, and it will probably be several years before I leave a theater feeling that pure exhilaration again.

This is the film of the year. There are other films that reach similar levels of greatness, but nothing stayed with me quite like this one did. – Mike

 

1. Lady Bird

I walked out of the theater and immediately said this was the best film of 2017. Even though I’ve seen a number of best picture contenders, including all the ones on this list, and some of the best movies not nominated for best picture, I stand by my belief this was the best of 2017 regardless of what happens at the ceremony.

I remember after Boyhood, people expressed a desire to see the story of someone who wasn’t a white male growing up the state of Texas. Since then, we’ve had Inside Out, last year’s best picture winner Moonlight, and now Lady Bird. Lady Bird might be the least ambitious of the four, but I would argue its lack of gimmicks and straightforward nature only adds to its credibility. We get to see how one young girl deals with the challenges of her senior year in high school. Saorise Ronan shows off her American accent in a role that allows her to be everything teenagers are: happy, sad, cruel, scared, and even sex crazed. Without Laurie Metcalf, the film doesn’t work. Metcalf playing the mother allows us to sympathize and even get a little annoyed at the protagonist’s behavior.

Greta Gerwig constructs a powerful tale of a young teenage, and there would be no better response to the movements across the country over the past year than for this to win best picture. Although unlikely to win, I see Lady Bird as the kind of movie we need to see more of in future years. Representation is incredibly important on camera and behind the camera. Lady Bird and to a much greater extent Get Out prove this point. – Jerome

 

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