2017 had a diverse set of movies, as did the choices in 2016. Unlike last year, there is no runaway favorite for Best Picture, but last year's "La La Land" didn't end up winning, so how much do pre-award rankings mean, anyway? Besides, my personal favorite this year, "Mudbound," wasn't even nominated.
- Mudbound (2017): White farm family in Mississippi in 1940s facing poverty, floods, illness. Black family with same burdens. Plus racism. Script shows same events from different perspectives. Quiet but strong performances. Lessons for today. A-
My ranking of the Oscar nominees is based on the grades I gave the movies immediately after seeing them. In case of ties, I ordered them by my considered judgment today. Note this is not my prediction of which movie will win, but which I would vote for, had I a vote.
The envelope please. The winner of "The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures" goes to...
- The Shape of Water (2017): "Beauty and the Beast" meets "Creature from the Black Lagoon." In a heist movie with Russian spies. The premise is preposterous but it works. A love story with something for everyone. A-
Congratulations to the runners-up.
- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017): Bitter mother searches for her daughter's murderer. Black comic elements. Mildly uplifting. No heroes or villains, just broken people. Frances McDormand rules. A-
- Darkest Hour (2017): Good depiction of the free world on the brink. Great acting by Gary Oldman. Good history allows a new generation to see current events in a new light. Unexpected thought: could Donald Trump be our era's Winston Churchill? A-
- The Post (2017): The decision that made Kay Graham and her Washington Post an icon for freedom of the press. An important movie for our threatened times. A fine drama, even thrilling for at heart a legal drama. Streep and Hanks? Very good but no Oscars this year. A-
- Lady Bird (2017): A girl's struggles with best friend, boy friends, school and most of all, mother. Very believable and real look at coming of age in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan nails it. B+
- Dunkirk (2017): Lots of action. Nameless, interchangeable characters. Little dialog or historical context. But powerful climactic scene. B+
- Get Out (2017): Psychological thriller. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in The Twilight Zone. Big reveal is silly. Best PR for TSA ever. B+
- Phantom Thread (2017): A study in codependency. He's a dress designer, a standoffish fussy genius. She's his model, hopelessly in love. They're cuckoo for each other. Or maybe just cuckoo. Very slow. Very arty. B+
- Call Me by Your Name (2017): Sensitive, coming-of-age love story. Forbidden love. Beautiful Italian settings and scenery. But come on, the subject matter is child molestation, even if consensual, dragging down grade a lot. That and the fruit porn. C-
I've seen all but three of the acting performances nominated for Oscars (exceptions: Denzel Washington, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer). My picks (all favorites to win):
- Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
- Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
- Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
- Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)