While this year's Oscar ceremony might not promise the excitement of last year's envelope snafu, it surely will still be a nail-biting show for many. With no definitive lead in the Best Picture category, anybody can leave the Dolby Theatre with a golden statue. And although there isn't an obvious frontrunner, it hasn't stopped Award critics, Vegas oddsmakers and just the online gambling community, in general, to weigh in on the subject and already crown their winners (Spoiler Alert: It was The Shape of Water). Nonetheless, viewers will have to tune early Monday morning (IST) to find out whether they made good on their money. (And even if it goes wrong, you can invoke your right, established publically and definitively last year by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty to get it completely wrong and then correct it later.)
Now, in case you are drawing a blank over, we've created a crash course for you to get all caught up before the D-day.
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s dreamy parable about tolerance, cruelty and human -piscine sex, The Shape of Water leads with 13 nods this year at the Academy Awards including Best Director.
Robbie Collin from The Telegraph best describes the movie as, "Like the best bath you've ever had, it sends tingles coursing through every part of you that other films don't reach."
Further elaborating on what that constitutes, Kenneth Turan from Los Angeles Times says, "The Shape of Water is a wonder to behold. Magical, thrilling and romantic to the core, a sensual and fantastical fairy tale with moral overtones, it's a film that plays by all the rules and none of them, going its own way with fierce abandon."
Sally Hawkins silent performance and Doug Jones, who brought Abe Sapien to life certainly makes the film a sensual ode that makes the deepest dive into the romance genre this year— literally and figuratively. And while many are certain the film would win the Best Picture category, the same was believed that La La Land would beat Moonlight and The Revenant would beat Spotlight.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Academy Award come amid a national reckoning concerning sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and other industries around the country. Therefore, it's a no-brainer to see Frances McDormand's character which is custom made for the #MeToo Movement with the help of others bags a seat at the nominations table.
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri" revolves around a mother, Mildred whose grief over her daughter's unsolved murder results into vengeance, anger and helplessness.
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney comments, "While the film continues almost throughout to generate great whoops of shocking laughter, it's the notes of genuine sorrow, compassion and contrition that resonate."
Terri White from Empire writes, "Funny, brutal and breathtakingly beautiful. Two exceptionally raw lead performances, supercharged by a bold script from Martin McDonagh, could make Three Billboards this year's Awards-upsetter."
Summing it up, although the film is knee deep with sadness and anger as the predominant emotions, its dark humour helps the movie not come across as a nihilistic tanget.
Jordan Peele's directorial debut 'Get Out' is a movie that excels at inverting the expectations. While one keeps waiting for the awkward social racism to transform into violent, overt racism, tension tugs at the edges of every scene. The uneasy feeling never leaves until the credits roll.
Justin Chang from the Los Angeles Times pours his thought on the film, “This is surely the nerviest, most confrontational treatment of race in America to emerge from a major studio in years and it brilliantly fulfills the duty of both its chosen genres – the horror-thriller and the social satire – to meaningfully reflect a culture’s latent fears and anxieties.”
Get Out featuring powerful racial themes that work in subtle undertones dramatically exceeds both critical and box-office expectations and highly likely to pull off an upset at the Academy Awards.
Unconventionally for a war movie, Dunkirk isn’t really about facing nor fighting the enemy but the desperate act of survival. A film on the 1940 water evacuation of nearly 340,000 endangered Allied soldiers from the Nazi-encircled beaches of the French port city, the whole movie feels like watching a ticking bomb.
But why it’s among the best movies of 2017, Anthony Lane from The New Yorker perfectly sums it up. He says, “Although Dunkirk is not as labyrinthine as Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000) or ‘Inception’ (2010), its strike rate upon our senses is rarely in doubt, and there is a beautiful justice in watching it end, as it has to, in flames. Land, sea, air, and, finally, fire: the elements are complete, honour is salvaged, and the men who were lost scrape home.”
The lack of individual character detail or the relatively less dialogue never hinders the main focus of the movie, which is, the immediacy of their plight. Dunkirk turns into a purgatory for the stranded men. Home is within sight, but Hell isn’t far away, either.
“Across the veil of years, we have seen tall Churchills, obese Churchills, sloppy Churchills, gross Churchills and scowling bull dog Churchills, and yet not one movie or TV Churchill has come close to giving us the man in full, both in look and spirit, until Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour.” – Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle
Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill’s “never surrender” speech and the dire Second World War circumstances that prompted it which also perfectly complements Dunkirk. Gary Oldman gives an impeccable performance as Winston Churchill in a gorgeously photographed, suspenseful World War II that showcases the intense tug-of-war between duty and morality.
The Post functions as a prequel to All the President’s Men, since its account of publishing the explosively confidential Vietnam War documents known as the Pentagon Papers, and the subsequent right-to-print courtroom battle, leads directly into subsequent Watergate skulduggery.
Moira Macdonald from The Seattle Times comments, “The film is both a gripping and timely celebration of the free press, and, in the remarkable hands of Streep, an exploration of what it meant then (and, perhaps, now) to be a woman thrust into power in an all-male world.”
There are more coming of age movies than anyone would probably want to count. However, what makes Lady Bird interesting is that its a heartfelt and funny story about a young woman trapped in that seemingly never-ending moment between immaturity and maturity. With a standout, brilliant performance by Saoirse Ronan and by Laurie Metcalf as her long-suffering, big-hearted mother, Lady Bird, is a simple yet distinctive story.
In a review, Chicago Sun Time’s Richard Roeper said, “It is smart without being smug, insightful without being condescending, funny without being mean-spirited and genuinely moving. It’s unique and original and fresh and wonderful, and can you tell I loved it?”
Same, Richard. Same.
Call Me By Your Name
Another coming of age film, however, Call Me By Your Name based on André Aciman’s bestselling novel is about a shy 17-year-old youth finding himself in the erotic company of a 24-year-old man who thinks he knows all about life.
David Sims from The Atlantic reviews the film as, “Each element is carefully calibrated, but deployed with consummate grace—this is a film to rush to, and to then savour every minute of.”
Call Me By Your Name a romanticized film, isn’t a car chase of a movie, but a leisurely drive. It invites you to take a break within its cinematic confines and simply appreciate the view.
The last refined performance by the living legend, Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread stuns the viewers with his sublime performance that treads on cruelty and comedy. Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dress designer in 1950s England for who fashion is a living art form that transcends mere aesthetic excellence.
The New York Times’ A.O. Scott commenting on the film says, “On first viewing, the captivating strangeness of the mood and the elegant threading of the plot are likely to hold your attention, but later you can go back to savour the lustrous colours, the fine-grained performances and the romantic mystery that holds the whole thing together.”
For all the technical prowess on display, this isn’t a film that’s easy to inhabit as a viewer. It’s as removed from everyday experience, as chilly and perfect as a couture piece. Which is why the nomination for Best Picture doesn’t sit well with many Hollywood buffs who find ‘The Big Sick’ or ‘I, Tonya’ more deserving.