January 30, 2018
Okay, this is an unintentional part two to my Peepshow post from January 3. In that piece, I blathered on about a bunch of Oscar contenders I’d seen over the holiday break and my early thoughts on each. I also confessed I had a few more I needed to see before the big Academy Awards broadcast next month, which is one of my favorite events of the year… probably because I still have this stupid dream that someday I might win one.
This Peepshow post is about two things: the other potentially award-worthy films I’ve seen in the weeks since, and damnit, I’m going to tell you who and what should win the big categories. Since I’ve seen most of the flicks worth considering, my opinion should be gold.
There are three movies I recently either had the pleasure or displeasure of seeing , starting with “I, Tonya.” I was a sophomore in college when the crazy Harding/Kerrigan scandal took place. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the whole thing, but I recall enough of the events to have recognized many of the events portrayed in this movie starring Margot Robbie (up for Best Actress) and Allison Janney (up for Supporting Actress). My expectations for this movie were about as low as they could go, but let me tell you this: I don’t care who you are, you should see this movie. It’s funny, maddening, and TBH a little heartbreaking.
In the ’90s we HATED Tonya Harding. But after 120 minutes of “I, Tonya,” I felt such an inexplicable empathy for the woman, it took me aback. I’ve never thought a lot of Robbie, either, but she was beyond amazing in the role and for sure deserving of a nomination. Janney, meanwhile, plays an absolute caricature of the hateful, awful mother of Harding. She’s on oxygen through much of the movie, and I found myself hoping she’d finally just die. SEE THIS MOVIE!
On to “Dunkirk.” I’m gonna keep this quick: I could not watch this movie. It was playing on HBO, and as I sat down to watch it, I found it instantly so stressful, the TV was turned off after about 15 minutes. You know what? I’m sure it’s a wonderful movie. I just couldn’t do it.
And finally, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Of all the movies on my 2017 list, this was probably the one I most looked forward to seeing. And perhaps that was, in the end, its greatest problem. The movie’s trailer, featuring a crotchety but totally intriguing Frances McDormand, captured my attention and built a level of anticipation far higher than any other on my list. And don’t get me wrong… this is a really, really compelling movie. McDormand was fantastic as the mother of a young woman who was mysteriously raped and murdered. Frustrated with her local (Ebbing) police department for its apparent ineptitude, she puts up a series of billboards pressing the sheriff (Woody Harrelson, up for Supporting Actor) and his deputies (including Sam Rockwell, also up for Supporting Actor) to resume their seemingly stalled-out search for the murderer. It’s a raw flick. There’s a lot of racist and homophobic language and behavior, and it’s at times viscerally violent. For two hours, I found myself on a rollercoaster of hating then loving then hating just about every character. There is very little — if any — redemption, but in the end, you feel like you’ve watched a very complete, and somehow pretty satisfying, story filled with characters that followed very decisive arcs. No character is good. Likewise, none are totally bad. But despite all that, I walked away somehow disappointed. Can’t quite put my finger on it… might simply have been too damn depressing.
So here we are. Time for me to give away this year’s Oscars, and please don’t argue with my selections. They are accurate. That said, I fully admit I have not seen everything. Most notably I have not seen The Post (won’t win anything anyway), Darkest Hour (will probably win best actor and I do want to see it!), Get Out (definitely on my list, but it’s kind of a horror movie, and I’m a bit of a wuss), and I refuse to see Phantom Thread. I loved Day-Lewis as Lincoln, but I’m tapped out… just can’t deal with him anymore. Retire already. [Editor’s note: This opinion is false.]
Best Supporting Actor
I think Armie Hammer was robbed in this category and should win for “Call Me By Your Name.” I really liked Richard Jenkins in “The Shape of Water,” and Harrelson was striking in “Three Billboards.” I can’t even look at Willam Dafoe, so the winner is Sam Rockwell of “Three Billboards.” It’s tough to get by some of the things he does and says in the movie, but he’s pretty undeniably brilliant in it.
Best Supporting Actress
This one is easy. Allison Janney is a tempting pick because she plays a total B and you can’t help but hate her. But I will not be fooled! Laurie Metcalf is a national treasure and should win for her portrayal of the title character’s mother in “Lady Bird.”
Here I’m torn. I think “Lady Bird” was so well done, and its director, Greta Gerwig, is totally deserving. But I’m going to give the trophy to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water… easily one of the best all-around movies of the year.
Best Lead Actor
Here’s the deal: I’m not going to watch a movie called “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” I just can’t do it. It sounds stupid. Sorry, Denzel. As mentioned above, I want to see “Get Out,” but I’m scared. So sorry, Daniel Kaluuya. Also as mentioned above, I’m done with Daniel Day-Lewis. That leaves two options. Gary Oldman is going to win this award in real life… and I haven’t seen “Darkest Hour,” so it’s not totally fair. But I would hands-down give the Oscar to Timothée Chalamet for “Call Me By Your Name.” This kid literally brought a tear to my eye (yes, just one). He was absolutely captivating as a teenage kid who falls for an older man in Italy, in what I would easily deem a top-three movie of the year. Case closed.
Best Lead Actress
This category is rough. Haven’t seen Streep in “The Post,” but blah blah blah. She has enough. The other four are all incredibly deserving, and everybody knows McDormand will actually win. I loved Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird” and I loved Robbie in “I, Tonya.” But there’s something deep in my soul that wants to give the Oscar to Sally Hawkins for “The Shape of Water.” She spoke like 15 words in the whole damn movie, and yet I fell madly in love with her. I felt her every feeling — her fascination with the creature, her curiosity, her lust, her desperation. She was amazing in every single way… ways in which the other women up for this award simply fell short.
I hate Best Picture. It’s so dumb. Who even cares, right? Look, this boils down to three movies for me.
In a weaker field, “Lady Bird” would stand out in the crowd. It’s so well done, from the acting to the directing to the overall storytelling. It should be a lock. But in 2017, it’s not.
In any year, “Call Me By Your Name” should be a major contender for this award. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s captivating. It transports you to another continent and culture and makes you feel like you’re watching this boy and his relationship unfold with your eyes, not just on a screen. The supporting cast is stellar, especially his on-screen father, who delivers probably the best monologue of the year near the film’s end. This was easily, hands-down my second favorite movie of the year, edged out just barely by…
The Shape of Water. This was the best film of 2017, and I know there are many people who would call me insane for having that opinion. I don’t care. Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins – directed by del Toro – tell an amazingly moving tale built around the most ridiculous concept ever (the love story between a mute cleaning lady and an imprisoned aquatic creature from the Amazon). This was simply the best film of the year… maybe of the last 2-3 years… and it is my Oscar pick for 2017.
And in the end, Three Billboards is going to win anyway, so whatever. Lame.
So back to me winning that Original Screenplay Oscar. How can we make that happen?