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The Scarlet & Black

Film in Stock: The Oscar races

This week, I’m evaluating a few of the most contested Oscar races. Here’s my prediction of the winners, as well as thoughts on the most deserving nominees. While most cinephiles frown upon awards shows, I love them. The Academy Awards are my Superbowl. My Stanley Cup. My NASCAR race thing.

Best Picture Nominees:

“Call Me by Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Post,” “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Unfortunately, I think “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” will pull out a win this year. The storytelling is definitely not without problems, such as the Sam Rockwell character’s seemingly unprovoked revelation two-thirds of the way through the film, hence my frustration at this film’s continual critical praise. If the Oscars are attempting to distance themselves from the critiques of the film’s mishandling of race, then they’ll go with “Phantom Thread” or “The Post.” “Phantom Thread” is worth a watch, but “The Post” is a bit of a bore. Historically, the Academy hasn’t taken chances with this category, and tends to choose the safe option, even if that safe option is an inferior film. For example, how could the film “Chicago” have won a Best Picture Oscar? Or “Gladiator”?

Much more deserving prospects include Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name.” If you’re evaluating this category in terms of storytelling, as I do, then any of these three offer necessary characters, with clean and tight scenes that serve the overall narrative. All three of these films are near perfect and definitely worth your time if you’re trying to get caught up before the Oscars on March 5. 

Best Director Nominees:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan; “Get Out,” Jordan Peele; “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig; “Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson; “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

I expect Guillermo del Toro will win, keeping with the Golden Globes outcomes. While the “The Shape of Water” was stylistically singular and intensely personal to the filmmaker, Jordan Peele really should win this one, hands down. Even though the category of directing is difficult to evaluate by nature of its expansive scope, Peele stands out for his well-coordinated vision and ability to bring that into fruition. “Get Out” contained my favorite scene from all of film in 2017: when Allison Williams’ character drinks milk through a straw while eating Froot Loops one by one and listening to generic pop music, a description which admittedly does not do it justice. Through scenes like this, Peele creates such a specific tone which has questioned my preconceived notions of the genres of horror and “art house.” Needless to say, Peele has my vote.

Best Cinematography

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins; “Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel; “Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema; “Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison; “The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Being overly concerned with the semantics of film, I must admit that cinematography is my favorite category. This year’s winner will probably be Dan Laustsen for “The Shape of Water,” which is totally justified. From the greenish-blue coloration of each individual shot to the dedication to an early 1960s feel that somehow manages to be both cold and warm at the same time, Laustsen has improved since his impressive first collaboration with Guillermo del Toro, 2015’s “Crimson Peak.” On the other hand, the Academy may fall down on the side of Deakins’ work on “Blade Runner 2049,” which is similarly understandable. Deakins’ marriage of intentional silhouettes with pop art color schemes makes “Blade Runner 2049” worth a watch, even at a near-three hour running time. 

It’s impossible to talk about this category without mentioning the great Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever to be nominated in the category of cinematography. While it’d be great for Rachel Morrison to win, I don’t think “Mudbound” did anything visually risk-taking, especially compared to “Blade Runner 2049” or “The Shape of Water,” or even “Phantom Thread” which didn’t even earn a nomination. This is not to criticize her or director Dee Rees, but historical drama doesn’t lend itself to pushing visual boundaries. Nevertheless, I’m sure that Morrison will be nominated again in the coming years, and as the cinematographer of “Black Panther,” she won’t be out of work anytime soon.

— Martha Beliveau ’21

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