Every year is a good year for the movies. Even while certain segments of the blogosphere were declaring the death of cinema while television reached a fever pitch of popularity, there was always a plethora of great movies being made. If you know where to look and pay attention in any given year, you’ll find that the end of movies as a great art form has been greatly exaggerated.
However, sometimes the great movies within a year have a higher profile, and that year seems to be a better year for cinema as a result. 2017 was such a year, and you only have to look at the nominees for Best Picture as evidence. I still haven’t seen a lot of them, but, for my money, there are at least 3 masterpieces (Dunkirk, Get Out, Call Me by Your Name) among the nominees I’ve seen, and, by reputation, 2 or 3 (Lady Bird and maybe The Shape of Water or Phantom Thread) among the ones I haven’t. That’s crazy. Last year, there were maybe 3 (Moonlight, Arrival, and La La Land and Manchester by the Sea are toss-ups). The year before that there was only 1 (Mad Max: Fury Road).
Your mileage will vary on these movies from mine, and that’s okay. But this was an extraordinary year for movies. You could replace all 7 of the Best Picture nominees with other movies from the top 25 grossers of the year to go with Dunkirk and Get Out, and you’d still have a worthy slate of Oscar contenders. Heck, let’s do it: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, It, Thor: Ragnarok, Logan, Coco, and Split. There. I mean, none of those would beat Dunkirk or Get Out, but they’re awesome.
Whatever happens Sunday night, 2017 was amazing. Even if both Get Out and Lady Bird get shut out and the internet goes bonkers, it won’t change the fact that 2017 was a particularly good year for movies that are going to be special to people for a long, long time. Let’s not lost sight of that.
*Indicates a movie I have not seen yet.
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water*
Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Will win: The Shape of Water. Three Billboards is right there with Guillermo del Toro’s watery fable, but the backlash against Billboards has been louder. Also, Three Billboards doesn’t have a directing nomination for Martin McDonagh, which would suggest that history is against it. The spoiler is Get Out, which would be awesome, but it only has 4 nominations. Its support is probably mostly from new membership, and it won’t be enough.
Should have been nominated: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The only Star Wars movie to be nominated for Best Picture was 1977’s A New Hope, and Last Jedi is better. *ducks*
Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig*
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson*
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro*
Will win: The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro. I’m not entirely sure why the narrative here is that “it’s his time,” when this is first directing nomination in his career. But people in Hollywood do love him, and The Shape of Water is a celebration of movie history.
Should have been nominated: Logan, James Mangold. The screenplay is nominated (which is crazy!), but I think Mangold’s direction did the heavy lifting. He had to walk a tightrope of making a character study out of a superhero movie, and it was a huge success.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread*
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out*
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.*
Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. It truly is a great performance, though the Academy will give it to Oldman because it’s the biggest performance. This award should be Chalamet’s.
Should have been nominated: James McAvoy, Split. Get Out is probably the closest the Academy was going to come to embracing genre fare, but Split is a tension wire of a movie, and McAvoy’s performance is what keeps it from breaking.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water*
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya*
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird*
Meryl Streep, The Post
Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This performance is as much of a shoo-in to win as Oldman’s.
Should have been nominated: Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick. The movie didn’t have quite enough support to garner any acting awards, but Kazan’s performance stuck with me more than almost any other I saw from 2017.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project*
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water*
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World*
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The acting races just aren’t interesting this year. This is Rockwell’s award to lose.
Should have been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name. Chalamet getting nominated is a win for the movie, but Hammer’s performance, while less devastating, is just as crucial to understanding the romance at the heart of the movie.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound*
Allison Janney, I, Tonya*
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread*
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird*
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water*
Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya. Janney has the lowest odds of all the acting locks, probably because Laurie Metcalf’s performance is so beloved…but Janney’s still a lock.
Should have been nominated: Nicole Kidman, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. This is the second year in the row that a great Yorgos Lanthimos film gets overlooked, as well as its best performance.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist*
Will win: Call Me by Your Name. It’s the lone Best Picture nominee here, so it’s the frontrunner. It’s also written by James Ivory, who has adapted classics recognized by the Academy for over 30 years. It’s also beautiful.
Should have been nominated: It. Again, the Academy is generally not about genre fare, but if we can get Logan nominated, why not one of the most popular movies of last year, adapted by a best-seller from one of the most popular authors of all time? It was a great horror movie, yes, but it was also a great coming-of-age movie, and making a great coming-of-age movie out of a thousand-page book is quite a feat.
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Big Sick
The Shape of Water*
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Will win: Get Out. This is the one award Get Out will win. The “old white man” segment of the Academy is severely underrating this movie, but enough members will want the movie to win something, and this is the most logical place at which to make that happen.
Should have been nominated: After the Storm. Writing nominees tend to be pretty white. The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani is only the 5th nominee of Asian descent in Oscar’s history, and the only Asian-language film to be nominated in this category was Letters from Iwo Jima, which is a Clint Eastwood movie. Suffice it to say, a Japanese drama like After the Storm never would have been nominated. But its unlikelihood doesn’t make it right. After the Storm writer Hirokazu Koreeda has a history of getting at the things families never communicate to each other, and this movie is no different.
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water*
Will win: Blade Runner 2049. It’s a beautiful movie to look at. But more importantly, its cinematographer, Roger Deakins, has 14 nominations for The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in the same year (!), The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken, Sicario, and now BR 2049, but he has never won. He’s…what’s the word…due.
Should have been nominated: War for the Planet of the Apes. For some reason, the Academy hasn’t recognized the extraordinary achievement that is this franchise. It really shouldn’t have worked- ask Tim Burton- but director Matt Reeves made it work. He made it look good in the process as well, with the help of cinematographer Michael Seresin, who also worked on Dawn.
Best Animated Feature
The Boss Baby*
Will win: Coco. It’s well-deserving, even though I haven’t seen the others, just for its visuals alone.
Should have been nominated: I didn’t see a ton of animated movies this year, but it baffles me that The Boss Baby is on this list over The LEGO Batman Movie.
Best Documentary (Feature)
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail*
Last Men in Aleppo*
Will win: Icarus. Faces Places has the lowest odds, and it would be kismet with director Agnes Varda winning an honorary Oscar this year. But I find it hard to believe Academy members really get Varda. Icarus is the most accessible of this group, and its the most timely, since it’s about the Russian doping scandal.
Should have been nominated: City of Ghosts, a tense look at refugee activists reporting to the world on the heinous acts ISIS is perpetrating in Syria. Last Men in Aleppo probably siphoned attention away from it.
Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)*
The Insult (Lebanon)*
On Body and Soul (Hungary)*
The Square (Sweden)*
Will win: A Fantastic Woman, about a transgender woman struggling with the death of her partner, is the most zeitgeist-y. The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, might squeak by, but it’s pretty weird. A Fantastic Woman is more straightforward.
Should have been nominated: I haven’t even seen the nominees, let alone any foreign-language films that should have been nominated.