Madison picks the Oscars

Commentary
Don’t feel like watching the Academy Awards tonight? No need to worry, because I’ll be handing out most of the awards right here.

And unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, my opinions are objectively correct.  (Kidding).
[Please note, of the nominated films, I have only seen The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Get Out; Ladybird; Darkest Hour; Blade Runner: 2049; War for the Planet of the Apes; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Guardians of the Galaxy 2; and The Disaster Artist.]

Read on!

Best Picture:

My Pick: The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside EbbingMissouri was one of the best-written movies I’ve seen all year. Ladybird had me crying in the theatre. And Get Out was a smart, funny, and deeply disturbing horror film.

But Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, equal parts wondrous love story and Cold War thriller, was by far the best movie of the year.

Actor in a Leading Role

My Pick: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

It’s exhilarating to watch Gary Oldman deliver Winston Churchill’s famous wartime speeches. However, it’s the private moments, where Oldman’s Churchill is wracked with doubt and despair, that elevate the film beyond hagiograohy. Superb.

Actress in a Leading Role:

My Pick: Margot Robbie – I, Tonya

Frances McDormand is a favourite to win for her gritty turn in 3 Billboards, and Sally Hawkins does so much without words in The Shape of Water. But in my opinion, the most compelling performance was Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.

The role could have been a caricature, but Robbie aims higher than exploitative comedy. From the look of joy on Tonya’s face as she completes her triple axle, to her panicked plea to be jailed rather than banned from competitive skating, Robbie embues Harding’s every act with an almost primal desperation.

Actor in a Supporting Role:

My Pick: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

In a different movie, Sam Rockwell’s deeply stupid, sadistically cruel small-town cop would have been an eye-rollingly over-the-top villain. Sam Rockwell’s alternately loathsome and endearing performance humanizes Dixon enough for his eventual redemption to be believable.

Runner Up: Richard Jenkins was delightful as the charming yet melancholy Giles in The Shape of Water.

Actress in a Supporting Role:

My Pick – Laurie Metcalfe – Ladybird

There are moments when you hate Laurie Metcalfe’s character in Ladybird – in the same way her onscreen daughter does. Marion McPherson is certainly a flawed parent – she loves her daughter, but can’t break her own habit of low-level, unconscious cruelty. In her mind, she does her best; she isn’t abusive like her own mother was, and the family has a roof over their heads.

Marion’s not a one-dimensional cold mother; she’s flawed and human, scared but unable to admit it, deeply loving but sometimes too proud to show it. The brilliance of Metcalfe’s performance is that she lets the audience see that turmoil, even as her own daughter is oblivious to it.

Cinematography:

My Pick: Roger A. Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

From desolate desert landscapes to its holographic high-tech cityscapes, Blade Runner‘s stunning visuals evoke a sense of claustrophobia and isolation.

Costume design:

My Pick: Luis Sequeira – The Shape of Water

The incredibly realistic Amphibian Man puts this one over the top.

Directing:

My Pick: Jordan Peele – Get Out

Jordan Peele expertly balances comedy and horror in his directorial debut, creating unbearable tension in every scene.

Make-up and Hairstyling:

My Pick: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick – Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman’s initially jarring transformation into Winston Churchill looks incredibly natural.

Visual Effects:

My Pick: Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon & Joel Whist – War for the Planet of the Apes

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 all looked incredible. But War for the Planet of the Apes‘s understated approach and incredibly realistic motion capture technology sets it apart from its flashier competitors.

(It’s a travesty that this was its only nomination.)

Runner Up: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 brought an endearing playfulness to its interplanetary visuals.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

My Pick: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist

Neustadter and Weber’s screenplay for The Disaster Artist reworks its (surprisingly disturbing) source material into an loving tribute to weirdos with big dreams. While not as good as Greg Sestero’s much darker autobiographical book, The Disaster Artist’s celebration of the ultimate Hollywood outsider strikes a chord with struggling artists everywhere.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh – 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The plot of Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is incredibly dark and surprisingly redemptive. It’s also the bleakest black comedy in years, and its deadpan dialogue had me laughing out loud.

Runner up: Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird is the most nuanced and authentic portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship I’ve ever seen on screen.

 

Shameful Snubs:

The Academy failed to nominate these worthy contenders, so I will.

Best Picture:

War for the Planet of the Apes was a moving drama about the dehumanization of war and the futility of revenge, and a fitting conclusion to the epic Apes saga.

Additionally, I am still convinced it was a computer glitch that caused I, Tonya to be snubbed.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

Blade Runner: 2049 was a visually stunning and very smart science fiction movie, with a subversive twist ending Philip K. Dick would have been proud of. This one probably got a bad rap for being a sequel to a classic, but 2049 was an excellent film in its own right.

While we’re on the subject of worthy successors, T2: Trainspotting was a witty comedy about troubled friendships, addiction, and the pitfalls of nostalgia.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay):

Here’s an out-of-left field pick – the late Andrew Getty’s bizarre but uneven horror flick The Evil Within was an impressively surreal nightmare.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Andy Serkis has given plenty of incredible performances for years, but is regularly snubbed at Awards Season. There’s been plenty of debate whether computer-assisted motion capture performances should qualify for acting awards – a debate that never seems to happen when someone gets nominated for acting under heavy make-up or prosthetics.

In any case, Serkis’ final performance as simian revolutionary leader Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes was certainly deserving of recognition.

Actor in a Supporting Role

One of many impressive cast members in 3 Billboards, Peter Dinklage was excellent as Frances McDormand’s put-upon but quietly self-assured would-be suitor .

My Updated Top 15 Movies of 2017:

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. War of the Planet of the Apes
  3. T2: Trainspotting
  4. 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  5. Ladybird
  6. I, Tonya
  7. Blade Runner 2049
  8. Get Out
  9. Cult of Chucky
  10. Darkest Hour
  11. Best F(r)iends
  12. The Evil Within
  13. John Wick 2
  14. Disaster Artist
  15. Gerald’s Game

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