When we take a look at some of the 2018 Oscar nominations we are a bit baffled to say the least at the choices this year. 2017, was a great year, when it comes to movies at least.. but I must say, the line up of last years nominations, especially Best Picture makes this years look like a speck of gold compared to a goldmine.
Last year, we went and saw all of the Best Picture nominations, and despite the mess up when it came to award day, we thought pretty much all of them were Oscar worthy. Of course, some more than others. Our favorites: Hidden Figures, La La Land and Moonlight (winner of Best Picture 2017).
As for some additional categories such as: Original Music, Animated Film and Production Design, those are some pretty good nominations in my book. So, what’s being nominated for in the 2018 Oscars anyway? Let’s take a look at some of the nominations starting with Best Picture:
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- The Post
- The Shape of Water
- Lady Bird
- Get Out
- Call Me By Your Name
- Phantom Thread
- Darkest Hour
The Post (3 stars)
It was only okay. Spielberg doesn’t give the material much punch and no one stands out as a performer.
As a past newspaper editor, I’ll admit it was neat to see an idea of what the newsroom looked like in that era. Also, it was cool to see how they made the paper.. molding each block to print the letters. I can’t imagine how there was so little printing errors.
The plot did seem a bit watered down and it definitively was predictable. The themes being dealt with are interesting and of course relevant to today’s issues of the government trying to discredit the news. It’s just didn’t feel like it was very interesting.
The Shape of Water (3 stars)
I’m not as enamored with this as everyone else seems to be. It’s visually great, and the performances are dazzling. Michael Shannon shows he can be a much greater villain than General Zod. The period detail is exquisite and the special effect for the ‘monster’ is very good. I want to say it was someone wearing a motion capture suit with cgi copying their movements, but in some scenes it almost blends the line with a man in an actual suit or a puppet. That’s the greatest compliment a special effect can receive, that you can’t tell how it was done or don’t even notice it as an effect.
Issues for me stem from the story and the pacing. There didn’t feel like any goal was in sight and I couldn’t get wrapped up in the narrative. The most exciting and engaging section involved the stealing away of the monster from the secret facility, and it felt like the climax when I realized we were only thirty minutes in. The rest of the film never stirred as much emotion and excitement as that part did.
There’s also a love story center here, and it’s obviously unorthodox in being one between a fish man creature and a human woman. As far as a being to be with, enjoy things together with, and provide emotional support, it was delightful. Then the woman escalates it to a sexual one, and that’s where the film lost me. The movie has quite a lot of sex on its mind too, as we see her strip naked full frontal at least three times and we get to see Michael Shannon’s ass as he gives it to his wife. It was enough to see her masturbating in the tub to tell the audience that she doesn’t have a sex life, but did we need to see it several times and in such graphic detail?
In all, for me, it’s another disappointment from Del Toro, and as much as it pains me to say it I think I’m afraid to go back and revisit ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ after this. Was that film a fluke, or something?
Dunkirk (4 stars)
Everyone by now has heard of this film, and the power it can deliver on the horror of war. It’s not a gory movie, but hardly a scene goes by that broadly or subtly reminds the viewer of the toll war takes on men’s souls. It’s a beauty to look at, a sad beauty that I haven’t seen in a war film in quite some time. The score is Hans Zimmer’s usual low bass filled effort, without memorable melodies to hum as you exit, but then again this isn’t a film about glory. It covers what was almost the debacle that lost the war for the allied powers. Still, the interesting thing for me is that there are both dishonorable figures and heroes interacting here. There are men who disguise themselves as soldiers to get out of France, pilots who stay behind during the battle to make sure their fellow pilots get home safe, numerous civilians who sail across the Channel to volunteer their personal boats to ferry the men home, and generals who stay behind after the evacuation to wait and try to get just a few more soldiers back home.
Nolan’s crafted a great movie here, one that thrusts the audience straight into war torn France and make them feel just as desperate as the soldiers trying to get out. It’s an emotional story that sticks with you after you leave, and yet full of hope with its optimistic ending, mirroring the feeling of the civilians in England following the real event. There’s dread, excitement, carnage, death, and yet, hope.
Get Out (3.5 stars)
I’ve ruminated about this over a few days and I’ve come to a more wholesome opinion to share. It’s a great thing that this movie had such success considering it has a black protagonist and was written and directed by a black filmmaker. It’s also a very interesting watch because it tells a story that references other past horror movies but twists it in a way that has never been done before, one that references our nation’s terrible past rooted in racism and slavery.
Coming from being in a past interracial relationship I felt very half minded by this. At first I didn’t know what to expect, sure it’s a sorry about an interracial couple who get torched? I didn’t look much into the movie before watching it.. Then it twists me and no, it’s about black slavery and using blacks as puppets. Okay, I don’t get it. I understand the thought and can see where it was trying to be taken but all in all it made me sick and left me speechless.
That said, the movie itself is a mixed bag for me personally. There are some great horror images and lines and some very funny comedic parts, but it doesn’t all get for me. It felt like the tone was all over the place.
Animated Feature Film nominations
- The Boss Baby
- The Breadwinner
- Loving Vincent
Coco (4 stars)
The value of family and following your own dreams butt heads in this fantastical, unique tale of the land of the dead, based heavily on Mexican folklore and traditions. Also a fantastic display of how far computer animation has come, the details on every object rendered are mind boggling.
Young Miguel is forced by his family to take part in their shoemaking business when all he wants to do is play his guitar and sing. But when on Dia de Los Muertos he tries to take his ancestor’s guitar to follow in his footsteps, he’s whisked away to the land of the dead! Now he needs to get his dead music-hating relatives to get him home before sunrise, or he’ll be stuck in the land of the dead too!
The music is the main attraction for this film, but above all it’s a story of clashing values within a close knit family. In Mexican culture the familial bonds that connect relatives are very strong and form an integral aspect of their lives, so the schism that erupts between Miguel and his family not being supportive of his dreams is not likely a real conflict that occurs in many families. Also the concept in the film of the dead literally disappearing when no one in the land of the living remembers them is genuinely chilling. Read our full review here..
Ferdinand (3.5 stars)
It’s a solid animated film for kids but grown ups can get into it too. Not every bit of comedy hits but there’s some creative use of the animation and funny designs for the humans and animals.
I loved how it showed the dedication and friendship between Ferdinand and the girl. It truly is a great movie that teaches children about bullying, friendship, hardwork and dedication.
- Call Me by Your Name
- The Disaster Artist
- Molly’s Game
The Disaster Artist (4 stars)
A love letter to any fan of The Room, but also a testament to every person who came to Hollywood and had their dreams crushed. This is a story about the underdog, and his success in spite of the odds or his quirks.
If anything, it should get you to read the book by Greg Seatero. The movie is good on its own, but it sometimes feels like a cliff notes version. That’s just the limitation of the medium, though. The movie has to fit in a two hour timeframe while the book has the luxury of going into greater detail about the truly strange relationship Greg and Tommy had when living together and what lengths Tommy went as a manipulator of people, Greg in particular.
Logan (4 stars)
After the action-bloated disappointment that was ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ it was nice to see the X-Men franchise still had some mileage in it, and a great way to send off Hugh Jackman in the role that made him famous, Logan, or ‘The Wolverine’. It also introduces a new generation of mutants, headed by Logan’s possible daughter Laura (Dafne Keen). In tow with a very old and sick Professor X (Patrick Stewart), a grizzled Logan has to transport them to a supposed safe haven for mutants before caught by the mutant hunter Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
The condition of Logan is alarmingly poor, given the typical healing ability he has. Perhaps it’s an analogy for the fans of the franchise and Jackman himself, continually weathering good and bad X-Men films for the last seventeen years. It’s refreshing to see an entry in the series that tries something different, a stripped down, road-trip movie that leaves its action grounded and relatively realistic. Again, a very nice change from the headache-inducing ‘Apocalypse.’
Returning to direct is James Mangold, who also helmed the solid solo Logan outing, ‘The Wolverine,’ so it was in good hands. The story brings the characters down to earth as normal people who try to make a hard, cruel world a little better by using their powers for good, including a memorable section where Logan helps a farmer protect his farm and water source from a corrupt corporation.
I liked the pure emotion generated for all the movie’s characters, again, something severely lacking from ‘Apocalypse.’ It was nice to see X-Men could be relatable to a dumb human like me again. And I look forward to the adventures of the next generation introduced here.
- Blade Runner 2049
- Darkest Hour
- The Shape of Water
Blade Runner 2049 (2 stars)
I’ve got to say, I can’t see why this is being hailed by most members of this site at the best movie of the year. Any sequel to Blade Runner was going to have a tall order of following it up, and although this effort is a great looking film, it’s not a great feeling film. Firstly It’s a terrible detriment to any detective movie when the audience is utterly confused as to what is exactly happening and why. I spent most of this viewing with my brain full of questions as to how Gosling’s Blade Runner ‘K’ makes these leaps in logic, these discoveries that are either so esoteric there’s no way he’d make them or so laid out for him you could run into them blindfolded.
Atmosphere goes a long way, and one of the original’s best aspects is its unique visual style and score. The giant billboards and dank streets are replicated well, but that great level of setting isn’t equaled due to the abundance of computer effects. The original managed it all on models and optical efforts, and even though it’s thirty five years old it still looks better than here. The best moments of the score are the ones that reference the original’s soaring, epic music. The rest of the soundtrack sounds like you’re hearing a terrible dubstep party going on next door.
And then there’s the excessive sexist traits. There isn’t one female character who doesn’t exist here to be objectified, deceitful, or killed. I supposed the heightened sexual nature of the future is meant to establish that sex has become more depraved, open, and detached in this future era. The prostitutes are walking the streets in bright light and open cafe settings, there are giant billboard ads of naked women dancing around, and in the palace K explores toward the ending there are giant statues of naked women as well, which the camera takes great care to linger on. It doesn’t feel beneficial to building the world, or mood, it just feels uncomfortable and embarrassing. It also leads to a sex scene where a holographic woman copies the movements of a real replicant, in one of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever viewed in a cinema, especially for a film that isn’t supposed to be horror.
I can’t abide by a film that’s boring, even when its visuals are great, the world building is mostly high quality, the performances are well done, and the music occasionally wonderful. I’ve only seen one other Denis Villeneuve film, ‘Arrival,’ and it was well done enough, so I’m not sure if I don’t like his style or if this material just didn’t get executed in a way I would have liked. Hopefully I’ll like his other work if I get to watching it, and hopefully this will just make me go back to appreciate the original more. Also Harrison Ford’s Deckard feels tacked on for reference purposes, he should have stayed retired.
- Baby Driver
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Shape of Water
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4 stars)
The First Order Strikes Back! Humiliated after the destruction of the Starkiller base, the First Order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), the mysterious Snoke (Andy Serkis), and the fallen jedi Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has doubled its efforts to wipe out the rebellion. The resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) are cornered, and meet disagreement in their tactics from Poe Dameron (Oscar Issacs). Finn (John Boyega) and fellow resistor Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) try to find a code breaker (Benicio Del Toro) to get them out of the jam, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to convince the guilt ridden exile Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her in the ways of the force. Meanwhile, a strange connection between Rey and Kylo Ren shows itself, and appears to be growing stronger…
There hasn’t been this much controversy over a Star Wars film that I can remember. It seems to have split the fan base even more than Episode VII, The Force Awakens. That film was flawed, sure, but it delivered overall in taking its audience back to this great universe and re-establishing it after thirty years had passed in continuity. This movie does much of the same, but it does take risks with its plot and characters that I feel work and pay off.
As I implied in the opening, it does take several plot beats from the original trilogy’s second installment, just as ‘The Force Awakens’ copied from ‘A New Hope,’ but it also throws some twists that worked for me. In the effort of preserving spoilers I won’t give away too much, but Kylo Ren is explained by Luke as having evil thoughts when he was training him, so he had a momentary impulse to kill him, even as a family member and the son of his sister. This reaction leads Ren to destroy Luke’s jedi temple and join Snoke in learning the dark side of the force, and Luke acquiring horrible guilt at his own failure, especially when he learns it led to Ren killing his father Han Solo. The movie establishes a connection between Ren and Rey and it’s obviously no coincidence that their names only differ by one letter, so there’s a building confrontation made clear by their scuffle at the end of ‘Force Awakens,’ so all the while you’re anticipating that fight that is coming. Some may dislike the way it’s executed, but the way that scene was paced and played out worked for me. It was tense, thrilling, and didn’t end the way I expected.
It’s probably objectively better than ‘The Force Awakens,’ in spite of my identical star rating. Still it takes more of its own path in developing a story different from its predecessors which is nice compared to that. It holds up on its own and it’s nice to see Hamill have a more substantial role this time, and that goes for Oscar Issac as Poe Dameron as well. There are some turns that I also liked in regards to Rey and Kylo Ren, and it led to some unexpected twists that served the narrative well. It’s not the best Star Wars movie, and it’s not the worst. Strangely, it feels identical in overall feeling to the last one, in that it answers little that was teased there and only created more questions. Like before, its legacy rests on its successor, but how many more times can I say that before it becomes an excuse? These new films, including ‘Rogue One,’ have yet to put themselves on the level of their predecessors, and time may be running out for Disney to prove that they can get there.
- Beauty and the Beast
- Blade Runner 2049
- Darkest Hour
- The Shape of Water
Beauty and the Beast (3.5 stars)
A beautiful but independent minded young woman, Belle (Emma Watson) is captured by a terrible transformed beast! (Dan Stevens) But he’s not all he appears to be, and with some help from the enchanted objects of his mansion, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson), and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), she just might be able to make him human again. However, the zealous Gaston (Luke Evans) and his lackey LeFou (Josh Gad) might get in the way of that…
First off, I should note that I never saw the animated original. I know, heresy, blasphemous, and all that jazz. But before you grab your pitchforks and torches I’d like to put fourth that it’s a good thing I haven’t seen the original since it gives me a fresh look at the story, characters, songs, and settings. I have a unique perspective for it and it allows me to watch the movie in a way anybody else who grew up with the Disney classic couldn’t.
The costumes are fantastic and the set design is great, especially the Beast’s castle. The beast is rendered as a computer generated creature and though it’s probably well done for our time’s technology, it does take me out of the movie when he’s onscreen and cements the idea that he looked better and was more believable as a cartoon. The servants transformed into household items also look cartoonish and noticeably fake, which of course is the point since it is a fairy tale, but it also does no favors for suspending my disbelief and again, probably worked better as an actual cartoon. The music is inspired and especially the show stopper, ‘Be Our Guest,’ but I can’t get over the nagging feeling that it was done better before already.
I suppose this does make me want to view the original animated version, but not for for the sake of comparison. It would be to confirm my suspicion that this is ultimately inferior to that. The fact that I’ve never view that original may elevate my opinion of this new one, but it isn’t that ecstatic to begin with, and that doesn’t bode well for future viewings.
- Mighty River from Mudbound
- Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name
- Remember Me from Coco
- Stand Up for Something from Marshall
- This Is Me from The Greatest Showman
The Greatest Showman (3.5 stars)
There’s a lot of spectacle and it lives up to being a film about a circus being born. That being said it paces itself a little strangely, piling on song after song without giving a break. The songs are great, if not some of them fantastic, particularly the standouts “Never Enough” and “This Is Me.”
Jackman is great in the role of Barnum and is both a great singer and dancer, but his performance is what sells the character as a man of great facade but trouble brewing behind. Unfortunately even though the film sells itself as a celebration of who someone is in spite of societal norms, the “freaks” of the circus don’t get that much screen time or development. This is about Barnum almost exclusively, and that’s a shame, especially since one of the themes of the movie is his turning his back on the ‘low level entertainment’ to accompany a European singer on a ‘high class’ tour.
Zac Efron gets a couple of numbers to shine and remind us he was once a pretty boy Disney teen star, but he actually holds his own as a singer and dancer, showing that he’s still got it. Zendaya plays one of the freaks but is so obviously non freakish that it becomes comical that she’s a part of the act. There’s a scene where she’s insulted as a person of color, but it doesn’t feel like it gels with the story because so much of the flavor and style presented feels modern. If the film was more period appropriate with the way characters talked, danced and sang, it would have held more realism and dramatic weight when the freaks and her are rejected by “high society.” The dancing and singing and songs themselves are great, but very solidly modern as well. This is a deliberate choice by the filmmakers, to make a product that pays tribute to the circus and musicals of old yet roots itself in modern style and I’m not sold that it entirely works. This is most evident in the very beginning when the traditional 20th century fox logo is shown with the old fanfare, only to be followed by the modern one in pointless black and white set to the film’s modern hip hop sounding music.
It succeeds in spectacle and I like that the main character is flawed, and the soundtrack is great. Still, something is lacking, and it could have been something better.
- Blade Runner 2049
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Kong: Skull Island
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- War for the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (4 stars)
A worthy sequel that provides the same characters we all love in an unusual story, yet delivers on adventure, comedy, and overall fun. It definitely was fun and cute to watch. The graphics and music are really good. I definitely listened to the soundtrack more than once after watching the movie. It is very visually appealing and Marvel does a good job with costume make up, as always.
A few months after watching the movie we went to Disneyland and the Adventure Park has a new ride for the movie. It was amazing to see a lot of the ‘duplicate’ props up close. The ride was fun and it was definitely well done.
Vol. 2 if surely not as good as the original yet worthy to sit in the Marvel Universe.
Kong: Skull Island (4 stars)
Practically every movie-goer is familiar with King Kong, and it has already been remade twice, so I was skeptical going into this one as to whether it could bring anything interesting or new to the story of Kong. Happily it does the job, both making for a compelling Kong but also interesting human characters, too.
It’s the mid seventies, the end of the Vietnam war yet the middle of the Cold War, and US government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) gets the funding to go after traces of a mysterious monster on an island in the Pacific so that the Russians won’t find it first. He recruits tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) and his company of soldiers, geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to go after it. They discover a giant ape there, who immediately destroys all their helicopters and scatters the group all over the island. They discover a downed WWII pilot (John C Reilly) who helps them navigate the dangerous terrain, but now they have a limited amount of time to regroup and meet at the rendezvous point before their aircraft carrier assumes them dead and leaves. Unfortunately the island has hazards like deadly plants, and natives, and there are other monsters than Kong that lurk around…
Still, it’s a fun monster flick, and on the Cinerama big screen it was a delight to see Kong really look as big as he should. With a blatant sequel bait post-credits scene that implies the team will find Godzilla next, I’m happy to say I anticipate that inevitable confrontation of King Kong vs Godzilla. I just hope it’s better than the last high profile versus movie…
**More to be added before awards.
The 90th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will honor the best films of 2017 and will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California at 5:00 p.m. PST on March 4, 2018.