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  90th Annual Academy Awards Poster

90th Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

What an arduous and humbling task this write-up has been this year. Seriously, this has easily been the toughest outing for myself in the 15-or-so years of this document’s production. The majority of the category races this year have been tough as nails for me to narrow down and then finally determine, and I’m clearly not sure how it’s all gonna come out in the wash. Maybe I’ll look freaking brilliant or like I just ate a 3-day old bag of shit. Either way, I’m pleased to present to you my picks of the Academy’s choices at the 90th Annual Academy Awards.

Note: For those of you that are new to this write-up, there’s a section located on the very last page called, “Oscars At A Glance”. There you can find a quick list of the winners that I’ve chosen for every category. See, now the both of us can play without all the distracting words getting in the way of the bottom line.


Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 21 out of 24 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
Best Director – The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro
Best Actor – Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman
Best Actress – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Frances McDormand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Frances McDormand
Best Supporting Actor – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Sam Rockwell
Best Supporting Actress – I, Tonya – Allison Janney I, Tonya – Allison Janney
Best Animated Picture - Coco Coco
Best Screenplany (Original) – Get Out – Jordan Peele Get Out – Jordan Peele
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory
Best Cinematography – Blade Runner 2049 Blade Runner 2049
Best Art Direction – Best Production Design The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
Best Costume Design – Phantom Thread Phantom Thread
Best Makeup – Darkest Hour Darkest Hour
Best Film Editing – Dunkirk Dunkirk
Best Original Score – The Shape of Water - Alexandre Desplat The Shape of Water - Alexandre Desplat
Best Original Song – The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” “Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
Best Sound Mixing– Dunkirk Dunkirk
Best Sound Effects Editing – Dunkirk Dunkirk
Best Visual Effects – Bladerunner 2049 Bladerunner 2049
Best Foreign Language Film - A Fantastic Woman (Chile) A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
Best Documentary (Feature) - Faces Places “Icarus,” Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – Edith+Eddie Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel
Best Short Film (Animation) – Dear Basketball Dear Basketball
Best Short Film (Live Action) – The Silent Child The Silent Child

PICTURE – A really curious race this year one that has me leaning on the Academy’s search for a safe bet.

“Call Me By Your Name” - Arguably the most lauded and talked about film on the festival circuit in 2017 feels like an afterthought in the awards race. Why is that?

“Darkest Hour” - 2017 saw a Winston Churchill resurgence with Gary Oldman’s performance being the arguable cream of the crop. And as outstanding as this performance is, it clearly outshines the overall drama of the film itself.

“Dunkirk” - I found this to be an excruciatingly dull film. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a technical marvel either, it’s impressively enough made to score a few Oscars in those later categories but it’s got no warmth and shouldn’t be a winner in the major award races.

“Get Out” - The breakout film of the year for sure, but not one I see winning the top prize. In the end it’s still seen as a genre film and they haven’t historically fared well in the major categories but I think the Oscar Renaissance is obvious and this film is one hell of a Banner Man alongside…

“Lady Bird” -…alongside Greta Gerwig’s ode to Sacramento, California and mother/daughter relationships. I think that this has a perfectly good shot at sneaking in here and winning the Best Picture Oscar, just as much of a chance as “Get Out”, thanks to “preferential voting”. Rumblings from the Front though are saying that a number of industry men are failing to connect with the film. I find that a bit….Wait, women make up only 28% of the voting body…? Hmmm. It’d still be a nice surprise though.

“Phantom Thread” - I’m not a Paul Thomas Anderson fan but I hear this is a lovely film. And while I’m assured of its chances for Oscar gold in at least one category, Best Picture is not the one.

“The Post” - Steven Spielberg films are not, by and large, major award winners; nominees for sure, but like his other middling offerings, “Munich”, “War Horse”, and “Bridge of Spies”, they might be worthy efforts but fail to garner the unifying emotional push up the Oscar hill to gold.

“The Shape of Water ” - This adult fairy tale is an homage to classic Hollywood and is, simply put, a beautiful movie. Putting all of the talk about safe Oscar bets aside “The Shape of Water”, although a genre picture, is the actual best film of the year.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” - Trends and tendencies are swaying my pick against this film as a winner here this year. Over Oscar’s 90 year history a Best Picture nominee without a Best Director nomination has only won this award twice, those two films being “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Argo”. This film may be better than both of those but it’s not better than “The Shape of Water”, crossing my fingers that the Academy sees it that way too.

DIRECTOR – An exemplary class with a most deserving winner.

“Dunkirk” - Christopher Nolan delivers something interesting, a war film almost as boring as Terrance Malick’s “The Thin Red Line”. I’ve heard reviewers speak about how intense and dramatic this film is to the point that I’m almost convinced that we saw different movies. I’m a big Chris Nolan fan and I know that he has better in him that’ll be worth rewarding.

“Get Out” - In the Academy’s 90 year history, only 6 directors have won this award for their debut film. Those films, “Marty”, “West Side Story”, “Ordinary People”, “Terms of Endearment”, “Dances with Wolves”, and “American Beauty” are on an absolutely different level than Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”…right?

“Lady Bird” - Also considered her first solo feature, Greta Gerwig has the additional notice of being only the fifth woman nominated for best director in the Academy’s 90 year history, but I think it’s too small a work this year to stand up to the behemoth that is Guillermo del Toro.

“Phantom Thread” - It actually hurts me that I haven’t seen this film. I’m not a Paul Thomas Anderson fan, I think I mentioned that before, in fact I go out of my way to avoid his films but this one keeps clawing at me. From the idea of sparring costars to the elegance of the costumes and Johnny Greenwood’s score, I can’t help but think that Anderson has put together a film that he just might be worth rewarding for but….

“The Shape of Water” - I’m in love with a monster named Guillermo del Toro. And I expect that this year the Academy will fall for him too. Surprisingly, this is his first directing nomination.

ACTOR – Gary! Gary! Gary!

“Call Me By Your Name” -Timothee Chalamet is one of two first time nominees this year. Make all the statements you’d like about David and Goliath but know that in this race, there’s not one but three “Goliaths”: Oldman, Day-Lewis, and Washington, and I think that spells doom for the newly nominated.

“Phantom Thread”Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a strong, if largely unnoticed, final acting bow.
Are you waving..?
Yea, I’m waving.
Say something.
Say something…? Like what?
I don’t know, but we gotta see the man out, right?
Yea, I um…. “So long, and thanks for all the fish…?”

“Get Out” - First time nominee Daniel Kaluuya delivered a strong and welcome performance. David strong, not Goliath..

“Darkest Hour” - You’ll find no argument from me here. Gary Oldman finally gets a well-deserved Oscar.

“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” -In my opinion, and many others, Denzel should have got the Oscar last year for “Fences”. I don’t see his performance this year being stronger than last year’s loss.

ACTRESS – Frances! Frances! Frances! (Okay, I’m done.)

“The Shape of Water” -Sally Hawkins was by far the most interesting actress to watch on screen this year. Her quiet and moving portrayal of Elisa ensnared both a fish man and audiences alike. In my opinion she delivered the best performance of 2017 and it would be a well-earned surprise to see her upset the favorite, Frances McDormand, on Oscar night, just not a likely one.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” - What’s a best actress category without Meryl Streep? Pretty much the same thing this year because Amy Adams would have gotten the nod in her stead for “Arrival” or “Nocturnal Animals” and, just like Meryl this year, she wouldn’t have won for either film.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” - Frances McDormand stars in “Game. Set. Match”.

“I, Tonya” - Margot Robbie makes a strong statement for future nominations in this category.

“Lady Bird” - Saoirse Ronan is bound for Oscar gold, there’s not a doubt in my mind. It’s only a matter of time.

“The Post” -Meryl Streep has now scored 21 Academy Award nominations. I don’t think that makes her any more of a threat this year though, but it’s impressive, or expected. I’m not sure which.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – The best collection of actors in this year’s class. Too bad it’s not a race to the finish though.

“The Florida Project” - I’m too much of a fan of Willem Dafoe to be happy with just nominations. Can we give him, and Ed Harris, a freaking statue already?

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” - Such a pleasant surprise to see Woody Harrelson nominated this year. I really loved his performance in the film. Maybe if somebody else had stood up for him and said something similar earlier in the award season he’d be a bigger threat.

“The Shape of Water” - Richard Jenkins rounds out an award worthy cast that includes Sally Hawkins, Ocatavia Spencer, and Michael Shannon. They might not get the individual golds but this movie falls apart without the quality work they each bring to the project.

“All the Money in the World” -This feels like such a last minute nod to Christopher Plummer, who came in and saved a film that then failed to make any kind of an impact. And don’t blame Kevin Spacey for that, the film only made $25 million dollars so I don’t think anyone really cared to begin with.

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” - Sam Rockwell has been cleaning up on the award circuit, no need to slow the good/bad man down.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Who loves you, baby? The critics and Hollywood, that’s who.

“Mudbound” - I’m having some trouble with why this nomination for Mary J. Blige occurred. Her role was so small and seemingly insubstantial to the overall film itself that I can’t see the justification for it. There was infinitely more done by other supporting actors in this film yet they’re not here, so…what?

“I, Tonya” - This is a clear win for Allison Janney; deserved and true.

“Phantom Thread” - Lesley Manville goes toe-to-toe with Daniel Day Lewis. The audience hope of a performance on par with Paul Dano in “There Will Be Blood” seems justified and this nomination reflects that she’s a worthy competitor but I don’t think it’ll be enough to win here.

“Lady Bird” - Laurie Metcalf shines in a brutally identifiable performance. It is enough to win Oscar gold if this were a different race. As it stands her performance is memorialized as one more reason to see this gem of a film.

“The Shape of Water” - Oh boy, I just love this nomination. It’s refreshing to see a character actress get the attention that she’s earned. This is the type of role that won Judi Dench an Oscar; a role that’s almost too small to be considered, but Octavia Spencer breathes such a life into her character that I couldn’t be happier about the recognition.


“The Boss Baby” - You can’t be serious. Right? I mean, you just can’t be.

“The Breadwinner” - From Nora Twomey, (“The Secret of Kells”), comes this Mulan-like tale of a young girl in Afghanistan who must pose as a boy in order to provide for her family.

“Coco” - Pixar wins, yet again.

“Ferdinand” - I’m such a fan of the children’s book, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, that I just couldn’t bring myself to watch this. Actually, I’m not sure who else did either.

“Loving Vincent” –OMGYG! This film looks like a living oil painting. Fitting as it’s a film about the death of Vincent van Gogh. I can’t see it winning against anything Pixar puts out but this is clearly an animated film that’s worth looking at; pun intended.

Animated Category Note: You know it feels to me that the Disney/Pixar tag is to film and audiences what the Belichick/Brady tag is to the NFL fans. Sure they are the best in the business, so much so that they continue to win even when delivering lack luster performances, but c’mon. And this is not a knock against “Coco” at all, but where’s the competition? Who’s stepping up to dethrone this dynasty?


“The Big Sick” -Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani deliver a warm and welcome look at the unique beginnings of their real-life relationship. It’s funny and borders on heartbreaking but there’s enough of the overly familiar rom-com in it to ultimately keep it out of the winner’s circle.

“Get Out” - Jordan Peele knocked everybody’s socks off last year with this genre-bending hit. And while this is the best category to secure him a win and the written respect of the Hollywood community it’s important to note that Peele clearly delivered the best screenplay of the year. I’m aware that during the award’s season Martin Mcdonagh may have been the playwright duo-jour; he’s respected by the Academy and is a serious contender here, but what Jordan Peele produced rivals any similarities to the placations audiences have received from other films attempting to make a statement about race relations in the current day and age, regardless of their circumstances, including those created by McDonagh in his film.

“Lady Bird” – Greta Gerwig’s warmly touching ode to mother/daughter relationships is sprinkled with a fond lovingness for Sacramento, California. It’s so good in fact that it’s got a real chance at winning gold for Gerwig, but I wouldn’t expect it, even in a split vote, because Jordan Peele has made a much bigger splash.

“The Shape of Water” - As good as this film is, Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor deliver a script that fails to move the establishment as much as their category contemporaries. It may be the most fluid and consistent of the nominees but that’s just not enough to get the vote this year.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” - I’m having a hard time picking for or against Martin Mcdonagh’s screenplay this year. I mean, it is the impetus for two acting Oscar wins but it’s not a film that’s meant to sweep the Oscars is it? Its lack of a directing nomination says so. Its real power and presence are found in its performances and I feel the additional win here, earned or not, would officially reignite the #Oscarssowhite campaign. And don’t think for a second that the Academy is dumb enough to do just that. Oh wait…yes they are.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – Recognition at last.

“Call Me By Your Name” -89 year old James Ivory, the four-time Oscar nominee and director of “A Room with a View”, “Howard’s End” and “The Remains of the Day”, keeps the lauded talk alive with an Oscar win, finally, for his 1980s set romance.

“The Disaster Artist” - For all of the credible work that Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber put into it, I feel this film is getting smaller and smaller as the weeks roll by.

“Logan” - Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green deserve credit for bringing Oscar recognition to the much maligned X-Men franchise, but recognition is where this ends.

“Molly’s Game” -When a film receives a single nomination it’s often an easy film to discount from a final award win, but this single nomination is for multi-award winner Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s not a cast off or someone to be easily discounted based on such a paltry excuse as a single nomination. So I must set his chances at Oscar gold aside for other reasons. One of which is the love garnered by the more emotionally charged and gratifying script for “Call Me By Your Name”.

“Mudbound” - Virgil Williams and Dee Rees have turned in a sturdy adaptation that’s worth the time it takes to see the realized film. Trouble is, I don’t think that it’s sturdy enough to support Oscar gold this year though.

PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION – If you build it, I will show it to them.

“Beauty and the Beast” –Much like their 2015 adaptation of “Cinderella”, Disney has managed to craft another beautiful live-action version of a previously animated classic. But this one doesn’t have the sweeping newness of that originally animated world. The environments of the film look beautiful and while they do inspire a certain filmic nostalgia they don’t inspire Oscar gold.

“”Blade Runner 2049” - I was seriously thinking about this one here. There are some incredible set designs to be sure, and an interesting use of water throughout the film, but I fail to see any long term impact or influence on par with what the original film had to offer.

“Darkest Hour” - Production designer Katie Spencer receives her 6th overall nomination and her 2nd this year, she’s also nominated for “Beauty and the Beast”. This achievement alone is a testament to the skill and creative sight of Spencer but it’s also the peak of the recognition she’ll receive this year. And yet somehow…that’s accomplishment enough.

“Dunkirk” -The only real place that the production design of “Dunkirk” worked for me was during the run for the beach at the beginning of the film. Well, that and almost anything inside the cockpit of Tom Hardy’s ME-109. Not enough for a win here I’m afraid.

“The Shape of Water”– There’s one thing about this film that I think secures its win here and that’s Blocking. The clear mise-en-scene focuses the viewer’s attention on the world of the film in such a way that everything stands out. The effect is displayed gloriously in Elisa’s apartment hallway, in the interior of her apartment itself, and at the government facility where she works. In truth it’s not so much the design of the world as it is the manner in which it’s photographed that fills it with such a rich truth and life. Dan Laustsen may not win the Cinematography award this year but he deserves to share in the Production Design win because it’s his How that secures the film’s What.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – It’s a race between the big name and the big film.

“Blade Runner 2049” - With 14 total Oscar nominations and no wins yet, I’d almost say that this is Roger Deakins award to lose, but I don’t think that’s accurate. What it is is the Academy’s award to give or take away.

“Darkest Hour” - A category dark horse, five-time nominee Bruno Delbonnel delivers splendidly again in a film itself that’s just not strong enough to surpass its peers.

“Dunkirk” - This is Hoyte van Hoytema’s first Oscar nomination and his third film for Christopher Nolan. When the first images of the film where revealed it was an easy assumption to make that this nod would be forthcoming. There’s some quality image work here for sure, but the overall empty frames are too full of open spaces and, to me, this helps the film feel like it’s trying too hard to be bigger than it actually is. There’s a counter argument that it’s a better depiction of the storied environment and that these images lend credence to what it may have actually looked like to be in the moment, but I’m not convinced enough to give it the go-ahead win.

“Mudbound” - Rachel Morrison, this category’s first female nominee, delivers a strong and deservedly rich look to a dour and drizzly location. I don’t think it’s enough to garner the win but kudos to both Rachel and the Academy for the work and the acknowledgement thereof.

“The Shape of Water” -Dan Laustsen delivers my favorite photography of the year here. This film flows smoothly and silently in a way that none of the others can match and as such he has a glorious Oscar award winning effect on the film, sadly not here, but in other categories.

FILM EDITING – Down with the “Whiplash”-effect.

“Baby Driver” - To me, it was what I expected from a quality fast-paced action film. Smoother and more finessed than anything you’d get from the “Fast & the Furious” franchise and far more respectful of itself and its audience. A worthy effort, gratefully acknowledged as such, but not an Oscar winner.

“Dunkirk” - Smooth as silk wins the Oscar…unless the “Whiplash”-effect kicks in and “Baby Driver” scoops up the technical awards, including Sound Editing and Mixing, right from under Nolan’s nose.

“I, Tonyar” - I unfortunately didn’t get to see this film this year and although it won an ACE Eddie award, along with “Dunkirk”, it’s on a completely different level than this year’s award winner. “I, Tonya” is far more frenetic and chaotic than “Dunkirk” and would be like comparing the Best Comedy Editing to the Best Dramatic Editing at the Golden Globes, and you know what wins Oscars and what doesn’t right?

“The Shape of Water” –Ebbs and flows much like its namesake. Not as noticeable, or Gold plated, as the films listed above but no less important for selling its drama and tension.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” - I literally have nothing to say about this nomination. I don’t think I really get it, but that doesn’t matter because it’s the least likely film to win in this category.

COSTUME – It seams to me that…

“Beauty and the Beast” - I got robbed here a few years back when I chose Disney’s live action version of “Cinderella” to win. I had similar thoughts of Oscar gold when watching “Beauty and the Beast” as well; I mean, the costumes look amazing but I’m not falling for it a second time.

“Darkest Hour” - 1940s fashions have rarely been a strong Oscar contender and they’re certainly not the focus of this film or it’s Oscar contentions.

“Phantom Thread” - This film is all about the clothes, and the Academy is all about awarding it thusly.

“The Shape of Water” - The only costume of note here is for the Amphibian Man, though I’m quite fond of Sally Hawkins‘ quiet attire, it suits her Elisa magically..

“Victoria and Abdul” - Victorian England, with all of its pomp and circumstance, used to be considered easy money on Oscar night. Nowadays it’s comes off as what’s known as “Oscar bait”. It has all the gorgeous hallmarks of an award winner but things ain’t what they used to be, Yo!

MAKEUP – Somebody had to put him there.

“Darkest Hour” - This year’s winner for Best Actor sees the complete immersion of Gary Oldman into the character of Winston Churchill. A win here proves that he didn’t do it alone, and that it was a collaborative effort.

“Victoria and Abdul” - I’m not sure that I see the reason for this nomination. There’s lots of mustaches and beards, maybe some bad teeth, but there’s not enough noticeably going on here to garner a win.

“Wonder” - The film is warm and the makeup fine but it’s reminiscent and lite, in every way, to the 1986 Makeup winner, “Mask”. Ultimately, it’s way too little competition against the category favorite.

ORIGINAL SCORE – This triple threat race is neck-and-neck-and neck.

“Dunkirk” – Easily the most urgent and striking of this year’s nominees. Hans Zimmer delivers a powerhouse score that easily bests his previously nominated Nolan work, “Inception” and “Interstellar”. The ace this time around is how consistently well Zimmer’s score seems to push the narrative of the film forward. It‘s far more intertwined with the finished product than most any other recent film score that I can think of but it’s not exactly a score that plays as well over a dinner party.

“Phantom Thread” – Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist, delivers an authentic and movingly classical score. A serious threat in this category thanks to “House of Woodcock”, which is by far, my favorite track of the year.

“The Shape of Water” - Alexandre Desplat’s accordion takes center stage along with flutes, a piano, and maybe…is that a kazoo? Nope, it’s a whistle. Together they blend a quaint and warmly lovable jazz inspired score into Oscar gold.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedit” - John Williams kicks Meryl Streep’s ass with his 51st Academy Award nomination. This one, for the eighth film he’s scored in this franchise. As such there’s not enough here that’s new or more interesting than what he created 40 years ago.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” –An interesting and somber score by Carter Burwell making wonderful use of piano, acoustic guitar, and a mid-west heritage that combine to go largely unnoticed in the film and will likely go as unnoticed by the Academy.

ORIGINAL SONG – Emotion rules the day.

Mudbound: “Mighty River” – Sweet Lord, that voice…Don’t be surprised if this proves to be a mini-upset winner. The Academy is already swaying back and forth in their seats. I’m taking bets on if they’ll stand and sway, clapping in and out of time, w/ Mary J. Blige’s performance.

Call Me By Your Name: “Mystery of Love” – A track that feels as welcome and at home here as any independent film in the Best Picture category, past or present. And truthfully, a better track than many an independent film nominated at the Academy Awards.

Coco: “Remember Me” – Written by Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Oscar winners for 2013’s “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen”. Of the two emotionally charged nominees this year “Remember Me” proves to be the quieter and arguably less moving of the two. Now that doesn’t deny it the award but I think that makes it just a little less likely; and remember this is the category that Disney/Pixar can, and do, lose.

Marshall: “Stand Up for Something” – Andra Day has a fantastic voice but this is obviously the least interesting song in a category of emotional movement. It’s fine but nowhere near fine enough.

*The Greatest Showman: “This Is Me” – Freaks of all flavors, Unite!, because the live performance of this Oscar winning track is gonna blow the stage to smithereens. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land).

SOUND MIXING – This is really “Baby Driver”’s award, Yo!

“Baby Driver” -A really impressive mix of dialogue, sound effects, and music. There’s little denying the film the Oscar, or the Academy voters who understand what the film has done. I just think there’s far too few of them to make a difference. Yea, I’m pretty sure that’s what I said about “Whiplash” too; a win here should be a not-so-upset surprise.

“Blade Runner 2049” - Far and away my choice for the award. Sadly, I’m not an Academy member, and rather than risk the split pick, I’m doubling down on “Dunkirk” because the Academy will for sure.

“Dunkirk” -I was far less impressed by the sound mix of the film than I was the sound editing. I just don’t trust the Academy enough to split my vote.

“The Shape of Water” - A tougher one to detail examples for a loss here other than “Dunkirk”, “Baby Driver”, and “Blade Runner 2049”.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” - Light sabers, growls, and beep-beeps…in harmony

SOUND EDITING – Click. Click. Boom!

“Baby Driver” -Huh? What’s that? What’s next…you say? Oh, sorry…sorry. I’ve got this, this ringing in my ears and uh…Did you say, “Dunkirk”? Yeah, I figured.

“Blade Runner 2049” - Lots of familiar sounds here, and I don’t see the Academy awarding almost 3 hours of nostalgia because they don’t love it like I do.

“Dunkirk” - I can’t see a way that “Dunkirk” loses this award. It’s got the most amazing chops of any film in this category. The film is sharp, clear, cold and concise. Just look at some of the cockpit scenes where the film transitions from sound effect to score for example; fully deserving of Oscar gold.

“The Shape of Water” -The film has two characters that don’t speak and their communication, be it through breaths, touch, and sound effects is far better exemplified in Alexandre Desplat’s score.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” - Light sabers, growls, and beep-beeps…oh my.

VISUAL EFFECTS – I can’t risk a third vote for the Apes.

“Blade Runner 2049 - There’s so much here to acknowledge visually that I’m hard pressed to believe the film has a true challenger in this category.

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” - Has a Marvel movie ever won this award? I think these films are a bit too big on spectacle and the Academy is looking for a little more inner movement, the big impresses less and less.

“Kong: Skull Island” - Speaking of big…

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” - The Star Wars franchise has won a total of 7 Oscars, six of those going to the first film in 1978. The franchise itself has seen a waning of Oscar nods over the years with wins being even scarcer. The franchise has had to live with its first impressions becoming standard fare and The Last Jedi doesn’t appear to break any new ground.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” -The rekindled franchise has earned a total of three Oscar nominations, one for each film, and all in the same category. I’ve picked the previous two films to win this award but the Academy has thought differently; the previous films losing to “Hugo” and “Interstellar” respectively. And while I don’t think either “Apes” film should have lost, “Blade Runner 2049” has the inner movement that seals this franchise’s Oscar fate.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A shot in the semi-dark.

“A Fantastic Woman (Chile)” - Trans actor/actress Daniela Vega stars in this emotionally powerful film about the death of a lover and their partner’s determination to share in the grieving process.

“The Insult (Lebanon)” - The first nomination for this country details an incident between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee.

“Loveless (Russia)” - Andrey Zvyagintsev (“Leviathan”) delivers another taught filmic experience. A bitter divorcing couple must come to terms with each other when their young son goes missing. Man, this one looks a bit too hateful but it did win the Jury Prize at Cannes.

“On Body and Soul (Hungary)” - Slaughterhouse workers who share a similar dream.

“The Square (Sweden)” - Another Cannes Film Festival winner. This satire has proven to be divisive amongst Academy members and that will most likely hamper it’s chances.

BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) – Can we beat the depression already?

“Abbacus: Small Enough to Jail” - Covers the indictment of the small, “family-run, Abacus Federal Savings Bank, which was the only institution to face criminal charges during the banking crisis of 2007-2009.”
(Note: Quote used w/out permission by Marcus James Dixon at I couldn’t find a better or more succinct way of saying it w/out feeling like I was forging it anyway, I hope he doesn’t mind.)

“Faces Places” - The heartwarming story of two friends, JR: a 33 yo old photographer, and filmmaker Agnes Varda: an 88 yr old woman. The pair travel around in a photo truck meeting and photographing people and displaying their images in epic, Oscar winning, fashion.

“Icarus” - A mixed bag that feels almost like two shorter films combined into one. The first half deals with a filmmaker and avid cyclist who attempts to dope his way successfully through a race, seeing if he can not only win but beat the drug-testing system while doing so. This in turn leads him to a Grigory Rodchenkov, head of a Russian anti-doping laboratory, who’s ultimately the man responsible for successfully hiding the doping of Olympic Russian athletes during the 2014 Sochi games. The first half is one thing, the second though, Holy Smokes!

“Last Men in Alepopo” -Feels like an elaboration of last year’s short winner, “The White Helmets”. Even though this film deals w/ more than just the White Helmets I’m less sure of its chances after last year’s win. And did you seen that Russian doping doc, Wow!

“Strong Island” - An emotionally powerful film from Yance Ford examining the death of her brother, William, in 1992. A true tragedy, in every form, Yance’s film has winning potential as it looks to examine culpability from both sides of the racial coin. Highly recommended, award winning or not.

BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) – Peer pressure has me changing my pick.

“Edith+Eddie” - About a 96 year old interracial married couple and the struggle that puts their relationship in jeopardy. I think it stands as a pretty solid middle finger to Edith’s guardian, Jessica Niesen, for her contributions to the couple. Seriously, the filmmakers aren’t doing her any favors, Yo! And while it’s both touching and aggravating it’s not the best made film in this category. Still, it’s all I hear anybody talking about.

“Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405” -A look at one woman’s struggles and triumphs with mental illness. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this one and I was really surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. But did anybody else bother to watch this after hearing about “Edith+Eddie”? Probably not enough to swing the win.

“Heroin(e)” - A look at the opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia through the eyes of three women directly involved: a Christian volunteer, a Fire Chief, and a drug Judge. Not sure that it packs a punch enough to win but it was definitely worth the watch.

“Knife Skills” - A most interesting story about the opening of a French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio staffed almost entirely by recently released individuals from prison. This one has some real truth to it, but I think it’s shy of the win.

“Traffic Stop” - The routine traffic stop of a 26yr-old African-American woman escalates into a harrowing experience. I’m a bit befuddled by what exactly this film is trying to say; in the end, the Academy might be too.

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATION) – I got a Basketball-jones.

“Dear Basketball” - Kobe Bryant is nominated for an Oscar for a poem that he wrote and then turned into a short film that was unveiled at his jersey retirement ceremony. John Williams, yes that John Williams, provides the score. To me it’s as simple as…5..4..3..2…Win!

“Garden Party” - An interesting premise for a film that was a little slower than I cared for. The photo-realism is pretty astounding and while I don’t see this Tony Montana-esk short completely lacking an emotional connection, I didn’t find it interesting enough to warrant a second viewing.

“Lou” - This year could see a rare loss for Pixar as the “Lou” short seems to be out of the public eye almost as much as the titular character is in the film. Who’re they trying to avoid with this thing anyway? Oh, my bad. It was the age appropriate short placed before Pixar’s “Cars 3”, no wonder I had no idea it even existed.

Negative Space” - The stop-motion production is unique and endearing. This should be your winner if Kobe can’t rally the hometown fans.

“Revolting Rhymes” - At 29 minutes in length I’d hope to have the whole story, instead this two-part animated tale, based on Roald Dahl’s book, sees only it’s first-part nominated. If this is the best part of a two-part set, then why the heck are we bothering?

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) –Going mid-level here.

"DeKalb Elementary" – A crucial dialogue between a potential school shooter and a school receptionist. The most topical entry suffers from some lower quality delivery.

"The Eleven O’Clock" – A psychiatric doctor/patient comedy and not nearly strong enough to win against the other dramatic nominees.

"My Nephew Emmett" – Heavy, heavy stuff in 1950s Mississippi. Masterfully shot and acted, I’m afraid this one will split the “heavy voters” with “Watu Wote”.

"The Silent Child" – A young teacher hired by a family begins to teach sign language to their deaf child. Mid-level drama, fully realized and emotionally delivered. Certainly worthy of the win.

"Watu Wote/All of Us" – Nairobi 2015, spontaneous violence with a message of tolerance, as a Christian woman on a bus is protected by the mostly Muslim passengers. I’m having a tough time voting against this one but…


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

Matthew Gilbert © 1999-2018 All Rights Reserved

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