Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 Oscar (90th Academy Awards) Winners

I was with a bunch of friends on Oscars night, and though I suggested we watch it, they’d have none of it, so we ended up watching Elysium on Netflix instead. Still, curious as I am to see who won and what movies I should keep trying to watch, I’m publishing the winners list here, along with my comments.


If you missed the ceremonies, there are quite a few ways to catch up. It’s probably simplest to watch a briefing such as USA Today, 5 moments, 1:31, or Guardian News, 7 moments, 2:52. You may also check out host Jimmy Kimmel monologue or even his entire transcript (nyt-mono).

I will be presenting the movies in the following format: “movie title” (wins, nominations) imdb.rating-votes, trailer link on yt, highest views review link on yt; imdb synopsis. Hovering with the mouse over the links presents additional info, such as clip publisher, number of views and when it was published for YouTube clips as well as the subtitle (first line of movie descriptors) on IMDB. Any of my editorializing in the list will be in italics.

In general, by the time Oscars roll onto a TV screen near you (or, more accurately, broadcasted live on YouTube), I have watched all the Hollywood productions, but not all the Foreign ones. These are, consequently, the ones most interesting to me.

Of the Foreign Features in the run this year, I was able to find on Amazon only three: Una Mujer Fantástica (the winner), Nelyubov (the only one I had already watched) and the Swedish Square.
  • “The Insult” (Lebanon) 7.9-2464, trailer, review; After an emotional exchange between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee escalates, the men end up in a court case that gets national attention.
  • “Loveless” (Russia) 7.8-12592, trailer, review, a, nlbv; A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.
  • “On Body and Soul (Hungary) 7.7-11068, trailer, review, n, obas; When slaughterhouse workers Endre and Mária discover they share the same dreams - where they meet in a forest as deer and fall in love - they decide to make their dreams come true but it's difficult in real life.
  • “The Square” (Sweden) 7.4-23415, trailer, review, a, thsq; A prestigious Stockholm museum's chief art curator finds himself in times of both professional and personal crisis as he attempts to set up a controversial new exhibit.
  • “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile) 7.4-5957, trailer, review, a, 1muf; Marina, a transgender woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.

Of the above, I have only watched Loveless. It’s a heart-wrenching movie about parenting, divorce and to a lesser extent, how the economic shocks Russia has been going through have affected daily life. There’s a particularly shocking image in the beginning, while the parents are having a fight, that comes to mind whenever I think of this movie. I plan on watching all the others except for The Insult, which I cannot find anywhere else and does not sound too interesting to me either.

If you are confused about who does what in a film production, I recommend Crash Course Film Production, a series that started a few months back (intro-playlist). See also How a Film Wins.

For all the other movies, rather than presenting them as organized by the Academy or in the order of the announcement, I list them in decreasing order of their current IMDB rating. Coco leads with 8.5 while The Shape of Water is 9th with 7.7.
  1. “Coco” (animated feature, song, ) 8.5-119362, trailer, review, a; Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
  2. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (actress Frances McDormand, supporting actor Sam Rockwell & Woody Harrelson, picture, screenplay Martin McDonagh, film editing) 8.3-158896, trailer, review, a; A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.
  3. “Blade Runner 2049” (visual effects, cinematography, production design, sound editing) 8.2 – 256729, trailer, review, a; A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years. A lot of eye-candy in this movie. The visuals convey the ethical fog and moral quandaries haunting the protagonists. It’s great to see that what was originally a PKD short story continues to excite and be relevant, years after the passing of time transformed the SF predictions into anachronisms.
  4. “Call Me By Your Name” (adapted screenplay, picture, actor Timothee Chalamet, song Mystery of Love) 8.1 – 74655, trailer, review, a; In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen year-old student and the older man hired as his father's research assistant.
  5. “Dunkirk” (film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, picture, director Christopher Nolan, cinematography, production design) 8.0-359966, trailer, review, a; Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. This feels more like a documentary than a feature film and the feeling of authenticity is created through masterful use of tech.
  6. “Icarus” (documentary feature) 8.0-13895, trailer, review, n; When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller...
  7. “Phantom Thread” (costume design, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, director Paul Thomas Anderson, supporting actress Lesley Manville) 7.8-36639, trailer, review, a; Set in 1950's London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.
  8. “Get Out” (original screenplay Jordan Peele, picture, actor Daniel Kaluuya) 7.7-270777, trailer, review, a; A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point. Excellent, thoroughly enjoyable commentary on racism, aging and societal stereotypes and the black (no, not African-American :D ) humour hanging over what may be considered a horror/thriller justifies its wins in the comedy section elsewhere.
  9. “The Shape of Water” (picture, director Guillermo del Toro, score, production design, actress Sally Hawkins, cinematography, screenplay GdT & Vanessa Williams, film editing, supporting actress Octavia Spencer, sound editing, costume design, supporting actor Richard Jenkins) 7.7-123055, trailer, review, a; At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. I was invited by Sony at a sneak preview and though I had extra invites, much to my surprise, few of my friends were interested. I’ve been following del Toro since El Laberinto del Fauno, and this movie did not disappoint.
  10. “I, Tonya” (supporting actress Allison Janney, actress Margot Robbie, film editing) 7.6-49976, trailer, review, a; Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
  11. “The Silent Child” (live action short) 7.6-541, trailer, channel, full?, y; The Silent Child centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.
  12. “Darkest Hour” (actor Gary Oldman, makeup and hairstyling, picture, cinematography, production design, costume design) 7.4-67482, trailer, review, a; During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. Gary Oldman does a great job as Churchill and since Hollywood loves method actors, his win was pretty much assured. Interestingly, the movie focuses only on the first days of Churchill as PM following Chamberlain.
  13. “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405” (documentary short) 7.4-493, trailer, 40:07, 1:25:54, 1:30:00; Mindy Alper is a tortured and brilliant 56 year old artist who is represented by one of Los Angeles' top galleries. Acute anxiety, mental disorder and devastating depression have caused her...
  14. “Dear Basketball” (animated short) 7.0-1704, trailer, full; An animated telling of Kobe Bryant's poem 'Dear Basketball' directed by Glen Keane.

Interestingly, the most awarded movie in this edition, The Shape of Water, is only 9th on the list of awards sorted by IMDB ratings. It left me wanting more.

If you feel the same and can’t wait until the next del Toro creation, Jason Baily writing for the New York Times has a few recommendations for you, ranging from Amelie (2001) to Beauty and the Beast (1946) and even Swamp Thing (1982). The italics here are extracts from Mr Baily’s  article (nyt-tsowrecs).
  • “Amélie” (2001) 8.3-605433, trailer, a; Amélie is an innocent and naïve girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love. If You Loved the Magical Look and Feel. In its playful tone, its green-hued cinematography and production design, and even in the physical appearance of its leading lady, “The Shape of Water” frequently recalls this whimsical 2001 smash from Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
  • “Beauty and the Beast” (1946) 8.0-20927, a; A beautiful young woman takes her father's place as the prisoner of a mysterious beast, who wishes to marry her. If You Were Moved by the Unlikely Romance. The basic story of “Beauty and the Beast”— a romance between a captivating young woman and a creature who is as monstrous on the outside as he is warm and loving within — is ubiquitous enough to be almost its own subgenre, and “The Shape of Water” certainly falls within it. This is old enough to likely be in public domain but a YouTube search turns out mostly fakes, either less than 1:36 or link ads, except for this Criterion Collection copy.
  • “Gods and Monsters” (1998) 7.5-26412, a; The last days of Frankenstein (1931) Director James Whale are explored. If You Felt for Giles. In an interview with The Playlist, del Toro divulges that he wrote the role of Giles, the closeted gay artist and best friend of the heroine, Elisa, for Ian McKellen — and was inspired to do so by McKellen’s performance as the filmmaker James Whale in this 1998 drama from writer-director Bill Condon. Whale directed two of cinema’s most iconic horror movies, “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein,” but found himself unemployable in his later years, when he grew tired of hiding his sexuality.
  • “Starman” (1984) 7.0-36628, trailer, a;  An alien takes the form of a young widow's husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona. The government tries to stop them. If You Thrilled to the Star-Crossed Drama. Del Toro has made no secret of his affection for John Carpenter, the director of many classics in the horror (“Halloween”) and action (“Escape From New York”) genres. In one of his softer moods, Carpenter also directed this wonderful 1984 science-fiction romance, in which an alien visitor (who takes on the humanoid form of Jeff Bridges) visits our planet in response to the invitation from the Voyager 2probe, and falls in something like love with the kind widow who becomes his guide (Karen Allen).
  • “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” (1954) 7.0-20530, trailer, y, a; A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study. If you loved the Fish Man. The most obvious influence on “The Shape of Water” is this 1954 monster movie (originally released in 3D), from which del Toro seems to borrow heaviest in creating the look of his aquatic monster — which his characters call the Asset (Doug Jones). (The filmmaker said this about the Gill Man: “I can only tell you I drew that monster all my childhood. It’s the most beautiful monster, one of the top three ever made.”) “Creature” also contains the seeds for the primary conflict in del Toro’s film: the question of whether to preserve and study the aquatic creature (in the interest of science), or kill it (in the interest of safety and survival).
  • “The Story of Ruth” (1960) 6.9-797, y, a; Inspired by the scriptural tale. Moabitess priestess Ruth is drawn both to a Judean man and to his talk of a forgiving God. After tragedy strikes, she begins a new life in Bethlehem. If You Wondered About That Marquee. In “The Shape of Water,” Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Giles (Richard Jenkins) live above a classic movie theater, and throughout the film, that theater is running a double feature of the 1958 Pat Boone musical “Mardi Gras” and this 1960 biblical adaptation from director Henry Koster. “The Story of Ruth” is based upon the Book of Ruth, in which a young widow bonds herself to the mother of her departed husband; the most famous verse has the woman imploring her mother-in-law not to sever their familial tie, insisting, “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge” — a sentiment that reverberates throughout this gentle, yet seemingly impossible, love story.
  • “Swamp Thing” (1982) 5.4-10701, y, a; After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster. If You Dug the Vintage Comic-Book Vibe. Like “Water,” Wes Craven’s 1982 adaptation of the “Swamp Thing” series from DC Comics gives us government scientists working on top-secret projects, a creature from the deep, the beautiful woman who loves him and a winking sense of homage and self-awareness.

Hopefully these lists were useful to you and will help you in deciding which movies are worthy of your [probably limited] time. If, however, you have enough time or you have already watched the above, you might want to have a look at the .

Sources / More info: nyt-res, nyt-mono, nyt-tsowrecs

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