Saturday, March 3, 2018


March 3, 2018

With the Oscar Awards coming on March 5, Monday morning Manila time, it is time for me now to make my fearless Oscar predictions.  (My Oscar predictions of previous years were posted on these links: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013).

Here is how I would rank this year's 9 nominees for Oscar Best Picture based on my own opinions when I first saw these films.


7 Nominations: Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor x 2 nods, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Score

Desperate and angry for the lack of resolution of her daughter's rape and murder, Mildred Hayes rented three unused billboards outside their town to express her frustration, calling out police chief Bill Willoughby for his apparent inaction about Angela's case. Mildred's bold move earned the ire of her neighbors, especially the police -- officer Jason Dixon in particular. Mildred did not care and insisted on her call for justice.

How Martin McDonagh wrote and directed his story for the big screen is nothing short of outstanding. A black comedy is not always an easy movie to watch, but the way McDonagh crafted it with all those unexpected twists and turns really drew me in and kept me engaged. That is saying a lot, since ALL the major characters in this film were just so unlikable and unpleasant, no one really that you'd like to meet in real life. However they were all so compellingly portrayed by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell you could not stop watching them wreak hate on that screen. (MY FULL REVIEW)

2. DUNKIRK (9/10)

8 Nominations: Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

In the final week of May7, 1940, soldiers from Great Britain (as well as France and other Allies) were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, surrounded on all sides by land and air by the Nazi Germans. The film recounts the experiences of various soldiers caught in that desperate situation, as well as the valiant efforts taken by the British to evacuate its soldiers out of there. 

When I read that the director of this World War II movie is Christopher Nolan, I was curious at how he would make a film that dealt with a real historical event (the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation in this case) and give it its trademark Nolan style. Knowing how Nolan tells stories, I was not expecting it to be told in a straightforward manner. From the start, it was clear that it won't be. The story will be told from three vantage points and from three different time frames. (MY FULL REVIEW)


6 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Original Score

It was the 1950s in London. Reynolds Woodcock is the couturier of the rich and famous ladies. An avowed bachelor and perfectionist, he is deeply loyal to the memory of his departed mother and dependent on his spinster sister Cyril to manage the business side of his fashion label. One day, Reynolds met Alma, a waitress who eventually becomes Reynold's constant inspiration, until a testy kind of love developed between them. Alma decides she needs to do something drastic to make Reynolds realize her value, even if it meant hurting him.

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson foisted upon us a problematic relationship, where the toxicity of one's personality could only be countered by a toxicity of a more literal sort. It may not sound so good on paper, but on the screen it was as nail-biting as it was mesmerizing. Whether this is really Daniel Day-Lewis' last film or not, he gave yet another memorable performance here of a man with a difficult and flawed personality. (MY FULL REVIEW)

4. THE POST (8/10)

2 Nominations: Picture, Actress

The management and editors of the Washington Post decide whether to publish (or not) the very controversial Pentagon Papers (a study about the US involvement in the Vietnam War). The current owner and publisher of the Washington Post, the gentle and unconfident Katharine Graham usually deferred to the decisions of the men around her. However, for this big decision of great national, moral and financial significance, it was all up to her.

Steven Spielberg and his cast really had me engaged from beginning to end. For those like me who did not know the outcome, the whole film unfolded like a tightly-wound thriller without any action scenes. It first introduced us to the key personalities, and then proceeded to build up to that critical moment of the all-important decision. The fantastically authentic production design, the exciting editing of the scenes, the urgent musical score (by John Williams) all contributed to the effective storytelling. (MY FULL REVIEW)

5. GET OUT (7/10)

4 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay

Pretty white girl Rose Armitage brings Chris Washington, her black boyfriend of four months, to visit her parents, neurosurgeon Dean and psychotherapist Missy, in their mansion for the weekend. While he was received very well initially, the longer Chris stayed in the Armitage estate, interacted with their mysterious black servants, and met their overly friendly white guests, the more he feels there was something seriously amiss in this awkward situation.

From the moment Chris and Rose arrived at the Armitage house, writer-director Jordan Peele had us in the palm of his hands in his uniquely suspenseful yet engaging manner of discussing the sensitive subject of race. The horror in this film is not supernatural or ghostly. Instead, this is a social horror story built upon very real stereotypes of what whites in the US thought about blacks. (MY FULL REVIEW)

6. DARKEST HOUR (7/10)

6 Nominations: Picture, Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design

In May 1940,  Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlaine as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain despite his unpopularity, abrasive personality and seemingly reckless decisions. Churchill had a contentious relationship with his War Cabinet while making decisions during the Dunkirk siege.

This was a pure political drama, all talk and arguments. It was amazing that director Joe Wright was able to hold our interest for two hours. The success of this film was due in large part to the performance of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Critics and audiences alike have been unanimous with the praises for his uncanny impersonation. It was the intensity and sincerity of Oldman's performance rang truest in those passionate speeches he delivered and quiet personal moments he shared with his family and countrymen. (MY FULL REVIEW)

7. LADY BIRD (7/10)

5 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

The year is 2002. Christine "Lady Bird" MacPherson is a high school senior in a Catholic school in Sacramento, California.  Her interests were in the arts and she believed that she has to leave her home town and go to the East Coast to find culture. In between her mother sermonizing and her father losing his job, she spent her senior year joining the theater club, getting romantically involved, and choosing the college she wishes to attend. 

Maybe it is the fact that this film was written by Greta Gerwig as her solo directorial debut that gave it added sheen. But then again, its just that -- a mundane reflection of suburban life in America, this time from a teenager's point of view. It depicts realistic family dynamics between equally headstrong daughter and mother, as astutely portrayed by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf(MY FULL REVIEW)


13 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

It was the early 1960s in Baltimore. mute and lonely Elisa Esposito was a janitor at a government research laboratory. One day, Col. Richard Strickland brought to the lab a humanoid water creature captured from a river in South America. Elisa formed a friendship with the creature, a bond that eventually developed into love.

The nostalgic score set the tone effectively for a storybook romance, encouraging the audience only to see the beautiful in the female human - male fish creature relationship we see on the screen. The use of vintage love songs in the soundtrack likewise worked to achieve this idyllic atmosphere. But for me, director Guillermo del Toro should have kept the sexual elements in check. (MY FULL REVIEW)


4 Nominations: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Song

In 1983 in a quiet town in Northern Italy, there lived an artistically-inclined 17-year Elio Perlman. One day, his father, a professor of Greco-Roman archeology, welcomed an American graduate student, 24-year old Oliver, into their home as an intern for the summer. The tall, handsome, aloof Oliver wakens an unfamiliar yearning in young Elio. Will Elio be able to reveal his hidden desire to Oliver before the summer ends?

Even with the gorgeous rustic Italian setting and the effective acting of lead star Timothee Chalamet going for it, not to mention all those numerous award nominations, I personally thought that this film was over-hyped. The progression of the storytelling by director Luca Guadagnino was too slow, with repetitive distractions. When that moment of truth came, it came too abruptly and with little sense of romantic thrill in its execution. (MY FULL REVIEW)


My bets to win for each of the other categories:

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Nominees: Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”, Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”, Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”, Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”, Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”, Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”, Meryl Streep, “The Post”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Nominees: 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”

Nominees: Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”, Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”, Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”, Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: “Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito, “The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo, “Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha, “Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel, “Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema, “Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison, “The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

COSTUME DESIGN: “Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran, “Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran, “The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira, “Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

DIRECTING: “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan, “Get Out,” Jordan Peele, “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig, “Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

FILM EDITING: “Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Lee Smith, “I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel, “The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “The Square” (Sweden)
Nominees: “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile), “The Insult” (Lebanon), “Loveless” (Russia), “On Body and Soul (Hungary)

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: “Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Nominees: “Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard, “Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): “The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer, “Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: "“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige, “Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens, “Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common

PRODUCTION DESIGN: “The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer, “Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola, “Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, “Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

SOUND EDITING: “Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
Nominees: “Baby Driver,” Julian Slater, “Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green, “The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

SOUND MIXING: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, “Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill, “Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, “The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

VISUAL EFFECTS: “War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,”  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY):  “Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
Nominees: “The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, “Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green, “Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin, “Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh
Nominees: “The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, “Get Out,” Jordan Peele, “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig, “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

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