Awards Season

CultureMap film critic's guide to the 9 Best Picture Oscar nominees

CultureMap film critic's guide to the 9 Best Picture Oscar nominees

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Actress for Frances McDormand. Photo by Merrick Morton
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water
Both Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer are nominated for The Shape of Water, which leads the way with 13 nominations. Photo by Kerry Hayes, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Best Actress for Lady Bird, which earned five nominations. Photo by Merie Wallace, courtesy of A24
Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird

The nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards have been revealed, with nine films garnering nods for Best Picture. But are all of them deserving? Take a look back at what CultureMap's film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nine nominees when they were originally released. The Oscars will be handed out on March 4.

Call Me By Your Name
The structure and slow pace of Call Me by Your Name make it a bit of a test, but the reward of the central relationship make every minute of the film worth your time. The performances of Armie Hammer and the Oscar-nominated Timothee Chalamet make the movie what it is, along with the Oscar-nominated script by 89-year-old James Ivory.

Darkest Hour
The biggest reason for the film’s success is the incredible performance by Gary Oldman, one of the most fully realized performances of a historical figure in recent memory. He and the film’s makeup crew are the clear front runners in their Oscar categories. It also makes for an interesting double feature with the next nominated film, Dunkirk.

There are certain movies that must be seen in as big a format as possible, and Dunkirk is one of them. Nominated director Christopher Nolan and his team paid extra attention to every possible audio and visual detail, making the film that much more immersive. Hans Zimmer’s propulsive and foreboding (and now, Oscar-nominated) score is essentially a main character, making up for when dialogue is sometimes unintelligible.

Get Out
A social commentary disguised as a genre movie, Get Out rises far above its horror movie trappings. Anchored by an Oscar-nominated performance by Daniel Kaluuya and an insightful Oscar-nominated script by writer/director Jordan Peele (who's also nominated as a director), the film educates even as it fills you with dread.

Lady Bird
My personal No. 1 movie of the year, writer/director Greta Gerwig (nominated in both categories) brings new life to the coming-of-age story by mining her personal history of growing up in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, both Oscar nominees, give lived-in performances as daughter and mother, making every moment resonate deeply.

Phantom Thread
A latecomer to the awards season party, Phantom Thread earned a surprise six nominations thanks to another stellar Daniel Day-Lewis performance, a scene-stealing role by Lesley Manville, and direction by Paul Thomas Anderson that brings out the best in everybody involved. Anderson did not get a screenwriting nod, but he deserved it for a film that was often wickedly funny.

The Post
There's no more relevant movie this year than The Post, which used a nearly 50-year old story as a way of making comparisons to the current presidential administration. Tom Hanks (unjustly snubbed) and Meryl Streep (as always, deservedly nominated) headline the Steven Spielberg-directed film that inadvertently became a prime example of why women deserve more opportunities than they're often given.

The Shape of Water
Some have dismissed this film, which which has a leading 13 nominations, as merely a creature feature, but Sally Hawkins' wordless, Oscar-nominated performance elevates the movie. Director Guillermo del Toro was nominated for his unique sense of style, getting you to believe a romance between a mute woman and an Amphibian Man is as interesting as any normal human relationship.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
One of the leading contenders after winning at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, the film features three nuanced, Oscar-nominated performances by Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson. What makes the film especially different is that it offers no easy answers. It uses violent means toward emotional ends, and winds up being the richer for it.