What Should Win the Oscar for Best Picture This Year

What Should Win the Oscar for Best Picture This Year

The overall reaction to this year's Oscar nominees has been mostly positive, and we're damn excited for the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Here, some of our staff (Sean Beattie, Matt Curione, Rachael Hauschild, Marcus Irving, Manish Mathur, Callie Smith, Rob Trench) argue why each film deserves to go home with the top prize at the 90th Academy Awards on March 4. 



WWII films are very common during awards season. When Christopher Nolan announced his follow-up to the sprawling sci-fi epic Interstellar would be about the Dunkirk evacuation, I figured it’d be another massive epic over 150 minutes. Instead, Nolan delivered one of the most unique war films in recent memory, and one that’s only 106 minutes (over an hour shorter than Interstellar). Scoring 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film is a crackling thriller with clockwork precision. Its cast of both recognizable actors and fresh faces blend together beautifully. There aren’t character arcs or extended back stories, rather, Nolan captures the various archetypes found in war films to create a harmonious collection of heroic anonymity. The imaginative editing by Lee Smith (previously nominated for Master and Commander and The Dark Knight) gives us three timelines that weave in and out of each other. For me, this presents how in war, a week, a day, and an hour can feel like eternity when trying to survive. The sound editing and mixing contribute to making Dunkirk a visceral, unforgettable film experience. (Manish)

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Phantom Thread

If you ask any movie fan for the name of a modern influential director, Paul Thomas Anderson is sure to be one of the first to come up. And yet, it’s been ten years since a PTA film has been nominated for Best Picture. That fact is pretty wild, but the wait couldn’t have paid off better with a Best Picture nomination for Phantom Thread. This acerbic, witty look at romantic relationships may not seem to have the same level of social relevance as so many of the other nominees, but looks can be deceiving. Phantom Thread picks apart the trope of the tortured, controlling genius and twists it in a new, refreshing direction, that rejects the masculine idea of maintaining complete and constant control over women. The eventual equality in Phantom Thread is vital and fascinating in a culture that’s fighting back against powerful, sexually domineering men, and it could make for a wonderful win for Best Picture this year. (Callie)


Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s latest should win Best Picture because, not only does the film display a coming-of-age story about finding yourself and figuring out your sexuality, it also illustrates how a family reacts to such decisions. We live in a world where it is difficult for people to come out and have their families accept them for who they are. This film shows how reactions should be and how what it comes down to is the love you have for another human being. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer have undeniable onscreen chemistry which makes this film flow perfectly until end credits. Also, Call Me by Your Name has one of the most beautiful scores of the year, with gorgeous songs by Sufjan Stevens. (Rachael)

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Get Out

It’s hard to talk about Get Out without resorting to gushing and saying, “it’s so good” multiple times. It’s a horror film that’s as focused on the scares as it is on what those scares mean in a greater context—every small, uncomfortable way Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, in a wonderful turn here) is made to feel more trophy than man adds to the anxious, oppressive atmosphere in the Armitage household. But beyond the immediate story, Get Out grounds its tension in the same social obstacle course people of color find themselves navigating every day of their lives. Chris is poked, prodded, complimented on traits that strip his humanity, and is fetishized publicly. All this, while surrounded by white liberal people who talk a big game of being allies in the cause of improving how people of color are treated, but are no less nefarious in their ultimate goals toward Chris once he’s in their presence. Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford in a great performance) even tries to prove his liberal bona fides by talking about how he would’ve “voted for Obama a third time”. It’s the rare horror movie that makes one question one’s own attitudes and approaches to subjects or people; Get Out made this white liberal guy do just that, and for that impact it deserves the win. (Sean)


Darkest Hour

2017 might become known as the year of Dunkirk, with three films revolving around that tumultuous period of WWII. First there was the little-seen but quite charming Their Finest, fellow Best Picture nominee Dunkirk, and finally Joe Wright’s Churchill biopic Darkest Hour. With a towering lead performance from Best Actor frontrunner Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour is an inspiring film about doing the right thing even when challenged by everyone. Wright’s imaginative lighting and blocking give this more conventional Oscar film a spark of creativity. The British Parliament scenes especially have an energy rare for stately British biopics. Alongside Oldman, the film features supporting performances from Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and an utterly fantastic Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI. Gary Oldman may be buried under Oscar-nominated makeup, but his portrayal of Churchill paints a full picture of the self-contradictory man; warm but demanding, self-serious yet not lacking a sense of humor. The film’s climactic speech, and the hard decisions that come with it, are perfectly played by Oldman giving us a leader we can look up to nowadays. (Manish)

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Lady Bird

Since premiering at the start of fall awards season, Greta Gerwig’s partially-autobiographical, coming-of-age story has won over critics (99% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (A24’s highest grossing film to date at $39M) alike. It was the toast of Telluride and TIFF, and took home major prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, and most recently the Golden Globes, giving it a major stake in the race. While it’s uncommon for an indie dramedy to take the Academy’s top prize, the amount of goodwill that’s been granted to Lady Bird this season makes it a serious contender. As a more humorous, intimate, and emotional film than we’re used to seeing take Oscar gold, it has a chance to pull off a big upset against titles that have racked up more attention in other awards bodies, like The Shape of Water or Three Billboards. Considering that the AMPAs use a preferential ballot, it’s hard to imagine voters not placing the film near the top of their selections and giving way to a surprising, but satisfying victory. (Rob)


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director Martin McDonagh is no stranger to the Oscars, he was nominated for writing his masterpiece In Bruges and won for his short Six Shooter. I think his latest film is destined to end up taking home the gold, and that’s not a bad thing. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has already taken the top honors at both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. These accolades are by no means Best Picture guarantees, and the film’s buzz has quieted significantly from even just a month ago, but I still believe that the chances are good, and that Three Billboards would be a deserving winner. Not only is McDonagh’s script whip-smart and genuinely hilarious at times, it also tackles heated issues with impressive complexity and maturity. Even if you disagree about the merits of the writing, it gives a platform for one of the best lead actress performances of the last few years. Frances McDormand, with her naturally rebellious, rugged spirit, was the only choice to play the pissed off mother with a mission. The ensemble around her earn their worth as well. The recent Best Picture winners list is full of movies like Spotlight and The King’s Speech that are more notable for standout performances than interesting filmmaking, but Three Billboards has both. (Marcus)


The Post

It seems that every year, come Oscar time, there's a fair chance a Spielberg film will get nominated for the top prize and this year is no different. Spielberg's latest, The Post, is as timely as it is vital. The real-life story of The Washington Post and its editorial team’s mission to inform the public of the lies behind the Vietnam War has Spielberg's hallmarks all over it, along with a phenomenal cast. Meryl Streep headlines, doing her best work in over a decade and the fast-paced screenplay puts you in a ‘70s newsroom like few other films. With all the ‘Fake News’ rhetoric that's been bandied about, it's important to remember what real journalism can be and The Post is just that. Not just entertaining but also deftly powerful, it's Spielberg's best since Lincoln, proving that he still has the magic and ability to connect with an audience no matter the subject at hand. (Matt)

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The Shape of Water

The nomination of Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water marks the first time since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws that the Academy has nominated a film that is outwardly and unabashedly a monster movie, a genre of horror that’s looked down on the most. If there was ever a creature feature that truly deserved the title, though, it’s definitely this one. The Shape of Water pieces together influences from a wide range of genres, from romance to horror, to musicals and moments of comedy, blending together into a beautiful adult fairy tale, the moral of which is empathy. The story shows love for the other by representing a variety of minority groups in the leading and supporting cast, which is such an important element in our current political climate. From production design and costuming, to supporting actor and lead actress, each nomination is well-deserved by this exquisitely crafted masterwork from the king of monsters himself, Guillermo del Toro, and I can’t imagine a more exciting and unique potential winner for Best Picture. (Callie)

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