First off, The Shape of Water was not the best film of 2017. It just wasn’t. But this is becoming a familiar pattern with the Academy it seems and political considerations likely are at work more than they should be for deciding on which was the best film of the year.
For me, this year was Dunkirk’s year with Three Bllboards in a close second. Three Billboards is a very American-centric fim, but the writing and performances across the board were excellent. It likely loses votes from non-US Academy members. Dunkirk isn’t a US film at all – it is about a British and French event before the US was involved. It is the turning point in the Second World War. The companion piece, just as exhilarating is Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman playing Winston. They are both set in May 1940. Together they portray the days brilliantly. I will say more about the Oscars later. I tip my cap to Alison who wins the pool for the second straight year. Well done, and picking Shape of Water as Best Picture. That and Get Out for screenplay quite simply just shocked me.
On Friday I went out and saw my second last remaining Best Picture nomination with Phantom Thread. It stays with me still. It is a period piece around 1950ish, but no specific period. It revolves the story of three main protagonists. He (Daniel Day Lewis) an older, persnickety clothing maker perfectionist and then his colleague sister and then his latest muse, who he found while eating breakfast by the sea as she served him his substantial meal. Together they buzz around in initially common ways and then more unique and strange ways. The acting by each (two of the three – sister and man) got Oscar nods. The third likely deserved one for supporting rather than Mary J Blige (but I digress). This is a dysfunctional lot, with those surrounding the male lead as enablers and also challengers at times. I was shaken and confused by the ending and the whole scenario as it played out, but it is a film that can’t win a Best Picture. It is just too “British”, I think. American audiences just don’t have the patience for it. In the end it can be seen on Netflix and be just as satisfying. We saw in 70mm, and even received the companion catalog of pictures as a bonus. Honestly, I need to see Dunkirk in 70mm (and I did) but not this.
For Documentaries I saw Icarus on Saturday night. It swayed my vote away from Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. In it, there is the tale of an athlete trying to showing the prevalence of doping in cycling, but going so far as doping himself and trying to defeat the tests. But it makes a turn as the Russian Director who ended up assisting him gets into political hot water as they Sochi Olympic scandal meltdown occurred. The Director was the main facilitator keeping the State-sponsored program of doping secret. He left in exile for the US. He is a wanted man in Russia. This real life spy caper is very interesting and shows just how far the Russian government was prepared to go to succeed in Sochi. It makes you wonder what they are doing for the World Cup in June!! According to this documentary, the Russians have never ceased using steroids. Period.