The Evanstonian

Get ready for the Oscars!

Know the Best Picture Films

Photo+courtesy+of+Odyssey+Online.
Photo courtesy of Odyssey Online.

Photo courtesy of Odyssey Online.

Photo courtesy of Odyssey Online.

Evan Finder, Entertainment Writer

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Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread may appear to be just another stuffy period drama, but, it is something far more. It is both a power struggle between three intriguing characters in post-WWII England and an examination of a twisted romance. The film makes the audience question where the line between love and exploitation lies. In addition to an intriguing and haunting story, Phantom Thread is beautifully filmed. Every garment, every mushroom omelette, looks like we can reach out and touch it. Phantom Thread is suspenseful, funny, and even scary. Although the film features three great performances, the real star is the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, who has made one of the best films of the past few years.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In an age where big-budget, CGI-filled movies dominate the box office, Three Billboards breaks the mold. The story is as dark and twisted as any other film this year, and yet Martin McDonagh, the director, infuses humor into every scene. Every character is given dimension and even the most despicable ones have their moments of humanity. Three Billboards has been met with some criticism for “glorifying a racist cop.” There is indeed a racist cop in the film, but his racism is not glorified. In fact, he is painted as the villain for much of the movie, and, even when he is given a small amount of redemption, the film doesn’t expect the audience to forgive him; it simply asks us to acknowledge that people are complex.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is admittedly a small movie, but that’s part of its strength. Taking place over one girl’s senior year of high school, Lady Bird is a slice of life and a mother-daughter character study. Rather than relying on cheap gimmicks, writer/director Greta Gerwig simply trusts in her sharply written dialogue and colorful characters (as well as realistic and compelling performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf) to make the most out of a simple story. Parts of the film are funny and witty, while others are heartfelt, and every scene in the film has a relatability to it. Short, sweet, and smart, it is hard to imagine anyone seeing Lady Bird without getting something out of it.

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s new film brings a fairytale aspect that few have before. The Shape of Water never quite rises to the level of del Toro’s masterpieces (Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone) it is an engrossing and magical experience. The story is admittedly predictable and occasionally cartoonish, but the imagination that went into it is stunning. Alexandre Desplat’s jazz-like score always compliments del Toro’s visuals, and the characters, while not particularly layered, are quirky and endearing enough, The fairy tale story is contrasted with all of the sex and violence of a hard-R film and Sally Hawkins is brilliant, proving that dialogue isn’t necessary to give a top-notch performance.

Get Out

This is, without a doubt, the most important film of the year. Get Out is brilliant in that it infuses racial commentary and political satire into a horror film, serving as a criticism of sanctimonious, holier-than-thou white people who think that their progressiveness disqualifies them from possibly being racist before turning from clever commentary into all-out horror. Toward the end, Get Out feels slightly tonally inconsistent and writer/director Jordan Peele made the unfortunate mistake of replacing the brilliantly realistic original ending (which can be found on Youtube) with a more conventional one. Nevertheless, the film’s message and weight remains present throughout. For all its faults, Get Out is the movie we need right now.

Call me By Your Name

Call Me by Your Name is an exercise in the pure pleasantries of filmmaking. Director Luca Guadagnino uses the sumptuous scenery of the Italian countryside as the film’s backdrop, which perfectly evokes the passion that the characters go through. The screenplay, written by James Ivory, is raw, realistic, and willing to make the audience feel every bit as uncomfortable as the characters. Telling of a secret affair between a young man (Timothee Chalamet) and his father’s research partner (Armie Hammer), the film provides a moving account of self discovery and forced maturity. Its lack of drama, however, causes it to fall short of greatness.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk is, quite simply, a story of battle. Director Christopher Nolan has always been more of a visual innovator than a truly great storyteller; this claim is all but proven in his latest work. The issue with the film is that it focuses more on the warfare of Dunkirk rather than the charming tale of citizen aid lent to soldiers. Furthermore, the unconventional use of time feels more like a gimmick than something that really helped the storytelling. Like is so often the issue with Oscar nominees, the problem with Dunkirk isn’t that it was bad, but that it could have been so much better. Is Dunkirk a visual masterpiece? Yes. Best picture? Not quite.

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