Forget all the predictions. Steve Erickson sifts through a passel of strong contenders to dole out Oscars to his own favorites.
Best Picture: Blade Runner 2049
Because 36 years from now, when somebody writes, “In 2018, no one thought Blade Runner 2049 was the year’s best picture,” he’ll be wrong.
Best Director: Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper
This singular movie occupying a region between the spiritual and the profane could have been made only by the most consistently interesting filmmaker of the last 20 years (Carlos, Demonlover, Irma Vep, Summer Hours, Clouds of Sils Maria).
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mother as avenging angel, who will allow neither her dead daughter nor anyone else to rest in peace. McDormand’s inability to strike a false note is such that, in the year’s most competitive category, she withstands the challenge of a brilliant new generation represented by Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper), and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).
Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
While I can’t get out of my head Daniel Kaluuya’s journey through white-liberal terror in Get Out or Timothée Chalamet’s heartbroken final scene in Call Me by Your Name, I’m a liar if I don’t admit to rooting for Oldman’s Oscar-bait, drop-the-mic Winston Churchill—and also his George Smiley, Dracula, Elvis, Beethoven, Sid Vicious, Pontius Pilate, Joe Orton, Lee Harvey Oswald, the whole brilliant mess of history and movies in one brilliant mess of an actor.
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
In a standout year for memorable moms, including McDormand, Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), and, yes, Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), Metcalf’s full dimensionality is in a league of its own as she silently relives a life of conflict with her departing daughter in a 90-second drive around the airport.
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Stulbarg, Call Me By Your Name
This memoir of first love is esteemed rather too highly, but a father-son talk at the end—the kind of talk that, if you’re a father, you hope you’d be wise and loving enough to have with your son if you learned he may be gay—is exactly what this award was invented for. Extra credit to Stuhlbarg for apparently being in every other movie released, shot, conceived of, or vaguely contemplated in 2017.
Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
From the Irish-Brit writer-director of 2008’s neglected In Bruges comes this sui generis chronicle of doomed characters caught up in a small-town maelstrom of horror and deliverance. Honorable mentions for two feature debuts: Jordan Peele’s subversive Get Out and Greta Gerwig’s irresistible Lady Bird.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Dee Rees and Virgil Williams, Mudbound
Based on a novel by Hillary Jordan, the layered and Faulknerian script captures the postwar struggle between Mississippi whites and black veterans returning home from defeating European fascism in time to confront American racism.
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
I love the milestone of Mudbound’s beautiful work by first female nominee Rachel Morrison, but for God’s sake, give Deakins his damn Oscar. Thirteen nominations without winning? The world’s greatest cinematographer isn’t just overdue: This is his most unforgettable work.
Best Production Design: Paul Austerberry, The Shape of Water
Taking nothing away from the credited Austerberry, but anyone who knows the movies of Guillermo del Toro will recognize the director as the mastermind here, mainlining from our collective subconscious into the film’s sets the aquatic greens and rare burgundies of a Beauty-and-the-Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon love story.
Best Editing: Tatiana Riegel, I, Tonya
A close call over Dunkirk’s classicism for Riegel’s (There Will Be Blood, Bad Words) punk rhythms, in a narrative as fractured as its characters’ lives.
Best Foreign Language Film, The Square
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s collapse-of-Western-civilization-as- an-art-project is full of wit, intrigue, and resonant non sequiturs in a part of the world where day and night each lasts half the year and shadows of the mind grow ever longer.
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