The Academy Awards are coming soon, and when they end, another film will be codified into the canon of Best Pictures. What will it be? The oddsmakers have a clear favorite, but you only have to go back one year to know that predictors, and even envelope-holders, don’t know what the hell is going to happen.
So to prepare you for the the big night, The Stake has a rundown of every Best Picture nominee. We’ve broken down our analysis into four categories:
What We Love About It
Why it should win
Why it shouldn’t win
What else it should win
Underneath, you’ll find our complete Oscar Ballot, noting what the Stake’s humble editor wants to win, and what he thinks most likely to win.
Call Me by Your Name
What We love About it: The year’s most sensual film, Call Me By Your Name evokes with powerful specificity the feeling of being young, filled with sexual frustration, and completely in love.
Why it should win: Marvelous, lush filmmaking from Luca Guadagnino, and a blockbuster performance from the absurdly talented Timothee Chalemet
Why it shouldn’t: There’s been some griping that the film’s central romance lacks grounding, that Elio and Oliver’s mutual attraction feels unmotivated and lacking in the kind of emotional or intellectual context that would make the pairing believable. These people are wrong: the film’s focus on physicality rather than intellect seems to us to be a deliberate choice, making the picture into an exploration of the lived, bodily experience of love and sexual attraction. The only reason it shouldn’t win is if there’s more deserving work up for Best Picture.
What else it should win: Best Actor for Chalemet.
What We love About it: Gary Oldman chews his way through a multi-course meal with great speeches and better
Why it should win: Because it’s an Oscar-bait-style drama and wartime-historical-biopic about a British Man taking on the challenges of global significance.
Why it shouldn’t: Because it’s yet another an Oscar-bait-style drama and wartime-historical-biopic about a British Man taking on the challenges of global significance.
What else it should win: I don’t know, Costume Design?
What We love About it: The simplicity. Christopher Nolan has always loved a good storytelling gimmick, but here he simplifies, embarking on a taut historical drama with a three-part structure that is easy to follow but fascinating to experience. The result is his best movie ever.
Why it should win: A tribute to victory in the wake of defeat, Dunkirk is a movie for a very strange political moment. What better way to acknowledge the resurgent forces of nationalism and white supremacy than to showcase a moment in which those very forces seemed likely to achieve victory in the most consequential human war ever. There is a grace in deliverance, Dunkirk tells us. Audiences know how WW2 turned out, despite the massive retreat; Dunkirk encourages us to see this moment as a step towards victory.
Why it shouldn’t: A mostly effective historical drama, Dunkirk does play it flat and even. Where drama could have been naturally inserted, Nolan goes for stasis. Yes, this is a retreat movie, but even in retreat, things happen. Also, there is a dangerous conservatism to the story of victory in retreat (small C conservatism). That things inevitably work out of if you wait for it. A nice story, but is that helpful or dangerous?
What else it should win: Best Editing. Some people think that’s a minor award, but it’s not. Dunkirk plays with time beautifully, and time is a matter of editing.
What We love About it: That Get Out is a debut feature film that works on all levels. Jordan Peele’s satire carries a wallop of a punch, hitting white, self-affirming liberals hardest of all. Peele’s horror story is effective: strange, creepy, and that first time you see it, unexpected. Peele’s artistry is top notch: Peele’s direction is flawless, his performers are all in. Special hat tip to Production Designer Rusty Smith and cinematographer Toby Hooper, too, who were able to create a real world environment with just a hint of cattywampus detail to make us unsettles from the start and ready for the insanity to follow.
Why it should win: Because it’s the year’s best movie. And because you voted for Barack Obama, twice, and yet, somehow our President is Donald Trump.
Why it shouldn’t: Too much hype for too long may have clouded the judgment of those who love the film.
What else it should win: Original screenplay. Key word: Original.
What We love About it: The details. Writer/director Greta Gerwig is telling a personal story and the intricacies of her life are on full display: Lady Bird’s not a quirky character, but a real human woman, navigating difficult relationships with her parents, friends, boyfriends, and teachers. The dialogue that Gerwig gives her teenage movie stand-in is playfully heightened, but the emotions are excitingly realistic.
Why it should win: Lady Bird, the young woman, demands it. Call her by her name, Oscars, and in doing so, give her the honor she deserves.
Why it shouldn’t: There’s a host of heavy hitters in the Best Picture roster this year, and Lady Bird, no matter how perfectly executed, doesn’t carry the gravitas needed for the top honors. Whether voters want to make a cultural statement, a genre statement, or a dramatic one, there are better options than this humble, quirky comedy.
What else it should win: Best Actress. For a thousand reasons, but accent work alone earns it.
What We love About it: Weird, fascinating, affecting, befuddling Paul Thomas Anderson at his best.
Why it should win: It’s among Paul Thomas Anderson’s best films, and (allegedly) Daniel Day Lewis’s last. PTA’s movies generally fail to get the recognition they deserve when they appear on the scene, yet appear to be obvious masterpieces in retrospect, and in a decade or two the Academy will probably be kicking itself for failing to recognize them, and him, earlier. They can remedy that now, by giving Phantom Thread Best Picture.
Why it shouldn’t: What’s it about, really? Phantom Thread is a great piece of cinematic art, but there is an increasing hermetic quality to Paul Thomas Anderson’s work—his films relate more to themselves, or to Anderson’s private obsessions perhaps, than they do to the real world, per se. As a result, the film is an interesting and beautiful object for critics and film lovers to puzzle over, but it doesn’t make a great object lesson in the urgency and relevance of film, which some might argue is a crucial element of a Best Picture, objective quality notwithstanding.
What else it should win: Best Score by Jonny Greenwood. Greenwood’s score does a ton of heavy lifting in the film, and it’s exquisite—romantic and unsettling, old-fashioned and thoroughly modern at once.
What We love About it: Three of Hollywood’s most reliable talents defending the freedom of the press, in a story from the Nixon Administration with present-day relevance.
Why it should win: Streep, Hanks, Spielberg.
Why it shouldn’t: The film was allegedly rushed, and it shows. Spielberg can turn out a compelling movie in his sleep, but some of the setups could’ve probably used a little bit more time and thought. It’s a good movie, but there’s far more impeccable work up for the statue.
What else it should win: Nothing probably. It’s fine, but each category has more deserving nominees.
The Shape of Water
What We love About it: Fables rarely move us as much as they do when made by Guillermo Del Toro. The Shape of Water is one of the weirder fantastic tales of modern movies, but it tells a timeless story that can all benefit from: there is love enough for everyone. Even a mute woman and a creature from the depths of the sea. If you don’t love a good monster love story, then you have my pity.
Why it should win: Only one fantasy film has ever won Best Picture (LOTR: Return of the King). But recognizing a film like Shape of Water would be a wholly new move for the Academy. It’s a weird and dark fantasy, a romance, and a pure creature feature. Guillermo Del Toro’s imagination appears endless, but his direction is expert, meticulous. Del Toro’s vision goes backward and forward, mixing classical filmmaking with the weirdly unexpected, and when his work comes together, nobody is better.
Why it shouldn’t: There are more important movies to recognize at this moment, and ones that are just as good as Shape of Water . And despite the creative ingenuity, the movie does lack a certain narrative propulsion. Some have even called it boring, given the setup of characters and the manner in which they behave. A common genre criticism, this is, but one that can stick.
What else it should win: Best Director
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What We love About it: Frances McDormand as Mildred. Never one to disappoint, McDormand provides a moving and funny performance in a role that could easily have been one-dimensional. The film crumbles around her, but just like Mildred, McDormand stands strong.
Why it should win: It shines a light on life in the US, and even if that light finds something ugly and unwelcome. Also, Mildred’s is a Times Up era woman. Her action comes when systematic inaction on violence against women can simply no longer be tolerated.
Why it shouldn’t: Martin McDonagh can make a good movie—see In Bruges—but this one just doesn’t qualify. Three Billboards wants to be a searing portrait of American life, but nothing here gets close to a sear. It doesn’t even sizzle. McDonagh waters down everything the cruel real-world elements–police brutality, sexual violence, black lives matter–only to bury the personal story moments of small town romance and the work of redemption. Even the coveralls and bandana on Mildred seem just a little too calculated and false. Everything is caricatured, a half-imprint of reality, and when it all comes together, the result is a sluggish, underwhelming affair.
What else it should win: Nothing
Call Me by Your Name
Lady Bird Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Get Out
Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Should Win: Timothée Chalamet
Will Win: Timothée Chalamet
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan
Will Win: Frances McDormand
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Richard Jenkins
Will Win: Sam Rockwell
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Mary J. Blige
Will Win: Allison Janney
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Literally Every Person On This List.
Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro
The Boss Baby
Should Win: Coco
Will Win: Coco
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
Should Win: James Ivory Call Me By Your Name
Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
Should Win: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Will Win: Martin, McDonagh Three Billboards OutsideEbbing, Missouri
Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen
Should Win: Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Will Win: Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Best Documentary Feature:
Best Foreign Language Film:
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)
Should Win: On Body and Soul (Hungary)
Will Win: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory
Should Win: Dunkirk, Lee Smith
Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory
Baby Driver, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood
Should Win:The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Will Win: Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick
Should Win: The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Will Win: Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Should Win: The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Will Win: The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell
Should Win: Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
Will Win: The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Should Win: “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
Will Win: “Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
Makeup and Hair:
Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten
Should Win: Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Will Win: Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle
Should Win: Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
Will Win: Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges