The Empty Bookshelf Guide to the 2017 Oscars

There was but one of these guides previously, due to that being the only year I saw all the Best Picture nominees once the field was expanded beyond 5, and/but I also saw all of them in 2017. Let’s do this (in alphabetical order).

Call Me By Your Name

A 25 year-old initiates a sexual relationship with a teenager, and the movie glorifies it. In 2017. Certainly “problematic.” No? Because it’s two guys it’s not? Really?  “Well, he’s 17, and the age of consent in Italy…” Because age of consent-based arguments for questionable relationships are waterproof… Completely ignoring the previous (and that his parents are 110% on-board), the movie wanted to make me turn rural 1983 Italy into my own ripe peach. It won’t win anything except maybe Best Cinematography… except it wasn’t nominated.

Darkest Hour

Despite the title, this is an “impression” movie. It’s all about an actor impersonating instead of acting. Somehow this is considered a higher form of acting than creating a character whole cloth. There’s no possible way to watch this movie with any feeling other than “Hey! It’s Gary Oldman mumbling in a fat suit! WAIT! Is that Director Krennic doing his best King’s Speech impression? Awesome!” I don’t like that I chose to do this in alphabetical order because it’s the weaker of the two, but this is also a movie about Operation Dynamo (hint: Dunkirk). Two in 2017! It won’t win Best Picture, but Gary Oldman has a chance for Best Actor (though he shouldn’t). Unexpectedly, the movie had a modern presentation for a World War 2 story, with unique shots ( it “quotes” Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor bomb-tracking shot) and aggressive titling establishing the timeline. Then it turns into a “dramatic historical speeches” movie which could’ve been one of Steven Spielberg’s good but not great modern history efforts. This would make an excellent double feature with The King’s Speech. I’ll say it: I don’t get much out of World War Two movies which don’t feature the United States as the heroes.


I have nothing  snarky to say about this. It furthered my feud with Mark Rylance (since Bridge of Spies, it’s been all downhill), but I liked everything about this. Christopher Nolan even got a boyband member into this movie without making it a thing.  The final sequence with Tom Hardy to the end credits is perfect. I’ll repeat my complaint about Darkest Hour, above. A World War Two movie which doesn’t feature the United States as the hero is missing… something. I do wish they hadn’t prefaced the section about the dock “the mole,” as I had no idea they weren’t talking about “mole” in the sense of “a double agent.” I want it to win, but I don’t think it will.

Get Out

Points for the nomination for a horror movie. The first two-thirds of this movie gave me the worst “something really bad is going to happen, I can tell. But I’m not sure what that’s going to be. Yeesh.” Then it got crazy. It turns into something  too crazy for the Oscars at the end, though the Original Screenplay award is possible, with a small chance for Best Director.

Lady Bird

The best movie you’ll ever see about whether or not a mom is going to turn her car around at the airport and see her daughter leave for college. or not Yeah. That’s the extent of the climax. The rest is a bunch of impressionistic stuff about a 2002 high school graduate, presented in a series of scenarios as if evoking a more serious Napoleon Dynamite. Sacramento doesn’t deserve a valentine, but this movie is that valentine. Broadly, this is probably(?) the best (maybe most realistic?) movie about dysfunctional but still functional relationships between mothers and daughters that’s been made, so there’s a unique perspective there (the dress-fitting scene at the thrift store) that’s captured because of the female writer and director, but not a whole lot happens. I suppose I have more appreciation for being a teenage girl in Sacramento in 2002, but that’s about it. Juno gave the experience of teenage girl with a much more engaging plot. It might win Best Picture, but it shouldn’t. Best Director and Best Actress have a chance.

Phantom Thread

This is the smoothest movie I’ve ever seen. What does that mean? The first hour feels like one continuous shot, but it absolutely isn’t.  The movie starts, a considerable amount of establishing plot happens, then it’s not until an hour and ten minutes or so that it feels like there’s a “stop” in the film. The soundtrack, shots, and especially editing are completely, perfectly smooth in the first hour, establishing the world in which the actual plot of the movie will take place for the second hour.  I cringe saying this, but it’s masterful. Immediately after finishing it, I respected the technical aspects, but this movie more than any other stuck with me after. It has a chance for Best Picture and Director. It’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ Best Actor Award to lose (and if he does, it will be to Gary Oldman who was actually competing in Best Impression). 

The Post

This is Bridge of Spies with 70% less plot. To fill out the running time, they tack on  a useless sub-plot about the Washington Post being up for sale. It’s not bad, but has no business being considered for Best Picture. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are the obvious stars, but Bradley Whitford, David Cross, and Bob Odenkirk are great additions. It should not win any awards.

The Shape of Water

Say it with me. O-S-C-A-R. B-A-I-T. Set in a time period slightly in the past so no one get bothered by broad characterizations? Check. The love of old-timey movies is a plot point? Check. Plot features outsiders who aren’t so outside to cause any offense? Check. It might win Best Picture and Best Director. It was fine, though the Sea Creature reminded me a whole lot of Abe Sapien, and it has the usual characteristic of Guillermo del Toro movies where the budget choices make for a cast full of no-names… and Michael Shannon.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Great, great soundtrack. Good, but not great, movie. It’s all about establishing a world and a mood… until Sam Rockwell’s character flips a switch and decides he wants to fix things. Considering the topic, the movie has a fun sense of humor. It might win Best Picture, but it shouldn’tExpect some of the acting awards to land here.

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