No, not the cool ones for various wargames and RPG’s, or even Warhammer 40k. Oscar season has officially opened and the contenders for best movie have been announced. In a move that surprises absolutely no-one, there are still nine candidates for best film. This does make it more difficult to predict the winners though, even by the rules I use. Namely, ignore the movie itself and look at the themes/social justice bullet points addressed.
Disclaimer, of the ones on the list, I’ve only seen Dunkirk and Get Out (and only Dunkirk on my dime).
So, the tally so far, though I have to think on which one I’ll predict later:
Lady Bird – A comedy-drama about a high school senior, adolescence, and her relationship with her mother. We’ve got mommy issues, flip-flopping friendships, a first boyfriend who turns out to be gay and struggles with coming out, and a guy who lies about being a virgin to have sex with her. Haven’t seen it, but outside of the closeted gay boy I’d bet that the only politics are background cultural assumptions.
Call Me By Your Name – About a 17 year old boy who falls in love with his father’s (male) assistant.
The Post – A piece about the press, once again, saving the world. This time about the pentagon papers, with a dollop of Nixon/Watergate. The “intrepid press speaking truth to power” theme was why I chose spotlight for its Oscar. On one hand, the theme has been done, on the other, well, how the press, and especially the NYT with its’ new slogan, view themselves in the age of Trump. It also has Meryl Streep playing “empowered woman”.
Get Out – Good god. Starting with apparently redneck bigot whites kidnapping a black man, the movie then proceeds to show that even whites who pretend not to be racist are *still *just taking advantage of and using black people to build their lives, in this case literally transplanting their minds to use their bodies. Lots of fawning on talk shows about how this is the universal experience of black people in the US and Europe. That said, I think BLM is a bit played out.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – a mom grieving over the rape and murder of her teenage daughter rents several billboards to publicly shame the town police and officials. This plays straight into the ongoing feminist delusions in the age of Trump of sexism, mistreatment of women, etc., as well as the current #metoo movement.
Phantom Thread – Sick codependency and Munchausen by proxy syndrome presented as love and a woman twice poisoning a man tolerated and even celebrated. A bit black pill but still “acceptable” – likely because it involves a man submitting to being dominated (and even literally, willingly, poisoned) by his wife.
Dunkirk – Go see it. You’ll get stories about men, with “too few women” and “not enough people of color”, but it is an outstanding movie and a well told story.
Darkest Hour – About a manly man – Churchill, so despite one “be nice to the grrrls” moment mentioned in the wiki article, not likely to get best film, but given the reception I’d be willing to bet on Oldman for best actor.
The Shape of Water – I’m hit or miss on Del Toro movies since he’s never met a commie he doesn’t like (the portrayal of the communists in Pan’s Labyrinth was a bothersome bit in an otherwise excellent if dark and despairing film), but Pacific Rim is stupidly awesome. In this day and age of immigrant issues we have a mute hispanic maid working at a (predominantly white male) defense research installation. who’s friends are a gay neighbor and an “african american” woman who’s her sign language translator at work. She discovers a monster and falls in love with it, helping it escape (from the white, male, capitalist warmongers) with the help of a soviet spy. Yes, we are yet again the real monsters. It’s the only film here other than Get Out that isn’t about white people, and with Trump, immigration is more relevant then BLM right now.
None so far quite hit as many bullet points as last year’s Moonlight, so my predictions are still pending. They all of course cross a minimum threshold of editing, acting, etc. and are insofar as Oscar judges go well made movies with “interesting” stories, but in the age of Trump, #metoo, #BLM, the press smarting at #fakenews, and #LGBTBBQ issues all being major and current bullet points, I can only really discount the “white guys being brave and intrepid” films despite the rave reviews.
What’s most depressing is the near certain knowledge that Dunkirk is phenomenally unlikely to win, and that most of the other contenders, despite whatever level of craft that went into them, go out of their way to avoid or even denigrate straight white men.