We asked different writers to review the Academy Award Best Picture nominees. These are their responses.
‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’
“Three Billboards” has been called racist for its lack of black representation and (some say) forgiveness of a racist police officer. While those are real issues in cinema as a whole, that interpretation is simplistic and ignores the commentary the film makes about racism and America. The Ebbing police have a lot to answer for: apathy, brutality, and racism. McDonagh doesn’t simply forgive the police. He shows these problems are symptomatic of the rest of the town, presenting it as a reflection of America itself. This isn’t a film about empowering black people or bridging any divides, explicitly, but I would argue that, subtly and through narrative, it is.
– Sophie Aroesty, Contributing Writer
While writer-director Greta Gerwig says “Lady Bird” is not autobiographical, Lady Bird and Gerwig share enough similarities — both graduated from Sacramento Catholic schools in the early 2000s and enrolled in liberal arts colleges in NYC — to plausibly view the film as a reckoning with her teenage years.
Lady Bird’s lack of perspective when it comes to her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is matched by the empathy Gerwig realizes for her characters. This compassion, one imagines, Lady Bird herself will develop in time.
Gerwig’s distance from her teenage avatar allows her to clarify the film’s central question: Lady Bird’s “Who am I going to be?” becomes Gerwig’s “Why am I who I am today?”
– Scott Abrams, Senior Staff
I left “Get Out” feeling overwhelmed by everything the film threw at me, and it was great. I experienced so many emotions during the film: I laughed, I was in shock, I was terrified. One of my favorite things about the film was how accurately it touched upon the social commentary of the current events in our society. The script was so original and masterfully crafted. I highly recommend seeing this film in a theater or at home with friends. The collective experience you’ll get from this film is something you don’t want to miss. I also guarantee that this film will stick with you for a very long time.
– Ben Chomsang, Contributing Writer
Like Roberto Benigni did with his 1997 Holocaust tragicomedy “Life Is Beautiful,” director Christopher Nolan tackles a tough subject (World War II) by placing it in his wheelhouse. He plays with time as he did in “Memento” by hopping from narrative to narrative, each one with a different time scope. What stops this interesting movie from being great is its lack of clarity. Nolan is at his best when he’s the master storyteller who holds our hand to guide us through the complexity. With “Dunkirk,” he lets go, falsely assuming that we’re familiar enough with his work to find our own way.
-Wil Aiken, Culture Editor
‘The Shape of Water’
I knew this movie would be great when the dreamy score by Alexandre Desplat began as we dove into a water-filled room. The visuals are the main attraction of the film. The production design, unique cinematography, and visual effects make the film so mesmerizing. Eliza (Sally Hawkins) made me desperate as she struggles without a voice. The creature (Doug Jones) expresses emotions despite being buried in makeup and costume. All the characters are complex and interesting. Most of them, including the villains of the film, share similar traits and motives, which I find fascinating. It’s a beautiful romantic tale. It’s a great piece of art. I highly recommend seeing it in a theater while you can.
-Ben Chomsang, Contributing Writer
While “The Post” could serve as a prequel for Alan Pakula’s “All the President’s Men”, this is the story of the woman missing in the original action: publisher and owner of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep).
“If we don’t publish, we will lose, the country will lose,” Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) says to Graham, in a line that not only refers to publishing the Pentagon Papers, but also symbolizes Graham’s battle with the patriarchal structures aiming to hold her down.
Spielberg urges us to learn from Graham, her resolute approach and decision making. It’s up to her successors to challenge a system which continues to diminish the press, and the necessity for female leadership.
-Jackie Powell, Columnist
The fact that this may be your final chance to see Daniel Day-Lewis in anything should be attractive enough, but if not, let me say this: “Phantom Thread” is worth watching and re-watching. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Day-Lewis plays a tyrannical courtier named Reynolds Woodcock who embarks on a bizarre relationship with a younger woman (Vicky Krieps). They play off of each other beautifully as the dimensions of their romance shift beneath their feet, leading to a thrilling conclusion.
-Jesse Bernstein, Senior Staff
Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” relies upon a stunning performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.
The commentary which makes the film so relevant is its portrayal of political cowardice in the midst of global gloom. While Anthony McCarten’s script jabs at Theresa May’s call for “strong and stable” leadership in the midst of Brexit, there are nods to the current political discourse in the United States.
By portraying Britain rallying at its darkest time, the film asks the question: Have we (the U.S. and U.K.) looked in the mirror lately and thought about how history repeats itself? If this is our future, Churchill’s journey shows us just what it takes to make it through.
-Jackie Powell, Columnist
‘Call Me By Your Name’
I’ve witnessed many movie romances, and none have approach this movie. Timothèe Chalamet and Armie Hammer play off each other to an outstanding degree. I fell in love with their love and wanted to fall in love again.
The tension makes you wait and leaves you itching to see their first romantic moment. This build makes their relationship feel earned, whereas many romance movies feel forced.
The soundtrack is perfect, and Sufjan Stevens’ two soundtrack songs blend in seamlessly, as the story unravels. The cinematography of Italian landscapes is excellent, the performances are great, and I can’t recommend this movie enough. Few movies leave me feeling this way, and I can’t wait to experience it again.
-Matt Simmons, Contributing Writer