All but two of this year’s best picture nominees were set in the past, ranging between the 1940s wartime Britain of “Darkest Hour” and “Dunkirk” to the 2003 wartime Sacramento of “Lady Bird.” I don’t know what that says exactly about our current times, but looking at my personal favorites of the nine films nominated, they are also the ones that are set in the past. Heading into this weekend’s Oscars, everyone is talking about “The Shape of Water” battling it out against “Three Billboards” for best picture, but I think it’s worth looking at a few who also deserve those spots. Like I said in my article where I hypothetically argued against the Oscars, I find it weird to pick one film to win, but for the sake of the system, I’ve decided to come up with some new categories that best fit my favorite best picture nominees from this year.
Best use of Two Sufjan Steven Songs
A movie so powerful certain parts of Armie Hammer’s anatomy had to be CGI-ed out in the final cut. This is “Call Me by Your Name,” a film about two guys just being dudes, sitting five feet apart in the natural waters of Italy because they are most definitely gay. To be honest, I somehow managed to watch this film three times before seeing “Phantom Thread” or “The Shape of Water” so I for a while was in the camp that the film should do a full sweep, with Luca Guadagnino getting best director, James Ivory getting best adapted screenplay and the film grabbing best picture. Ivory, a god amongst 90s period-drama-clothed women, is likely to win his rightful best-adapted screenplay, but Guillermo Del Toro is more than certainly going to get the best director.
If I had the choice though my revised best director pick would unquestionably be from my next pick…
Best food cinematography
If best picture was based on photography of breakfast food, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” would be the top of my list. Coincidentally — or maybe not so much — it’s also at the top of my list for all the real categories, mainly best director, best actor and best score.
“Phantom Thread” sort of feels like everything the “mother!” marketing team made “mother!” out to be, but with the addition of beautiful 1950s dresses, zero baby eating and ridiculously named British breakfast foods on the sidelines.
While “Phantom Thread” might be the least likely to win the best picture award on Sunday, it deserves multiple awards solely for Daniel Day Lewis’s performance of eating a mushroom omelet.
Best everything by Greta Gerwig
Somewhat derisively referred to by some as the female “Boyhood,” “Lady Bird” reframes the coming-of-age film to a story about mothers and daughters scored to the sounds of 2002 popular music.
I love a film where you have to sit for a bit at the credits to wipe all the tears from your face, and after seeing this film three times in theaters, I have found that “Lady Bird” has the tremendous ability to deliver waterworks in different moments upon different viewings. Saoirse Ronan’s performance is unsurprisingly stellar, but Laurie Metcalf deserves the best supporting actress trophy just for her ability to drive while crying.
Best picture to take place in 1960s Baltimore that’s not “Hairspray”
Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is the most likely film to win against “Three Billboards” for best picture, and del Toro is more than promised best director.
Look, yes this film is largely about the amphibian romance between a fish man and Sally Hawkins, but it is breathtakingly human. Sure, it’s filled with del Toro’s trademark homages to the tropes of various movie genres, so much so that the characterization can sometimes get lost in his referentiality. However, “The Shape of Water” succeeds in its unabashed romance, with a portrayal of love that’s as immersive as the film’s underwater scenes.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s Academy Awards is will probably include as many snubs as it will references to last year’s best picture mistake. But in the meantime, we can all imagine a better world, a world where we could break the Oscar statuette up into multiple pieces and give it to each of the kids from “The Florida Project.”