It’s that time of year again! Over the next couple of months, our ‘to see’ list will extend with the addition of films which are in awards conversations. The Golden Globe nominations were announced last week, commencing the inevitable discussion of snubs. Of course, it’s important to remember that voting bodies tend to vary and that the Globes’ Hollywood Foreign Press Association (whilst quite flashy) are considered to be marginally less important/knowledgeable/relevant than other awards bodies – they did categorise Get Out as a comedy, after all.
It should be noted that The Academy persisted in their efforts to diversify its members this year, with voters more accurately reflecting Hollywood’s current industry makeup. Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ongoing significance of this year’s #MeToo campaign and the prevailing narrative regarding sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse within Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein (whose misconduct arguably began the onslaught of women and men coming forward) has maintained a dominant presence throughout Awards Seasons since 1999, feasibly responsible for hundreds of Academy nominations and wins. And whilst he leaves a (large) seat empty at awards ceremonies and within the Academy itself, I think it’s safe to say that such a seat can be filled by the brave Silence Breakers who have emerged and will inevitably continue to do so.
Lastly, each year prevailing cultural narratives emerge as reflected within films and performances which are considered, selected and discussed during Awards Season. This year, the narrative is clearly that which reflects the #MeToo campaign as well as the 2016 U.S. election results. There is a large influx of female-led, female-made films which have been wildly popular amongst wide audiences which are not limited to women. And whilst the Golden Globes’ Hollywood Foreign Press Association perhaps failed to ascertain the significance and relevance of this narrative, I think that it is safe to say that these stories and voices won’t be ignored this year.
These are the films which are receiving virtually widespread critical praise within awards conjecture. Less than a month ago it seemed that an indie/genre film could be a sure win come the Oscars, but Steven Spielberg’s The Post is said to be the filmmaker’s masterpiece. Regardless, I am excited about each of these films independently.
The Shape of Water – in cinemas January 18
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy)
Written by: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer & (of course) Doug Jones.
Del Toro’s generic follow-up is said to be the director’s tribute to classic monster films. Set in 1950s cold war America, the film is a sci-fi love story involving a mute woman (Hawkins) and a being (Jones) resembling that of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The film supposedly engages with queerness and otherness on an interpretive level, and is resonating with audiences on an emotional one. Having been awarded the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, The Shape of Water is likely to be high on the list of awards voters, gaining critical commendations for its performances, direction, photography, artistic direction, visual and sound effects. It’s likely to be the most-nominated film at the Oscars, with widespread success in cinematic execution, not unlike 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – in cinemas January 1
Written and directed by: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths)
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson & Sam Rockwell.
Said to be the blackest of black comedies, Three Billboards follows a mother (McDormand) who is unrelenting towards local police after they fail to find the suspect of her daughter’s murder. Those who are familiar with McDonagh’s previous films will be immediately drawn to the tonality and narrative of his latest film, which has garnered praise for its writing and performances. Notably, Frances McDormand is extremely likely to sweep in Best Actress categories for her performance, although it’s unlikely that she will campaign as hard as her fellow nominees. According to Academy member Marcia Nasatir, McDormand disappears into the “unlikeable” character, reflecting the unrelenting spirit of a subjugated woman who won’t be dismissed whilst corruption reigns. Obviously this film is indeed reflective of the female-driven cultural narrative currently prevailing within Hollywood, pushing it forward through Awards conjecture.
Call Me by Your Name – in cinemas December 26
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino (I am Love, A Bigger Splash)
Written by: James Ivory, based on André Aciman’s acclaimed novel.
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Schulbarg.
Having premiered at Sundance, Call Me by Your Name has travelled the world visiting a dozen film festivals including Toronto, Berlin and Melbourne. I had the personal pleasure of viewing it at one of Melbourne’s two screenings, after which I expressed my gratitude to director Luca Guadagnino. I should also mention that he returned my gratitude with a kiss on each cheek in true Italian fashion. This personal warmth which I experienced from him was undeniably present in his marvellous film. The film has genuinely taken the world by storm, with a huge underground fandom and endless retweets about Armie Hammer’s gorgeous face.
The film itself tells the story of a teenage boy spending the summer with his parents in Northern Italy in the 1980s. A whirlwind romance ensues in the form of a young man who stays with the family for the season. Guadagnino captures the experience of the first love with such incredible accuracy and eroticism that watching the film feels entirely empathetic. If anything, CMBYN has proven its staying power with continued adoration from critics and fans (heavy overlap from these demographics). Chalamet has already received awards recognition for his remarkable breakout performance as Elio and is likely to take home many more nominations and awards. Additionally, the film will presumably receive nominations for its cinematography, writing and possibly directing. I’m personally hoping that Sufjan Stevens’ original songs also gain recognition from the Academy. I think the film will make it into the Best Picture Category (knock on wood). This film is my favourite of 2017, as no other film has lived up to the experience of viewing it.
Lady Bird – in cinemas February 15
Directed and written by: Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America)
Starring: Saoisre Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, & Lucas Hedges.
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story following the experiences of a young woman growing up in Northern California during 2002, loosely based on Gerwig’s own adolescence.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I said to myself ‘my god, it’s my life. Greta Gerwig has plagiarised by life ’. It seems that I wasn’t the only one exclaiming this, as this film is truly resonating with audiences and critics alike, whether or not they did attend catholic school or had challenging conversations with careers counsellors. Premiering at Toronto, the film has received a resounding positive reception in the U.S., maintaining a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score (at least during its early release). Unlike many films which are famed as some of the best of the year, Lady Bird hasn’t been in any way divisive amongst critics as other selections. Greta Gerwig’s film has been compared to last year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight not only through its production company A24, but also through its ability to sustain an emotive space within audiences and voters’ minds. The film will certainly be nominated for its screenplay and well as in acting categories for Ronan and Metcalf. Ronan has a great chance to win, with two previous nominations and a propensity to campaign. Most importantly, Greta Gerwig, whilst being snubbed at by the Globes, will certainly be nominated for Best Director with hopes to make her the second female director to win the award. This film could certainly make it all the way to Best Picture – that is, if a certain Spielberg film doesn’t swoop every damn award.
The Post – in cinemas January 11
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, a large portion of the most acclaimed films from the past forty-odd years)
Written by: Liz Hannah & Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson & Bob Odenkirk.
This film could completely sweep. Considered a late release within the Awards eligibility period, it truly seemed that an indie such as Lady Bird could hold strong against The Shape of Water. However, The Post seems a sure fire bet in sweeping this year’s awards. Spielberg’s biopic follows America’s first female newspaper publisher as she helps uncover President Nixon’s Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Whilst the film seems the most conventionally Oscar-y within this group of contenders, it also strongly reflects the female-centric cultural narrative which underpins 2017’s Awards Season. Not to mention that it’s a Spielberg-Streep-Hanks vehicle.
The Post, since it was shown to critic audiences in the U.S. earlier this month, has received early rave acclaim. Specifically, critics have praised the film’s direction (obviously) and performances by Streep (obviously) and Hanks (obviously). All three will certainly receive nominations for their efforts, with Hanks potentially obtaining his first nomination since Castaway in 2001. Streep, on the other hand, is nominated every year because that’s just what the Academy does (and this time, she’ll probably deserve it!). Steven Spielberg is possibly the most highly regarded director in history (over-reaching?) and could possibly win his fourth/fifth Academy Award next year. That is, if an ‘indie darling’ such as Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele doesn’t (deservedly) nab the award.
You may have already seen a few of these films throughout this year. Although some of them have flown under the radar in terms of their buzz, many have made their way into Awards Season conversation. Here are the films which might make their way back into your ‘to see’ list:
Of course, I couldn’t write at length about every film on this list – we are entirely spoiled with fantastic films this year. Here are some other films to look out for:
Further predictions to come, of course!