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4 March 2018

My Picks for the 2018 Academy Awards

Ahead of the Academy Awards ceremony each year, I try to watch as many films nominated for the Best Picture category as possible — this is easier some years than others, given the UK cinema release date schedule. This year, I watched the last remaining film on my list, which means I have now seen all nine films nominated for Best Picture, as well as most of the films that feature in the nominations in the other seven categories I consider in my own almost-annual 'Oscar picks' post.

Best Picture: Lady Bird [9/9 watched]
Of the nine films nominated, I really liked seven (I wasn't wowed by Darkest Hour or Phantom Thread) and of those, I found it very difficult to choose between Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards and Call Me By Your Name. This year's nominated films are so diverse and I loved them for different reasons. The Shape of Water and Dunkirk stayed with me for a long time after I watched them, but the understated but funny, moving, keenly observed and well-acted Lady Bird won me over in the end. As someone who graduated from high school around the same time as Lady Bird, albeit across the pond, I found that the movie rang very true and was a delight to watch. It sounds as though Three Billboards — or perhaps The Shape of Water — will win this tonight.

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water [5/5 watched]
Regular readers will know that Christopher Nolan is one of my all-time favourite directors and until I saw The Shape of Water, I couldn't imagine any film would persuade me to choose anything other than Dunkirk for my best director pick. And yet, Guillermo Del Toro won me over with his beautiful, enchanting and ethereal tale of love, communication...and amphibians. Like Dunkirk, this cinematic magic is best experienced on the big screen, if you have the chance.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [5/5 watched]
Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name [4/5 watched]
All five of the women nominated for Best Actress put in superb performances and I would be happy to see any of them take home the prize. My personal choice is also the likely winner — Frances McDormand, as the feisty, uncompromising Mildred in Three Billboards, whose strong performance anchors a sometimes uneven movie. In the Best Actor category, I have a different problem: I've only seen four of the films and wasn't overly enamoured by either Darkest Hour or Phantom Thread. I thought both Timothée Chalamet (my pick) and Daniel Kaluuya were great, but probably won't win (not this year, anyway), as it is Gary Oldman's year...

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird [4/5 watched]
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [3/5 watched]
Although I did enjoy Allison Janney's performance in I, Tonya (which will probably win), it was rather obvious and OTT, whereas Laurie Metcalf's quieter, more nuanced Marion McPherson — mother of the titular Lady Bird — was more interesting and complex. In the Best Supporting Actor category, although Sam Rockwell is likely to win for his role in Three Billboards, I thought his co-star Woody Harrelson was the stronger of the two. Again, Harrelson is more understated, but impressive nonetheless.

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out — written by Jordan Peele [5/5 watched]
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name — screenplay by James Ivory [3/5 watched]
It was a close call between Get Out and Lady Bird in the Best Original Screenplay category. I missed Get Out when it was first out in cinemas, but caught a recent screening at BAFTA and it entertained me greatly, while challenging my expectations. The script is sharp, funny and very, very dark. Over in Best Adapted Screenplay, despite my soft spot for Sorkin, I was a little underwhelmed by Molly's Game, while James Ivory's adaptation of Call Me by Your Name was by turns sweet, sharp, funny and sad, but always utterly engaging.

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