As we have done almost every year since 2012, Candice and I are on a quest to see as many of the “Best Picture” nominees as possible prior to the Academy Awards show on March 4th. Last year we were on a roll…and then life intervened, and we only saw four of the nine nominees. This year we’ll have to get them all in this month, as Candice will be otherwise occupied with hip replacement surgery on March 1st. So to get ahead of the game, we saw four pictures in four nights last weekend (and into Monday).
Our wonderful American Film Institute Silver Theatre here in Silver Spring has been showing five of the Best Picture nominees, so it was easy to go two blocks and drop in for a movie. All four that we’ve seen were excellent, each in its own way. Here’s our initial take (from two highly unqualified movie critics).
We both loved The Post, as much for what it says about the importance of a free press as for the quality of the film, although that was very high. It moves along at a quick pace, the ensemble acting is very good, and Meryl Streep is terrific as Katherine Graham. This is also a love letter to old-style newspaper production. (The views of the presses at work are worth the price of the film.) You should go see this one to remind yourself why democracy matters, and how easy it can be to lose it (as if you don’t already know that in 2018).
The very next night we saw Phantom Thread, which is a luscious film for the senses. Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible — as always — as the designer whose desire for order and perfection runs into love after he meets a waitress who refuses to fit into his mold. The pace is as slow as The Post’s is quick, but that’s okay. This won’t win the Best Picture award, but it is a movie worth seeing. We both enjoyed it a great deal.
For our third movie, we took in Lady Bird, the coming-of-age movie that introduced us to Saoirse Ronan in the title role where she is a deserving nominee for Best Actress. As with many such movies, it can be difficult to watch at times as teenagers move through those difficult years. The views of Sacramento throughout the film helped you move, along with Lady Bird, from thinking of the town as the “Midwest of California” to the point at the end of the film where every turn is magical. Again, I don’t think this will win the award, but we enjoyed the movie (as did our Claire).
Finally, we saw a film that I believe could very much be in the running to get the award: The Shape of Water. This story from the Cold War era and how the mute janitor Elisa (played with power by Sally Hawkins) finds out about the top secret project in her lab, kept us entranced throughout. Octavia Spencer — from last year’s wonderful Hidden Figures — is a joy any time she is on the screen. We didn’t know what to expect going into this film, and halfway through, we still weren’t sure where it was headed, but in the end it was very satisfying.
So there are our first four. We’re going to try to catch three or more over the upcoming holiday weekend, so keep reading (and watching). As always, comments on your favorites are always welcome.
More to come…