And the Oscar goes to...: Our Best Pic Picks
Ian Waldie - Get Out
There’s not a movie this year more deserving of Best Picture than Get Out. While the other nominees are nice stories, Get Out is a rich, unendingly deep, culturally relevant text. From the opening title card showcasing the frail yet dense looking woods to the movie’s triumphant end, there is just so much to this movie. I’ve seen it four times, and I find new things I love about with each re-watch. Director Jordan Peele takes concepts from both Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives and creates something completely his own, and it does not hurt that his voice as a black American reverberates throughout the entirety of the movie, without hesitation. I love the movie’s embrace of weirdness, walking the line between abject terrors and knowing silliness: we laugh nervously as the camera captures the mental breakdowns of Andre Hayworth and Georgina, the house’s maid, in extreme close-ups; we feel terrified as Chris’s mind becomes out of his control; and we feel relieved whenever Chris’s friend Rod is on screen, offering up some of the funniest lines in a horror movie since Shaun of the Dead. Peele is not afraid to make white people extremely uncomfortable, and it works in the movie’s favor so, so much. Who knows, maybe Moonlight winning last year is the beginning of a trend in which the Oscars actually award creative, culturally relevant art? It does not make sense for this movie to not win Best Picture, it just doesn’t. But alas, it’s the Academy, and they typically don’t let good things win. Here’s hoping though! One more thing: I think about Allison Williams manically eating deconstructed fruit loops almost daily.
Honorable mention: Call Me By Your Name is a wonderful romance that really captures the heart of an ephemeral, yet passionate and inevitable love affair. I would not be mad if it won.
Matt Linton - Get Out
2017 was a great year in film. From the ridiculous fun of Thor: Ragnarok or Baby Driver to the surprising depth and thoughtfulness of films like Lady Bird and The Shape of Water. Even films that didn’t 100% work for me (or I found outright disappointing) such as Mother! and Atomic Blonde had things to recommend them. All of that said, no film sparked as much genuine conversation and thought as the first feature from writer/director Jordan Peele. While the idea that you could watch Get Out and not even think about race is absurd (and I’ve seen that argument made), part of its brilliance is that it absolutely works as a straight-up horror film. Peele shows a mastery of the genre conventions as he builds tension and brings Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) face to face with a horror he’s entirely familiar with in a way that’s shockingly unfamiliar.
It would have been easy for Peele to make the villains of the piece the stereotypical white-hooded, cross-burning, Southern racists we learn about in school – presented as throwbacks to a backward era that we’ve thankfully moved on from. Instead, the villains are often those who are the closest to you. In this case it’s those who practice their racism in a million tiny ways while purporting to be “good people”. And it’s this that makes Get Out such a phenomenal film. The subversion of expectations makes both the horror and the social method that much more effective. It’s a film that’s equal parts Rosemary’s Baby and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and has been as immediately impactful as those films. And all of that is without even getting into the strength of the performances, from Kaluuya, Bradley Whitford, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, and Betty Gabriel or the score by Michael Abels. I’ve also seen the argument that, while Get Out is great, it’s not “Best Picture” or “Oscar” great. If it isn’t, I’d argue that says more about what’s considered Oscar-worthy than it does about the quality of Get Out.
Shelby Cadwell - Lady Bird
Can I confess something? I never watch the Oscars. Like, never. Almost every year I haven't seen more than one or two of the Best Picture nominees, which always makes it really hard to get into the spirit of things. As a fan of genre films, the Oscars have always felt to me like some exclusive club that I wouldn't really fit in to. This year, though, feels different. Between the nomination of a horror film (Get Out), a fantasy (The Shape of Water), and the rare indie slice-of-life film that I don't find intolerably cloying (Lady Bird), I actually have OPINIONS about this year's Best Picture race. Unfortunately, though, I absolutely CANNOT reach a decision about which of the three above mentioned films I want to win. If I was an Academy member, I have no idea about how I'd even begin to rank them. But, just to spoil the consensus between Matt and Ian (sorry, guys), I'm going to go with Lady Bird. I've positively reviewed the film for the blog before, so I'm not going to go into great detail about why it is my Best Pic choice, but I will say that the quiet chemistry between Saoirse Ronan and every other cast member is alone reason enough to make this film a serious contender. That being said, I would also be incredibly happy if Get Out or The Shape of Water won, as well. Given my past luck with predicting Oscar winners, though, the award will probably go to Dunkirk or something.