I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Academy Originals YouTube series, courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are well over 100 videos that cover filmmaker and celebrity insights, as well as what I love most, brief glances into the various crafts that come together to make a movie. The series dives into the work of screenwriters, cinematographers, composers, makeup artists, and so many more. Perhaps my favorite is the one I truly knew nothing about until I saw the video. What the heck are conlangers? You hear their work whenever you watch movies like Avatar or The Lord of the Rings, or watch a show like Game of Thrones. Learn about this interesting craft in under seven minutes.
Best Picture:Lady Bird Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya Animated Feature Film:Coco Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 Costume Design: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread Directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water Documentary (Feature):Icarus Documentary (Short Subject): “Heroin(e)” Film Editing: Lee Smith, Dunkirk Foreign Language Film:The Insult Makeup and Hairstyling: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick, Darkest Hour Music (Original Score): Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water Music (Original Song): Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, “Remember Me” (Coco) Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin, The Shape of Water Animated Short Film: “Revolting Rhymes” Live Action Short Film: “DeKalb Elementary” Sound Editing: Richard King and Alex Gibson, Dunkirk Sound Mixing: Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, and Mark Weingarten, Dunkirk Visual Effects: John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, and Richard R. Hoover, Blade Runner 2049 Writing (Adapted Screenplay): James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name Writing (Original Screenplay): Jordan Peele, Get Out
We live in a democracy. Majority rules, right? Not always. Not at the Oscars, anyway (necessarily). You’d think that the process of deciding the year’s Best Picture would be as clear-cut as to award the movie with the most votes. But it’s not, and hasn’t been since 2008. (It doesn’t necessarily work that way to determine the US President, so why should determining the year’s top movie be any different?)
In 2009, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) expanded its Best Picture nominations from five to 10 (now the number of nominees can be anywhere between 5 and 10), it reintroduced its preferential voting system, one that was last used from 1934 – 1945. The system is pretty complex, and with over 7,000 ballots to sort, it takes about a week for those famed accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers to determine the winners.
A few of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary short films are available free online (full versions below), while others are accessible on Netflix and HBO. Here’s how to watch all five.
IMDbdescription: Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart. Director: Laura Checkoway Runtime: 29 min.
You have enough on your plate. Nominee luncheons. Press releases. Etc. I get it. You don’t have time to watch all the nominated films. No worries. I’m pleased to step up to the plate, watch the movies, and offer my (informed) opinions. I know you’ve looked forward to this memo for the last nine years, so how could I possibly disappoint you by skipping a year? So attend your lunches and write your press releases lauding improved diversity numbers among your ranks. Leave the Oscars to me. I’ll take it from here.
The tradition continues. I’ve been documenting my top films of the year since 2002, when Bowling for Columbine took the top spot. This past year had some real gems, including those that made this list, as well as some that didn’t, like low-budget indie The Florida Project and large-scale blockbuster Beauty and the Beast. Check out my 2017 list, then tell me what made your list.
Two months ago, I encouraged several people to watch this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. My only instruction: have tissues handy. Hard-hitting themes ranged from Syria, to end-of-life decisions in an ICU, to Syria, to the Holocaust, to Syria.
So months before the White House fired its missiles in the direction of the Middle Eastern country this week, the Academy was providing us privileged folk sitting in soft recliners with varied perspectives on the crisis that’s happening halfway around the world—where instead of privilege there are regular shellings, and instead of soft recliners there are scared children. The nominated documentaries, “The White Helmets” (the eventual winner), “Watani: My Homeland,” and “4.1 Miles” each offer a completely different take on Syria’s civil war, and each gives us reason to care. This is essential viewing. Below I give a brief synopsis for each film, including the full version of “4.1 Miles.”