14 Feb 2018

At The Movies

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 14 February 2018

Simon Morris previews next month’s Academy Awards, assessing the chances of a diverse line-up of films vying for best picture.

A strong favourite is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starring Frances McDormand.

Dark, often hilarious, it has certainly divided the public. For some, Martin McDonagh’s film offers a wonderful, unpredictable journey with some tough, hard-to-like characters.

For others, it’s grossly insensitive – particularly regarding race in these troublous times – and doesn’t deserve the uncritical praise it’s getting.

I loved it, needless to say – partly because of the presence of Baby Boomer icon McDormand, but also because of wonderful support from Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and especially Sam Rockwell, as the possibly redeemable racist.

In Darkest Hour, written by Kiwi Antony McCarten, many critics favour the performance of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, which has earned him a lead actor nomination.

This isn’t the 'definitive Churchill' everyone keeps talking about, though. I’m not sure there’s any such thing, apart from Winnie himself. 

But it’s generally agreed it’s Gary Oldman’s lead actor Oscar and Bafta to lose. There’s not a lot of competition this year.

The Shape of Water, about a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a sea-creature being held in a secret government laboratory, is totally B-movie nuts.

But it’s given the old Jedi mind-trick of an A-Team cast, led by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones as the happy couple. 

If there were any justice Sally Hawkins should win every acting award going this year, for simply forcing us to believe for two entire hours. But of course there isn’t.

Allison Janney as Tonya Harding’s mother in I Tonya, nominated in the supporting actress category, is another likely Oscar-winner.

I Tonya is a flashy retelling of what turns out to be an unfamiliar tale of the US figure skater and the scandal of an attack that shattered her nearest rival's knee. It’s as much the story of when TV started going really bad as Tonya Harding’s tribulations.

The best things in it are Janney as Tonya’s monstrous mother, and Margot Robbie, nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Tonya Harding and debuting as producer. She's wonderful, but unlucky enough to be up against a very strong field this year.

Nominations for Best Picture:

Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The 90th Academy Awards take place on 4 March.

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