Here’s another in our series of interviews with a swath of Academy voters from different branches for their candid thoughts on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued this year.
Best Picture of the Year
“The Shape of Water” has broad appeal, is a beautifully done film, and feels like a completed thought and singular vision from all categories and disciplines working together. “Get Out” is a very good and fun movie but not necessarily best picture material.
As far as omissions, “Victoria & Abdul,” came and went without the usual fanfare for Oscar nominations. I’m not sure why it was left out of most categories, including Judi Dench and Stephen Frears. Also, “Detroit” seemed like an early frontrunner and was mysteriously left out.
Also, in terms of the preferential system, I’m not sure of its effectiveness, it’s so hard to say one way or the other. And I have no problem with the Academy trying to be more inclusive of women and people of color: Artistic merit and raw talent wins out over all and is always color and gender blind.
Best Visual Effects
What I liked about “War for the Planet of the Apes” was the finesses and the aspiration to emotionally tell the story with the subtlety of performance. The greater the subtlety, the greater the amount of difficulty and cinematic art that needs to be generated to produce such an effect.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
The same holds true for “The Shape of Water”; I was disappointed it was overlooked. “Kong: Skull Island” was not as impressive as “The Shape of Water,” hence it should not have arguably been on the list in place of it. It was also marred by less impressive water-splashing simulations that covered up more impressive action. Also, the film did not try to transcend the characters beyond the sensational aspect of their size and battles. It was fine and good work, but it did not try as hard as “Apes” and “The Shape of Water” to emotionally move the audience beyond the quality of the effect itself.
“Blade Runner 2049” also had an impressive combination of art and execution at its core. The scene that tipped the scales involved a relationship with an artificially intelligent hologram trying to fulfill a physical relationship with Ryan Gosling’s character K. A very fine execution of a purely sci-fi idea that transcends the genre for an ordinary non sci-fi audience. Possibly “Blade Runner” will win, as more members will most likely see that movie over “Apes” and the visual component might be rewarded, like cinematography and production design.
The cinematography race is a tough one: very impressive films are competing. My favorites are “Blade Runner,” “Mudbound,” and “The Shape of Water,” in that order.
I think Roger Deakins’ imprint is on every frame where the photography creates the entire mood and atmosphere. As beautifully done as can be imagined that also transcends the medium into high art. “Mudbound” is also beautifully rendered with its cinematographer Rachel Morrison emerging as a huge talent.
“The Shape of Water” is perhaps the most complete film in every department, contributing to the whole experience. The camera, lighting, costume, directing, acting, and production design dovetails beautifully, creating the mood and tone of the fable.
“Dunkirk” is good and workmanlike but didn’t aspire to much greater than using 70mm to create the epic-like quality. I think the slavish dedication to photochemical limitations hurt its consistency in achieving what the other films were able to seamlessly create.
“Darkest Hour” was also beautifully done, but I felt the cinematography shone more than the seamless blend of “Mudbound” and some of the other films.