Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen “Darkest Hour,” “The Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Big Sick,” and “Victoria & Abdul.” Four of the six are contenders for Best Picture of the Year as judged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. This is the first year that I’ve seen more than one or two of the contenders, but chances are that I won’t be seeing the rest until they’re on Netflix or HBO.
If I were voting, “Call Me By Your Name” should win best picture based on the cinematography and writing, although “Three Billboards” was good in those areas, too. As for acting, Frances McDormand had me at the first shot, and Timothee Chalamet was a real contender with his understated but powerful performance as Elio, the pursuing/pursued teenager. That’s not to say there weren’t other worthy performances, including Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards” and Armie Hammer in “Call Me By Your Name,” but both Ms. McDormand and Mr. Chalamet were so good in crafting their parts and inhabiting their characters that they left the others behind, although Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” truly did bring powerful life to the story of Britain at their finest hour.
If special effects are important, then “The Shape of Water” would win, but the story was a big predictable, if not soggy, love story — the Creature from the Black Lagoon meets lonely girl — and didn’t go anywhere that you couldn’t figure out from the first few minutes. Kudos to Richard Jenkins for a great job as the supportive friend; he’s an actor who deserves more recognition.
As for “The Big Sick,” it’s a mash-up of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with a Pakistani twist and “Love Story” with a happier ending, and “Victoria & Abdul” is sumptuous and beautiful, but overlong and even Dame Judi Dench seemed to be tired of playing the queen.
So, what have you seen?