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Preview of Oscar Nominations

Adina Cazacu-De Luca, Reporter

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The World’s Adina Cazacu spent about 18 hours of her life watching this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Here are her reviews, from least to most recommended:


Dunkirk is a film of few words and intense action. That being said, the epic cinematography of the film is notable, and Harry Styles’ acting debut is respectable. An intense soundtrack sometimes stripped down to the barest clock ticking and heart pounding is effective, and the unorthodox timeline gives some depth to an otherwise straightforward genre film. Dunkirk is a movie that grabs your attention for 107 minutes, and afterwards makes you wonder how it did so.

Darkest Hour

Would a batch of Best Picture nominees be complete without a biopic of a major historical figure? Director Joe Wright juxtaposes the public persona of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the international face of Nazi resistance, with Churchill’s darker personal life, including depressive episodes and an marriage chock full of arguments. The film succeeds in this evaluation by spending its entirety in the five weeks prior to the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Some critics note the artistic license taken with Churchill’s daily life, but altogether the film is thought provoking and satisfying.

Phantom Thread

Here’s a different take on a love story. Set in the 1950’s, famous dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a “confirmed bachelor” completely absorbed in his work. That is, until he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes his muse and lover. However much Alma loves Woodcock, he loves his work more, and motifs of ambition and desire ensue. The film was pretty to watch, with (obviously) stunning costume design, but the pace of the film seemed slow and drawn out.

The Post

The Post tells the story of the Washington Post’s decision to publish portions of the Pentagon Papers, revealing highly classified information about the Vietnam war. Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) faces the power struggles that come from being the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and, along with editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), she takes on the U.S. Government in the fight for freedom of press. The subject matter of the Steven Spielberg film fits into the current political sphere well. Add in the star studded cast, meaningful and satisfying changes in cinematography, and The Post checks off most boxes on the “Typical Oscar Nominee” list.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards is a dark comedy about a grieving mother (Frances McDormand) who seeks justice for her teenage daughter’s rape and murder by buying the namesake three billboards. She uses these billboards to ask why the police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) has yet to find a lead in her daughter’s case. Willoughby’s less-than-sharp deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) character is flawed, at best, being racist, homophobic, and drunk on his own power. On a larger scale, his character represents the danger of unacknowledged privilege, and, although completely fictional, the film does a wonderful job at exposing the short of perfect racial tensions in our home sweet home state of “Missourah.”’ While the movie has flaws in its narrative, the strong female protagonist rises quite cathartically amidst the #MeToo movement of our time.

Call Me By Your Name

This coming of age film occurs in scenic Italy and doesn’t skimp on luscious landscapes shot in pastel. Besides being breathtaking to look at, the setting gives additional meaning to the plot, where 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s archaeology assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) slowly become friends… and then more than friends. However, the 7 year age gap between Elio and Oliver doesn’t feel strange. Moreover, it resembles the mentor-student relationships between Ancient Greeks, a reference which the movie alludes to well and often, with Greek aesthetic and ideals of male friendship being beautifully multifaceted. Additionally, the slow pace of the film builds tension between the two main characters. Altogether, “Call Me By Your Name” is a film dripping with nostalgia where viewers can attach their own first experiences with love and adulthood.

The Shape of Water

Director Guillermo del Toro mixes the ordinary and extraordinary in his film The Shape of Water, which tells a 1960’s love story between a mute member of a government lab cleaning staff named Eliza (Sally Hawkins) and the creature the lab is performing experiments on, known as “The Asset.” The love story between the two is made innocent and sweet with well placed musical outbreaks (yes, such a thing exists), beautiful color schemes and music, but their romance has a cloud lurking over it in the form of the film’s antagonist, Richard Strickland (Michael Strannon). Strickland owns the lab “The Asset” is held in and oozes all-American arrogance, frequently holding an electric cattle prod. This detail links the fantastical story to the reality of racial tension and oppressive power dynamics of the time. The balance struck between the run-of-the-mill and furthest stretches of one’s imagination in The Shape of Water makes it a unique and well made film.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a critically acclaimed coming-of age-film because it doesn’t try too hard to be much of anything. The plot line following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s (Saoirse Ronan) senior year seems genuine, and the humor is timeless. Ladybird attends a Catholic high school in Sacramento but dreams of studying in New York. Undertones of socioeconomic status and its strain on the McPherson family gives the film weight, as evidenced in most interactions between “Lady Bird” and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), whether it be shopping for prom dresses at Goodwill or more serious arguments about paying for college. I personally found the dynamic between “Lady Bird” and her mother as two women with “strong personalities” completely relatable. The main strength of this movie is its perfect portrayal of the teenage spirit, played by strong actors and conveyed through humor. Screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig took stereotypical tropes (the emo brother, the gay theater kid, the Catholic school girl who wears her skirt three inches too high) and ran in refreshingly new directions that allowed a theater full of teenagers, senior citizens, and everyone in between to laugh and cry together.

Get Out

Come see Get Out for the suspense; stay for the meaningful social commentary about modern race relations in America. Director Jordan Peele weaves comedy and commentary so tightly that whenever a viewer laughs, they immediately question the source of that humor. The epitome of this kind of laugh comes in the main character’s TSA Agent best friend (Lil Rel Howery). In “Get Out,” Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, but something seems off. Maybe it’s the eerily antiquated feeling that comes from entranced, black housekeeping staff, or perhaps the feeling originates from an extended family function with a single black attendee, whom the audience recognizes from an abduction in the opening scene. Get Outs biggest strength is its attention to detail, including Chris ironically digging into an armchair and picking out cotton filling in order to free himself (from what? You’ll have to watch the film). However, the bookends of the film ground it in reality: the opening scene features an unarmed black man being attacked after walking through a predominantly white neighborhood, and the arrival of a police car in the final scene puts the audience on edge. The most important question the audience should ask themselves as they watch these scenes is why?


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Preview of Oscar Nominations