2017 Oscar Nominations Prediction

shapeofwater

Here we are. Another year, another set of foolish predictions…

Best Picture

  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • If there are six nominees: Call Me By Your Name
  • If there are seven nominees: The Post
  • If there are eight nominees: The Florida Project
  • If there are nine nominees: The Big Sick
  • If there are ten nominees: Darkest Hour 

My official prediction would be eight nominees, though It seems like every film outside of the top five could easily falter and be left off the list, doesn’t it? Could this be the first year since the category was expanded to fit any number between 5 and 10 nominees that we only get five nominees? Anything is possible in this crazy year.

Director

  • Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
  • Sean Baker (The Florida Project)
  • Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
  • Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)
  • Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Jordan Peele, nominated by the Directors Guild already, seems like a very good possibility. And I can see Spielberg getting in if The Post gains the momentum it’s lacked all season. But a surprise nomination for The Florida Project’s Sean Baker (who strikes me as in-line with the kind of surprise nominee we’ve gotten in the past – think of Benh Zeitlin or Lenny Abrahamson) just seems like too good a prediction to pass.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
  • James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

James Franco is one of the latest actors to be accused of sexual misconduct. The accusations could be enough to kick him out of competition, even if he has been getting nominations left and right this season. However, Casey Affleck won last year, and front-runner Gary Oldman’s past behavior hasn’t affected his chances this year. Franco’s scandal broke right in the middle of voting. I think he might have gotten enough votes for a nomination by the time the accusations came to light.

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
  • Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
  • Meryl Streep (The Post)

The Post has been doing surprisingly poorly this award season. Maybe because it came out so late in the game, maybe because people are just not into it? We won’t really be able to tell until the nominations are revealed. Even then, it would be insane if Meryl Streep (Oscar’s favorite actress) gets passed over for what is clearly the best work she’s done in at least ten years. I mean, her last two nominations were for Into the Woods and Florence Foster Jenkins for God’s sake!

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
  • Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
  • Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
  • Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

We haven’t had two actors from the same movie nominated in this category since 1991, but double nominees were pretty common in the seventies and eighties. For a while, it seemed like we were gonna get two actors from Call Me By Your Name nominated, but the tide has turned in favor of the Three Billboards fellas instead. I still think Michael Stuhlbarg (from Call Me By Your Name) could score a surprise nomination, but not strongly enough to bet on it.

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
  • Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
  • Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
  • Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

I think there’s room for some surprises in this category. Hong Chau has been nominated for a number of awards, but are people watching the badly reviewed Downsizing? Maybe a last minute entry by Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread? Or maybe breakout star Tiffany Haddish for Girl’s Trip? Hey, a man can dream.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • Get Out (Jordan Peele)
  • Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
  • The Post (Liz Hannah, Josh Singer)
  • The Shape of Water (Guillermo Del Toro, Vanessa Taylor)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh)

This really depends on whether The Post has found any kind of favor with Academy voters after an iffy performance at the early award shows. The Big Sick and I, Tonya have both done really well this season, but there’s something about them (maybe the fact that they’re comedies) that makes me think they will falter at the face of the big front-runners

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • Call Me By Your Name (James Ivory)
  • The Disaster Artist (Michael H. Weber, Scott Neustadter)
  • Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin)
  • Mudbound (Dee Rees, Virgil Williams)
  • Wonder (Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad, Jack Thorne)

Four nominees have been clear in this category for a long time now. The question on everyone’s mind is who takes the fifth spot. Logan has some buzz, but superhero movies never get nominated in writing categories. Victoria and Abdul has the makings of a typical Oscar movie, but who’s talking about that joint? I’ve landed on Wonder, considering it’s based on a very popular novel and has been a surprisingly huge box office hit.

Cinematography

  • Blade Runner 2049 (Roger Deakins)
  • Darkest Hour (Seamus McGarvey)
  • Dunkirk (Hoyte van Hoytema)
  • Mudbound (Rachel Morrison)
  • The Shape of Water (Dan Lausten)

The least secure of these nominations is the most exciting one. Rachel Morrison could become the first woman to ever be nominated in this category. That’s right. Ever. I say it’s about damn time. We’ll see if the Academy can overcome its supposed anti-Netflix bias and give her the nomination.

Costume Design

  • Beauty and the Beast (Jacqueline Durran)
  • I, Tonya (Jennifer Johnson)
  • Phantom Thread (Mark Bridges)
  • The Shape of Water (Luis Sequeira)
  • Wonder Woman (Lindy Hemming)

Showy costumes do best in this category. I don’t think I’m making any bold predictions here. Superhero movies never get nominated here, but Wonder Woman has been specifically praised for its tasteful Amazonian costumes. I do wonder if Shape of Water‘s costumes aren’t showy enough for the category. They could get replaced with something really showy. Like The Greatest Showman.

Film Editing

  • Dunkirk (Lee Smith)
  • Get Out (Gregory Plotkin)
  • The Post (Michael Kahn)
  • The Shape of Water (Sidney Wolinsky)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Jon Gregory)

Baby Driver and Blade Runner 2049 are big spectacles that could easily get nominated here, but Film Editing tends to line up with Best Picture, and these five movies just seem like obvious Editing contenders to me. I would certainly be sad if the flawless tension-building of Get Out or the slow burn of The Post get passed over for the obvious editing indulgences of something like Baby Driver. 

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Bright 
  • Darkest Hour
  • Wonder 

This category has a deep love for critically panned blockbusters, nominating The Lone Ranger and last year’s winner Suicide Squad. That’s why I think David Ayer’s God-awful Bright is a shoo-in for a nomination. Judging by the Academy’s short-list (which controversially excluded The Shape of Water), I’d expect either Wonder or I, Tonya to nab the third slot.

Music (Original Score)

  • Darkest Hour (Dario Marianelli)
  • Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer)
  • Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood)
  • The Post (John Williams)
  • The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)

Is this finally the year Jonny Greenwood gets an Oscar nomination? The music branch is notorious for hermetically nominating its favorites over and over again while leaving out newcomers and outsiders. They’ve shown a tendency toward inclusion in recent years, which gives me hope for good ol’ Jonny.

Music (Original Song)

  • “Mighty River” (Mudbound)
  • “The Mystery of Love” (Call Me By Your Name)
  • “Remember Me” (Coco)
  • “Stand Up for Something” (Marshall)
  • “This is Me” (The Greatest Showman)

I don’t have much to say about this category, except that I really hope that lame power-ballad from Beauty and the Beast doesn’t get nominated.

Production Design

  • Beauty and the Beast (Sarah Greenwood)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (Dennis Gassner)
  • Dunkirk (Nathan Crowley)
  • The Post (Rick Carter)
  • The Shape of Water (Paul Austenberry)

I don’t think I have much to say about this one. This seems like a pretty save group to me. Maybe Darkest Hour makes an intrusion? But at the expense of which one?

Sound Mixing

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Wonder Woman

I could see any of these -except Dunkirk– be left out for Baby Driver. 

Sound Editing

  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

And I can see any of these -except Dunkirk– be left out for Wonder Woman. So, basically, there are six contenders in these sound categories.

Visual Effects

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk
  • Okja
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes 

The Shape of Water is a favorite for Best Picture, and obvious contender in this category… except that it doesn’t feature that much (obvious) visual effects work. The design of the creature at the center of the film is a makeup achievement, and he only appears a couple times as a CG character. That’s why I’m thinking it is left out of competition, and replaced with the outstanding character work on display in Okja. It might be wishful thinking (Okja has the best effects of the year, if you ask me). Or then again, it might not.

Animated Feature

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner 
  • Coco
  • Loving Vincent 
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower 

That’s right! Academy Award nominee The Boss Baby. And in this rather weak year for mainstream animation, it would be more than deserved.

Foreign Language Film

  • A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
  • Foxtrot (Israel)
  • In the Fade (Germany)
  • Loveless (Russia)
  • The Wound (South Africa)

The only potentially controversial thing about these predictions is the fact that I’m leaving Palme D’Or winner The Square off the list. But The Square is a very uncomfortable and very dark comedy, and director Ruben Ostlund’s last big hit (and similarly awkward) Force Majeure failed to get nominated a couple years ago. Judging by what’s been short-listed by the Academy, these five seem like an obvious line-up.

Documentary Feature

  • City of Ghosts 
  • Faces, Places
  • Icarus 
  • Jane
  • Last Men in Aleppo 

I worry that Faces, Placesbeing one of my favorite films of the year, and a pretty low-key documentary compared to all these “big issue” movies- won’t get nominated. I’m crossing my fingers as hard as I can.

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Paddington 2: The Best Superhero Movie of the Decade

paddington 2

Paddington 2 is the best superhero movie I’ve seen in a long time.

Bear with me.

Paddington might not be a household name in America, but he is one of Britain’s most beloved children’s literature characters. The Paddington books were written by Michael Bond and first published in 1958. Inspired by the image of British children evacuating London with labels around their necks during World War II, Bond introduces Paddington as an orphaned bear wandering Paddington train station (hence the name) with a label around his neck that reads “Please take care of this bear”. He is found, named, and eventually adopted by the Browns, a perfectly lovely family.

Those origins -plus the machinations of a villainous taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman- make up the plot of the first Paddington movie, which was first released in 2014. Co-written and directed by Paul King, this first movie is a complete delight. An all-around lovely story about a British family opening their home (and hearts) to a furry immigrant. That’s right, Paddington is an immigrant. He comes, like me, from Darkest Peru (or in my case, more like Whitest Peru). At the time, I described the movie as an argument against xenophobia in this very blog. It seemed to me like a prescient message at the time, and that was early 2015. A lot has changed since then.

Since then, we’ve seen a rise in dangerous nationalism across Europe, we’ve seen Britain vote to leave the European Union, and we’ve seen a deplorable reality show host become the President of the United States. The world seems more hateful than it had in quite a while. Then along comes a movie like Paddington 2, which catches up with the bear, who in the years since the first movie, has not only been adopted by the Browns, but by his diverse neighborhood. At a crucial moment, the Browns defend their love of Paddington to resident bear-hater Mr. Curry by claiming “Paddington sees the best in people, and that’s why he makes friends everywhere he goes.” It’s a quaint message, but these days it rings like a radical statement.

In terms of structure, the sequel is happy to take its cues from the first movie. From the treatment of the villain and his motivations (Kidman’s taxidermist is replaced with a greedy actor played by Hugh Grant), to setting up a specific hobby for each of the Browns that comes handy when they band together to rescue Paddington in the grand finale. The movie is setting the stage for a series of sequels by locking in a formula, and that’s fine. Not only would sequels to these lovely movies be more than welcome, when it comes down to it, whatever Paddington 2 lacks in the story department it makes up for with visual cleverness.

Paul King returns as director, and he makes a good case for being treated as the great next comedy director. Unlike most CGI creatures derived from children’s books, who tend to wisecrack and fart when they migrate to the screen, Paddington is envisioned as a more timeless comedic presence. He is naive and good-hearted, a callback to the well-meaning but often clueless heroes of silent cinema. A stand-out sequence in which Paddington has a go at being a barber is right out of a Chaplin short. There are references to Modern Times, and other silent classics, including the film’s climax, which features a steam train chase, just like in the best action movie of the silent era, The General.

And this is where the superhero part comes in. Perhaps the biggest irony in our current fascination with superheroes is that while these heroes profess to stand for justice and peace, they surely love to solve their problems through extreme violence. This is true of even the good superhero movies, like last year’s Wonder Womanwhich presented us with a positively kind-hearted hero, then dispatched her to kick some ass on the trenches of World War I. One of the most shocking attributes of Paddington 2 is how much it is a movie about solving problems through dialogue, kindness, and as little violence as possible. And not just because this is a family movie, this is a philosophy that the movie seems to truly believe in.

The clearest example of this comes when Paddington takes his kindness to prison. He is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and is sent to jail. But when he is put in the big house, with a bunch of rough and rugged men, the little bear turns one of the harshest and most toxically masculine environments imaginable into a perfectly lovely place, complete with flowers, pastries, and bedtime stories. This is when I first thought of Paddington as a superhero. His superpower, like Mr. Brown says, is “seeing the best in people.” And often, the best in people is their vulnerability. Would there be xenophobia, toxic nationalism, and “shithole” comments if we allowed ourselves to be truly vulnerable? Not all superheroes wear capes. Some of them are covered in fur, wear a red hat, and a stylish blue coat.

Best Movie Writing of the Week (Jan. 12 2018)

kylo ren

I don’t know how much movie writing I’ll be doing this year, so I thought I’d at least share the best of what I’ve been reading.

Paradise Lost, Regained
Eric Hynes chimes in with a review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Reverse Shot. He articulates the tension felt by many (including myself), at seeing a movie that argues for “letting old things die” within a decades-old franchise that insists on dominating our culture better than anyone I’ve read so far.

“See you around, kid,” old-thing Luke says to [Kylo Ren], triumphantly channeling Humphrey Bogart via Ren’s vanquished father, Han Solo, quickly confirming that old things don’t ever really die, they hang around as memory and sentimentality, invocation and documentation, bad smells and madeleines, haunting our dreams, stabbing at your conscience, and forging afterlives among, between, and despite intellectual properties. Yet Ren’s proposal [to “let old things die”] still hangs in the air as the defining moment of the film, and of this third Star Wars trilogy to date. Having these young protagonists enact ambivalence about their inheritance rhymes with a filmmaking enterprise wrestling with the same.

11 Offenses of 2017
Also on Reverse Shot, one of my most cherished year-in-review traditions, the Offenses list, in which many of the smartest film critics in the country chime in about the most, for the lack of a better term, overrated movies of the year. Even though I disagree with some of the takes, there’s always truth in what these thoughtful minds have to say. This year, entries include Baby Driver, Wonder Woman, and the wonderful Nick Davis on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (quoted below).

Sadly, the movie feels incoherent even on its own hermetic, rhetorically extravagant terms. It’s not for lack of potential: the catalyzing act by Mildred (Frances McDormand) furnishes a provocative premise, and the script charts her a gutsy course from principled protest to a reckless pursuit of vengeance—any vengeance. As written, she’s as debased as the local cohort. But along the way, writer/director Martin McDonagh seems to have fallen in love with her, and even more queasily with Sam Rockwell’s moronic bigot police deputy.

The Cinephilliacs: Moments Out of Time (Podcast)
For the sixth year in a row, Cinephilliacs podcast host Peter Labuza and film critic Keith Uhlich count down their favorite movies of the year. Only this year, the first half is different. Instead of doing a traditional ten through six part of the countdown, they pick “Moments Out Of Time within often good (though perhaps bad) films that surprised, challenged, and delighted.” There is interesting conversations about many films, including The Lost City of Z, The Beguiled, and Girl’s Trip. Here is a taste of what Labuza had to say about Steven Spielberg’s The Post

I heard some critiques: “we don’t really learn much about what’s in the pentagon papers”. But the one thing that we do learn -and I think this is made explicit at one point- is someone says that there is nothing really int his first publishing on Nixon. It’s all about what was going on during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations. And this is why the film is about Kay Graham, and not abut the journalists writing. We don’t really see the journalists doing that much reporting compared to a film like Spotlight. We see a little but the focus is really on Kay Graham and this institution, and how this institution is wrapped up in financial, political, and other powers; and how it actually works as the fourth estate.

Slate Movie Club 2017
Another beloved year-end (year-beginning?) tradition is the week-long Movie Club series of essays over at Slate. This year, film critic Dana Stevens is joined by author Mark Harris, and film critics Amy Nicholson and K. Austin Collins to talk about the year in film. There is a lot of great writing in this series, including Amy Nicholson on The Greatest Showmanand K. Austin Collins on Tom CruiseBelow, some of what Nicholson had to say about that infamous circus musical:

Sobered up, I’ve concluded that I wasn’t crying at The Greatest Showman—I was crying for it. Jackman’s attempt to revive the florid studio musical was as doomed as a heroine coughing blood into her hankie […] I hate to acknowledge that critics lock into groupthink, but it’s the kind of movie that has to work twice as hard just to make people admit it’s OK. The worst thing about Rotten Tomatoes and #FilmTwitter is that entire genres get deemed lame—especially anything embarrassingly romantic. On the whole, Rotten Tomatoes recoils from vulnerability like it just got tricked into watching a topless scene with its mom. The word weepie gets flung around like an insult, but what’s shameful about something skillfully making you cry? It’s milking the emotion it was designed to squeeze, no different than a horror film that makes you jump.

Who Will Win the Golden Globes (2017)?

shapeofwater

I usually don’t make “official” predictions for the Golden Globes (because I’m usually wrong), but I’m bored at home and have nothing better to do. Now, the Golden Globes have long been considered a good barometer to know who’s going to win the Oscar, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which is the organization who awards the Globes) has been faltering lately. Even if Moonlight won the Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama last year, the big winner of the night was La La Landwhich took home a record-breaking seven trophies. We all know how that story ended. Before that, The Revenant and Boyhood had good nights at the Globes before going on to lose the Oscar. This is all to say that anything that happens this Sunday should be taken with a grain of salt. The good news is that the Globes are notorious for making weird, surprising choices when picking their winners, so no matter who wins this year, the Oscar race should stay as open and unusual as it’s so far been.

Best Picture – Drama

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Dunkirk
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is probably the hardest category to predict -a result of an open wide race for Best Picture. I could see any of these nominees taking the win (except maybe Call Me By Your Name). Shape of Water has the most nominations, Three Billboards is the only one who’s been consistent at getting nominated at most major award shows, Dunkirk is the only giant hit in the bunch, and The Post is a movie about journalism directed by Steven Spielberg (this is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, after all).
Will Win: The Post 
I’d Vote For: The Post 

Best Picture – Comedy or Musical

  • The Disaster Artist
  • Get Out
  • The Greatest Showman
  • I, Tonya
  • Lady Bird

Is Get Out a comedy? The decision to nominate it as such had a lot of people very angry (at least on Twitter), and may or may not play a factor on who the Globes decide to vote for. A win could signal that they take the movie seriously, or a loss might be better in order to avoid controversy altogether? No matter which movie wins, we’ll be probably reading too much into it, since -with a screenplay nomination- voters seem to simply like Lady Bird best of the bunch
Will Win: Lady Bird
I’d Vote For: Lady Bird 

Best Animated Feature

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand
  • Loving Vinent 

It hasn’t been a particularly strong year for mainstream animation, and this category seems all sewn up for Coco. In a just world, an independent gem like The Breadwinner would put up a fight for the win, but I’m afraid it just hasn’t been seen by enough people.
Will Win: Coco
I’d Vote For: The Breadwinner 

Lead Actor – Drama

  • Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
  • Tom Hanks (The Post)
  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
  • Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Common sense points toward Gary Oldman, who put on a ton of makeup to play Winston Churchill, but Darkest Hour isn’t nominated anywhere else (not here, and not at any other award show so far). Could this be an opening for someone in a movie with more buzz? Film Twitter would love a Chalamet win (is he too young?), or maybe a surprise nod for America’s dad Tom Hanks?
Will Win: Gary Oldman
I’d Vote For: Timothee Chalamet

Lead Actor – Comedy or Musical

  • Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes)
  • Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver)
  • James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
  • Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

Don’t ask me how Ansel Elgort managed to get nominated here, because I have no idea. This award seems to have Franco’s name written all over it, since he’s a big star and his impression of Tommy Wisseau is the most “performancy” of the bunch. Watch out for a surprise win for Kaluuya, though, if Get Out is truly strong.
Will Win: James Franco
I’d Vote For: Daniel Kaluuya

Lead Actress – Drama

  • Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game)
  • Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
  • Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Meryl Streep (The Post)
  • Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World)

This one looks like a three way race, and may be a good indicator of which movie’s ahead in the Best Picture category. Sally Hawkins does a lovely job in a movie that we know is beloved by Globe voters, McDormand is a beloved veteran who has been nominated many times but hasn’t won a Globe before, and Meryl is… well, she’s Meryl, and she’s truly beloved by this group, holding the record for most nominations in history.
Will Win: Meryl Streep
I’d Vote For: Meryl Streep

Lead Actress – Comedy or Musical

  • Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul)
  • Helen Mirren (The Leisure Seeker)
  • Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
  • Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes)

Saoirse Ronan seemed to have this award in the bag until a recent (and unexpected) wave of nominations for I, Tonya at a number of other award shows. Margot Robbie is a big star (and the Globes love their stars), but Saoirse has been nominated before, and is a total charmer. Here’s hoping she’s got enough juice to win (and maybe go on to the Oscar win?)
Will Win: Saoirse Ronan
I’d Vote For: Saoirse Ronan

Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
  • Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
  • Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
  • Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Willem Dafoe has been sweeping awards from the critics groups this season and looks the most like a lock to win the Oscar, but this is the only nomination for The Florida Project and the Globes are notorious for doing crazy things. Could Christopher Plummer take this just for the novelty of stepping in and reshooting a role originally played by Kevin Spacey in just a couple weeks?
Will Win: Willem Dafoe
I’d Vote For: Willem Dafoe

Supporting Actress

  • Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
  • Hong Chau (Downsizing)
  • Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
  • Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

I’ve considered Laurie Metcalf the winner of this award for a while now, but I’m starting to doubt myself. Recent buzz for I, Tonya make me think Allison Janney has a legit shot (she’s been nominated six times but never won a Golden Globe), and having finally caught up with Downsizing, Hon Chau’s seems like the kind of performance the Globes could respond to.
Will Win: Laurie Metcalf
I’d Vote For: Laurie Metcalf

Director

  • Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)
  • Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
  • Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World)
  • Steven Spielberg (The Post)

Otherwise known as the “white dude” award, this race seems as open for possibility as any. Even Ridley Scott could take this one, for swapping Spacey for Plummer at the last minute. As far as who’s most likely to win, I go back and forth between Christopher Nolan and Guillermo Del Toro. The Globes like to honor big visual achievements in this category, and both their movies fit the bill.
Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro
I’d Vote For:
Steven Spielberg 

Screenplay

  • Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
  • Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin)
  • The Post (Liz Hannah, Josh Singer)
  • The Shape of Water (Guillermo Del Toro, Vanessa Taylor)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh)

The Globes clearly loved Three Billboards, and Martin McDonagh being most known as a playwright, this seems like the most likely place to give it a little love. They did get a lot of flack for failing to nominate Greta Gerwig for Best Director, which could give her the edge in this category?
Will Win: Three Billboards
I’d Vote For: Lady Bird 

Original Score

  • Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer)
  • Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood)
  • The Post (John Williams)
  • The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carter Burwell)

This category could go any which way, but I’m thinking this is probably the safest place to give an award to the movie with the most nominations. The Shape of Water it is, then!
Will Win: The Shape of Water
I’d Vote For: Phantom Thread 

Original Song

  • “Home” (Ferdinand)
  • “Mighty River” (Mudbound)
  • “Remember Me” (Coco)
  • “The Star” (The Star)
  • “This is Me” (The Greatest Showman)

The Globes have a weird track record in this category. They famously didn’t award “Let It Go” a couple years ago (they gave it to a U2 song written for the forgotten Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). The same songwriters who wrote “Let It Go” did “Remember Me”, so maybe there’s a make-up win in the works? But then again, the Globes love to award pop stars, and they have two to choose from this year (Mariah Carey co-wrote “The Star”, and Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige did “Mighty River”).
Will Win: “Mighty River”
I’d Vote For: Can I abstain?

Foreign Film

  • A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
  • First They Killed My Father (Cambodia)
  • In the Fade (Germany)
  • Loveless (Russia)
  • The Square (Sweden)

Cambodian drama First They Killed My Father has already been left out of the Oscar’s shortlist for Foreign Film, but it was directed by Angelina Jolie, and like I said, the Globes do love their movie stars.
Will Win: First They Killed My Father
I’d Vote For: I’ve only seen two of the nominees so far.

The Best Movies of 2017

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This has been a great year for cinema and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Next time someone comes with their “tv is better than the movies” nonsense, just take a deep breath and feel sorry for the fool. They’re simply missing out. Sure, you won’t get much out of the movies if you live on a diet of Marvel movies, but take a gamble on a smaller release and chances are you’re about to see something really interesting. At leas that was the case for me in 2017, which shaped up to be a particularly strong year for American cinema. So much so that I’m afraid my top ten (and my top five especially) might at first glance look a little “basic.” I tend to go off the beaten path with my year-end lists, but not even I could argue with some of this year’s critical favorites.

Because it’s been a particularly strong year, because I saw more than ten movies that I loved, and because I’m afraid people won’t give a hoot about them if I just list them in some sort of runners-up list, I’ve decided to change things up a little. Each movie in my Top Ten will be accompanied by a “Companion Film”, meaning another great movie from this year, that happens to share thematic, genre, or artistic ties with the main entry. Ten is just an arbitrary number, after all, and a cinematic year like this is worth celebrating.

Before we get started, a few clarifications on eligibility. Movies that I saw at the New York Film Festival but were not release to a general public in 2017 will have to wait until next year to qualify in the list. This includes Lucrecia Martel’s excellent Zama, which will no doubt be mentioned in the post I write a year from now. Movies like A Fantastic Womanwhich got a one week qualifying run will also have to wait until next year, when they actually open in more than one city and for more than one week. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the list!    

The Ten Best Movies of 2017:

ladybird11. Lady Bird
(dir. Greta Gerwig / 93 min. / USA)
The greatest thing about Greta Gerwig’s delightful directorial debut is that it’s both incredibly specific and incredibly generous. It’s not only the relationship between Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) that feels complicated, multi-faceted and honest. It’s also the other members of her family, her class-mates, the actors who appear in only one scene, even the town of Sacramento. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t forget that everybody is the protagonist of their own story, even if the movie’s main character is a self-absorbed teenager. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Every teenager is ridiculous and self-absorbed. One can only hope that, from the outside, our teenage selves seemed as adorably lost as Lady Bird.
Companion Film: With an even more difficult and troubled female protagonist stomping through California, Ingrid Goes West makes a sort of evil twin to Lady Bird, one that is hilarious and relentless in its portrayal of mental illness in the age of social media.

goodtime32. Good Time
(dir. Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie / 101 min. / USA)
Hats off to the Safdie brothers, and their miraculous accomplishment. It’s truly bizarre that a movie as drenched in masculinity as this one ends up as one of my favorites. With a perfectly lean script and flawless command of camera, score, and editing, Good Time comes in like a runaway train. We see two brothers rob a bank and before we know it, we’ve spent one long and stressful night led by Robert Pattinson’s unstoppable performance. What starts out as one of the most thrilling movies of the year ends up as one of the most specific and effective critiques of white male privilege ever committed to film.
Companion Film: Another brilliant story about New York brothers, albeit in a completely different tone is Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz StoriesIt’s a far more comedic film, but it doesn’t make it any less poignant in its interrogation of family relationships, or daring in its bold structural choices.

ghoststory23. A Ghost Story
(dir. David Lowery / 92 min. / USA)
If you’re going to have Casey Affleck in your movie, at least have the decency to cover his face with a bed sheet for most of it. Alright, enough comedy! I’m here to tell you Lowery and his collaborators have accomplished something truly special here. What starts out as a movie about a grieving wife turns into a story about a lonely ghost and ends up going into places so unexpected I wouldn’t dream of spoiling them. This was no doubt the most unique experience I had at the movies this year. And to those who complain, saying that a mid-film monologue spells things out too much, well, I’m sad you’ve so wildly misinterpreted this movie.
Companion Film: Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper is a less grandiose but equally daring companion piece to A Ghost Story. Instead of focusing on the ghost, it centers on the mourner; a young woman waiting for a signal from the afterlife. Kristen Stewart shines in the main role, especially during what’s already the most iconic texting sequence in cinema history.

princesscyd4. Princess Cyd
(dir. Stephen Cone / 96 min. / USA)
Princess Cyd is a lovely story about two women. A single writer who has spent the last few years more focused on her work than on her relationships, and a teenager with a tragic past who is discovering her sexuality. They spend the summer together and learn a few things about themselves along the way. Sounds cheesy, but it is not. The trick is in the details. This is a movie about the experience of being human, and director Stephen Cone focuses on that. On the food that we eat, the light of the sun, the flowers in the garden, the textures of our clothes. This is one of the most delicate and warm version of such a story I have ever seen.
Companion Film: Another movie about a summer of love is Call Me By Your NameDirector Luca Guadagnino adopts a deliberate and relaxed tone, and like Cone, crafts a gay romance that escapes the cliched dramatics of the genre.

floridaproject55. The Florida Project
(dir. Sean Baker / 111 min. / USA)
I’ve thought a lot about Sean Baker’s movie since I saw it at the New York Film Festival, and I only grow more and more impressed by the way in which he balances the tone. On one hand a gripping portrait of poverty in the dingiest part of Florida, on the other a loud and hilarious movie about an incredibly obnoxious child and her troubled mother. I think about what this movie accomplishes and I wonder: How can a movie be strident and subtle at the same time? How can it be shouting in your face one minute, then indirectly present you with a profound detail in the most understated fashion?
Companion Film: Bong Joon-ho’s Okja might seem like an odd companion, but if you think about it, these are both tonally bold movies about social issues told from the perspective of a resilient little girl who just won’t give up.

getout46. Get Out
(dir. Jordan Peele / 104 min. / USA)
Jordan Peele’s debut as a feature filmmaker might rank fourth on this list, but it is undoubtedly the movie of the year. I don’t have to tell you things aren’t going great in America right now, but maybe I have to remind you how Get Out -thanks to Peele’s incisive screenplay and an excellent cast- became relevant in a way virtually no movie had been this decade. The satire about black bodies trapped in the horrifically white suburbs was a phenomenon for a reason. A movie this sharp, this effective, that captures the current mood so perfectly is nearly impossible to come by. It became an event, and it was an achievement.
Companion Film: Also exploring American identities through B-movie sensibilities, Sofia Coppola was accused of whitewashing history. The absence of black characters in The Beguiled speaks volumes. This is a dark and incisive exploration of white southern womanhood dressed up in a delightfully pulpy package.

7. The Lost City of Z lostcityofz7
(dir. James Gray / 141 min. / USA)
A rare movie. Not only because it’s an unabashedly old-fashioned story about an old-timey explorer’s journey into the Amazon, but because it’s a kind of movie that comes only once in a generation. This movie is a mystery. As if director James Gray didn’t quite know what he was trying to accomplish with it, but he felt something. Whatever is was, he felt if it so strongly he had to follow that instinct and put it on screen. The last fifteen minutes of The Lost City of Z are some of the most magical moments I experienced at the cinema all year. It’s a movie that exists as a bridge between our dreadful world and the land of dreams. Movie magic.
Companion Film: In Mudbounddirector Dee Rees complicates a generational epic about two families in the American South -an epic of the kind that rarely gets made anymore- and emerges with a gigantically moving film.

hermia&helena68. Hermia & Helena
(dir. Matías Piñeiro / 87 min. / Argentina, USA)
Everyone who’s moved to a foreign country -including myself- at some points refers to their life back home as feeling like a dream. What’s more, we know that if we ever went back, then our lives abroad will become the dream and home will feel, once again, like reality. This odd feeling is perfectly captured in Hermia & Helena. Matías Piñeiro is one of the most exciting directors to emerge this decade. With just a handful of films he’s established a unique voice. His movies are short, playful, and full of life. He finds inspiration in Shakespeare’s comedies, which is only appropriate for someone with an appetite for subplots, tangents, and all kinds of structural games. Someone who is unafraid to turn cinema into play.
Companion Film: Both Shakespeare and Piñeiro understand how strange love can be, and with Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas Anderson follows suit. Set in the world of fifties high fashion, the movie plays like a cross between Scenes from a Marriage and Fifty Shades of Grey. A twisted rom-com if there ever was one.

post109. The Post
(dir. Steven Spielberg / 115 min. / USA)
Only a veteran as provenly successful as Steven Spielberg could read a screenplay in February and fast-track production so the finished movie could come out by the end of the year. And only a genius of his stature could make it a great movie. The Post is a bold and underlined argument for the democratic importance of an independent and free press, embodied by a heroic Meryl Streep cloaked in a golden caftan. It ain’t subtle, but certain times call for bluntness. This movie, after Lincoln and Bridge of Spies before it, closes out Spielberg’s magnificent a trilogy about the idealism and practicality of the U.S. Constitution.
Companion Film: Aki Kaurismaki’s The Other Side of Hope is also a topical film with a very clear message. It merges the Syrian migrant crisis with his signature deadpan humor. Such a bizarre mix shouldn’t work, but Kaurismaki proves empathy and humor are the best ways to deal with a crisis.

facesplaces910. Faces, Places
(dir. Agnes Varda, JR / 89 min. / France)
Nobody makes movies like Agnes Varda. She’s so energetic, exciting, and just so endearing. She is as good a filmmaker as she is a personality. One can’t help but fall in love with her. Her personality is infectious. She is also 88 years old. That’s the tension that turns Faces, Places from a delightful movie into a profound one. Varda teams up with photographer JR to drive around France meeting new people and learning their stories. It’s the kind of premise Varda usually tackles, only this time her age is clashing with her physical being. Her body can barely keep up with her youthful spirit. This is a beautiful movie about people, kindness, and aging. Calling it delightful would be an understatement.
Companion Film: If we’re talking about unique movies about death and memory, then we must mention Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughtsan unlikely sequel to an already perfect film that manages to be every bit as moving as the original.   

 

Worst Movie of the Year:
Bad movies are easy to forget, but a movie you hate… You will remember that one. A bad movie can be forgiven. The Book of Henry, for example, is terrible, but admirable in its ridiculous incompetence. War for the Planet of the Apes, however… Now that’s a movie I will never forgive. I wish I could get back the two hours and twenty minutes of my life in which I had to sit through a festival of empty philosophizing and tortured apes.Why would anyone think this counts as entertainment? This is a Planet of the Apes movie for Christ’s sake! But it’s the evocation of everything serious from religious allegory to slavery and the Holocaust that moves War for the Planet of the Apes from torturously boring into outright offended. I’m getting angry just writing about it. What a piece of trash.

Most Underrated:
You hear film critics complain about “Marvel movies this” and “Star Wars movies that”, and then, when they’re face to face with a truly idiosyncratic and inspired blockbuster, they rip it to shreds. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets got mostly terrible reviews -probably because it had box-office bomb written all over it from before it opened- but deserved so much better. Director Luc Besson’s science fiction extravaganza is a feast for the eyes, and presents us with charmingly old-fashioned storytelling. With its B-movie sincerity and its bold effects, it feels closer to the original Star Wars than any of the official sequels we’ve gotten since 1983. I will grant some things don’t work as well as they could (Dane DeHaan is horribly miscast as the lead, I’ll give you that), but by God, this was a blockbuster that went for broke, and I hope it gets rediscovered in the future.

Most Overrated:
This year, movies like Detroit and Suburbicon were rightfully criticized for their tone-deaf approach to race relations, so I’m surprised there aren’t more people criticizing Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on similar grounds. This movie uses institutional racism and violence against women as mere plot-points, jokes even. The biggest offense is the way Three Billboards sets up the rape and murder of a young woman to fuel the redemption arc of a racist cop. McDonagh’s script is interested in plot complications and shock value at the expense of its characters. Focusing so hard on upending expectations might make Three Billboards seem like a morally complex movie, when in reality, it doesn’t have much to say. At least nothing of value.

Biggest Surprise:
So, The Boss Baby is not a great movie or anything. It is, however, a fairly good movie. Which might as well be the biggest achievement of the year when you consider the premise of the whole thing. This is a movie about a baby that wears a suit and is voiced by Alec Baldwin. You see, he behaves like Jack Donaghy, but he’s a baby! This movie had no right to be anything  but a pile of garbage. And yet, it is one of the most inspiring uses of animation of the year. The character animation and the design of the whole thing are inventive to a degree most American animation (especially computer generated animation) refuses to be. It’s a movie that follows in the proud tradition of the classic Looney Tunes and UPA cartoons of the fifties. The movie eventually runs out of steam (how could it not?), but for the first half or so, The Boss Baby is quite something.

Biggest Disappointment:
If you had told me last year that I would enjoy the freaking Boss Baby more than the newest films by Todd Haynes and Yorgos Lanthimos, I would have taken it as a personal attack. Yet here we are, with two filmmakers I hugely admired tied for the most disappointing results of 2017. Haynes and his collaborators did a masterful job with the sounds and visuals, but not even they could save Wonderstruck from one of the most frustratingly bland screenplays of the year. Meanwhile, Lanthimos went full sadist in the quasi-horror The Killing of a Sacred Deerbut I couldn’t find any point to his brutal experiment. At least we can rest assured that no movie, no matter how terrible, will ever take away our ability to enjoy the masterpieces that are Carol and The Lobster.

The Best Non-Movies of 2017

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I watch a lot of movies, but I also do other stuff. Here’s just a sample of my favorite things that weren’t movies.

Best Book: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking  by Samin Nosrat
I don’t read a lot of book (I’m especially bad at reading novels), but if there’s no piece of literature I love like a good cookbook. Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a unique cookbook in that there are very few recipes in it. Instead, Nosrat focuses on what she considers to be the four most important elements of good cooking, devoting one chapter to each of them, explaining why they’re so important, and how to master them. It’s like taking an introductory course at culinary school, and Nosrat’s writing is so exciting you will want to jump to the kitchen after reading only a few pages.

Best Television Drama: Big Little Lies (HBO)
Initially dismissed as nothing but a fancy-looking soap about “privileged women stuff”, Big Little Lies quickly proved the old adage that it’s not about what story you’re telling, but how you tell it. It’s not as if the show doesn’t have its weaknesses, but armed with the excellent trio of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern (all doing some of the best work of their careers) and some of the most delightful plotting of this year’s television, Big Little Lies wasn’t just the art-house version of the Real Housewives, it was a surprisingly insightful and moving tale about female lives, and female friendships.

Best Popstar: Kesha
By the time opening track “Bastards” was over, I had to pick my jaw off the floor. That was my experience listening to Kesha’s new album, Rainbow, for the first time. I had always considered Kesha to be a savvy hit maker, this year she revealed herself as a pop music genius. Collaborating with The Dap-King Horns, The Eagles of Death Metal and freaking Dolly Parton, Kesha looked at the past to re-envision her future. This album, of course, comes off the controversial case in which a judge denied to breach the singer’s recording contract after she accused her producer of inappropriate sexual conduct. It was a rough moment of gross injustice, but if Rainbow -the most raw and emotional album of the year- is any indication, Kesha has emerged from this whole thing stronger, and willing to keep fighting.

Best Play: The Antipodes by Annie Baker
A group of writers comes together in a conference room to try and create the next great television show. They have no idea what it’s gonna be about, so they just go around the room telling stories in order to find inspiration. Watching The Antipodes is like experiencing a Kafkaesque nightmare through the lens of Frederick Wiseman. Annie Baker serves up a mix of sober naturalism and surreal excess that presents a seemingly superfluous play that is actually the most transcendent experience you’ll have in the theater.

Best Movie Podcast: Blank Check with Griffin and David
I am not exaggerating when I say that I look forward to every Monday morning because it means it’s time for a new episode of Blank Check. The fact that these guys can make you look forward to the start of a work-week is the biggest praise I could give them. The premise of the podcast is that they focus on big name directors and explore their filmographies one movie at a time. This year, they covered Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Kathryn Bigelow. What makes the podcast so great? The chemistry between Griffin and David, of course, and the fact that they can be incredibly insightful and incredibly funny at the same time.

Best New TV Show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
After the premature cancellation of Bunheads (now on Hulu!) and all-too-short Gilmore Girls revival last year, we finally have the return of Amy Sherman-Palladino. Last year’s Gilmore Girls specials took the characters in an interesting way, but didn’t quite hit in the humor department the way the show used to. Being a period piece, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel –about a female comedian breaking through in the fifties- frees the Palladinos (creator Amy and her husband Daniel) from the crutches of pop culture references. They hit both comedy and drama out of the park

Best Album: Melodrama by Lorde
How do you mix the bouncy style of Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen and the avant-garde sounds of Björk and PJ Harvey? How do you make an album that reaches into atmospheric experimentation without sacrificing the mass-appeal of pop music? Melodrama answers these questions by planting one foot on the past and another on the future. The album is so and adventurous, it took me many listens until I fully grasped it’s genius. Lorde has given birth to a baby made of pop music. This album is so immersed in references it even quotes itself, but it’s also its own being. It’s not a copy or a pastiche. It’s something bright, poppy, and new.

Best Television Comedies: Big Mouth (Netflix) and Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
This duo of animated comedic from Netflix were undoubtedly the most hilarious one-two punch of 2017. Big Mouth, in its first season, is a show about a group of pubescent kids, and it is as filthy as that sounds. The brilliance, of course, is that its completely ridiculous and gross humor will ring through to anyone who has gone through puberty. Bojack Horseman, meanwhile, is a show that’s gained a bit of a reputation for providing one of the most unflinching and honest portrayals of depression on tv. This statement is absolutely true, but makes Bojack sound like a drag when it’s one of the silliest and most original showbiz satires I have ever seen. It’s a show that can be painful, hilarious, and its fourth season (which may very well be its best), even heartwarming.

Best Film Critic: K. Austin Collins (The Ringer)
A great film critic not only has good opinions, but knows exactly how to best articulate them. Case in point, The Ringer’s K. Austin Collins and I share a lot of opinions. The big difference is… well, that he’s a better writer than I am! Even the reviews I’m most proud of become peanuts when compared to what he writes. He just knows how to make his thoughts -which are always interesting- come across. But why write about him, when I can let his work speak for itself. Highlights of his work include writing on The Beguiled, Good Time, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and his brilliant essay about “The Movie That We Need Right Now.”

Best Musical: Spongebob Squarepants
When it was first announced, the idea of a Broadway musical based on Spongebob Squarepants seemed like the horrible brainchild of a capitalist maniac. And sure, this might not be the most sophisticatedly written musical to have ever graced the stage but boy if it isn’t the most energetic and invigorating musicals I have ever seen. What’s more, what could’ve been a commercial cash-grab is actually a rather beautiful story about kindness in the face of doom, which only seems appropriate for our times.

Best Song: Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen
It’s a pity we didn’t get a full-on new album from Carly Rae this year, but this one song might make up for it. Play it ten times in a row and you got yourself one of the best albums of the year. At this point, there is no question Carly Rae is the best pop star currently working. She is unafraid to dive deep into the pool of bubblegum pop, and even more impressively, capable of emerging triumphant. This song is an epic adventure. Big, pompous, and fun in a way that reminds us that there is self-affirming value in the pure joy of escapism.

With ‘The Post’, Steven Spielberg completes an excellent trilogy about the Constitution.

the post

America’s never been great, but that’s not entirely America’s fault. No country is inherently great. No constitution, no matter who writes it, guarantees a country’s success. The constitution of the United States of America is no different, but that doesn’t prevent its citizens from being obsessed with it. America, in many ways, is obsessed with itself. Almost every controversy in this country is followed by commentators, politicians, and celebrities philosophizing on what it does and doesn’t mean to be an American. “This is not who we are”, “This isn’t the image America should give to the world”, “America is better than this.” We can debate whether this “American exceptionalism” does more harm or good, but there is no question that most Americans believe in it.

The ability to believe in this message of exceptionalism while simultaneously examining -even questioning- the machines that make it work is what makes the recent work of Steven Spielberg so fascinating. Judging by his movies, Spielberg is a believer in America’s ability to be a force for good. Moreover, he believes that the American constitution is a perfectly fine blueprint for achieving this greater good. At the same time, however, he understands that the constitution isn’t perfect, and more importantly, is not going to uphold itself. Being a force for good is possible, but it’s not an easy job. It’s not that the constitution magically created a great country. The constitution is important, but even more important is the belief behind its creation, that a country could be great.

In order to explore this question, Spielberg’s made a trilogy of films that serve as a lesson in American civics. Each of these movies interrogates the idealism of the constitution by focusing on the practical. Each movie shows what it looks like for a different democratic institution to try to uphold the ideals behind this founding document. The first movie of the trilogy is Lincoln, which chronicles the process of passing the 13th amendment that ended slavery and was integral step toward actualizing the “all men are created equal” element of the constitution. Lincoln deals directly with the notion that it’s not the constitution itself, but people’s interpretation of it, that creates equality. It also shows that achieving something as great as the passage of an invaluable amendment can be an extremely tricky process.

President Lincoln -portrayed in an Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis- is a wise and charismatic man; he’s also a cunning strategist. A large chunk of the movie focuses on the unorthodox methods Lincoln used in order to convince congress to pass the bill. Not everything that was done was ethical, not everything that was done was legal. There was extensive trickery, and lies, involved. But such is the democratic process, the movie argues. The juxtaposes the idealism of one of the brightest moments in American history with the down and dirty reality of the political machine. John Williams’s heroic score can swell while Lincoln gives a speech, and still the movie understands that idealism is nothing without action.

The second movie in the trilogy, Bridge of Spiesfocuses on the judiciary. All-American Tom Hanks plays attorney James B. Donovan, who takes the job of defending a captured Soviet spy. The first half of the movie includes a lot of Donovan speechifying about how granting this man -no matter his crime- is the right, American, thing to do. Not doing so, according to Donovan, would be forgetting the ideals of the constitution, lowering the standards up to which American Democracy holds itself. This is very much a movie about the cost of idealism. Doing what’s right turns Donovan (and his family) into pariahs. So much so that instead of throwing rocks at his house, an angry mob decides to shoot at it.

But Donovan just has to do what’s right. In the second half, he is unexpectedly called to East Berlin, where he has to negotiate the release of two Americans who have been imprisoned by the Soviet and East German governments respectively. Donovan, as played by Hanks, is the most heroic character in this trilogy. He is an everyman who is thrown into impossible situations in which he simply has to what’s right. Donovan’s time in East Berlin is, simply, excruciating. He must deal with two corrupt governments, impossible bureaucracy, a lack of sleep, and the fact that he has a cold. In Bridge of Spies, upholding the constitution and doing what’t right is physically exhausting. But it’s what’s got to be done. Donovan refers to the constitution as “the rulebook.” Adhering to the rules, he claims, is “what makes us American”

The trilogy closes out this year, with The Postwhich is currently playing in theaters and might just be the perfect capper. The last entry in the series feels like a much more urgent film than the ones that preceded it, and for obvious reasons. Famously, Spielberg first read the script for The Post in February. Less than ten months later, the movie was screening for critics. To say that the movie was inspired by last year’s presidential election would be an understatement. The movie focuses on the publication of classified information known as The Pentagon Papers, and the subsequent lawsuit that the executive branch of government filed against the New York Times and the Washington Post. This is a movie about how the freedom of the press is essential in a democratic government.

The Post not only deals with the Executive Branch, but with the “Fourth Estate” that is meant to hold it accountable. It’s interesting that the movie chooses to focus on the people working at the Washington Post. The New York Times was the first paper to publish classified material that made clear the government was lying to the public about the Vietnam War, but focusing on The Post allows Spielberg to put the focus on the underdogs. Not only because the Post was a relatively small regional paper at the time, but because he finds a very fascinating hero in the paper’s owner, Katharine Graham (played by Meryl Streep).

Graham is a very unusual heroine. On the one hand, she is an underdog. She is a woman in a position of power at a time in which such things were more than uncommon (and she only got ownership of the paper after her husband died). As such, she has a hard time getting the men around her to fully respect her, and is incredibly doubtful about her decisions. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t a strong and courageous woman. If anything, it means the opposite, that a woman raised in a system that was overwhelmingly against her agency forged on to defy the U.S. President is outstanding. On the other hand, Graham is a privileged woman. She’s a wealthy socialite who spends a lot of her time at fancy dinner parties.

Because she is a Washington socialite, Graham is friends with many politicians, including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. When she first hears about the possibility of publishing the papers, she thinks of her friend of Bob, of what this whole situation will do to him and his reputation. One of the most effective moments in the movie comes when Graham and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), go on about their friendships to ex-Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Were they softer on them than they should have been? How are the people meant to hold the President accountable be the President’s friend?

And at the same time, you have a whole group of reporters at the Post working hard to find and publish these papers. Graham might be at the center of the story, responsible for the ultimate decision to publish, but this is a team effort. It’s not just one person, it’s not even just one paper. It’s, again, a movie about doing what’s right on the face of fear. The things at stake are money, power, reputation. Those are all things that America loves, but those are not the thing behind the ideals of the constitution. That’s what Spielberg has been trying to get at in this section of his career. What does it mean to do the right thing?

At a time when culture is focused on nostalgia for the past. At a time where movies and tv shows insist on recycling the magic of the movies Spielberg made in the nineties, Spielberg has decided to go on a fully opposite direction. He’s making movies that have a classical sheen, following the legacy of Frank Capra and John Ford. That movies, in this day and age, can be bold and earnest about the thing they are about. That they can be transparently idealistic and incredibly honest at the same time. That there is a director like Spielberg, who can make these movies with such directorial aplomb. All of these things make me happy. All of these things, I celebrate.