I’m moving closer and closer to a firm opinion that 2017 has been a weak Oscar year, and I’m starting to think there’s a specific reason for that. In any artistic realm there’s only so much genius and excellence to go around, and the fact is that more and more talented people and good ideas are finding homes in cable and streaming these days, and that means that the movie realm, which has never been less interested in quality for quality’s sake in the history of the film industry, is no longer getting the cream of the crop and the pick of the litter in terms of talent and projects.
To rephrase, fewer dynamically talented people are trying to create high-quality movies for the theatrical realm, and more and more dynamically talented people and their passion projects are heading straight for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and elsewhere in the streaming realm. It’s that simple.
I don’t know much about Steven Spielberg‘s The Post and Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Phantom Thread (and neither does anyone else), but I do know that when you look closely at the current Gold Derby favorites for Best Picture, there are are only three that deliver that X-factor wowness. Three films with that confident, fully charged, self-aware, ahead-of-the-curve, real-life-discovered quality that proclaims “this is truly one of the few.”
I’m speaking (as if regular readers didn’t know) of Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. I could extend my list to include The Big Sick and The Florida Project because they also smack of discovery and originality, a vibe and a current that tells you “this is new, this is something else, you need to really pay attention.”
In terms of dazzling precision and extraordinary visual composition alone I would add the masterful War For The Planet of the Apes, although I know there are some who insist on pigeonholing it as a technically brilliant exercise and nothing more.
I’m not dismissing or marginalizing Darkest Hour, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water or Get Out, and I wouldn’t argue all that strongly against them if anyone tried to pick a fight. All due respect, I don’t happen to believe these four films have that tingly, levitational quality that many Best Picture Oscar nominees have possessed in years past, at least in my own estimation. That’s not to say they’re not heading for a Best Picture nomination. They may well be.
Again, my Best of ’17 roster without regard to awards or nominations:
(1) Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me My Your Name, (2) Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, (3) Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, (4) Ruben Ostlund‘s The Square, (5) Matt Reeves‘ War For The Planet of the Apes, (6) Darren Aronofsky‘s mother!, (7) Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick, (8) Martin McDonagh‘s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, (9) Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver, (10) Sean Baker‘s The Florida Project, (11) John Curran‘s Chappaquiddick, (12) Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless, (13) Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water, (14) David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story, (15) David Gordon Green‘s Stronger, (16) David Michod and Brad Pitt‘s War Machine, (18) Joseph Kosinski‘s Only The Brave, (19) Jordan Peele‘s Get Out and (20) Denis Villneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049.