Oscar Nominations 2018 — A Small Step Forward

Posted on January 23, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Copyright 2017 A24
The traditionally all-white male category of Best Director took a small step forward in this year’s Oscar nominations by including Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), with both films also getting nominations for Best Picture and for acting (Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf for “Lady Bird,” Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out”). It is worth pointing out that both Gerwig and Peele are young by director standards, and both are nominated for the first films they directed (Gerwig was co-director previously, but this is her first solo outing).

Copyright Universal 2017

I would like to have seen Dee Rees get nominated for “Mudbound” (and “Mudbound” nominated for Best Picture, but it was good to see Mary J. Blige get a Supporting Actress nomination for her extraordinary performance in that film. I would also like to have seen “Florida Project” get more attention, though I am glad Willem Dafoe was nominated for one of his all-time best performances, even more extraordinary because he was the only professional actor in nearly all of his scenes. I did not like “The Phantom Thread” but was mesmerized by Lesley Manville’s performance and am delighted she was recognized with a nomination.

For me, one of the most interesting line-ups this year was the Best Director category because for the first time, all five nominees also wrote their films.

I was very sorry that the following were overlooked: Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer for “Call Me By Your Name,” Tiffany Haddish for “Girls Trip,” “Wonder Woman” and “The Big Sick” for Best Picture. I’ll be looking forward to the Spirit Awards (for independent films) to correct some of these oversights.

And the toughest category to predict this year is the one at the top. “The Post” seems like the all-around likeliest candidate in terms of seriousness and broad appeal. But the preliminary indicators all seem to be going toward much more divisive films: “Three Billboards” or “Shape of Water.” “Shape of Water,” with it’s near-record 13 nominations, may just get the top prize.

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Lead Actress:

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”

Supporting Actor:

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”

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”


“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Animated Feature:

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Animated Short:

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Adapted Screenplay:

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Original Screenplay:

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh


“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Best Documentary Feature:

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
“Faces Places,” JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen
“Strong Island,” Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel
“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Film Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

Sound Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Sound Mixing:

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Production Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Original Score:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Original Song:

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

Costume Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Visual Effects:

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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Lady Bird

Posted on November 28, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 3, 2017
Date Released to DVD: March 5, 2018
Copyright 2017 A24

“Lady Bird? Is that your given name?” the patient priest who is directing the high school play asks at an audition. “Yes.” “Why is it in quotes?” The sign-up sheet reads: Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). “I gave it to myself,” she says. “It’s given to me by me.” Perhaps she selected the name because she is getting ready to fly away and the thought thrills and terrifies her.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is a senior in high school, on the brink of that moment when we are heady at the notion of inventing ourselves. We meet her coming home from a trip with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) to visit colleges near their home in Sacramento. They weep silently together at the end of an audiobook and bicker about the things that mothers and teenage daughters bicker about. Lady Bird (as we will call her) wants to go to college in the East, “where writers live in the woods.” Her mother, a nurse, is trying hard to balance the need to be practical about finances — Lady Bird’s father is about to lose his job — with the parental instinct to protect her daughter from the most unpleasant realities of life, including her parents’ inability to make everything work out. Fortunately, if frustratingly, Lady Bird has retained the solipsistic luxury of tuning out most of what her parents tell her.

Writer/director Greta Gerwig captures with breathtaking precision that liminal moment when teenagers manage to mash-up grandiosity that stretches to infinity and soul-crushing insecurity. “Math isn’t something you’re terribly strong in,” a nun (Lois Smith) tells her diplomatically. “That we know of. Yet,” Lady Bird replies. “I just want you to be the best version of yourself,” her mother tells her. “What if this is the best version of myself?” she asks. Metcalf’s expression on hearing this question contains multitudes of sympathy and maybe a touch of envy at the endless possibilities spreading out in front of her daughter.

This is one of the best ensemble casts of the year. Metcalf and Tracy Letts, as Lady Bird’s parents, Smith and Stephen McKinley Henderson as her teachers, “Manchester by the Sea” Lucas Hedges and “Call Me By Your Name” Timothée Chalamet as boys she likes, and Beanie Feldstein and Odeya Rush as her friends are all superb. Gerwig never lets even the smallest roles be anything but specific and complex. The episodic storyline brims with telling, meticulously observed moments. Lady Bird and her mother stop bickering for a moment in the thrift store when they suddenly unite in the ecstasy of finding the perfect prom dress (inspired, Gerwig told me, by “Pretty in Pink”). Her father finds himself competing for a job with his own son, pride and support edging just slightly ahead of desperation. Lady Bird makes some bad mistakes in judgment but there are no bad guys here, just people trying to figure out who they are and connect without hurting or being hurt, still young enough to assume that it’s only a matter of time.

Parents should know that this film includes very strong language, sexual references and situations, teen drinking, and mild peril.

Family discussion: What name would you pick for yourself? Is Lady Bird more like her mother or father?

If you like this, try: “Frances Ha” and “Edge of Seventeen”

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Interview: Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird”

Posted on November 3, 2017 at 8:00 am

“Lady Bird” stars “Brooklyn’s” Saoirse Ronan as high school senior in 2008, with Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as her parents. Writer/director Greta Gerwig tells the story in pointillist fashion, small incidents along the way illuminating the jubilant dreams, crushing fears, and struggles with parents, friends, and teachers she must navigate as she gets ready to leave home. Her name is Christine, but at an audition for the high school play, she explains that “Lady Bird” is her given name — because she gave it to herself. In an interview, Gerwig talked about the influence of John Hughes films like “Pretty in Pink” and finding the music in the dialogue.

Copyright A24 2017

You must be thrilled with the enthusiastic reception you’ve been getting from festival audiences.

Thank you so much it’s been so extraordinary to be able to take this film to different festivals and talk to audiences all over the country and now the world about it because I’m just always amazed. Everybody’s got a family, everybody’s got a hometown, everybody understands leaving home. It feels like it’s the thing that people can connect to from their hearts which is always my goal and I’m so pleased that people feel that way.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of conveying female friendships and Lady Bird learns some painful lessons about friendship in the film.

I’m always interested in relationships between women. In “Mistress America” it’s stepsisters of different generations and in this movie the real love story for me is between this mother and daughter but her relationship with her friend Julie is another element of it. I’m always interested in how women relate to each other, whether it’s a family relationship or it’s a friend relationship. That’s such uncharted territory in cinema. Usually women don’t have any relationship with each other; they just have relationships with the male protagonists. That’s something both what I’m interested in and it’s also something that I’ve taken on quite deliberately in the work that I’ve co-written and now with this movie.

Were the John Hughes movies about teenagers an influence for you?

I was a big fan of John Hughes movies, particularly “Pretty in Pink,” but they have embedded within them generally an idea of one guy which I philosophically disagree with. I started from the premise of, “What if there were two guys and they are both wrong?” I wanted to honor what’s so wonderful about those films while not actually doing the film. With her romances, I wanted both the satisfaction of the vividness of teenage emotion and falling in love and giving the audience that point of connection, but then also the film knows that that’s not the end all and be all, that the movie that’s playing in her head is different than the movie that she’s in which I think is often true in life. Teenagers are living out some romantic ideal and the reality is that no one’s doing it with them.

Christine wears a uniform because she goes to parochial school, but her look is still very distinctive.

I worked with a great true artist, the costume designer April Napier. She is a real storyteller and that’s what I look for in all my department heads and really everyone who works on the movie. She has the ability to bring me costumes or pieces that totally surprised me and were totally unexpected but they were exactly right. The pink prom dress that Christine finds in a thrift shop was a little tip of the hat for “Pretty in Pink.”

The parents in the film are beautifully portrayed and they have their own real characters and storylines.

I wanted it to ultimately be really the mother’s story as much as it was the daughter’s story because one person’s coming of age is another person’s letting go. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts are both actors that I’ve watched for a very long time and I’ve seen them on stage and Tracy I obviously knew as a writer as well and I knew him to be extraordinary on all fronts. Laurie Metcalf — I’ve never seen her equal on stage; she’s one of the most tremendous actresses I’ve ever witnessed performing. What I loved about both of them was that they both have theater backgrounds. The same is true of course for Lois Smith and Stephen McKinley Henderson. Theater people are my people.

Tracy and Laurie have known each other for twenty years and there was something about the Midwesterness of them that felt right for a story about Sacramento. With every scene particularly between Laurie and Saoirse, I wanted the audience to feel like, “I get where that mother is and I get where that daughter is.” Even if Laurie says the wrong thing or Saoirse is being a jerk you don’t feel like ultimately that’s who either of them are. You just feel like they’re struggling through this difficult time. Even if you can’t figure it out, the time itself is relentless which adds to the anxiety.

You’re very precise in your dialogue, so what kind of collaboration were you doing with them and how did they change your understanding of the characters you created?

I think the thing I’m always listening for as a writer and director is for it to be in the right rhythm, different than I’d heard but played the same tempo. I’d know I hit it when it surprises me but it also feels right. I keep going to something that feels musical because that is really how it is for me.

You’ve worked with quite a range of directors as an actress. What kinds of ideas did you take from the way they approach the material that helped you in your first time as a solo director?

One of the great advantages of my time spent in movies and in basically every role possible both in front of the camera and behind the camera that I’ve gotten to see all these different ways that people work and the way movies are constructed from the inside out, from beginning to end. Because I didn’t go to film school this was really my training; everything from tiny things to big things.

From Mike Mills I took the idea that everyone on the crew who is not an actor, including me, wears a nametag every day. It sounds small but it’s actually huge because as a director you’re with your crew the whole day but actors are really only brought in when the scene is completely lit and ready to go and they don’t have as much of an opportunity to really get to know all the gaffers or grips or the boom operator and sometimes those people switch out. Being able to call them by their names instead of just “hey you” is a big deal. From Rebecca Miller I took the idea that the director needs to arrive every day an hour ahead of everyone else and walk through the entire day. They have to be over-prepared so that the actors feel like they have all the time in the world and there is never a feeling that the director is time stressed. From Noah Baumbach I learned to have a strict no cell phone policy on set. If you need to make a phone call or text someone you can step off the set and use it. There is nothing that bums you out more than looking over and seeing somebody on their smartphone and that goes for actors and everyone else. Everybody told me, “Oh, good luck you have so many kids in this movie. How are they ever going to not text?” The truth is they all left their phones in the trailer and I just felt like it made everybody so much more present.

An edited version of this interview originally appeared on HuffPost.

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