Alternatively, “The Sibleys”.
With the end of the year comes list-making, and the start of the next brings awards season, an exciting or tenuous time depending on what horse you’re betting on. Of course, there’s always something left out, I’m hesitant to say snubbed in many of these cases due to the sheer volume of releases which makes it impossible to be completely abreast of the cinematic circumstances.
As time has gone on, I’ve warmed to the idea that this is the season to celebrate as much as possible, rather than get swept up in something sweeping a ceremony, so what follows is an attempt to do exactly that. In making this, I set no explicit restrictions on myself –– i.e. there was no ‘films can only be nominated 5 times at most’ rule in play –– and there are likely some omissions, but the following lists are all made up of contenders that I genuinely believe should be on there and will happily sing the praises of long after the season has ended.
NOTE: Accompanying pictures do not indicate preferred/ideal/imagined victors, but again demonstrate an attempt to showcase images from as much as possible.
- Call Me By Your Name
- Get Out
- Lady Bird
- Personal Shopper
- Phantom Thread
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- The Florida Project
A mix of what the Academy went for and some I feel deserved further attention, in particular The Florida Project, which was a surprising omission from the actual nominations, much like Mudbound. As for something which had no chance of making it onto the list, Nocturama, that will live on others, most likely best of the century retrospectives, so get in on the ground floor.
The Big Sick was a film that I thought possible for the Academy’s list, but just missed the cut of theirs and mine, while A Ghost Story never gained momentum to be in with a chance with AMPAS, but was a contender for me until locking in the final ballot. I’d toyed with using the 10th slot for Wonder Woman, however its legacy and importance are already secured so it went to the 2017 blockbuster that truly wowed me.
- Oliver Assayas for Personal Shopper
- Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled
- Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird
- Todd Haynes for Wonderstruck
- Jordan Peele for Get Out
Only forty percent the same as AMPAS’ list, but after her win at Cannes, Coppola deserved to be in the conversation, for a picture that was just as comic and sumptuous, if not more, than Phantom Thread. Assayas’ work is haunting beyond belief, with his camera gliding through halls in spectral fashion and Haynes is ever a master craftsman. At the same time, I could not be happier to be able to include filmmakers who made their solo debuts this year in both Gerwig and Peele.
If there were a sixth spot available, it’d be Nolan, and if I’d be rounding up to a full ten, then you’d also find Dee Rees, Spielberg, Baumbach and Guadagnino on the list.
- Nahuel Pérez Biscayart for BPM: Beats Per Minute
- Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name
- Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread
- Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out
- Robert Pattinson for Good Time
But Matt, why isn’t Gary Oldman on here? Because it’s an embarrassing performance and any nominations it gets, much less the prospect of him winning for it, makes we want to drink heavily. Of course this is DDL’s supposed last performance, in addition to being his assured best performance under the direction of PTA, but the other four bring such an astounding physicality to each of their roles that these young performers can stand toe-to-toe with his work.
Biscayart in particular is an actor that hasn’t been getting enough credit, likely a result of his performance being found in a foreign film. Chalamet is a shifting chameleon despite only just bursting onto the scene, albeit in a major way, and both Kaluuya and Pattinson’s best work comes from their eyes; judging their surroundings in completely different manners.
As for omissions, it hurt a lot to leave out Adam Sandler (I know, right) for his best work, John Cho’s quite nature in Columbus has lingered as well and I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t wanted to put Mark Hamill on this list.
- Vicky Krieps for Phantom Thread
- Rooney Mara for Song to Song
- Florence Pugh for Lady Macbeth
- Kristen Stewart for Personal Shopper
- Bria Vinaite for The Florida Project
Always a difficult category, because it usually feels like there’s a greater deal of contenders when whittling down the list to just five. Three relative newcomers on the list, but much deserved for each. Krieps holds her own with Day-Lewis in a way that few have ever managed while Vinaite’s work doesn’t instantly stand out as ‘acting’, but that naturalistic aspect can be matched by few. Leaving Sean Baker off of Best Director was a tough choice, but consider this a collaboration with him and how he’s able to get captivating work out of so many, even if they haven’t been trained to act. (Also, I know that Brookylnn Prince is the inherent choice for lead, but I’d be hesitant to nominate a child if this were an actual ballot, so also consider this a substitution/switch-around/what have you) Pugh is just as commanding as both, with Lady Macbeth being a movie which she wraps around her finger from the get-go, followed by every other character.
At the same time, this is probably not the Mara performance that many will gravitate to from 2017, but she’s the perfect Malick protagonist and as amazing as it is to see her eat pie for the first time, watching her traipse around Austin is something I could’ve done for eight hours. (Release the Snyder Cut of Justice League? Nah, Terry give me the eight-hour cut!). Of course, anyone who knows me would’ve expected Stewart on this list, it really is criminal that this is the third year in a row that she hasn’t garnered any awards attention, but hopefully the Cesar from back in 2015 makes up for that.
Otherwise, Haley Lu Richardson was supremely impressive in Columbus, as was Anne Hathaway in Colossus, Zoe Kazan sadly doesn’t have enough screen-time in The Big Sick to make the cut, but her presence warms the frame and Cynthia Nixon grows into her role as Emily Dickinson in an intended way during A Quiet Passion. In the case of Streep, this is a year where she deserves to be in the conversation, but the fact she got a nomination last year makes it more difficult to readily give her a spot.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project
- Jason Mitchell for Mudbound
- Ray Romano for The Big Sick
- Michael Stuhlbarg for Call Me By Your Name
- Tracy Letts for Lady Bird
In the brief shock that the Oscars had done pretty well with their nominations, the fact that Stuhlbarg had gone un-commended snuck under the radar only to sucker-punch me a few hours later. If I had to guess, I’d imagine it stems from being in three films thus splitting the vote. Toyed between Hedlund and Mitchell when it came to Mudbound, but the latter might end up with a spot this time next year for Mosaic, so the decision was made easier. The other three nominated are the ones that both made me laugh and cry in equal measure with incredibly sympathetic portrayals and interactions.
Another that could’ve counted in that regard: Armie Hammer, who I imagine lost out due to the Stuhlbarg hype. It also hurt to leave off Fassbender for Alien: Covenant or Song to Song, Adam Driver for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Barry Keoghan for Killing of a Sacred Deer, Pattinson for The Lost City of Z, and Ben Safdie for Good Time. Not necessarily in that order, mind.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Mary J. Blige for Mudbound
- Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip
- Holly Hunter for The Big Sick
- Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird
- Elizabeth Olsen for Ingrid Goes West
Blige and Metcalf are givens this season and neither requires explanation as to why. Haddish and Hunter are contenders that seemed like they were in with a chance for a long period of time. In the case of Haddish, she had fan momentum and the push from a couple of critics’ circles –– honestly it was cruel to send her out there to host the nominations event considering she was a possibility –– and Hunter seemed like her film’s best opportunity for a second nomination after Adapted Screenplay. Olsen is a pick which I think many wouldn’t peg, but it’s such a precarious persona to play that could easily to fall into caricature without her finding the right tone to keep it on a level that works.
Lesley Manville was a hard omission to make, but the reason for doing so perhaps comes from how expected her greatness is compared to the surprising work of Haddish and Olsen. To list a few more: Natalie Portman for Song to Song, Grace van Patten in The Meyerowitz Stories gives an utterly heartbreaking performance just in the looks she gives Sandler while playing the piano and I will never get Riley Keough’s “The Coca-Cola 600 is the biggest race of the year” line reading from Logan Lucky out of my head nor the tenderness of her Lovesong performance.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- Call Me By Your Name by James Ivory
- First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung & Angelina Jolie
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Rian Johnson
- The Beguiled by Sofia Coppola
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Each of these five captures a particular feeling exquisitely. Of being in love and timelessness, of war and how a child can not perceive its true extent, of the Star Wars universe, of the feminine gaze and desire, of awe at the world. They extrapolate a world from text and are resultant for how the source material is translated to the screen –– in the case of Coppola’s work, even re-adjusting how that world is perceived.
Johnson’s work is likely the most surprising on here, considering there are other genre works that people have been rooting for more [read: Logan], but it really does all lock together –– yes, even Canto Bight –– for a perpetually propulsive experience that builds higher and higher as it continues to stack smaller stories on top of one another to reach the heights that it does.
Further spaces would have gone to The Post, Alien: Covenant and Mudbound, although not necessarily in that order.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- Get Out by Jordan Peele
- Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig
- The Big Sick by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
- The Florida Project by Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
- The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) by Noah Baumbach
No one should have to justify the inclusion of the first two, but to be brief: Get Out is one of, if not, the most layered genre pictures of recent memory, while Gerwig’s script achieves so much in such a short space of time. She captures a year of moments, while also finding the little details to hold on for a further beat.
The Big Sick could end sooner if it weren’t a real story, but its heart is so evidently on its sleeve and Gordon and Nanjiani’s screenplay captures something which should seem stranger than fiction and impossible to buy into yet ensures the tale feels genuine. The Florida Project and The Meyerowitz Stories are on opposite ends of the subject spectrum –– about children and adults respectively –– however both have a similar tenderness. Baker and Bergoch never condescend or feel the need to sentimentalise their characters and Baumbach never lets you forget how acerbic his dialogue can be yet makes use of a softer structure that suggests he never wants to leave these characters behind.
Other contenders, though not necessarily in this order, would have included A Ghost Story (fun fact: its script was around thirty pages in length), Ingrid Goes West which is a smarter work, particularly in its ending than I think many give it credit for, Dunkirk and Phantom Thread.
- Hoyt van Hoytema for Dunkirk
- Sam Levy for Lady Bird
- Emmanuel Lubezki for Song to Song
- Rachel Morrison for Mudbound
- Sean Price Williams for Good Time
I should probably get this out-of-the-way; no, I don’t consider this Roger Deakins’ year. The look of Blade Runner 2049 on an aesthetic level feels all wrong for that world, and while he does deserve a win, we can do better than awarding in the same way that we did DiCaprio for The Revenant.
Along similar lines, if Lubezki is going to get noticed for his work there, he should be recognised for his far superior collaborations with Malick where the freeform, detached nature of his camera is a better fit. Morrison is a welcome nomination, but it certainly shouldn’t have taken this long for a female cinematographer to receive one. Levy has been Baumbach’s DoP and working with Gerwig on Lady Bird sees him tap into something even more special, the images like a memory about to fade. While that film saw him move over to LA, Sean Price Williams stayed at home in his city; New York. He shoots it with skittish aplomb, an intense understanding of the space he’s working with, knowing how to move through it and how to get out when the time comes. And, of course Hoytema hits on something really special with his Nolan collaborations.
Phantom Thread is one of those films which would be on this list, if there had been a definitive DoP, rather than shared credit between PTA and lighting cameraman Michael Bauman. I was previously unfamiliar with Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s work, but Call Me By Your Name has given me extra incentive to catch up with the various parts of Arabian Nights. Steve Yedlin deserves a shout-out as well for the crispness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, if only to acknowledge how far he’s come since Brick, as does Steven Soderbergh for how effortless he made Logan Lucky look.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
- Cindy Evans for Atomic Blonde
- Holly Waddington for Lady Macbeth
- Mark Bridges for Phantom Thread
- Stacey Battat for The Beguiled
- Ann Roth for The Post
Not much to say beyond pointing out how the couture of all these films is incredible, period-attuned and rich to look at and absorb. Ann Roth’s work on The Post deserves special mention, for how quickly that film was put together, but how flawless her eye remains.
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
- Faces Places
- Five Came Back
- Rodney King
- Strong Island
Haven’t had chance to see the first of the list, but how could I refuse a chance to celebrate Agnes Varda? The other four come from Netflix and as much as I [deservedly] rag on their narrative film output, this is one area where they put out work that matters and means something. The four on this list need to be experienced for where they ultimately end up and how nimbly the filmmakers navigate getting there. Wormwood is not considered eligible by the Academy, but that is a serious mistake for something so lucidly intoxicating.
- Lee Smith for Dunkirk
- Nick Houy for Lady Bird
- Fabrice Rouaud for Nocturama
- Bob Ducsay for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Jennifer Lame for The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Dunkirk‘s inclusion shouldn’t be surprising because of dexterously Smith reconciles the three timelines. Upon first watch, there’s a curiosity about it can all fit together, but it makes sense very quickly. On a similar note, Nocturama has a more specific sense of place, particularly in its second half, but the restaging of events and perspectives gained from this style gives off an even more impressive vibe than that of Nolan’s film.
What I said about Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s screenplay rings true in this instance as well, what prevents it from collapsing under its own weight is how deftly it navigates through these large-scale conflicts in order to find the more intimate interactions and moments. As Luke teaches in the film, the Force is montage and binds this film together.
Similarly, the cutting on display in Lady Bird and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) also captures the spirit of their screenplays. From Lady Bird leaving Kyle’s house, only to linger on his ill father to how Danny Meyerowitz’s shouting gets cut off by title cards, the way these films bring shots together find additional humour and tragedy in off-handed moments rather than simply being deployed to move to the next chunk of plotting.
Something which hurt to leave off the list was Good Time, edited by Robert Bronstein and Ben Safdie –– also the film’s writers and, in the case of Safdie, co-director –– an fever dream so energetic that the first twenty-or-so minutes feel like an entire film in themselves. If nothing else, they’re a particular experience like no other.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- A Fantastic Woman
- BPM (Beats Per Minute)
- First They Killed My Father
Admittedly sixty percent of this list is sight-unseen, a result of late release dates here in the UK, so I won’t prognosticate for long, but the two that I have seen –– from Campillo and Jolie respectively –– are flooring pieces of work. Both have a certain humanistic quality to them, one is an ensemble piece, the other more character focused, but both spotlight protagonists fighting to survive in a world that seems to reject them.
BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING
- Paul Pattison for Atomic Blonde
- Jacqueline Marie Knowlton and Aubrey Marie for Lady Bird
- Peter Swords King and Neal Scanlan for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Thi Thanh Tu Nguyen and Guilaine Tortereau for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
- Arjen Tuiten for Wonder
While I am admittedly out of my element when it comes to this category, I simultaneously will not abide a nomination for The Darkest Hour. If you want a film about Churchill, find an actor that looks like them. Wonder’s work is far less egregious, to put it lightly, although there should be a push to try to find disabled actors that can play these roles without the need for heavy prosthetics.
A list that’s three-fifths genre fare, but deservingly so, in the case of The Last Jedi, just for Space Dern’s hair. I kid, that and Valerian both play host to vividly, vibrant worlds and an equally eclectic cast of background players that call them their homes. The deception at every twist and turn of Atomic Blonde helps it to earn a spot on the list, creating a deeper narrative from how the spies at its core twist into new identities. Finally, the work on Lady Bird doesn’t exist to airbrush the actors, but to present them as they are, with Ronan’s ache and similar blemishes across the cast being noticeable because of this decision.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
- Bertrand Bonello for Nocturama
- Carter Burwell for Wonderstruck
- Jonny Greenwood for Phantom Thread
- OPN for Good Time
- Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk
#6 would’ve been John Williams for how his Star Wars: The Last Jedi score manages to weave together so many established motifs, really complimenting the idea that the Force is montage. Dunkirk is also the good Zimmer score, and I’m not just saying that because Blade Runner 2049 made me ill. His work is tense, drilling a ticking clock into your head without reaching for an overbearing quality. Greenwood emulates the classical style of score-making ridiculously well, much like Burwell who hits home on two distinct periods of time. OPN and Bonello’s work are stimulating and capable of getting you moving, shifting to become uncomfortable, even when heard in isolation from the images themselves.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
- “Genius Girl” from The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) by Adam Sandler, Grace van Patten and Noah Baumbach
- “Mighty River” from Mudbound by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
- “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name by Sufjan Stevens
- “Remember Me” from Coco by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
- “Visions of Gideon” from Call Me By Your Name by Sufjan Stevens
Delighted to be able to put two Sufjan Stevens songs on here, as did the Academy, even if it does run the risk of splitting the vote because they spark such a swell of emotion in me just from hearing a fragment of them. Coco’s contribution may not have me cry, but its power cannot be denied much like Sandler and van Patten’s duet which creates such a rich connection between the pair so early on into the film.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
- Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola for Blade Runner 2049
- David J. Bomba for Mudbound
- Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin for The Shape of Water
- Mark Friedberg and Debra Schutt for Wonderstruck
- Aline Bonetto and Anna Lynch-Robinson for Wonder Woman
The sole nomination that I’m willing to give Blade Runner 2049. While I disagree with how the world was captured on-screen, there’s no denying the work that went into making it. The remaining four go to period pieces with exquisite attention to detail, but serving markedly different locations. The New York’s of Wonderstruck feel so distinct from one another, and the Baltimore-set The Shape of Water‘s aesthetic is striking, even if you don’t find yourself taken by the central narrative. Mudbound‘s Mississippi locates squalor and hardship without being overcome by the sense while the more globe-trotting Wonder Woman ensures each stage of the journey is unique, from the cobbled streets of London, to the battlefield, to the sheer (ahem) wonder of Themyscira.
BEST SOUND EDITING
- Julian Slater for Baby Driver
- Richard King and Alex Gibson for Dunkirk
- Nicolas Cantin, Andreas Hildebrandt and Robert Keilbar for Nocturama
- Malte Bieler, Andrew Bock, P.K. Hooker, Will Patterson and Jesse Rosenman for Song to Song
- Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
BEST SOUND MIXING
- Jean-Pierre Laforce for BPM: Beats Per Minute
- Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo for Dunkirk
- Jean-Pierre Laforce for Nocturama
- Ethan Andrus and Greg Armstrong for Song to Song
- David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I have to google each of these two terms each time I think about them, so I won’t dare ramble about them further.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
- Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus for Kong: Skull Island
- Jeon Hyoung Lee and Erik De Boer for Okja
- Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Philippe Rebours, David Fox and Gretchen Libby for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
All works of genre, primarily science-fiction and I guess that comes from it being far easier to notice them on display here than in more grounded fare. While I don’t care for a couple of these films (coughcoughthefirsttwocoughcough) on the whole, what does work from them comes down to how astutely their worlds have been realised.
In the case of the last two, it should be apparent from any promotional material, let alone the films themselves, how wide-reaching their canvases feel as a result of the effects, while Okja‘s are more focused on a single element; the beloved super-pig that gives the film its title. Okja is such a wonderful creation that taps into the same vein of awe that Spielberg struck back on Jurassic Park, creating a tangible relationship with An Seo Hyun’s Mija despite being intangible.
If Paddington 2 had been given a 2017 theatrical run in the US, that would be on here.
Going to abstain from BEST ANIMATED FEATURE because I haven’t seen enough to create a full slate, but I will say that Coco and The LEGO Batman Movie would have both been on there.
Neither are there choices for any of the BEST SHORT categories (animated, documentary, live-action) as they are major blindspots for me, but I’m going to take this final space to say that it is absolutely criminal that World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts never made the Academy’s shortlist.
And there we have it, nominations and reasoning for almost every category. It can be stressful to lock down a category and not feel like you’re forgetting something, but seeing it all laid out as above is a good feeling. To those on letterboxd and following me –– if not then: https://letterboxd.com/Matt_Sibley/ –– you’ll see how much I avoided just giving spots on these lists to films at the very top. I’m sure that years down the line I’ll look at this and realise someone was missed off, but as of now, just a couple of weeks to go until the big awards, I feel pretty content with my choices. Thanks if you looked at them all.