The best ending of the year in the best film of the year.

My Top 20:

  1. Lady Bird
  2. Dunkirk
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. The Post
  5. Coco
  6. Darkest Hour
  7. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  8. Phantom Thread
  9. I, Tonya
  10. It: Chapter One
  11. Get Out
  12. Call Me By Your Name
  13. T2 Trainspotting
  14. Beauty and the Beast
  15. Wonder Woman
  16. The Greatest Showman
  17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  18. Blade Runner 2049
  19. The Big Sick
  20. Okja

note:  The first 15 films are ****.  There are a few awards films I haven’t seen yet that are all mentioned below.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Lady Bird
  • Best Director:  Guillermo del Toro  (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Call Me By Your Name
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Get Out
  • Best Actor:  Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Hawkins  (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Willem Dafoe  (The Florida Project)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Laurie Metcalf  (Lady Bird)
  • Best Cinematography:  Blade Runner 2049
  • Best Animated Film:  Coco
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Square

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Shape of Water
  • Best Director:  Guillermo del Toro  (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Call Me By Your Name
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Get Out
  • Best Actor:  Gary Oldman  (Darkest Hour)
  • Best Actress:  Frances McDormand  (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Sam Rockwell  (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Allison Janney  (I, Tonya)
  • Best Cinematography:  Blade Runner 2049
  • Best Animated Film:  Coco
  • Best Foreign Film:  A Fantastic Woman

Top 10 Films  (TSPDT):

  1. Get Out
  2. Call Me By Your Name
  3. The Florida Project
  4. Lady Bird
  5. Dunkirk
  6. The Shape of Water
  7. Phantom Thread
  8. A Ghost Story
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. Western

Note:  I only included feature films, which means no documentaries (Faces Places would have been in 6th) or television (Twin Peaks: The Return would have been in 7th).  Last year, there were four Best Picture nominees; this year there are an astounding seven.  The last two nominees didn’t even make their list.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. The Shape of Water  –  2419
  2. Lady Bird  –  1916
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  –  1752
  4. Call Me By Your Name  –  1335
  5. Dunkirk  –  1334
  6. Get Out  –  1087
  7. Blade Runner 2049  –  1022
  8. Phantom Thread  –  940
  9. Darkest Hour  –  878
  10. The Post  –  751

note:  Things are all over the place.  The Shape of Water is way down from the #1 for 2016.  Lady Bird is the lowest #2 since 2011 and the same for Three Billboards at #3.  But Dunkirk is the highest #5 since 2012, Blade Runner is the fourth highest #7 ever, Phantom Thread is the third highest #8 ever, Darkest Hour is the second highest #9 ever and The Post is the third highest #10 ever.  I, Tonya, at #11, with 746 and Coco in #12 with 737 would be in the Top 10 (and indeed Top 8) in most years.  Last year’s #8 (Hell or High Water) would have been #13 this year.  The Top 5 is low but the Top 10 is fairly high (4th highest ever).  The Top 5 accounts for 65.18% of the Top 10, the lowest since 2012 and the 11th lowest ever.

Top 10 Films  (2017 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Lady Bird
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Call Me By Your Name
  4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  5. The Post
  6. Dunkirk
  7. Get Out
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. The Big Sick / I, Tonya

note:  With 485 points, Lady Bird is the lowest #1 since The Departed had 485 points in 2006.

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi  –  $619.11 mil
  2. Beauty and the Beast  –  $504.01 mil
  3. Wonder Woman  –  $412.56 mil
  4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle  –  $393.20 mil
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  –  $389.81 mil
  6. Spider-Man: Homecoming  –  $334.20 mil
  7. It  –  $327.48 mil
  8. Thor: Ragnarok  –  $314.97 mil
  9. Despicable Me 3  –  $264.62 mil
  10. Justice League  –  $228.91 mil

Note:  For a good stretch, I had seen the top nine films of the year all in the theater, something I had never done before but then Jumanji moved way up the list and botched that.  I still saw nine of the Top 10.
For the third year in a row and eighth time total, a Star Wars film leads the box office.
The Top 10 makes almost exactly the same amount as in 2016 (a difference of just $1 million).  The box office is spread out well with, for the first time since 2010, five different films each accounting for over 10% of the Top 10 total.
Beauty and the Beast becomes the second highest #2 and Wonder Woman becomes the second highest #3.  The Top 3 all have females in the lead role in the film.  Jumanji and Guardians become the new highest #4 and #5.  Number #7-9 are all the second highest in their positions (behind 2016 in all three cases).
Disney only has four of the Top 10 this year but then again they only released eight films total.  Disney breaks a 20% market share for the second year in a row.

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi  –  $1330.6 mil
  2. Beauty and the Beast  –  $1263.5 mil
  3. The Fate of the Furious  –  $1236.0 mil
  4. Despicable Me 3  –  $1034.8 mil
  5. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle  –  $928.9 mil
  6. Spider-Man: Homecoming  –  $880.2 mil
  7. Wolf Warrior 2  –  $870.3 mil
  8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  –  $863.8 mil
  9. Thor: Ragnarok  –  $853.8 mil
  10. Wonder Woman  –  $821.8 mil

Note:  Warners takes a hit badly here.  They had the #3, 7 and 10 on the domestic list but those same films are 10, 13 and 14 on the international list.  Universal, on the other hand, had the #9 and 12 on the domestic list which are #4 and 3 here.
With only 53.5% of its gross outside the U.S., The Last Jedi has the highest proportion of U.S. gross for a worldwide #1 since The Dark Knight.  It also has the lowest international gross for a worldwide #1 since Toy Story 3.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture:  Dunkirk
  • Best Director:  Christopher Nolan  (Dunkirk)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Call Me By Your Name
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Shape of Water
  • Best Actor:  Gary Oldman  (Darkest Hour)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Hawkins  (The Shape of Water)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Willem Dafoe  (The Florida Project)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Octavia Spencer  (The Shape of Water)


  • Best Picture:  Lady Bird
  • Best Director:  Greta Gerwig  (Lady Bird)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  T2 Trainspotting
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Lady Bird
  • Best Actor:  Hugh Jackman  (The Greatest Showman)
  • Best Actress:  Saoirse Ronan  (Lady Bird)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Woody Harrelson  (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Laurie Metcalf  (Lady Bird)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Lady Bird
  • Best Director:  Christopher Nolan  (Dunkirk)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Call Me By Your Name
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Lady Bird
  • Best Actor:  Gary Oldman  (Darkest Hour)
  • Best Actress:  Saoirse Ronan  (Lady Bird)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Willem Dafoe  (The Florida Project)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Laurie Metcalf  (Lady Bird)
  • Best Editing:  Dunkirk
  • Best Cinematography:  Dunkirk
  • Best Original Score:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Best Sound:  Dunkirk
  • Best Art Direction:  The Shape of Water
  • Best Visual Effects:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Best Sound Editing:  Dunkirk
  • Best Costume Design:  Phantom Thread
  • Best Makeup:  Darkest Hour
  • Best Original Song:  “From Now On”  (The Greatest Showman)
  • Best Animated Film:  Coco
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Square

Foreign Films:   As is generally the case unless I wait months to post this, I haven’t seen much.  I have only seen four films submitted for the Oscar but that does include one semi-finalist (The Wound) and two nominees (The Square, On Body and Soul).  The Square makes it to low ***.5 but none of the others make it beyond ***.

Even the most awesome, sexy thing to ever come out of Australia will still kill you.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “Does Batman live in Bruce Wayne’s basement?”  “No, Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s attic.”  (Michael Cera and Will Arnett in The LEGO Batman Movie)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I can save today. You can save the world”  (Chris Pine in Wonder Woman)
  • Best Opening:  T2 Trainspotting
  • Best Ending:  Lady Bird
  • Best Scene:  the lightsaber duel in Snoke’s chamber in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  Sam Riley’s death in Free Fire
  • Funniest Scene:  the “play-blocking” scene in Lady Bird
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  the scene behind the coffee shop in Lady Bird
  • Most Terrifying Scene:  When Pennywise arises from the cellar in It: Chapter One
  • Best Use of a Song (comedic):  “Annie’s Song”  in Free Fire / Okja
  • Best Use of a Song (dramatic):  “Silk”  in T2 Trainspotting
  • Best Soundtrack:  T2 Trainspotting
  • Best Original Soundtrack:  The Greatest Showman
  • Best George Michael Reference in a Film:  The LEGO Batman Movie
  • Best Ensemble:  The Post
  • Funniest Film:  I, Tonya
  • Funniest Performance:  Daniel Craig in Logan Lucky
  • Most Creepily Effective Film:  It: Chapter One
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Kong: Skull Island
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Logan
  • Worst Film:  Fifty Shades Freed
  • Worst Sequel:  Fifty Shades Freed
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Gemma Arterton in Their Finest
  • Sexiest Performance:  Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio (female):  Alexandra Daddario in Baywatch
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio (male):  Zach Efron in Baywatch
  • Female Star of the Year:  Sally Hawkins  (The Shape of Water  /  Maudie  /  Paddington 2)  *
  • Male Star of the Year:  Hugh Jackman  (Logan / The Greatest Showman)
  • Most Hilarious (to me) Historical Inaccuracy in a Film:  The baby party in Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman being presented as if it were at Radcliffe (they were at Tufts, where Marston taught, a university that is never once mentioned in the film)
  • Final Scene Way Better than the Rest of the Film:  Split
  • Read the Books, SKIP the Film:  The Dark Tower
  • Coolest Performance:  Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok
  • Best Teaser:  Beauty and the Beast
  • Best Trailer:  T2 Trainspotting
  • Best Tagline:  “You’ll float too”  (It: Chapter One)
  • Best Cameo:  Kelly MacDonald in T2 Trainspotting
  • Funniest Cameo:  Chris Evans in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Katherine Waterston in Logan Lucky
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  Anthony Gonzalez in Coco
  • Best Motion Capture Performance:  Andy Serkis in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

*:  Technically, Paddington 2 is eligible in 2018, but they’re my awards

Film History:  The Square wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  The Shape of Water wins the Golden Lion at Venice and becomes only the third film to do so and then earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, joining Atlantic City and Brokeback Mountain (notably, all three films were made in English but by foreign-born directors).  I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Get Out is the big winner at the Indies.  The Emoji Movie which is stupid, pointless and crass wins the Razzie even though, in my opinion, it’s actually the best of the five nominees (it earns a 36, which is *.5 but is also still two points better than any of the other nominees).

Mary Tyler Moore dies in January while John Hurt doesn’t regenerate.  Bill Paxton’s game is over, man, in February  Robert Osborne leaves TCM a lot less interesting in March.  Don Rickles gives his last insult in April.  Also in April, Jonathan Demme’s Oscar acceptance speech for Silence of the Lambs finally ends.  Roger Moore’s assignment ends in May.  Some 23 years after he was planning on dying soon, Martin Landau dies.  George Romero hopefully won’t come back to life as a zombie, though he probably wouldn’t have minded if he had.  Sam Shepard reaches the final blue yonder.  Jeanne Moreau finally dies, 55 years after going off that bridge.  Jerry Lewis joins Dean Martin again.  Robert Guillaume dies on my birthday, making me think fondly of the time I heard him sing the national anthem at a Dodgers game and just makes my mother lament, for the eight millionth time, that we didn’t see him in Phantom when we went for my 16th birthday because between the time we bought the tickets and actually saw it (several months later), Michael Crawford returned to the show.

Academy Awards:  The Shape of Water ties the record for most Oscar losses by a Best Picture winner (9 – originally set by Rebecca).  For the sixth time in seven years the Best Picture winner fails to win either Director or Screenplay.  The Shape of Water becomes the first Golden Lion winner to win the Oscar (fact courtesy of F.T.).  In spite of winning only four Oscars, The Shape of Water has the most points for a Best Picture winner in seven years.  James Ivory becomes the oldest Oscar winner ever, just shy of 90.  Robert Lopez, already the youngest EGOT and quickest to win all four becomes the first person to ever double EGOT.  Roger Deakins finally wins the Oscar.  As always, much trivia can be found here.

My Oscar Notables are:

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Animated Film for Boss Baby
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Actor for Tom Hanks (The Post)
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  The Boss Baby
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  It: Chapter One
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Animated Film
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Sound, Production Design, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup, Animated Film

Golden Globes:  For the first time in four years, Best Director doesn’t go to a Best Picture winner.  Conversely, Lady Bird is the first Picture winner in either category without a Director nomination since 2012.  The Post earns 6 nominations but wins no awards, the most nominations for a winless film since 1990.

Awards:  Lady Bird and The Florida Project both win awards from all six groups.  Willem Dafoe becomes the first supporting performance (of either gender) to win all six critics awards.  Lady Bird is by far the biggest winner, taking home two awards from every group except the LAFC where it still wins one.  Other tidbits can be found here throughout November, December and early January.

Three Billboards dominates the BAFTAs including winning Best British Film in spite of the fact that aside from its British director it’s an almost completely American film in every way; it earns the most BAFTA points since Gravity in 2013.  The Shape of Water earns the most nominations in six years but only wins three awards.  The Shape of Water, Dunkirk and Blade Runner all earn the big 5 Tech nominations, the fourth time three films have done that in one year.  More can be found here with the nominations in mid January and the awards in mid February.

The Shape of Water sets a new BFCA record with 13 nominations and is the first film ever nominated in all 7 Tech categories; it comes in 2nd all-time with 510 points.  The Florida Project becomes the first film to earn a Picture nom at the BFCA with only one other nomination.  Get Out becomes only the third film to earn Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actor noms at the BFCA but nothing else (joining Good Night and Good Luck and Frost/Nixon).  Blade Runner 2049 joins Jackie from the year before with 6 noms without a Best Picture nom (and sets a record for a film that earns no major noms).

Many tidbits can be found here throughout December, January and February as each guild nominated and then had their awards.  A few notes about the guilds as a whole:  The Shape of Water earns 505 points, the most for the year, but the fewest for a leader since 2011.  Coco ties Frozen with 9 awards and 450 points, both records for an animated film.  Coco has the second most points for the year, joining Ratatouille as the only animated films to do this.  For the first time since 2011, no live action film wins more than 5 guild awards.  For the 5th straight year, the DGA winner doesn’t win the WGA, the longest streak since 1984-1989.  Phantom Thread earns just one guild nomination (the fewest for an Oscar nominee in five years) and just 15 points (fewest since Kiss of the Spider Woman earned no guild nominations in 1985 when there were only four guild awards).  Three Billboards ties the record with three SAG wins and ties for the 4th most points.  The Big Sick becomes the eighth film to earn PGA-SAG Ensemble-WGA noms and not earn an Oscar nom for Best Picture.  Lady Bird goes 0 for 9 at the guilds, earning 310 points, the third most ever for a film with no wins.  Blade Runner earns 16 nominations, the most guild nominations for a film that earns only Tech nominations.

Best Director:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Guillermo del Toro  (LAFC, BSFC, CFC, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA, Satellite)
  2. Greta Gerwig  (NSFC, CFC, NBR, DGA, Oscar, BFCA, Satellite)
  3. Christopher Nolan  (CFC, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA, Satellite)
  4. Jordan Peele  (NSFC, CFC, DGA, Oscar, BFCA, Satellite, Indie)
  5. Luca Guadagnino  (LAFC, CFC, BAFTA, BFCA, Indie)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Christopher Nolan
  2. Greta Gerwig
  3. Guillermo del Toro
  4. Steven Spielberg
  5. Paul Thomas Anderson
  6. Joe Wright
  7. Andrés Muschietti
  8. Rian Johnson
  9. Jordan Peele
  10. Denis Villeneuve

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Call Me By Your Name  (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, CFC)
  2. Molly’s Game  (Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA)
  3. The Disaster Artist  (Oscar, WGA, BFCA, NBR)
  4. Mudbound  (Oscar, WGA, BFCA)
  5. Logan  (Oscar, WGA)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Call Me By Your Name
  2. It: Chapter One
  3. T2 Trainspotting
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  5. Wonder Woman
  6. Their Finest
  7. Lady Macbeth
  8. Mudbound
  9. The Beguiled
  10. Beauty and the Beast

note:  I haven’t yet seen Molly’s Game or The Disaster Artist.  But the strength of this year is all in Original.

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Get Out  (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA, BFCA, LAFC, CFC)
  2. Lady Bird  (Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA, NSFC, BSFC)
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  (Oscar, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA)
  4. The Shape of Water  (Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA)
  5. Phantom Thread  (NYFC, NBR)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Lady Bird
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. I, Tonya  (WGA, BAFTA)
  4. The Post  (Globe, BFCA)
  5. Coco
  6. Get Out
  7. Dunkirk
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. The Big Sick  (Oscar, WGA, BFCA)

note:  Just a fantastic, fantastic year with some very tough choices.

Best Actor:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Timothée Chalamet (NYFC, LAFC, CFC, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  2. Gary Oldman  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  3. Daniel Kaluuya  (NSFC, BSFC, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  4. Daniel Day-Lewis  (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  5. Tom Hanks  (NBR, Globe, BFCA)  /  James Franco  (SAG, Globe – Comedy, BFCA)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Gary Oldman
  2. Tom Hanks
  3. Daniel Day-Lewis
  4. Daniel Kaluuya
  5. Timothée Chalamet
  6. Hugh Jackman  (The Greatest Showman)  (Globe – Comedy)
  7. Steve Carrell  (Globe – Comedy, SAG (Supporting))
  8. Jake Gyllenhaal  (BFCA)
  9. Ewan McGregor  (T2 Trainspotting)
  10. Fionn Whitehead  (Dunkirk)

Note:  I haven’t seen The Disaster Artist, Films Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool or Roman J. Israel Esq.

Best Actress:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Sally Hawkins  (LAFC, NSFC, BSFC, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  2. Frances McDormand  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  3. Saorise Ronan  (NYFC, CFC, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe – Comedy, BFCA)
  4. Margot Robbie  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe – Comedy, BFCA)
  5. Meryl Streep  (NBR, Oscar, Globe, BFCA)
  • My Top Five:
  1. Saorise Ronan
  2. Sally Hawkins
  3. Frances McDormand
  4. Margot Robbie
  5. Meryl Streep
  6. Jennifer Lawrence  (mother!)
  7. Emma Stone  (Globe – Comedy)
  8. Gemma Arterton  (Their Finest)
  9. Judi Dench  (SAG, Globe – Comedy)
  10. Florence Pugh  (Lady Macbeth)

note:  I haven’t seen Molly’s Game, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, All the Money in the World or The Leisure Seeker.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Willem Dafoe  (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, BSFC, CFC, NBR, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe,BFCA)
  2. Sam Rockwell  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  3. Richard Jenkins  (SAG, Oscar, Globe, BFCA)
  4. Woody Harrelson  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA)
  5. Christopher Plummer  (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Willem Dafoe
  2. Richard Jenkins
  3. Woody Harrelson
  4. Mark Rylance  (Dunkirk)
  5. Armie Hammer  (Globe, BFCA)
  6. Michael Stuhlbarg  (Call Me By Your Name)  (BFCA)
  7. Bill Skarsgård  (It: Chapter One)
  8. Will Poulter  (Detroit)
  9. Sebastian Stan  (I, Tonya)
  10. Kenneth Branagh  (Dunkirk)

note:  I haven’t seen All the Money in the World.
note:  On my list, there’s not a lot of difference between #4 and #10 and going on, I could include Bob Odenkirk (The Post), Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky) and Mark Hammill (The Last Jedi).

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Consensus Top Five:
  1. Laurie Metcalf  (LAFC, NSFC, BSFC, CFC, NBR, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  2. Allison Janney  (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  3. Octavia Spencer  (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA)
  4. Mary J. Blige  (SAG, Oscar, Globe, BFCA)
  5. Tiffany Haddish  (NBR, BFCA)
  • My Top 10:
  1. Laurie Metcalf
  2. Allison Janney
  3. Octavia Spencer
  4. Lesley Manville  (Oscar, BAFTA)
  5. Kristin Scott Thomas  (BAFTA)
  6. Holly Hunter  (SAG, BFCA)
  7. Michelle Pfeiffer  (mother!)
  8. Kirsten Dunst  (The Beguiled)
  9. Mary J. Blige
  10. Cate Blanchett  (Thor: Ragnarok)

note:  I haven’t seen Downsizing.

Best Original Song:  So, for the second year in a row I find myself first, bemoaning the stupid rule the Academy put in after 2007 that limited a film to only two Best Original Song nominees and second, hating that a number of musicals have now decided that to increase their chances in the category, that they would limit their submissions.  Last year, La La Land submitted only three songs and Moana and Sing Street two each.  This year, Coco and The Greatest Showman have decided to be even more annoying and go the Tangled route of only submitting a single song each.  The reason it’s so annoying, of course, is that the soundtracks for both of these films are good enough that I could have filled my entire Top 5 not just with these two films but with each of these films by themselves.  I really like the two Sufjan Stevens songs from Call Me By Your Name and I think the two new Beauty and the Beast songs, which not on a part with the original songs are still better than most of the actual Oscar nominees.  Even Weird’s Al simplistic Captain Underpants theme is better than some of this year’s nominees.  But to me, it’s all about the two musicals.  In both cases, the submitted song is understandable – those two songs, “Remember Me” and “This is Me” are the heart of the films.  I give the nod to “Remember Me” because its different use, in different styles throughout the film is what connects the story through the generations and makes the film so heart-warming.  Of course, if we just pay attention to “Remember Me” we lose “Un Poco Loco”, the fun little wonderful song that gets Miguel into the party or “Proud Corazon”, the wonderful heart-warming end to the film or “The World is My Familia” which is very short but is charming and gets everyone’s attention at a key moment or “Everyone Knows Juanita”, the beautiful little song that makes us realize that there is more to Héctor than we thought.  But as great as the soundtrack for Coco is, and it is great, it is actually outdone by The Greatest Showman.  The film may be really awkward to watch in any moment when the characters aren’t singing with a lot of stilted dialogue that you can see coming from a mile away but good lord are the songs and their production numbers through the roof.  “This is Me” might be the emotional heart of the film but since “From Now On” has been played twice as many times on my iTunes since I bought the soundtrack five weeks ago I think it’s clear which song has won me over the most.  And that was after thinking it was going to be “The Greatest Show”, which is not only a great song but a great number with the way it opens and closes the film.  There is also “Never Enough”, the beautiful ballad sung by Jenny Lind (who, when played by Rebecca Ferguson is far more beautiful than the bust of her that Veronica and I saw every day in our office at Tufts for several years).  Or maybe I should pick “Rewrite the Stars”, the love song duet that was Veronica’s chosen favorite when we were leaving the theater.  No matter how it works, my Top 10 is almost completely filled with just these two films.  It’s too bad that the Academy and the filmmakers themselves chose to limit our options for the category.

Also known as Reservoir Idiots.

Under-appreciated Film of 2017:
Free Fire  (dir. Ben Wheatley)

I offered up to Veronica three films for this position, all of which I rated at low ***.5.  All of them were completely ignored for all awards attention, but unlike some **** films that also meet that description, were also not huge box office hits (It) or likely to eventually get reviews in my Adapted Screenplay project (T2 Trainspotting).  The first choice, Their Finest, Veronica suggested that if she couldn’t remember it well enough (I had to remind her what it was), that in spite of the performances from Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy, I should pass.  The second, Logan Lucky, she admitted is just Ocean’s White Trash and I should pass in spite of Daniel Craig’s hilarious performance.  So, here I am writing about Free Fire, a film that wasn’t even Oscar eligible.

In fact, Free Fire was ignored in just about every way.  It was filmed in the summer of 2015 and was bought for distribution by Alchemy that fall but then Alchemy fell apart and A24 bought it in the spring of 2016, but it didn’t premiere until the 2016 Toronto Film Festival (where it did win the Midnight Madness Audience Award) and it wouldn’t premiere in the U.K. (where the director is from and it was filmed) until March of 2017 and the U.S. (where it is set) until April.  It would earn less than $2 million in either place and wouldn’t even cover its fairly low $7 million budget.  Like I mentioned, it wasn’t even Oscar eligible and I only knew to see it because I saw the trailer before another film (based on timing, my guess was on the dvd of 20th Century Women).  It seemed intriguing, this film clearly set in the 70’s with the look and feel of a 70’s film (right down to the poster) with a fascinating cast, none of whom are a-list stars, but, solid character actors, people like Cillian Murphy (always a plus for Veronica), Sam Riley (so good in Control and Brighton Rock), Brie Larson (just off an Oscar), Noah Taylor (always fascinating) and Enzo Cilenti (who we had loved in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell).  And what turned out to be the best surprise is the hilarious performance from Armie Hammer.  Before this, I had never really gotten into Hammer (he wasn’t very good in J. Edgar, Lone Ranger was a disaster and I thought he was the weak link to Henry Cavill’s brilliant performance in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) but his witty, sardonic performance made his fantastic performance in Call Me By Your Name less surprising.

So what exactly is the story?  Well, there are guns and there is money.  There is a deal to exchange one for the other but when Sam Riley, as one of the providers of money, is discovered to be the guy who assaulted the cousin of one of the guys providing the guns, and it turns out he’s not only an asshole but also an idiot, he gets shot and then the deal goes south and everybody starts shooting.  That only gets more dangerous (and confusing) when more shots are heard and Armie Hammer goes “Did you guys bring a fucking sniper?” but it turns out no one is sure where the sniper came from (and you never really find out – you get part of it and are about to get more when the sniper himself goes down though you find out more later, but still not all).

At this point, everybody in the film is pretty much determined to kill everybody else in the film.  The single most grotesque death is also the funniest, as it involves a van driving along that happens to have John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” playing on its eight-track (the first of two hilarious uses of the song this year).  From here on out, we get a whole lot of gunshots and a lot of confusion but also a considerable amount of humor.  The entire film is just a genre exercise, but it’s one that works so well as everyone is stuck in an enormous warehouse just trying to survive.  Director Ben Wheatley apparently planned the whole thing by building the warehouse on Minecraft, a brilliant new way to storyboard a film.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter who is on which side or why.  It’s just fun to watch all the actors try to get through this in one piece.  At the end, we even get a couple of nice, somewhat sentimental endings (that are then undercut) before the real ending that isn’t so great for anyone involved.  This film may not work for you (there are some really vicious reactions to it on Netflix) but there were few films this year that I enjoyed more.

extra review

The following film is not under-appreciated of course, as it was a serious contender for a Best Picture nomination.  That is, in fact, why I am writing this review.  When I saw it, just a few days before the Oscar nominations were announced, it was with a bit of dread for feelings that the review will make clear.  And I was stunned at how amazingly good it was and I started, even while watching the film, to write my review in my head.  Then it didn’t earn a nomination and because it was an original script, it wouldn’t ever get reviewed for my Adapted Screenplay project, so I decided to finish writing the review I had started in my head and go ahead and post it here, since the film is good enough to merit one.

Not exactly Portland’s finest.

I, Tonya  (dir. Craig Gillespie)

In the spring of 1992, I flew to Oregon to visit my father and sister who were living there while my mother and I were finishing things up in California before her move to Oregon and my move to Brandeis for school.  At the end of the trip, my sister brought along her ice skates, because she would be headed to the rink after dropping me off, since the rink was close to the airport and on the opposite side of the Portland metro area from where they lived.  I asked my dad why on earth they were coming all the way out there for her to skate, that there must be a closer rink.  The two of them explained that it was the best rink in the area, indeed, the rink where Tonya Harding skated (and just a few blocks down the road from where my son would be born, 12 years later).  Because I have never cared about figure skating (or, to be fair, about any sport that is in the Winter Olympics), they had to explain to me who Harding was.  But two years later, when I was going to school in Oregon, no one would have to explain to me, or anyone who Harding was.  She was everywhere in the news, a source of ridicule and embarrassment for anyone living in the Portland area, the epitome of Oregon white trash and the kind of vision that Portland was trying to erase (and eventually would, embracing the image of the hipster lifestyle with Portlandia, which is so true, it’s painful).  From the “incident”, to the broken lace to the scandal that fully broke after the Olympics, Harding was such an embarrassment (yet, perhaps the most well-known Portland native in the world), with her sex tape and her band and her boxing career that if anyone told me that I would ever pay to go watch a film about her life in the theater I would have written them off as insane.  Imagine my surprise that I would come home and say to my wife “If that film gets nominated for Best Picture . . .  I actually wouldn’t mind a bit.  It would deserve it.”

When you’re going to make a biopic, you have to make decisions about how to approach it.  The straight forward approach certainly can work and can even win a boatload of Oscars like Gandhi did.  But those kind of films, depending on the subject, aren’t necessarily all that interesting in the long run and so a lot of filmmakers take different approaches.  The approach that director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers take isn’t necessarily unique – lots of film use the “interview the people to get their retrospective take on events” technique.  But they don’t necessarily use that technique to have the interviewees constantly contradicting each other or complaining about each other or wanting to frame the events around their own personal truths.  But that works so well for this story because, well because most of these people just aren’t very believable.  So we’re getting the story filtered through their own reactions.  It works so well partially because Tonya Harding, LaVona Golden and Jeff Gillooly are so unbelievable as people and characters and because Margot Robbie, Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan give such magnificent performances.  They want us to believe them.  Tonya and Jeff don’t want to seem like the awful people they’ve been portrayed to be in the press and LaVona doesn’t give a shit what we think.

Perhaps one measure of how brilliant the film is comes down the end of the film.  Margot Robbie, made up to be an older Tonya being “interviewed” (the makeup in the film is one of the best things about it but I also can’t discount the Editing which earned a surprise Oscar nomination but is really very impressive as it helps shape the structure of the film) looks straight at the camera and essentially accuses those in the audience of being complicit in her downfall.  We’re there, watching her on screen, reveling in what she has done, so really aren’t we to blame for some of it?  We came for the show and she delivered a show, didn’t she?  That works so well that you don’t want to think about it and you just feel guilty.  But when you do think about it, it also says so much about Tonya and the way she has lived her life.  Her mother was a truly awful human being (Janney’s performance is so magnificent that I can’t be upset about her up-ending Laurie Metcalf; she ranks as one of the best 2nd place performances in Supporting Actress in the history of the Nighthawks), her husband was an abusive prick (Stan never really got his due for his performance in this film, which I prefer even over Sam Rockwell’s award winning performance and his “interview” scenes really make you feel a measure of sympathy for Gilooly and that’s a measure of the impressiveness of the performance and the script), her father left her, the world enjoyed watching her spectacle.  So, of course, none of this is on her, right?  And that says everything about her.  Of course nothing is her fault.  Why should she be made to blame for any of her numerous awful decisions?

That’s the film in a nutshell.  The people in this film are so insane you can’t believe any of this ever happened, but since it’s all so well documented and since I lived through it, of course I know it happened.  And yet, in the midst of all this ridiculousness, we get a magnificent film.  While watching the film I was reminded of Without Limits.  Both films are about famous athletes from Oregon who finished 4th at the Olympics and then their careers ended.  That film was a tragedy about Pre’s death before he could compete again.  This film is a tragicomedy about how Harding undermined her own career and got herself a lifelong ban.  The scene where she gets it, Robbie plays it so perfectly and you are reminded (by her) that she doesn’t know how to do anything else in life, so how can they ban her?  But then you think about what you’ve watched and go, oh yeah, right, the incident.  Who could have thought something so absurd could be so delightful to watch?