Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. (Credit: IMDB)

The REALLY watchable Oscar-nominated titles for 2018

Jan 28th, 2018 Awards Last modified 2 years ago

Running up to the announcement of the Oscar winners on March 4 and up to a week after, you might wonder: Are the nominated titles really worth two hours of my time? Will I really be entertained, or will I leave the cinema asking myself, “WTF?!?!” (As in, “WTF happened after I dozed off?”)

Sure, film and culture critics from The New York Times to Collider to Variety magazine have discussed how the Academy is obviously trying to be more inclusive in this #MeToo and #TimesUp moment, by giving a nod to a female cinematographer (Rachel Morrison) for the first time; by being more inclusive, whether it’s with regard to race, or sexual orientation.

But The Popping Post has noticed that there are glaring exclusions of some movies. The LEGO Batman Movie didn’t get a nomination for Best Animated Film; Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, polarising as it was, didn’t get a single nod; Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok were likewise passed over.

Yeah, sure, being nominated for an Academy Award means recognition, but does it equate to entertainment for the layperson on the street?

Starting from the films that got the most number of nominations, The Popping Post has got it sorted out for you. On a scale of one to four *, with four * being the most entertaining and most watchable, we are going to tell you honestly, without being chi-chi and all that, what you can expect from the nominated Best Picture titles available on Singapore screens.

The Shape of Water
13 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay

We’re going to be honest here. This movie is only going to be in cinemas on Feb 1, and we weren’t invited to any early previews, so we haven’t seen this. Our generous rating is based on the trailer and the movie synopsis. It’s about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who discovers the product of a highly classified government experiment, and makes a connection with it. If you like fantasy, romance and drama, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t find The Shape Of Water lavishly entertaining.


Eight nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score

Dunkirk was released in Singapore cinemas in July last year. It was written, directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, who used cinematography and music to create a suspenseful you-are-there atmosphere for the audience. His approach garnered wide praise from critics and Dunkirk has been lauded as one of the greatest war films of all time. However, although the movie’s length is only 1h 46 min, it did feel longer than that. Perhaps it was due to the intentional lack of dialogue, or perhaps it was part of the immersive experience as Nolan intended.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress, 2x Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay

Rated NC16 because of coarse language and violence, Three Billboards is a darkly sadistic and yet humorous film about Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), the mother of a murder victim. Sure, there are no fancy special effects and the subject matter is kind of morbid, but the tight screenplay and the three main characters’ brilliant acting make the movie thoroughly entertaining and watchable. It’s definitely worth 2 hours of your attention.


Darkest Hour
Six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This film which is a prequel of sorts to the events in Dunkirk is the entire opposite of the film Dunkirk, where dialogue is concerned. About 90 per cent of the film is Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) talking, mumbling, and giving stirring speeches. If you consider yourself a war film buff, you might be disappointed that gunfire is replaced by bickering and politicking. If it weren’t for Gary Oldman’s convincing performance and his makeup artist’s amazing work, I would have given this film only one star.


Phantom Thread
Six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Costume Design

Lovers of couture will appreciate the opulent made-to-order dresses by the House of Woodcock, helmed by the impossibly fussy Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). The film genre is categorised as “drama/romance” but I definitely think that there’s more drama than romance, what with Woodcock’s peculiar tantrums, and the film score evoking Alfred Hitchcock-suspense at certain turns. The “romance” between Woodcock and Alma (Vicky Krieps)  is a misnomer – The New Yorker’s term “erotic politics” – is more accurate. If you’re a big Daniel Day-Lewis fan and want to catch what is said to be his last film, Phantom Thread is a must-watch. But if you’re expecting to be swept off your feet by an impossibly sweet romance, don’t.


Lady Bird
This review was edited after we watched the film.
*** (after watching: **)
Five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay

Lady Bird is only going to be released on February 22, so our rating is based on the trailer and gut feel. I definitely want to watch this one, because I think that I can relate to Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf’s tense mother-daughter relationship. I’m prepared for a lot of eyeball rolling (“Lady Bird” is 17, after all), lots of back talk, and teenage angst.

Honest review after watching: I’m not quite sure how or why this film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, as I don’t think there is anything original about the protagonist or the plot. “Lady Bird” is a conflicted teenager who can’t see eye to eye with her mother on almost everything, especially on the path she should pursue after graduating from high school. This film would have been mediocre if not for Saoirse Ronan’s performance and the chemistry she had with Laurie Metcalf. Their best moments together have been summarised in the trailer, though.

Call Me by Your Name
Four nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name is a sweet, coming-of-age summer romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), set against the backdrop of lush Italian landscape. Don’t be fooled by the R21 rating (homosexual themes) and the generous display of pecs in the trailer – frontal nudity is absent even in the lovemaking scenes. Will this film make you feel squeamish? Only if you’re allergic to love and beauty.


Get Out
Four nominations, which are Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay

The multiple nominations for Get Out, which was written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele (he’s half of Comedy Central duo Key and Peele), was one of the Oscar surprises this year. Released in March 2017, people thought it would have been forgotten by the time the Academy Award nominations were announced. Get Out was also nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, at the Golden Globes, which is kinda weird because the film is a psycho-thriller. It’s about a young African American man who is meeting his white girlfriend’s parents in their secluded house in the woods for the first time. He discovers that beneath the genteel veneer of respectability lies a terrible trap specially laid to snare him. The storyline is riveting, even if unsettling.


The Post
Two nominations, which are Best Picture and Best Actress

Meryl Streep fans will disagree but I have to say this: I’m not quite sure why she was nominated for Best Actress for this particular role, even if it was very well done. The fault is not Streep’s – it’s just that Katharine Graham (the character she plays) is very beige. The audience is acquainted with Mrs Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, at a critical juncture where the company is about to make its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. When her editor, Ben Bradlee, makes the risky decision to publish the Pentagon Papers despite disapproval from the state, will she have the moral mettle to back him up? The friend who watched The Post with me said it was like watching TV in the 1970s – you can’t really make out what the characters are saying. And that’s kind of important, because the screenplay heavily relies on telling, not showing.


For the full list of 90th Academy Award nominations, please click here.

About the Author

Rachel is an old soul who started her career in the media industry in the noughties. She has spent half her career as a print and TV journalist with Singapore's flagship media providers, Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp, but now practises her craft online. She is the editor of The Popping Post.

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