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Oscars 2018: It’s impossible to choose a Best Picture favourite this time (for reasons good and bad)

This year, there is a competition between apples and oranges to find out which one is supreme. At the end of marathon session, here’s what our reviewer thought of the major films at the Oscars this year.

Oscars2018 Updated: Mar 04, 2018 13:34 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Oscars 2018,Oscars,Guillermo del Toro
A still from Call Me By Your Name.

2018 is miraculously the only year when I have been able to watch all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars declare the winner on Sunday. By investing in almost two all-nighters, I had hoped to have an informed opinion on which film I would root for when the final envelope of the night is opened and the winner’s name is (correctly) announced. However, at the end of my marathon, I find myself even more confused.

This year, we have a competition between apples and oranges to find out which one is supreme. We have Guillermo del Toro’s romantic fantasy The Shape of Water pitted against Christopher Nolan’s Second World War epic, Dunkirk. Jordan Peele’s Get Out opened new avenues to what we really know as the horror genre but it is up against Greta Gerwig’s coming of age story of a girl who hates Sacramento. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is as weird and exciting as a love story can get and it will fight Joe Wright’s love song to Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour. Finally, there is Steven Spielberg’s reminder of the true duty of journalism in The Post, up against Luca Guadagnino’s ode to a summer in Italy and unrequited love in Call Me By Your Name and Martin McDonagh’s somehow successful attempt at making a dark comedy about a young girl’s rape with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

With these nine nominees, all highly deserving the honour, it is a tough task for anyone to pick a winner, but I can only speak for myself. I have founds things to like in all of these films, all reasons strikingly different from each other. The fairytale-like simplicity of The Shape of Water was a refreshing change from the greyness of characters in all the other options. The mute woman is the definition of a pure heart and selflessness while the villain so evidently evil, he might as well have a snake for a sidekick and emanate lime green fumes every time he appears on screen. It’s a tale as old as time retold so beautifully by del Toro.

A still from The Shape of Water.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deserves the nomination for a completely different reason. The concerning actions of the heroine and the purge of the ‘villain’ stay with you even after the curtains roll down. You wonder which character, if any at all, you feel the closest to. Do you think you would have behaved more like a hero had you been in her place or given in to the sweetness of revenge just like her? The questions are several and the answers just as difficult/shameful to realise.

Phantom Thread makes you ask different questions, none about the relatability of characters. The story is unlike anything you see in daily life around you but perhaps in a more muted form, you have lived it in your own life. Have you never been so spellbound by the authority of somebody that you begin catering to their eccentricities? Have you never thrown your weight around on people you know would never dare to leave you? We abuse those around us and get abused way more often than we realise. Of course, we may not feed them poisoned mushroom but Phantom Thread did make me ask myself if I was ever a part of anything remotely similar.

A still from Phantom Thread.

One film that I didn’t think I would see myself so much in was Call Me By Your Name. The sunny days of a summer in a hamlet in Italy felt so familiar for a reason I still cannot fathom. Perhaps it was due to what it was all enveloping inside it, a doomed romance that would never come to fruition. The first time you fall in love and the first time your heart is broken is a pain one rarely forgets. What twists the knife even more is the tragedy of knowing it will never take flight. I never would have expected a love story between a grown man and a boy of 17 to come so close to telling it truthfully.

However, even with all their virtues, there is one parameter for me that these films could not excel at: none of them could stay in my mind more than hour after I had watched them. Every year, there is always one which takes me in its arms and refuses to let go for days. Two years ago, Room, made me look over my shoulder every time I walked home alone, made me anxious about helping strangers, imagine a life contained to a room and how would I make someone believe that there is more to the world than just these four walls. Would I ever recover from the trauma? Is there ever a happily ever after for someone who has been through this? Have I recovered from the trauma that I think I have forgotten? It took almost a month to finally be freed from its spell, but even now, every time I see its poster hanging above my bed, I dive back into the same pool of questions.

A still from Room.

Another poster above my bed is of 2017’s Best Picture nominee (and winner for a short awkward minute), La La Land. When I first watched it, I wondered what the fuss was all about but upon listening to the soundtrack on my way home from work, in bed, grocery shopping, sitting under stars and every waking hour of my life for three whole months, I fell in love. First it was with the tragedy of their story. I felt sorry for their unfinished love story and the life they couldn’t have. But as days went by, I felt jealous of their ambition and the great fortune they had of finding each other at all. To feel so in love, to have someone care about you and your dreams like they were his is a blessing not everyone gets.

A still from La La Land.

Unfortunately, as good as all of these 2018 nominees are, none of them is still good enough to have me reeling for days in its fever. And while I hope the best of the lot wins, I still wouldn’t know which one it is.

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First Published: Mar 04, 2018 13:28 IST