2018-02-07 / Arts and Entertainment

Irate Movies

A weekend with the films nominated for Academy Awards

Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill in a scene from "Darkest Hour." (Jack English/Focus Features via AP)
Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill in a scene from "Darkest Hour." (Jack English/Focus Features via AP) Last week, I reviewed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” and it put me in the mood for the Oscars.

Problem was that the only Academy Award-nominated films I had seen were “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” “Dunkirk,” and “Get Out.” Leading to this weekend, my Oscar nominated-weekend.

I took the time and put in the miles to see as many of the nominated films I could. After two days and five films (one not nominated), I have a pretty good handle on the Best Picture category for this year’s awards.

But I am not picking who I think would or should win yet, even though I have a pretty good idea on both accounts. For now, I am going to do a brief review of each one, with the hope that you will see at least one before the Oscars.

“The Shape Of Water”

“The Shape of Water” tells the story of Elisa, a mute woman who lives an isolated life and works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962.

Eliza’s life is forever changed when she discovers the lab's classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America.

She develops a unique bond with her new friend, even finding love.

When Eliza learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist, she decides she must help it.

“The Shape of Water” is a very different type of movie, and will not be liked by everyone. I liked it, but I also assumed that I would have liked it more. I love different, out-of-the-box thinking films.

The film is extremely well done. Guillermo Del Toro fully deserves the best director nomination.

Toro weaves a wonderful tale and creates a picturesque 1962 backdrop.

I liked every minute of the film. I just didn’t love it. “The Shape of Water” truly is different, even a little off-putting with the openness and honesty it tells this love story with. Walk in open-minded, and you will like this film.

My only problem was the ending: Not that it is bad, but it felt like a fairy tale finish to a story that has meaning.


“Phantom Thread”

“Phantom Thread” is set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London. It weaves the story of renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and their lives at the center of British fashion.

Lives spent dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock.

Woodcock has women come and go in his life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across the young, strong-willed Alma (Vicky Krieps). Alma soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover.

Day-Lewis is probably the best actor in my lifetime, and you should not expect anything but brilliance from him. His performance in “Phantom Thread” is wonderful. It may not be on par with “Lincoln,” but it is on the list of one of his best.

“Phantom Thread” is directed by the talented Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson directs one of his finest films. It is always fun to watch his films.

With “Phantom Thread,” Anderson tells a story in a time period and with the type of people that many could find to be “stuffy” or boring, yet he does it in a way that keeps the audience constantly engaged.

“Phantom Thread” is a solid movie with a great cast and director, and while it may be a one-time viewing film, it is worth it. Especially since Day-Lewis has stated that this is most likely his last film.

Not sure “Phantom Thread” is quite epic enough for his last role, but I for one am sorry to see him go.


“Darkest Hour”

“Darkest Hour” is a thrilling and inspiring true story that begins at the precipice of World War II. It is primarily about the moment Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman) becomes prime minister of Great Britain.

Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: Whether or not to explore a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.

Churchill stands firm in fighting for the ideals, liberty and the freedom of a nation. The threat of invasion is imminent and with an unknowing public, waffling King and discourse against him in his own party, Churchill must withstand and rally a nation.

“Darkest Hour” is the best movie I saw over the weekend. If you were to see one, see this one and, quite frankly, it is for only one reason — Gary Oldman.

The film feels like a History Channel movie, and at times is about as stuffy as you would assume a movie about a dressmaker would be. Gary Oldman is brilliant, though.

Oldman’s performance is the best I have seen in years. The closest comparison I can make in recent films is Day-Lewis’ in “Lincoln.” Oldman may be even better than that, and is virtually unrecognizable. He turns mannerisms into an art form as Churchill.

The only way you can tell it is Oldman is the very distinctive pitch of his voice. He does throw it a bit, but it is still there. Oldman deserves his Oscar nomination, probably more so than any of the other nominees in any of the categories.

Seeing Oldman as Winston Churchill is a must.


“The Post”

“The Post” is the most socially significant film in a long, long time. It tells the story of Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post.

With hard-nosed newspaperman Ben Bradle for an editor, the two race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive coverup of government secrets.

“The Pentagon Papers” covered three decades of secrets by four U.S. presidents. Together, Graham and Bradlee must overcome their differences and risk their careers, possibly their freedom, as they help bring long-buried truths to light.

I am completely biased towards this film for two reasons. Number one: I work at a newspaper, and Number two: I have a strong disdain for the current presidential regime and its treatment of freedom of press.

Freedom of press is at the very heart of “The Post.” ‘The film is open and honest about that and makes clear that freedom of press is a must.

“The Post” shows Richard Nixon pushing hard against the Times and the Post. The acting by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep is top-notch, especially by Streep, who is another master of mannerisms.

Hanks’ booming voice is perfect when he commands the hustle and bustle of the newsroom — often a must for editors.

The one downside is that all the characters portray an aesthetic that some disdain, the air of entitlement. Many of the people involved, especially the two main characters, are rich and open about their relationships with presidents and upper Washington elite.

The two main characters are ingrained in the very community they seek to expose. Yet they prioritized freedom of press over friends.

This is how important “The Post” is. So important, in fact, Spielberg dropped everything he was doing to make this film because of what he was seeing being said and done against the press.

I am biased. I work for the press. But I stand by and return to my earlier statement, “The Post” is the most socially important film in years.


Oh and for those wondering what the fifth film I saw was, the non-nominated one ... It was “Maze Runner: Death Cure.”

Death Cure is not better than the first “Maze Runner” but far better than the second “Maze Runner: Scorch Trials.”

“Maze Runner: Death Cure” was my my nerd-dom, sci-fi film for the weekend. After four high-quality films with intense subject matter, it was my fun escapist film.

“Maze Runner: Death Cure” was not the best, but was absolutely the most fun of all these. Except, why did they kill ...


Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the Graphics Department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com.

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