Ranking the 90th Academy Awards’ Best Picture Nominees

The nominees at the 90th Academy Awards were announced last week, and the category most care about, as always, is Best Picture. Most of the nominees were pretty predictable, though there were a few surprise nominees and a few surprise snubs. Nevertheless, this crop of Best Picture candidates is an immensely entertaining one filled with passionate, beautiful layers and well-crafted storylines. And I saw them all (nearly), so you don't have to. Even though you should.

Unranked- Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is the only 2017 Best Picture nominee I didn't get the chance to watch. For reasons beyond my control, I was unable to make it to the theater in time to see it. For that reason, I won't be ranking it here.

8- Dunkirk
Dunkirk is the only film on this list that I'd describe as "just okay." Mark Rylance gives an admirable performance her, but this film is an achievement in directing more than anything else. The movie is absolutely breathtaking to look at, due to Christopher Nolan's incredible direction. However, the story itself left me bored at times, and I wasn't quite intrigued at this film like I was with the others. Its still fine, and I would give it another go to see if I liked it more the second time, but it's still my fourth-favorite period piece nominated for Best Picture.

7- Phantom Thread
Of all of the films on this list, Phantom Thread is the slowest burn of them all. It takes the entire movie to fully grasp what's actually going on here. I'm not going to spoil it here, but the film certainly does take you on an emotional roller coaster with numerous ups and down. At some points, you can't help but feel sorry for a character that for much of the movie seems like a villain. At others, you just want them gone. And at others, you're just incredibly confused. That's my only real problem with this picture. Not that it starts off quite slow, but that it ends in such a frenzy that you're just left baffled by the whole experience  I watched the movie in the theater and I still had to look up its Wikipedia summary. Phantom Thread is a very good movie, but its ending keeps it from reaching greatness. That's why it's hugging the bottom of this list.

6- Get Out
Get Out was the first film of 2017 that I watched, and thus was the first Best Picture nominee that I watched, as well. I found it to be wholeheartedly enjoyable and was a terrific effort of first-time director Jordan Peele. I just wasn't as blown away as most people were. One thing, however, that did blow me away was lead actor Daniel Kaluuya's performance. He's a relative newcomer in the film world, and I'd never seen him in anything before, so I was shocked by his great performance. The rest of the cast was great as well, and the casting here is some of the year's finest. The film certainly left me thinking, but one thought that didn't cross my mind was "that was best picture-worthy." That has stayed the same in the months since. Don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful film, but there were quite a few better than it.

5- Darkest Hour
Going into Darkest Hour, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. In my mind, there was a high probability that it would just be a stuffy war drama that would be remarkable only in the sense that it was remarkably boring. After seeing it, I can now say that I was wrong to have ever even thought that way. The film was nothing like that, somehow leaving me on the edge of my set despite already knowing the outcome. Front and center throughout the entire affair was Gary Oldman, perfectly (and unrecognizably) portraying former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Without Oldman in that role, the film would be much worse off. I may not even be discussing it here as an Oscar nominee. With him, it becomes a remarkable way to tell a story about one of history's most notable leaders.

NOTE:
From this point on, these are all-time great films. Films that will undoubtedly stand the test of time, at least for me. They are movies that I haven't been able to stop thinking about since seeing them, and it was immensely difficult to rank them. But here goes.

4- The Post
The Post potentially assembled one of the greatest casts of any movie. Spearheaded by director and movie god Steven Spielberg, this film managed to rope in film legends Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as its leads. It also grabbed those always-reliable players like Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson and Carrie Coon, just to name a few. Its ensemble cast is incredible. And the most incredibly of all here is that they all manage to come together and make a fantastic film that is always, always about the characters and the paper that gave the film its name, The Washington Post. These immensely gifted performers always balance an appropriate tone for the film, never overacting or stealing the spotlight from the main story. Much credit also has to be given to Spielberg, who does a phenomenal job directing here.

3- Lady Bird
Lady Bird is a beautiful little film that really touched my heart in so many ways. And it's very hard to point to why in particular I feel this way, because there's really so many factors. Most notable of course is lead actress (and one of my favorite people on the planet) Saoirse Ronan, who brings the titular Lady Bird to life in a way only she could. She brings a sweet and relatable layer to a character that could easily be seen as deeply unlikable. And then there's the poignant performance of Laurie Metcalf as the protagonist's mother Marion, who is the film's emotional heart and soul. Without her, there's no film. It's not a flashy role, but Metcalf still does an incredible job with it and helps make it just as important and striking of a role as Ronan's Lady Bird. In a more minor yet still memorable role is Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's father Larry, who does so much with so little. This film is Greta Gerwig's passion project. And it shows. She lovingly crafts each character in her love letter to teenage life and, of course, the city of Sacramento.

2- The Shape of Water
Nothing about The Shape of Water is short of incredible. The sets are breathtakingly gorgeous, the acting is superb, and the direction is about as fine as it can be. Sally Hawkins speaks exactly zero times throughout the film, but she is able to make me feel so many emotions despite that. That alone makes her performance in this film one of the very best of the year and the best of her career. I could rave on and on about it, that's how deeply her performance touched me. And yet, she wasn't the only mind-blowing performance. Two supporting performers, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, also do incredible jobs. Neither one of them is the star of the film, yet I still was captivated by their performances whenever they were on screen. This is going to sound strange, but while it's not my personal favorite film of the year, The Shape of Water is the movie that I think should win Best Picture. I fail to find even a single flaw with it. The premise sounds strange, and it is. That isn't even close to being a flaw, because it works so well and I can think of nobody more qualified to tell this story than Guillermo del Toro.

1- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards is the only film on this list that I've seen not once, but twice. It's a funny yet devastating tale that is led in a dynamo performance by Frances McDormand. The supporting performances are great, but make no mistake: this is McDormand's movie. She is incredible in her role, delivering what I believe to be the greatest performance of her career. She can make you laugh, but in seconds can make you cry as well. Elsewhere, Sam Rockwell takes a morally challenged character and, in just a two hour runtime, makes you feel both extreme rage and compassion for. Martin McDonagh wrote a beautiful story of heartbreak and grief that manages to strike all the right chords. That's pretty remarkable.

What was your favorite Best Picture nominees? How would you rank them? Let me know in the comments below, and vote for your favorite in the poll below.

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