Split Decision: Best Picture 2018

Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Feel free to chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!

This week’s question:

If you were voting for the Oscars this year, what would be your pick for Best Picture of the nominated films?

My pick considers the spectacle of the movie-going experience. For that reason, it has to be Dunkirk. It’s the most fun I had watching an Oscar contender all year. As I’ve mentioned before, I was lucky enough to see this movie in IMAX and I think it made all the difference in the world. I have seen a bunch of the other films nominated but none hit me in quite the same way. For two hours, I was on that beach dreaming of England. For two hours, I was in that cockpit with Tom Hardy (yes please!). The sound design alone would probably be enough for me to say give this movie a statue. I will say, Phantom Thread comes really really close. You got to admire a closeted prestige Dom/Sub movie.   —Jill Malcolm

Full disclosure, I am still four films behind as of today. Shameful, right? Although I quite enjoyed many of the films, I think I was most surprised with how much I loved Dunkirk. Perhaps it surprised me because of my general indifference towards Nolan as a filmmaker (yeah, yeah, unpopular opinion). Much like one of my all-time favorites The Thin Red Line (1998), I appreciated the strong ensemble performances in Dunkirk. Although this film is by not perfect, ultimately I find it to be a really powerful, aesthetically rich film. I certainly don’t think it has any shot whatsoever of winning best picture, but it’s still my pick this year.–Catherine Haas

I missed Call Me By Your Name‘s theatrical release due to holiday madness and some real-life obstacles, but I am watching it in the next 48 hours. I loved A Bigger Splash, so I am sure I will enjoy it a lot. Anyway, this is one of the few years in which I like all of the Best Picture nominees (Darkest Hour is the weakest, and its biggest crime is slightness).Without further ado, I’ll also have to toss my hat into the Dunkirk ring. It’s the most movie of any of these films, and I also give it points for being as accessible as a blockbuster, but also as strongly messaged as any arthouse winner. Dunkirk is all about the small choices, the control we have over our own destinies–to a point. It is about honor and duty and all of those things we expect in a war film, but rather than trying to be about inspirational heroes, it forces us to reconcile with the constant state of anxiety that is war. Nothing especially “traumatic” even need happen for it to become the most stressful scenario imaginable. And Dunkirk is a perfect machine designed to convey these human emotions. —Ryan Silberstein

Call Me By Your Name. One of my favorite filmmakers adapts one of my favorite novels by one of my favorite authors. When I first saw the film (at a 10am screening) it tickled and tingled every nerve ending I have. I wept uncontrollably during the father/son scene and needed the rest of the day to recover. I saw the film again six weeks later and it was even better. The film is astonishing on so many levels, from Timothee Chalamet’s phenomenal performance to James Ivory’s canny adaptation of a very interior novel, to that scene of Armie Hammer dancing to “Love My Way” (so swoon inducing, it’s seared in my retina/memory) and even the scene of Elio calling his mother from the train station, which wrecked me the second time around. Then there’s that final scene by the fire…. No other nominated film contained such exquisite emotion. I was listening to the Sujfan Stevens songs last night and they are fantastic. I need to see this film again. There is absolutely nothing else on the level of Call Me By Your Name nominated this year. I hope the Oscar voters agree.Gary M. Kramer

My pick for best film is Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. It’s the only one of the Best Picture nominees that made my top ten list. It’s a beautiful love story, set in a beautiful place, with beautiful people. Beyond that, it has gorgeous cinematography, a James Ivory screenplay, brilliant music selections, and a languid pacing that reflects the hazy summer days slowly going by. It is sort of the total package when it comes to great cinema. It does not stand a chance of winning, but I am super glad that it was nominated. —Andy Elijah

While I can only comment on the movies I have seen (so I’m excluding Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri has been the nominee that has stuck to my ribs and followed me sullenly around this odd reality we now find ourselves in.  Three Billboards pulls off the near impossible, managing to be irreverent and at times laugh-out-loud funny while also having something deeply poignant and serious to say.  It is focused on the journey of its protagonist while also making a much larger point about hatred, violence, and forgiveness.  It is beautifully written, gorgeously shot, and features some of my favorite performances from each of its Oscar-nominated stars.  The one-take following Sam Rockwell’s character from the police station to the advertising company and back to the police station may be one of my favorite scenes all year, and I am happy that Sam Rockwell may finally get his due shine because of this movie.  Three Billboards is the film I’ll be rooting for come Oscar night..–Jeff Piotrowski

For me there is no contest. The best flick on this list is Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. For the entirety of Del Toro’s career I’ve found myself at a distance from whatever he was going for with each film. Sure, his style is and always has been extremely suited to my tastes and sensibilities, but I could only ever get about 80% onboard. When I sat down for his latest, it was with the understanding that the same would occur. Imagine my surprise when I fell head over heels for every aspect of this film.

From the honest (and knowingly heightened) performances, to the creature design, to the thematic concerns about speaking truth to power and doing what’s right in the face of adversity, it all works wonders. Every piece of production fires on all cylinders to bring a universally relatable (and troublingly current) message to the big screen. And really, when has a comedy-drama-horror-romance-monster-musical ever existed, let alone received such acclaim? Validate this strange experiment with the awards love it deserves!!
I will never forget the feeling this film gave me, and I will be chasing the dragon (gill man?) henceforth.–Dan Scully

If I was a member of the Academy, and wished to further the idea of awarding artistic excellence, then I would most certainly put a vote in for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, the best American film of 2017. While I do have enthusiasm for Call Me By Your Name and Get Out, no other Best Picture nominee made me long to luxuriate in the hermetic world it weaves. Yet one should not be fooled by the voluptuous ambiance, as Anderson quickly subverts any semblance of a traditional “costume picture”. The ridiculously named Reynolds Woodcock (played with devilish regality by Daniel Day-Lewis), a dressmaker with a knack for routine and frequently overbearing narcissism, is one of the most richly characterized eccentrics in Anderson’s oeuvre, and that includes no less than the slimy Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, effectively embodying capitalism) and the imploding Barry Egan (Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love).

Anderson’s cinema is, perhaps, too weird for the Academy’s taste, and, while the peak oddities of Phantom Thread aren’t as aggressively outré as those in some of his other works, the twisted perversities simmering beneath the surface, eventually steering the drama down a path that’s more Du Maurier than Henry James, probably caused some voters (and viewers) to jump ship. For me, however, Anderson is a master seducer, and, with no small help from Jonny Greenwood’s score, effectively entices the viewer through the treacherous House of Woodcock, envisioning just as many elegant images as uncovering insights about the chosen milieu. Once a prodigy of 90s American indie cinema, Anderson appears, at this point, only one or two great films away from earning recognition as one of the medium’s grandmasters. So long as he’s around, there’s hope that stimulating cinema will endure in the face of fiscally driven safeness. — Dan Santelli


The movie I find myself thinking about the most from this list is Get Out. Get Out is a cultural zeitgeist nobody saw coming. The movie was super hyped to me before I saw it, and it exceeded the hype. It’s clever without being too pleased with itself, super entertaining and chilling to the core. Jordan Peele made a beautiful 80’s throwback thriller with some excellent, subtle, work from Daniel Kaluuya. Kaluuya’s performance reminds me that a good close up on an actor’s eyes can show you their heart. Also, it’s extraordinarily re-watchable in the way the best Key and Peele sketches are. Yes, there are funny parts, but is so much more than that. The comedy leads to the larger issue and aids the storytelling as a way in to the complicated conversation being presented. The movie doesn’t patronize the audience, but it doesn’t spell things out of them either. I’m not sure if it’s going to win (since it’s a popular horror movie and that tends to be an Academy No-No) but if a Best Picture nomination gets more folk to see it, power to the people.–Jenna Kuerzi

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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