Film

Every Movie Nominated For An Oscar This Year, Ranked From Worst To Best

Yeah, 'The Boss Baby' ranks above 'Three Billboards'.

As a film critic, I am probably not meant to like the Academy Awards. I should find them gaudy and tacky, a disgrace to the artform and an unnecessary distraction that turns cinema into a competition sport put on by a group of self-congratulatory narcissists who routinely show off their lack of good taste.

Alas, I love the Oscars. I can’t tell you how many times I have wound up in late-night YouTube blackholes of acceptance speeches. I couldn’t put a number of how many hours I have agonised over who and what films will get nominated. What a fool’s errand it would be to pretend I don’t often find myself daydreaming about presenters announcing the winners and imagining their speeches. Yes, they all too often disappoint me, but other times they know exactly what to make me happy.

If you wanted to compare our relationship to a movie, it would be Woodcock and Alma in Phantom Thread. They keep poisoning me with deadly mushrooms, but I continue to devour them because we’re perfect for each other.

And so, because I am a masochist in that regard, I decided to sit down and watch all 59 films nominated for an Academy Award this year. Sure, all nine Best Picture nominees is a piece of cake. All five documentaries? Of course! But what about all the animated feature nominees? What about The Boss Baby?!? You bet. All of the short films? Definitely!

And because the Oscars are nothing if not a reason to pit completely incomparable movies against one another, I’m ranking them from worst to best.


#59. Beauty and the Beast

Nominated for: Costume Design, Production Design

Disney’s effort to turn their animated wonders into live action slogs continues apace with Beauty and the Beast, an ugly mess of cartoonish CGI.

What’s most egregious about its nominations, however, is that the categories are meant to honour the “design” of costumes and production, and yet everything appears to be lifted wholesale from the 1991 version (which was the first animated film ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar). And let’s not get into that absurd “exclusively gay” moment.

Sorry, Emma.

#58.Victoria & Abdul

Nominated for: Costume Design, Make Up and Hairstyling

Your nan’s fave starring Judi Dench also just happens to be a putrid ode to colonialism. What fun! Made with enough cutesy flourishes in the hope that audiences might just ignore the slavery and racism.

#57. Dear Basketball

Nominated for: Animated Short

At the Academy nominees’ luncheon’s class of 2017 photograph, Kobe Bryant and with his net worth of somewhere north of US$300mil was seated next to acclaimed Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi, a woman who couldn’t get financing for 17 whole years to make a movie. I wonder what they talked about, because there’s little in this short animation worth discussing. Nice animation, but Bryant’s poem is barf-worthy.

#56. Revolting Rhymes

Nominated for: Animated Short

This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1982 parody of nursery rhymes is more Sunday morning cartoon than anything approaching the genius of The Witches.

#55. Kong: Skull Island

Nominated for: Visual Effects

Another King Kong movie, another nomination for Best Visual Effects! The category didn’t exist in 1933 when the original and the best Kong was released, but both the 1976 and 2005 versions won this category for their giant furballs. This incarnation’s weird Apocalypse Now vibes are an odd fit, but it does look fantastic.

#54. The Insult

Nominated for: Foreign Language Film

We may have our differences, but aren’t we ultimately just the same? That’s the general message of this simplistic court-room drama from Lebanon about a Christian man’s conflict with a Palestinian. As subtle as its characters are stubborn, and with a couple of genuinely eye-rolling narrative twists – one of which I am still laughing at to this day.

I had appreciated director Zaid Doueiri’s last film film, The Attack, for the way it merged real world concerns with more mainstream filmmaking techniques, but his latest is too on the nose.

#53. Watu Wote: All of Us

Nominated for: Live Action Short

This German film set in Kenya tells a true story of a group of Muslim men and women who came to the defence of a Christian woman in an attack by gun-wielding terrorists. Yet, like The Insult, it has little to say beyond its obvious (and however admirable) cry of ‘can’t we all just get along?’

#52. Marshall

Nominated for: Original Song

Diane Warren and author headshot extraordinaire Common wrote the theme song to this admirable, but generic drama ostensibly about lawyer Thurgood Marshall (who later became the first African American Supreme Court Justice). Strangely, they told a story from Marshall’s life where he took the backseat to a white man.

At least Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, is good.

#51. Icarus

Nominated for: Documentary Feature

Director Bryan Fogel intended to make a Super Size Me about doping in cycling, but instead came upon the Russian sporting scandal that has seen them rubbed out of this year’s Winter Olympics. Director Bryan Fogel also loves inserting himself far too much into the drama.

#50. Darkest Hour

Nominated for: Picture, Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design, Make Up and Hairstyling

Controversial opinion: Gary Oldman isn’t that good in his role as jowl-centric British wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. I maintain you could have put any number of middle-to-late-aged actors in there, slathered him with make up, and had him shout verbose monologues and you would have the same effect. As the credits rolled, the strongest opinion I had about it was a shrug.

#49. Edith+Eddie

Nominated for: Documentary Short

The camera is a fly on the wall of two nonagenarians who found love late in life, but are torn apart by meddling families and social workers. I just wish director Laura Checkoway had confronted any of the issues that her documentary raises. Also, executive produced by Cher!

#48. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Nominated for: Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor (x2), Original Screenplay, Editing, Original Score

Sigh. I wish I was on team Three Billboards, but I just can’t get past the wonky handling of race, the blunt-forced moralising, hypocritical sexism, the bad camerawork, and weird performances (Abbie Cornish, what is up with that accent?) This is a film with seemingly no real concept of what its strongest assets are, preferring buffoonery and irony over intelligence and nuance.

I won’t begrudge Frances McDormand entering the two-time winners club, but there is some perverse reverse-logic in thinking this film is a win for diversity in the face of Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Shape of Water.

#47. Ferdinand

Nominated for: Animated Feature

Colourfully animated, sure, and has a delightful sense of animation choreography in certain scenes (particularly the bull in a china shop sequence), but otherwise you can skip this cute-but-unnecessary feature and just watch the seven-minute Oscar-winning short from 1938 instead.

#46. Baby Driver

Nominated for: Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

It is perhaps appropriate that the last time we will (hopefully) ever have to look at Kevin Spacey’s smug face is in a film that is as equally proud of itself. Its soundtrack is desperate to be cool, but is extremely basic, and its car chase scenes pale in comparison to the other movies that it is attempting to revamp like The Driver and Drive.

#45. My Nephew Emmett

Nominated for: Live Action Short

A family of African Americans in the 1950s receive a visitor late at night after the titular Emmett gives a wolf whistle to a white woman. Straight forward, although doesn’t really hit its dramatic stride until its concluding moments where real newsreel footage is incorporated to highlight the true history of this moment.

#44. Traffic Stop

Nominated for: Documentary Short

A woman pulled over in a traffic stop becomes involved in an escalating scene of police brutality from which she is lucky to be alive. Its use of police dashcam footage is alarming, but the star is the resilience of subject Breaion King.

#43. Molly’s Game

Nominated for: Adapted Screenplay

Aaron Sorkin loves his own words so much that not even Jessica Chastain to get out from under them long enough to breathe life into this overlong and overstuffed poker drama. Sorkin’s directorial debut is an adaptation of Molly Bloom’s memoir and is a hell of a lot more interesting if you realise that “Mr X” is in fact [redacted – google it].

#42. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Nominated for: Visual Effects

More of the same, and yet a case of diminishing returns. All of the fun from the original apparently got removed and placed into Thor: Ragnarok, replaced here by smarm and narrative disinterest.

#41. The Eleven O’Clock

Nominated for: Live Action Short

The lone Australian film nominated this year. Stars Josh Lawson and Damon Herriman sure have fun with the comedic material of two men claiming to be psychiatrists, but it’s pretty obvious quite early on where the punchline is going to land.

#40. I, Tonya

Nominated for: Actress, Supporting Actress, Editing

I can get over the way this film turns domestic violence and criminal assault into the subject of comedy; black comedies should be taking uncomfortable subjects and using comedy to highlight something about humanity.

But I, Tonya doesn’t have much of anything to say beyond its mockery. Furthermore, the film lazily utilises a fake documentary format that only seeks to highlight how much better the story was told in The Price of Gold. Margot Robbie is great, though.

#39. All the Money in the World

Nominated for: Supporting Actor

It’s hard to picture All the Money in the World working as well as it does without Christopher Plummer in the part originally owned by Kevin Spacey. Now, if only they had replaced Mark Wahlberg, too, because he’s acting in a far blander picture than Plummer and co-star Michelle Williams.

#38. Knife Skills

Nominated for: Documentary Short

Recently released inmates become the staff of a new French restaurant. Director Thomas Lennon probably should have worked the story as a television series since, as it is, things move too fast and don’t allow us to really relish the moments of joy as well as those of hardship.

#37. LOU

Nominated for: Animated Short

A typically cute Pixar short (it played before Cars 3, which is why you missed it) about a monster made of Lost and Found objects in a school playground. My critical brain had far too many questions about the logistics of it all, but LOU is a breezy and bright five-minutes.

#36. Loving Vincent

Nominated for: Animated Feature

Animated using 65,000 individually painted frames, Loving Vincent is a stunningly beautiful film about the legacy of art and the artist. It’s just a shame then that less attention was paid to the screenplay. Still, sometimes you won’t notice the bland dialogue or storytelling when getting lost within the swirling, colourful frames.

#35. The Boss Baby

Nominated for: Animated Feature

Alec Baldwin voices a baby sent to Earth (don’t ask) to help uncover a plot by a dog manufacturing company (er) to produce a puppy so cute and adorable that humans will have no time for babies (uh-huh).

Look, The Boss Baby raises far too many questions that I kinda wish it had the guts to answer, but this is a kids’ movie after all and its message is a good one amid its shiny animation and fun vocal performances. Has the best “where babies come from” gag in a while, too.

#34. Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Nominated for: Actor

What a strange movie from the director of Nightcrawler. There are a lot of problems with this legal drama, but Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington is not one of them. And there’s something to be said about a film that takes such wide-flared gambles with narrative and character.

#33. The Square

Nominated for: Foreign Language Film

This Swedish comedy won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize and has a lot of fun and pertinent things to say about art and society and humanity. Its main problem is that it says them for far too long. I have no idea why this needed to be two and a half hours. Force Majeure was better.

#32. The Florida Project

Nominated for: Supporting Actor

A portrait of people on the fringe of the American dream that is fascinating in fits and bursts and bolstered by Willem Dafoe’s nominated performance. However, Sean Baker’s pink-hued adventure on the outskirts of Florida’s Disney World would have likely made a stronger impact with a more defined narrative like his earlier, scrappier features Tangerine and Starlet.

#31. Garden Party

Nominated for: Animated Short

An animated and visual effects demo reel for sure, but despite its wordless narrative of frogs taking over a mansion, Garden Party has fun teasing out its climactic reveal.

#30. The Disaster Artist

Nominated for: Adapted Screenplay

Taking the bizarre true story of the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is without a doubt his best work as a director (trust me, I’ve seen The Sound and the Fury and Interior Leather Bar so you don’t have to).

Having said that, it’s no Ed Wood and most of its laughs come simply from recreating The Room. It’s nonetheless an entertaining good time made better by the cavalcade of cameos and the utter lunacy of its story.

#29. Wonder Woman 

Nominated for: Make Up and Hairstyling

Yes, it’s easy to look at this as manipulative mummy-friendly drivel, but Stephen Chbosky shows the same amount of respect towards the audience as intelligent adults here as he did with The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

#28. The Breadwinner

Nominated for: Animated Feature

Not as visually magical as the last two nominated animated features for Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea). Still, this one, a sort of Yentl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, is evocative and was a little-discussed gem in a strong fear for female-fronted films.

#27. The Greatest Showman

Nominated for: Original Song

Justice for “Rewrite the Stars”, which was left off of ballots in favour of “This is Me”.

#26. Heaven is Traffic Jam on the 405

Nominated for: Documentary Short

A woman who has spent her life attempting to prove she is more than just her mental illnesses, Mindy Alper has become an acclaimed artist. Inspiring, but also not reductive to Alper’s experience.

#25. The Big Sick

Nominated for: Original Screenplay

Never quite as funny as it thinks it is, but that’s okay because it’s working its more dramatic beats heavier than it thinks it is.

#24. Logan

Nominated for: Adapted Screenplay

The first superhero movie to ever be nominated for writing is a worthy choice. It’s gruff, hyper-masculine take on a series of films that have heretofore been often dripping in camp and silliness works surprisingly well and crafts a fitting and poignant end to several characters while also finally allowing audiences the chance to revel in Hugh Jackman’s wolverine slicing his way through skulls. It’s about time.

#23. Faces Places

Nominated for: Documentary Feature

Agnes Varda became the oldest nominee of all time thanks to this documentary, a charming excursion through France (alongside artist JR) that seeks to not only put a face to the forgotten corners of this world, but to then blow them up and paint them to side of buildings.

#22. Heroin(e)

Nominated for: Documentary Short

An appropriately 2017 film available on Netflix focusing on three women in West Virginia — a fire chief, a judge, and a street missionary — helping the only ways they know how amid a growing, worsening opioid crisis. Director Elaine Mcmillion chose her subjects wisely. I could watch an entire feature about any of them.

#21. The Post

Nominated for: Picture, Actress

Steven Spielberg’s timely film about the Pentagon Papers. Surprisingly thrilling despite knowing the outcome, it gets major points just for Meryl Streep and her gold caftan alone. It’s just a shame it didn’t end a few minutes earlier because that finale at The Watergate Hotel is totally naff.

#20. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Nominated for: Visual Effects, Original Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

I still can’t quite figure out what people are angry about! I enjoyed Rian Johnson’s eye for iconography and how he experimented with ways to help this one particular film break out from the monotonous franchise blueprint that so many action films fall into these days. Having said that, there is no need for the eighth film in a franchise (plus spin-offs and other mediums) to be two and a half hours long. Stop it.

#19. Last Men in Aleppo

Nominated for: Documentary Feature

This year’s documentary contenders (both features and shorts) weren’t their usual level of soul-crushingly depressing. Alas, it’s pretty hard to have a positive outlook on anything relating to Syria and this doc, filmed in the thick of the White Helmets, is grim yet powerful stuff.

#18. DeKalb Elementary

Nominated for: Live Action Short

Remember how I literally just mentioned Syria? Well, here’s a short film about a school shooting. Yikes. Anchored by an incredible performance by Tarra Riggs as a school receptionist trying to calm a shooter down.

#17. Negative Space

Nominated for: Animated Short

The best of the ho-hum roster of animated short films is this stop-motion story of a father and son who, in some weird way, bond over the packing of a suitcase. The look to the clay puppets, which err on the side of grotesque, only heightens the melancholy.

#16. The Shape of Water

Nominated for: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

Guillermo del Toro and his monsters have just missed (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Hellboy) more than they’ve hit (Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos), but in The Shape of Water he found the best blend of his sensibilities and style.

Sure, the story of a mute woman who begins a sexual dalliance with an amphibious creature that may be an Amazonian god isn’t the typical work of Oscar bait, but its story of survival in the face of destructive political forces works remarkably well.

They fuck.

#15. The War for the Planet of the Apes

Nominated for: Best Visual Effects

The new Apes franchises has lost its two previous visual effects nominations to (bizarrely) Hugo and (understandably) Interstellar. The strongest instalment of this prequel trilogy deserves to finally win for its incredible work.

#14. The Silent Child

Nominated for: Live Action Short

A film that works perfectly in short form, but would also make a beautiful feature length film, this drama about a four-year-old deaf student, her oblivious parents and the teach who pulls her out of her shell has a heartbreaking finale.

#13. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Nominated for: Documentary Feature

Who were the only people prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis? A tiny bank in New York City’s Chinatown district that caters exclusively to Chinese clientele that maybe didn’t even do anything wrong to begin with. The doc from the director of Hoop Dreams is intimate yet infuriating.

#12. Coco

Nominated for: Animated Feature, Original Song

In 2017, Pixar proved yet again that when they stop wasting their time on sequels — did you even remember Cars 3 existed? — they are able to produce some of the best movies out there. Coco went in a fabulously diverse direction, shifting the drama to Mexico and one boy’s effort to reconcile with his father (albeit, in the spirit world) during Día de Muertos.

#11. Phantom Thread

Nominated for: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Score, Costume Design

A far cry from Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, this drama (and at times even a comedy) about a London couturier is remarkably well done. A perverse romance that shows how we all just want love. Even if it means we have to use poisonous mushrooms to get it. (I think that’s what the film is trying to say. I may be wrong.)

#10. Blade Runner 2049

Nominated for: Cinematography, Visual Effects, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

The most expensive arthouse movie you’ll ever see is this lavish sequel from the director of Arrival more indebted to Russian cinema than the sci-fi spectacles the 1982 original inspired. Impeccable visuals and sound design make for a film to truly sink into, even if it goes over the head more than a few times across its very long running time. I don’t consider it sexist like some have suggested, either. It’s not surprising, however, that it flopped.

#9. Mudbound

Nominated for: Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Song

Not only is Rachel Morrison the first female cinematographer ever nominated, but director and co-writer Dee Rees is the first African American woman nominated for adapted screenplay, and Mary J Blige is the first person ever nominated for acting and music in the same year (not even Barbra Streisand!) All that and the film, a delicate balance of a white and black family post-WWII, is excellent to boot!

#8. On Body and Soul

Nominated for: Foreign Language Film

Ah, the whimsical Hungarian rom-com set inside an abattoir that we always needed. In fact, the setting is necessary to balancing the quirkiness of its story about two workers who discover they share dreams. The only foreign language film nominee this year directed by a woman is also the category’s most out there and brave.

#7. A Fantastic Woman

Nominated for: Foreign Language Film

Consider it: a film about a transgender woman with the lead character played by a transgender woman! Heavily inspired by Pedro Almodovar, Daniela Vega stars as a woman whose older lover has died and the family who want her gone from their lives. Tragic, but fierce.

#6. Lady Bird

Nominated for: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

The year’s most flat-out likable movie is perhaps its most relatable and most delicately handled. A finely pitched portrayal of daughter and mother that packs a hell of a lot more wallop than you might think for what could be dismissively condensed down to a girly teen flick.

#5. Dunkirk

Nominated for: Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

In all fairness to the movies a few spots below, I did see Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk in IMAX. The experience of which was awe-inspiring and unforgettable. Does it hold the same power on a regular cinema screen (or a TV screen)? I don’t know. Nor do I care to find out. The memory of Dunkirk in IMAX is too good to erase with something potentially subpar.

#4. Loveless

Nominated for: Foreign Language Film

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev makes bleak movies. Loveless follows a divorcing couple who hate each other so much and are so self-involved that they fail to realise their own child has gone missing. Like I said, bleak. But brilliant.

#3. Call Me By Your Name

Nominated for: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Song

What a peach. An exquisitely made movie that ought to have, at least, received one additional nomination for Michael Stuhlbarg’s incredible performance and his late-film monologue. Just don’t call it a universal love story, okay?

#2. Get Out

Nominated for: Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay

A film that is only going getting more and more relevant. This is a film that’s going to be studied for decades to come.

#1. Strong Island

Nominated for: Documentary

Those who know me know it’s totally expected that I would put a documentary as my number one, but the best movie of 2017 received not a single nomination (that would be the French teen-terrorist film Nocturama) so what can you do? This penetrative deep dive into the calamitous effects of racial violence on a single family over the years has the impact of a sledgehammer to the face.

A powerful indictment against an uncaring American justice system and a soul-crushing glimpse into a generation of families whose lives have been torn apart. Director Yance Ford details the effect his brother’s murder had on his family as well his own coming out as a transgender man. It’s artful and mournful, but perfectly incapsulates a national mindset.

It can be streamed right now on Netflix, too.


 

Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.