Academy of One: Best Picture 2017

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

If I can say anything of the year 2017, let it be that it gave a wealth of incredible films and for the first time in a while it can be said that the majority of the films nominated for Best Picture were original works not based on previous source material or historical fact.

I love a vision that comes whole cloth to the screen from the mind of a writer to the eye of a director. It's something rare when one looks at the list of films playing at their local theater. More and more film franchises are becoming film universes with spinoffs, origins, and sequels that it's hard to understand how any one person can keep up or be conscious of all that is out there on offer from the intellectual properties the studios own.

Original films are not entirely pure as they are a form of art as commerce. What I appreciate is that these original films are not driven by the corporate whims and creative strangleholds of the current studio system. They can share diverse points of view and stories in a way that may not have been thought of or may get lost in the dearth of franchise faire.

O.K., I feel a little rusty and I may be repeating myself, so I will move us on to the nominees as they stand. For still incomprehensible reasons our list is only a nine out of possible ten nominees. This is especially heinous in a year with such incredible works.

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I love several of these movies, but others leave me shrugging my shoulders and still others make me sigh heavily at their bizarre inclusion. They aren't poorly crafted films, but they are films lacking in compelling narratives. On the surface they look unique and of a new perspective, but on the inside, deeper down, they are status quo.

I will get deeper into that analysis, but for now I'll say that in my mind I have already eliminated three of the films and with that freebie they keep handing me, I have some stellar films to add to this list.

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

Coco

I, Tonya

Mudbound

I can't extol enough the virtues of filmmakers that find away to marry all aspects of their films together. Baby Driver is so incredibly well weaved. The music, action, dialogue, and whip smart plotting all come together . The story is unique in a genre that needed a kickstart to its tired and obvious tropes.

It's a cliche to write that the Oscars often mishandles or leaves out comedies from big categories. It's more disappointing that a sweet, hilarious, and heart-wrenching film like The Big Sick is left off the list because the quota had been fulfilled.

The same could be said of animated films, which get a reputation for being immature and candy coated entertainment. Yet, Coco is soaked in a fully realized world of incredible life and culture and music and very much deserves to be recognized among the best of the best.

There is so much the hoi polloi cannot know of the inner lives of those that achieve fame and so much more about the depth of a human being. We often believe whole-heartedly in the only narrative we are presented, which is the narrative the media spins of the story. Not all of I, Tonya is fact based, but we can plainly see that Tonya Harding is not the black and white villain she has been painted as by public opinion.

Mudbound is an engrossing multilayered, multifaceted, multigenerational, and multiracial story that slogs through the mud and hardship in the years after the Great Depression and WWII. It's gorgeously shot, phenomenally acted, and delicate in all the right ways including its very accurate portrayal of people undergoing PTSD.

Now that I have my list, I shall exorcise those three from the original list of nominees that give me pause. Here is that list again.

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I'll start with the easiest removal, which is Darkest Hour. As I wrote in my intro, it's not that it is a bad movie, but it's simply an uninteresting one. Many men have played Winston Churchill and I'm sure many men will play him in the future. I was just wondering why such an intimate character piece needs to be a film.

So much of Darkest Hour is Winston Churchill yelling at subordinates, reading papers, looking at maps, it's all rather uninteresting to watch. I can imagine this would be a thrill to see on a stage as the blustering, blowhard performance is a little stagnant on the screen and could be incredible out in the world.

The next is going to surprise you. The removal is of the actual winner of last year's show, The Shape of Water. For all the praise heaped on this film to have a sex positive woman with a disability in the lead, so much of it takes place without her there. Really watch this film and pay attention to how often the audience is ripped away to mope with the sad sack cliched closeted gay artist, the double agent, or the overzealous security officer.

All of these storylines yank us away from our heroine and her struggle and even at some points take away her voice as someone is literally speaking for her while she is communicating clearly and effectively on her own. I understand why the filmmakers did it as many of today's audience's don't want to have to read subtitles, but if a film is going to tout its diversity, it shouldn't also just parade characters and their unique perspective in front of us and then drop it when it is inconvenient for the story.

And now I come to the one you all likely suspected, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. So much of this film also suffers from what I mentioned for the previous one. Competing story lines that take away from the unique and often unseen and underserved perspective of the grieving, pissed off mother on screen.

The film becomes a catch all for the U.S.'s ills taking on multiple organizations and institutions in a tongue in cheek, black humor way that ultimately fails. It fails because it is from an entirely outsider view and misses the point of the cultural implications and the movements attempting to change our institutions.

Now that I have either alienated or emboldened with my choices, I will reveal my four new additions to the list.

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

Coco

I, Tonya

So, here is what the entirety of the list looks like now.

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

Call Me By Your Name

Coco

Dunkirk

Get Out

I, Tonya

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

Now with the original winner struck from the list, it's clear that I have an open field with no clear winner, right? Short answer, no.

The only film that I can see as the best film of 2017 is Get Out.

Many of the year's films that capture the zeitgeist of that moment in time are ignored for classic or old Hollywood storytelling, one of those that fits into a mode or model for what films have always been. It's written throughout the Academy's history with numerous head scratchers and upsets.

What each of the truly exceptional films have in common is a willingness to upend the system, to challenge the status quo, to have a unique voice in a film landscape that screams be safe, be accessible, be the same.

Get Out is able to challenge the conceived notions about genre horror, comedy, and deep rooted social commentary about what is lurking just below the surface of our society.

Its every moment a heightening of tension, a building of suspense and a grand idea built into its microcosm. The terrible truth that people don't show their true colors, that they lie and manipulate in order to dominate and subjugate.

From the stellar acting within the killer, weaving plot, to the music and ambience of the banal mixed with the occult and the racial underbelly of the U.S., it's all culminated in that perfect, silent auction scene as decrepit, wealthy people bid on the vessel of Chris as he's helplessly detained by Rose, who he thought he could trust, implicitly. It has so much historical weight as well as emotional weight and is so well edited for the largest impact on our senses as we fail and then entirely grasp exactly what is going on in that moment from both foresight, and hindsight as to the betrayal later on.

Get Out is truly the best and most timely film of 2017 as it is a film that has centuries old roots that have come to light in our current society of Internet culture, which begs us to watch and to change, as does this film.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit the links on this site to where you can buy my self-published works.

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