For many, 2017 has been nothing short of tumultuous; riddled with heartache and anxiety. Fortunately, not (too) much of that has seeped over into this year's quality of cinema. To cap it all off, I've gone ahead and compiled a list of what I believe are the year's standout performances in each of their respective Academy Awards categories. (Keep in mind that I've excluded a few of the smaller categories to save on space.) While I did my best to keep objectivity in mind when picking winners, you'll most likely find at least a bit of favoritism sprinkled throughout.
Also, given that I didn't begin reviewing movies until July, there will be some obvious exclusions from the list. Namely, if you're of a fan of the following movies, I've yet to see them, so they won't be making an appearance. (Sorry.)
Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project, Phantom Thread, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Molly's Game, Ingrid Goes West, All the Money in the World, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loving Vincent, Okja
All in all, it's been a blast reviewing films for the last 6 months. It's given me an outlet to express creative freedom that I otherwise hadn't had, and it's spurned discussion with folks that I seldom get the chance to speak with. It's challenged my analytical capability, and attention to detail. Above all else, it's grounded me in (relative) objectivity—because despite my fondness for certain movies and franchises, nothing is more important than setting aside your biases and putting forth a genuine, honest verdict.
Without further ado, here are my award winners for 2017. (See you next year!)
Best Picture: Blade Runner 2049
Runner-up: The Shape of Water
This year's pick for Best Picture could've also won the award for 'Most Likely to Ruin an Existing Franchise'. Actually, it did win that award. I just didn't write about it, because it's not a real award.
What is real, is the culmination of astonishing visuals, looming audio, and a quasi-noir mystery that not only builds upon 1982's masterpiece, but enhances it. Ryan Gosling is at the film's helm, and continually churns out performances more impressive than his last. The film strikes an unreal balance between feeling overwhelmingly barren, yet intimately claustrophobic. In typical Blade Runner fashion, it answers just enough questions to wrap up its narrative, but leaves many pages blank for the imagination to run wild. 2049 may be the closest thing that audiences will see in terms of a clean sweep of winning every award. That is, for now.
Best Actor: Hugh Jackman, Logan
Runner-up: John Cho, Columbus
In a year full of superhero crossovers and formulaic sequels, Logan surprised many with its gritty tone and courage to veer off the beaten path. This isn't the same grumbling Wolverine that we first met 17 years ago. Hugh Jackman is the definitive example of what becomes of our timeless heroes once their time has come. While there's yet fire that still burns within the beast, Hugh Jackman's Logan exemplifies what it means to empty out the tank for one last hurrah. It's a somber swan song for our brooding, claw-wielding berserker, but I couldn't have imagined a better send off.
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Runner-up: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Doing more with less has always been an impressive feat, but in this particular case, Sally Hawkins's performance has her character not speaking a single line of dialogue. Then again, this award isn't called Best Dialogue. What her mute character lacks in voice, she more than makes up for in body language, and expressive gestures. For a movie that sparks a conversation of what it means to be human, Sally Hawkins does the exact same for what constitutes as Best Actress.
Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Runner-up: Kevin Spacey, Baby Driver
Social commentary in film can be difficult. Social commentary within the context of a fairy tale, even more so. Richard Jenkins not only adds an additional layer of dialogue to his co-star's mute character, but another to the cultural issues of the 1960's as well. Both his character and story arc are essential to the development of the plot, as well as the progression of those around him.
Best Supporting Actress: Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Runner-up: Haley Lu Richardson, Columbus
It's tough to pinpoint exactly what makes a terrific on-screen mother, but Holly Hunter is every bit an example you should look towards. Like many in real life, she can come off as short-tempered, off putting, and downright hostile. But she's also empathetic, protective and determined. Her character depth and story arc feel fulfilling, and hard-earned. If Kumail Nanjiani is the face of the film, then Holly Hunter sure as heck is the backbone.
Best Animated Feature Film: Your Name
Those familiar with director Makoto Shinkai's previous work will undoubtedly be pleased with his newfound exposure into the spotlight. Your Name tackles both identity and isolation, and wraps it up into a digestible high school setting. To call Shinkai the second coming of Hayao Miyazaki would not only be false, but completely in the wrong direction. His tales often take place in real-world locales, and prefers a hyper-realistic style of art over that of something more magical. Whether you had your own struggles growing up in school, love anime, or just casually appreciate top notch animation, Your Name has something relevant for nearly everyone.
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Given that there are 24 frames (of pictures) per second, and roughly 9,900 seconds worth of film in Blade Runner 2049, I'm not even going to try to fully describe why this one takes the cake. However, if you need a general idea, just think of wide, sweeping landscapes and monolithic structures.
Best Original Score: Columbus
Runner-up: The Shape of Water
The dreamy soundscapes of Columbus are what fill the negative spaces that the characters don't. They come and go like the wind whirls around a pile of leaves. Wholesome, desolate, and wondrous are all words that I would use to describe this melancholy collection of sounds.
Best Sound Editing: Baby Driver
Much like Daniel Day Lewis is a shoe-in to win Best Actor in every year he decides to act, Edgar Wright's razor-like precise editing follows suit. The film, basically, uses music as an additional supporting actor. Everything from toe-taps, to tires squealing, to gunfire is meticulously woven to be on beat, every time. If Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock was as into sound editing as he were solving mysteries, this would be the result.
Best Original Song: Gael Garcia Bernal - "Remember Me", Coco
Runner-up: Zac Efron, Zendaya - "Rewrite the Stars", The Greatest Showman
The runner-ups to this song should actually be the other half-dozen different renditions of "Remember Me". The song is so exceptional that it's reprised throughout the film, and grows in emotional presence as time goes on. Heck, it's even more impactful when you have a listen in Spanish! It's embedded into one of the key aspects of the film, and is also a delight to listen to.
And there you have it, my (movie) year in review!
While reviewing movies started off as a side-project, I don't tend to pull up on the gas pedal anytime in the near future. Expect to hear back soon with yet another review, and also another 'year of' in another 12 months. A huge, huge thank you to anyone that's even read a single paragraph of what I've had to say these past 6 months. While I do this mainly to challenge myself, it's always pleasant to see someone else enjoy my work!
Thanks for reading! ~Ryan