We at FairVote get excited this time of year, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announce nominations for its annual awards ceremony, the movie lovefest called The Oscars. Cinefiles hope to see their favorites rewarded, while we voting nerds just love to see how ranked choice voting is so wonderfully applied by the Academy to determine the year’s best work on film.
FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie’s recent blog kicking off our Oscar coverage this year is a great explainer on how RCV is used in the nominating process, and for the final vote for Best Picture. For next few weeks leading up to the big night on March 4, we’ll be featuring separate looks and a chance for everyone to vote on all the major categories, with our Rankit app. You can vote for Best Picture here:
Today we consider the films up for Best Picture. Nine earned nominations, including a couple of surprises.
Call Me By Your Name
Starring Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Esther Garrel
Directed by Luca Guadagrino
The film is a romantic, coming-of-age story set in northern Italy in 1983. Seventeen-year old American Elio Perlman (Chalamet), is spending his summer at his family's 17th century villa, and meets 24-year old graduate student Oliver, (Hammer), who is a summer intern hired to help Elio's father (Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture. The two young men set out on a relationship that will affect their lives forever.
Starring Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Ronald Pickup
Directed by Joe Wright
The British war drama chronicles the rise of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister during the crisis that became known as World War II. It follows his early days in the office, through the dark times of the early stretches of the war when the British Army faced casualties and defeat. The uplifting rescue of 300,000 troops at Dunkirk bolsters Churchill and the British people, as they face the wrath of the Nazi war machine alone, before the United States could fully mobilize in 1944. Never popular among the country’s political elite, Churchill, along with the Allies, guides the tiny island nation to victory, but shortly after the war’s conclusion, he is swept out of office.
Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Another British war drama set in World War II, the film depicts “Operation Dynamo,” the heroic evacuation of British troops off the beaches of Dunkirk, France in 1940. Interestingly, director Nolan chose to tell the story and convey suspense through the use of music and cinematography. The result is a gripping film with sparing dialogue. Nolan’s choices turned out to be not only artistically adroit but also very popular with filmgoers. It’s global box office take was $525 million, surpassing Saving Private Ryan as the highest grossing World War II film of all time. Nolan received a nomination for Best Director.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener
Directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out is a horror movie with a satirical bent on race relations. Kaluuya plays Chris, a black man who is meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time at their countryside estate. He encounters strange behavior from the black housekeeper and groundskeeper, which ultimately leads him to a horrifying secret that threatens his life. Peele, a first-time director and screenwriter for the film, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith
Directed by Greta Gerwig
The film is a coming-of-age story about an artistic teenager, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan), who is a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. The story follows the teen’s troubled relationship with her mother (Metcalf), and her thorny relationships with her older brother (who is adopted), and his girlfriend, along with her own complicated love interests. She catches her boyfriend making out with another boy in a bathroom stall and eventually meets an edgy musician with whom she becomes involved. For her work on the film, Gerwig is nominated for Best Director.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Set in 1950’s London, Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a charismatic and renowned fashion designer who creates high end dresses and other clothes for the city’s high society. Along with a genius for fashion, Woodcock has an obsessive and controlling nature, which dominates his personality. His life is disrupted when he falls in love with a much younger, and strong-willed waitress. This is believed to be the last film in the remarkable career of Day-Lewis, who announced his retirement from acting in 2017. The costumes are striking (Mark Briggs is nominated for Best Costume Design) and Anderson earned a nomination for Best Director.
Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Streep leads an impressive cast in this political thriller, the true story about the Washington Post’s reporting on the whistleblower release of the “Pentagon Papers.” In 1965 Daniel Ellsberg (Rhys), was a military analyst for the State Department, who was told by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Greenwood), that the U.S. military efforts in Vietnam are “hopeless.” He overhears McNamara tell President Lyndon Johnson that he is confident in the war effort, which disillusions him. A few years later, as a civilian military contractor for the RAND corporation, Ellsberg secretly photocopies classified reports on progress of the war (that include admissions that the war has been going poorly, opposite of what the administration and the Pentagon had been telling the public). Ellsberg released the documents to the New York Times, which began publishing the information in a series of articles. A court injunction halted the Times’ continued publication, and the Washington Post located Ellsberg, and obtained copies of the same documents. The Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham (Streep) and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Hanks) deliberated over the publication of the information, concerned about serious threats from the Nixon administration and other considrations. Ultimately, the truth about the war was exposed in the Post.
The Shape of Water
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
The film is a fantasy thriller set in Baltimore during the Cold War of the early 1960s. Elisa Esposito (Hawkins), is a mute custodian who works at a high-security laboratory. She secretly discovers a captured humanoid/amphibian creature (Jones) at the lab and befriends him. The Army colonel who captured the creature (Shannon) is ordered to vivisect and further study it, in hopes of gaining an edge in the Space Race. Together with a neighbor (Jenkins) and a co-worker (Spencer), Elisa plots to save the creature from the lab and set him free. The critically-acclaimed film earned a Best Director nomination for del Toro.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage
Directed by Martin McDonagh
This dark comedy is the story of Mildred Hayes (McDormand), a heartbroken mother who is still grieving about the rape and death of her daughter seven months earlier. Angry and frustrated at the lack of progress in the police investigation, she rents three abandoned billboards near her home and places three messages in sequence on them: "Rpaed While Dying", "And Still No Arrests?" and “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” The billboards are upsetting to the community, especially the sheriff, Bill Willoughby (Harrelson) and officer Jason Dixon (Rockwell). Despite the harassment and threats Hayes and her son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) receive, she stands her ground in seeking answers and justice in the death of her daughter.
Together, an impressive collection of terrific films. Have a favorite? Rank the nominees here.