Burlingame students rank Oscar-nominated films

This year, there are nine movies nominated for the Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This year there has not been a clear frontrunner throughout the awards season. Considering what happened last year, when “La La Land” was predicted to win and was announced as the winner, only to be told that had been a mistake and “Moonlight” was to receive the Best Picture award, anything could happen this year. I, along with 14 other Burlingame students, saw all of the movies nominated for Best Picture. The films vary from science fiction to horror to coming-of-age stories. The 90th annual Academy Awards are happening at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and the show will air on March 4 at 5 P.M. on ABC. Here are our opinions and predictions.


“Call Me by Your Name”

My Rating: 3/5. Average BHS Rating: 3.8/5.

Elio Perlman is a seventeen-year-old boy who spends his vacations with his family in a picturesque mansion in the 1980s Italian countryside. Elio’s family is Italian, American, French and Jewish, and the dialogue throughout the movie switches between English, French and Italian. Every summer, Elio’s father, an archaeology professor, invites one of his graduate students to come work with him and live with his family. Elio develops a crush on one of these students, a twenty-four-year-old American named Oliver, and the movie documents their relationship.

I didn’t plan on seeing this movie until I started writing this article. I was wary of the reception I had seen from the media, with the two polarizing takes seeming to be “this is a beautiful gay romance” and “this movie is evil for promoting pedophilia.” I had my own misgivings about the significant age gap between the leads, but I did not end up agreeing entirely with either of those opinions. While I wasn’t able to see Oliver’s attraction to Elio as anything but predatory and creepy, Elio’s coming-of-age story and exploration of his sexuality was very well-portrayed. His honest conversation with his father in the final scene was the most touching part of this somewhat slow-moving film. Apart from the narrative itself, I appreciated the cinematography. The Italian villa setting is gorgeous, and the lazy summer visuals made me feel like the movie took place in its own little, idyllic world.

“Call Me by Your Name” is nominated for four Academy Awards. Apart from Best Picture, they are Best Actor for Timothée Chalamet (Elio), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song. I agree that Chalamet gave a moving and genuine performance, although at 22 years old, he is unlikely to win against older and more established actors such as fellow nominees Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington. He is the kind of actor that could gain a following among young people, but I doubt he’ll take home the statuette. Critics seem to agree that “Call Me By Your Name” will win the Best Adapted Screenplay award for James Ivory’s adaption of the novel of the same name. He is 89 years old and has four Oscar nominations but no wins. The last nomination the movie received is for Sufjan Stevens’s song, “Mystery of Love.” Stevens wrote three of the movie’s songs, and while they were not particularly bad, I thought they were out of place for the genre and setting, as well as distracting from the action. Overall, I enjoyed “Call Me by Your Name,” but it won’t win big.


“I loved the soundtrack and the cinematography, and [Chalamet] is an amazing actor. Also love how they beautifully weave Italian, English and French. Such a beautiful and carefree queer love story.” -Reina Ashley Nomura, senior.


“While the cinematography was exquisite, there was a disconnect in how the love story between the two main characters escalated so quickly.” -Juliet Adelman, senior.


“I thought it was a well-made movie, but I found myself distracted at times, not really engaged throughout the plot.” -Venice Gripo, senior.


"Darkest Hour"

My Rating: 2/5. Average BHS Rating: 3.75/5.

“Darkest Hour” is my least favorite of the Best Picture-nominated movies, and because of this, I have less to say about it. It documents Churchill’s rise to power and first moves as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Gary Oldman gives a strong performance as Churchill, in which he is virtually unrecognizable and transformed by the power of makeup, and many believe he is the frontrunner for the Best Actor award. It would be the first Oscar win in his career. The movie is also nominated for Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Costume Design. Oldman’s performance alone is not enough to save the movie for me. It is a war movie without the action, and while I can appreciate its quality objectively, it is certainly not the kind of film I enjoy. The one scene that touched me was when Churchill got on the Underground for the first time and greeted people in awe of his power, later taking their advice into consideration when making a big political decision. The rest of the movie made me want to leave.


“The portrayal of Winston Churchill was very good and the pressure of the time was represented well.” -Clara Kennedy, junior.


“It’s too long. Why is ‘Darkest Hour’ two hours long? Ultimately forgettable, but worth it to see Gary Oldman in a fat suit.” -Cassidy Jacobs, senior.



My Rating: 3/5. Average BHS Rating: 3.9/5.

“Dunkirk” is a very solid World War II movie and probably one of the most mainstream of the Best Picture nominees. It follows three different storylines that eventually converge during the evacuation of British soldiers from the French shore at Dunkirk, which is surrounded by German forces and facing imminent takeover. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is worried about its own future. Different characters include soldiers escaping on a ship, civilians coming to evacuate soldiers on their leisure boat, a pilot trying to take the Germans down and the stoic Commander.

This movie and “Darkest Hour” depict many of the same events, except that “Dunkirk” is more action-based and has less dialogue. The cinematography is what compels the movie more than spoken words. The ending, while confusing as all the plots come together, is very beautiful and inspiring. It was stressful for me to see so many people drowning on screen, but luckily “Dunkirk” has a relatively happy final note. Because there were so many characters and storylines, none of the actors stood out to me, but none of them were weak, either. The main thing I knew about “Dunkirk” before seeing it was that Harry Styles was in it. I assumed he was making a celebrity cameo and did not think he would play as big of a role as he did. Despite Styles’s past notoriety as a teenage pop singer, he fit into the movie well. I don’t have many complaints about “Dunkirk,” but I also did not completely love anything about it. The Academy must disagree, as the film received eight nominations. They are Best Picture, Best Director for Christopher Nolan, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, most of which are technical awards. “Dunkirk” did not stand out to me, but it was good for what it was.


“I found the plot interesting and compelling. It was well-executed, but I couldn't find myself getting attached or really feeling any emotions towards any characters. I didn't find them to be really memorable. It was also over-hyped by both Nolan and Styles fans” -Venice Gripo, senior.


“I thought the story line was cool, and the way they had all those timelines set up was a cool idea. I've never seen something like that before.” -Zoe McCarthy, sophomore.


“It was a really entertaining movie, but didn't have a lot of story development, dialogue, etc.” -Anthony Monisteri, senior.


“I thought that the quality of the film was really great and that the acting was also really good. Typically I don't really like war/action movies but I thought this one was really well done.” -Lindsey Baker, junior.


"Get Out"

My Rating: 4/5. Average BHS Rating: 4.29/5.

“Get Out” is a horror movie that explores covert but extremely dangerous racism. Chris Washington is a black man who apprehensively agrees to visit his white girlfriend’s parents at their home in the middle of nowhere. Although his girlfriend, Rose, assures him that her parents are staunch liberals, the family dynamic unsettles Chris, especially the behavior of the two black servants Rose’s family has employed. Chris, who is a photographer, observes the family’s behavior, reports back to his friend Rod, and slowly uncovers a sinister and elaborate scheme involving racism.

Given a choice between genres, I would not normally pick horror. However, “Get Out” is culturally relevant, smart and scary all at the same time. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance at Chris is particularly compelling, enough so to garner him a Best Actor nomination. Allison Williams (Rose) lives up to the challenging goal of completely switching personalities partway through the movie. Lil Rel Howery (Rod) is appreciated comic relief in this otherwise tense movie. Kaluuya’s nomination is the only one for acting, but apart from that and Best Picture, “Get Out” is also up for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, both for Jordan Peele. “Get Out” would be an unorthodox choice for Best Picture, but it is certainly well-loved both by critics as well as typical audiences for its topical message.


“Thrilling movie that discusses several issues prevalent today.” -Anthony Monisteri, senior.


“They give you entertainment but also give you social commentary to really ponder.” -Reina Ashley Nomura, senior.


“This chilling thriller kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and was full of unexpected twists.” -Juliet Adelman, senior.


"Lady Bird"

My Rating: 5/5. Average BHS Rating: 4.11/5.

“Lady Bird,” despite occasionally dealing with heavy topics, is probably the lightest and funniest movie of the bunch. It is based in part on the youth of Greta Gerwig, the movie’s writer and director. The eponymous character, whose given name is Christine McPherson, is a high school senior living in Sacramento in 2002. Lady Bird wants to go to college in New York, in spite of her subpar grades, naïveté about the big city and her family’s financial burdens. This movie is a year in the life of Lady Bird as she navigates Catholic school, first romance, and a difficult relationship with her overbearing mother.

Lady Bird’s experiences are, for me, an honest portrayal of what it is like to be in high school and grow up. It is a refreshing departure from Hollywood’s typical glamorizing of teenage life. The movie is also comedic enough without going overboard or detracting from Lady Bird’s and other characters’ struggles. These struggles include depression, difficulty finding a job, loved ones with cancer, and coming to terms with being gay. I think these topics are handled well, and while none of them are central to Lady Bird, they intersect with her life in a realistic way. This movie does not have a traditional plot in the sense of a clear beginning, climax and ending, but I liked that about it. Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother, Marion, was very complex. I felt sorry for Lady Bird, since her mother was hard on her, but Marion turned out to be a very interesting character.

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Laurie Metcalf (Marion) are nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. Ronan, being Irish, is about the farthest from a California girl as one can get, but her performance as Lady Bird is admirable and fun to watch. This is Ronan’s third Academy Award nomination at only 23 years of age, and this would be her first win. I don’t believe Ronan will win this one, but I hope Metcalf does. Gerwig is nominated for directing, and “Lady Bird’s” fifth and final nomination is for Best Original Screenplay. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Lady Bird” won Best Picture, but it also isn’t my top prediction.


“As a huge fan of coming-of-age films, I was excited to watch Lady Bird and definitely wasn't disappointed. Not only does Ronan brilliantly portray an uncertain high school senior, but the chemistry between her and Metcalf is also refreshingly honest. I cannot say enough how much I love every detail of this movie, especially the early 2000s nostalgia it evokes.” -Juliet Adelman, senior.


“I felt like it was very much the storyline of a white, straight girl in California. I appreciate that Greta Gerwig is nominated for Best Director and that this film means a whole lot to her. I totally see how impactful and honest this film was. However, I couldn't identify with Lady Bird, the character, very well, which is why I did not like this film.” -Reina Ashley Nomura, senior.


“It was just really relatable as a senior getting ready to graduate from high school. The movie perfectly portrayed the pressures and experiences of a teen's last year in high school.” -Venice Gripo, senior.


"Phantom Thread"

My Rating: 2/5. Average BHS Rating: 4/5.

It is difficult to talk about “Phantom Thread” because I am still not sure whether I liked it or not. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a fashion designer just as insufferable as his name. He has issues stemming from his mother’s death and is unable to commit to women, yet he starts a relationship with a younger, foreign woman named Alma. She soon comes to live with him and his sister, Cyril. Alma models Woodcock’s dresses for him and is generally a pleasant person, but he abides by a strict routine and becomes aggressive when she disrupts it. The relationship becomes emotionally abusive. Then Alma makes an unexpected move that is followed by more jarring plot twists. I will not reveal what they are, but I was left wondering what I had just seen.

This movie is very slow. I believe it was made so purposefully, but that does not change the fact that it drags on at points. Even so, the expected course of the plot takes many surprising turns. It is hard to watch Woodcock be so tirelessly rude to Alma, even if that is one of the points of the movie. Alma is a sympathetic but somewhat plain character, at least at first. I enjoyed the fashion design plot points, and it is fun to see all the dresses Woodcock creates. I also liked the quaint, English countryside shots.

Day-Lewis is nominated for Best Actor, and although Oldman’s Churchill seems to be the critic favorite for this award, I would not be surprised if any of the five nominees won. Day-Lewis is convincing in his role, which he says will be his last, but his character is so intolerable that I cannot help but hate it. Meanwhile, Lesley Manville (Cyril) is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, while Vicky Krieps (Alma) was not recognized. I did not think Manville’s performance was particularly noteworthy. Cyril’s devotion to her brother and sympathy towards Alma is interesting, but I’m not sure it is deserving of an award for that alone. “Phantom Thread” is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director for Paul Thomas Anderson, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design. It is a confusing movie, but I will be surprised if it does not win Best Costume Design, considering fashion is a major plot point.


“The movie takes itself too seriously, but it’s still pretty good. (Also, dope Jonny Greenwood score.)” -Cassidy Jacobs, senior.


"The Post"

My Rating: 3/5. Average BHS Rating: 2.5/5.

It is the 1970s and the Vietnam War is underway. The Pentagon Papers, classified documents detailing what the U.S. government does not want its people to know about what is actually going on in the war, have just been leaked to the New York Times. The Times, however, is legally unable to publish because of the scandal. The Washington Post, which has traditionally been a second-tier newspaper compared to the Times, suddenly has a chance to publish the Pentagon Papers on their own. Katharine Graham, head of the Post, has to make a decision about whether or not to do so. This does not come without risks to her fortune, the paper or legal troubles.

“The Post” has every Oscars check mark in its favor. It stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and it was directed by Steven Spielberg. It also discusses the reliability of the media, which has many parallels with politics today. It seems like too easy of a safe bet, and I do not think it will win big. Streep’s acting skills as Katharine Graham are superb as always and have earned her yet another Best Actress nomination for her collection. However, that and Best Picture are the only two nominations the film received. As it is unlikely to win either one, “The Post” will not achieve Oscars fame. It is still a worthwhile movie, though, and it appealed to my interest in journalism.


“Really entertaining movie, but didn't offer much substance.” -Anthony Monisteri, senior.


“A bunch of people got in a room and said, ‘Hey, let's make the most blatant Oscar bait movie ever!’ Yawn.” -Cassidy Jacobs, senior.


"The Shape of Water"

My Rating: 4/5. Average BHS Rating: 3.75/5.

This is a movie about a woman who has a romantic relationship with a humanoid fish. It does not sound like a good movie, but it is. Elisa Esposito is a nighttime janitor at a government facility in Cold War-era Baltimore. She is friends with her coworker, a black woman named Zelda, and her older neighbor, Giles. Elisa is mute because of damage done to her vocal chords as a baby, and as a result, she has scars on both sides of her neck. When Strickland, a high-ranking government employee, brings a mysterious creature from South America to Elisa’s place of work, she bonds with it because both of them have to communicate in ways other than with words. Elisa hears that the creature may face death, and she becomes determined to rescue him from his containment and torture. Along the way, they fall in love.

The visuals of the movie are stunning. Although it is set in 1960s Baltimore, the cinematography enhances the already present feeling that this is a fairytale rather than a strange science-fiction story. Sally Hawkins is nominated for her strong performance as Elisa, which is especially impressive considering she did so without having to speak out loud. “The Shape of Water” has 13 Academy Awards nominations, the most of any this year. They are Best Picture, Best Actress for Hawkins, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Supporting Actor for Richard Jenkins (Giles), Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer (Zelda), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. While I do not think any one movie will sweep the awards this year, “The Shape of Water” is the closest we are getting to that. Del Toro is likely to win for his direction, Hawkins has a chance at winning for her role, and the movie is a frontrunner for Best Picture. All in all, things are looking good for “The Shape of Water.”


“It was an interesting story line subliminally addressing social norms and problems, but it made me uncomfortable at times, given that the creature was a humanoid/animal they found in the Amazon that the main character fell for. It is the main point of the story, but, like...it had gills and ate a cat’s head.” -Venice Gripo, senior.


“I loved the concept of water's power in this film, but I found the relationship between the two main characters (a mute woman and a fish creature) to be off-putting.” -Juliet Adelman, senior.


“Interspecies human/fish-person love story is somehow interesting.” -Cassidy Jacobs, senior.


"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

My Rating: 4/5. Average BHS Rating: 4.67/5.

“Three Billboards” is about Mildred Hayes, a woman in a small town in the Midwest where everyone knows each other. Her daughter, who she had a rocky relationship with, was raped and killed seven month prior to the start of the movie. The corrupt and racist police department has not managed to solve the case, so Mildred buys three billboards on a little-used road outside the town saying, “raped while dying,” “and still no arrests” and “how come, Chief Willoughby?” The subject of the movie is the ensuing battle between Mildred and Willoughby, who is dying of cancer, the rest of the police department, notably including Officer Dixon, who has a reputation for torturing a black person in holding, and the rest of the town that blindly supports its law enforcement.

Right after seeing this movie, I texted my friend and said, “Instead of running the mile and fun run, I’m just going to see ‘Three Billboards’ twice a week because my heart rate is about the same during both of those activities.” This is an intense movie, but it is also funny, touching and very relevant. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are very compelling to watch, as most of them are either morally ambiguous or plain evil, and I found myself both hating them and rooting for them back and forth. The downside is that the police department’s racial bias is mentioned often but never explored enough, and Dixon is somewhat redeemed even though he committed unforgivable crimes. If the screenwriters were going to talk about race during this movie, which they did, they should have done it more justice. While most of the story is realistic, it is hard to believe Dixon would not face legal repercussions for throwing another man out of a window when there were multiple witnesses.

I could not bring myself to care for Dixon even after his redemption, but the actor playing him, Sam Rockwell, did so phenomenally. The acting in the whole movie is strong, especially from Rockwell and Frances McDormand (Mildred), who are nominated for the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards, respectively. They make strong bids for the two awards. Besides these and the Best Picture nomination, the film is also up for Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson (Willoughby) and Best Original Score. In my opinion, it is a strong contender for the Best Picture award, and it stayed with me long after I left the theater.


“This was another great movie. The language was very bad, but I enjoyed the interesting storyline. It was very sad at times and you have to be in the right mood to watch it, but other than that, I would most likely watch it again.” -Samantha Aspin, senior.


“It's a very unique movie, with good acting and good dialogue.” -Anthony Monisteri, senior.


The Takeaway

Should win: “Lady Bird” (although I’d also be happy with “Three Billboards,” “Get Out” or “The Shape of Water”).

Should win (BHS opinion): “Lady Bird.”

Will win: “The Shape of Water.”

Will win (BHS opinion): A tie between “Lady Bird,” “Three Billboards” and “The Shape of Water.”

Posted on March 3, 2018 .