Critics groups love 'Call Me by Your Name' and 'Lady Bird,' but will the academy follow suit?

Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In the end, I couldn't be too disappointed with our group's selections, especially when the top two choices for best picture, "Call Me by Your Name" and runner-up "The Florida Project," were two of my favorites as well. You're right, Glenn, that many of the winners seem in line with what other groups, the academy included, may end up recognizing. That said, given the unusually broad range of fine films and the absence of a "La La Land"- or "Moonlight"-style juggernaut, this doesn't strike me as a year in which cut-and-dried conclusions can necessarily be drawn.

Chalamet's NYFCC and LAFCA wins have given him a nice boost in the actor race, but from an industry perspective he'll still look like a young underdog next to, say, Gary Oldman's far showier work in "Darkest Hour." I imagine that "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," which received three LAFCA runner-up placements on Sunday, is cooling its heels in preparation for a bigger showing elsewhere. "The Post," though ignored by NYFCC and LAFCA after its big wins from the National Board of Review (not technically a critics group), remains very much in the conversation.

And I hope the same is true of Christopher Nolan's remarkable "Dunkirk," which has been largely overlooked so far, but which fulfills an all-too-rare awards-season promise: It's a sweeping, academy-friendly spectacle and a bona fide critics' darling.

WHIPP: I'm not worried about "The Post." Oscar voters packed its screening last night at the motion picture academy's theater in Beverly Hills and roared their approval when Steven Spielberg came on stage for a Q-and-A afterward.

Circling back to the idea of consensus choices winning awards, "The Post" feels like the kind of movie that the academy might honor at this moment in time. Fashioned as a thriller dramatizing the decision to publish the leaked Pentagon Papers in 1971, it touches on issues -- gender equity, freedom of the press -- very much in the conversation in 2017. Academy members want the best picture Oscar winner to reflect well on their industry, and most would probably agree that a vote for "The Post" would do just that.

Now, I'd argue that there's another movie -- a better movie -- that speaks to the current moment, and that's "The Florida Project," Sean Baker's expansive, emotionally raw look at people living on the frayed edges of America. Set in a rundown motel in the shadow of Orlando's Disney World, the film follows a group of modern-day Little Rascals romping around a magic kingdom of their own making while the grown-ups (some barely removed from their own childhoods) struggle, often desperately, to make ends meet. It's a miracle of a movie, buoyant and heartbreaking, and surveys an America we don't often see depicted on screen.


As for Nolan, I'd guess that he'll finally earn his first nomination as a director for "Dunkirk." But his ambitious, twisty movies leave a lot of people cold, and "Dunkirk" is no exception. After I wrote about the strong reaction the movie received at its academy screening in July, several voters emailed me to tell me that they most definitely weren't applauding from their seats that evening. Nolan might have to content himself with the total artistic freedom afforded by his commercial successes. No small prize that.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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