Nine works competed in the main category, called the Best Picture Award.
Quite predictably, it went to The Shape of Water (which also won awards for the best production design and best original score), which approached the contest having already won the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival. Mexican Guillermo del Toro also received a statuette as the best director (he already holds a Golden Globe in the same category). The action takes place in 1962, at the height of the confrontation between the USSR and the US in the Cold War. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute girl who works as a cleaner at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore. A new living “test subject,” who is a humanoid amphibian, is brought to the laboratory. A bond gradually forms between the cleaner and the alien. When Elisa finds out that the government intends to kill and dissect her beloved partner, she hatches a rescue plan.
HE PRINCIPAL WINNER OF THE OSCARS AWARDS WAS DIRECTOR GUILLERMO DEL TORO, WHO WON THE STATUETTES AS THE BEST DIRECTOR AND FOR THE BEST PICTURE (HIS THE SHAPE OF WATER WON FOUR AWARDS IN TOTAL) / REUTERS photo
The director stylized the picture to approximate classical films of the early 1960s, filled it with hairstyles, outfits, interiors of the time, and the soundtrack with appropriate songs. Of course, del Toro added violence and sex scenes to the mix to make it look like an adult production of sorts, but in essence, The Shape of Water is a melodramatic fairy tale with a sugary happy end. A beautifully filmed love story involving a Cinderella and an Amphibian Man: is not it just what a broad audience needs? Evidently, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saw it that way.
Awards for the best actress and best supporting actor went, respectively, to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who played the antagonists in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (directed by Martin McDonagh, known for the black comedy crime film In Bruges). Single mother Mildred Hayes goes against the police of her hometown, believing that law-enforcement officers do not want to solve the murder of her daughter Angela. To do this, she rents three billboards, located at the entrance to the city, and posts on them short inscriptions that remind people of Angela’s murder and the inaction of sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). While Willoughby has no clue about the crime, the townspeople react to Hayes’s actions initially skeptically, and then aggressively; police officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is especially active in opposition to her, and she resorts to aggression in response. Like with In Bruges, the strongest feature of the film is its screenplay: Three Billboards is an exciting story with a lot of unpredictable turns, but McDonagh’s directing is too melodramatic. McDormand is a favorite actress of the Cohen brothers; unfortunately, here she lacks the brothers’ ironic inspiration, but this Oscar is still long overdue for her.
The best actor’s name became totally clear once Darkest Hour (directed by Joe Wright) hit the screens; it is a typical historical biopic of the “darkest hour” at the beginning of the war, when Germany seemed invincible.
Wright shows events starting with the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and ending with the Operation Dynamo, initiated by his successor Winston Churchill to evacuate troops encircled by the Germans under Dunkirk. Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, is unquestionably the principal character here. We see him through the eyes of his opponents and allies, as well as his wife and secretary; immersed in doubts and despair; in funny or touching situations; in parliament and among the people. It will not be an exaggeration to say that this generally mediocre film rides to success on 60-year-old Oldman. His external transformation is striking (they say he spent a few hours a day with a makeup artist, who jokingly remarked that he had to “turn a ferret into a bulldog”), but no less noticeable is the actor’s effort to convey his character’s mind, with a great many individual traits, emotional contrasts, and a wide range of reactions. Most likely, Churchill will now be associated with Oldman for a long time, who, I would like to remind our readers, became famous for playing rebels, criminals, and outsiders.
The Operation Dynamo itself, which involved the evacuation of 300,000 British, Belgian, and French troops, cut off on the northern coast of France in 1940, is covered in Dunkirk (a US-UK-France co-production, directed by Christopher Nolan), which won the awards for the best sound editing, best sound mixing, and best film editing.
Its storylines unfold on a beach, filled with a demoralized army, on the sea, where the Allied ships are evacuating people under German bomb attacks, and in the air where British fighters are trying to resist the Luftwaffe. The director does not show the Germans themselves, turning them into an anonymous and therefore even more terrible threat. This structure allows him to saturate the plot with lots of parallel scenes and maintain a crazy dynamic without losing the integrity of the whole. Nolan sets an ultra-high pace right from the very first frames which show a young British soldier’s escape from the enemy’s bullets through the streets of a deserted town. All battles and disasters are filmed/pictured flawlessly. The strongest feature of Dunkirk is the fascinating density of events, which is enhanced by composer Hans Zimmer. His minimalist music heightens tension to the limit of the possible. When time comes for it, Zimmer lets out somewhat pathetic, but appropriately lengthy synthesized chords, and as a flotilla of civilian ships that came to the rescue of the encircled soldiers (the titular Dynamo) enters the frame, tears start coming by themselves. In general, Nolan and Zimmer can manipulate the audience’s emotions, and they did follow the suit this time as well.