An Oscar guide for people who don't watch the Oscars (or movies)

Robert Maharry

Do you find yourself suffering from a severe lack of political sanctimony in your daily life? Has it been at least two weeks since you’ve watched oblivious celebrities congratulate themselves and each other on a television screen? Do you sometimes feel a desire to watch new movies so you can feel cultured and aware but end up gravitating toward those reruns of “Cheers” and “The Simpsons” instead? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I’ve got just the guide for you.
The granddaddy of them all is back this weekend, and while I’d love to break down every Oscar category (and subsequently, bore the few people who regularly read this column to death), I’m going to stick with the most important one for the sake of brevity. With a combination of my own stubbornly held opinions, my trusty sidekick Wikipedia and some takes from random Internet comment sections, I present the definitive guide to the 2018 Academy Award Best Picture nominees (Full disclosure: I have only seen one of these movies, and I thought it was okay).
Call Me By Your Name: This is a foreign film, which instantly knocks it down a notch in my book (I never claimed these assessments would be fair). Its title reminds me of the old Steve Goodman/David Allan Coe song, but from what I’ve read about “Call Me By Your Name,” I have a feeling Mr. Coe wouldn’t be a fan.
The movie itself chronicles an affair between two boys who live together for a summer in northern Italy and keep up a façade of heterosexuality that doesn’t seem to fool anyone in the end. It might be interesting, but the chances that I ever get around to watching it are slim to none.
Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman is a fantastic actor, and I’m down for any movie that involves defeating, killing or otherwise doing bad things to Hitler. This is one of the three or four nominees I’d actually like to see, and the lessons of World War II are ever prescient in the modern era.
I was able to find at least one think piece on why “Darkest Hour” should win Best Picture, so that’s a definite step in the right direction. If you’ve got bloggers drumming up support from mom’s basement on your side, who can be against you?
Dunkirk: Another film about Britain and WWII? There can only be one! Actually, two is fine, and from everything I’ve heard, “Dunkirk” is also great.
The screen grabs of the movie I found during a Google search were incredibly impressive, so tally up a few points for that. “Dunkirk” surpassed “Saving Private Ryan” as the highest grossing WWII movie of all time, and Christopher Nolan had apparently been planning it out for over 20 years. Plus, Harry Styles makes an appearance and can now firmly lay claim to his status as the Justin Timberlake of One Direction.
Get Out: This is the only nominee I’ve actually seen, and frankly, I’m not as smitten with it as everyone else seems to be. It works well as a scary movie by taking the traditional concepts of horror and flipping them on their sides, but as a sociopolitical statement on race relations in America, it’s not as deep as everyone thinks it is.
Because of the aforementioned underlying themes, however, I do feel that “Get Out” has a strong chance of winning—especially after “Moonlight” brought home the award last year, and it’s not often that a horror flick is selected for the top honor in all of filmmaking. I guess we’ll see if the academy has a more sympathetic take on it than I do.
Oh, by the way, the plot centers on a young black man who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family in upstate New York before learning that something isn’t quite right. Spoiler alert: the white people are bad!
Lady Bird: This female coming of age comedy instantly reminded me of films like “Juno” and “Edge of Seventeen” when I saw the previews and is almost certainly the official feminist choice for Best Picture.
It’s not my cup of tea, but I could see “Lady Bird” winning in dark horse fashion because, again, it would break the mold of the usual historical drama/war movie/snoozer that only critics actually watch.
Phantom Thread: Paul Thomas Anderson is like the Radiohead or Arcade Fire of cinema: his output may be sparse, but whenever he does release something, critics fall all over themselves to tell you how life changing it is.
In all honesty, I tried to watch “There Will Be Blood” and couldn’t get through it because it was so boring to me. “Phantom Thread” reunites the infamous method actor Daniel Day-Lewis with Anderson, and it runs over two hours. I don’t think you could pay me to sit through this.
Actually, yeah, you could pay me, but I get to choose the snacks.
The Post: Kellie and I were supposed to go see “The Post” in Gladbrook last weekend, but the slick and snowy roads derailed our plans. As a journalist who sometimes upsets people with my opinions, it would be extremely cliché for me to ramble on about how great this film probably is and how if it weren’t for people like me, we’d all be living in an authoritarian dictatorship locked in cages and fighting for the crumbs our corporate fascist overlords leave between the prison bars.
But the fact that I didn’t get to it doesn’t break my heart. It will surely bear plenty of similarities to other fourth estate procedurals like “All the President’s Men,” “Zodiac” and “Spotlight,” the latter of which won Best Picture two years ago, and by reading all of the fawning columns from other reporters, I feel like I’ve already watched it five times.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got any top-secret government documents that you’d like to drop off at my office so I can write a Pulitzer Prize winning series of stories, you know where to find me.
The Shape of Water: From what I understand of this movie, it’s more or less “The Little Mermaid” for adults. Michael Shannon is one of my favorite actors out there, and Octavia Spencer is also very good. The plot strikes me as a little far-fetched, but I suppose that’s why it’s a movie.
Director Guillermo Del Toro is being sued over alleged similarities between the film and a 1969 play entitled “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” so writing out a royalty check could put a damper on the thrill of victory if he is to win on Sunday night. I’ll probably never watch this one either.
Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Any Midwestern crime drama starring Frances McDormand—whose turn as Marge Gunderson in “Fargo” is still one of my favorite big screen performances ever—and Woody Harrelson, who is quite simply one of the two or three best living actors out there, is instantly going to trip my trigger, so I have to admit that I’m 100 percent biased towards this movie knowing that its chances of winning are about as close to zero as it gets due to some of the messy portrayals that the outrage brigade has latched onto as proof of irredeemable racism.
This is the only one of the nine films that I truly want to see, and it’s also the one that mostly closely resembles a Coen Brothers production without actually being a Coen Brothers production (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country for Old Men” are three of the greatest films made in the last 25 years, and if you disagree, I’ll fight you). 
I can never resist making a prediction and being completely wrong, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say “Lady Bird” wins it this year. “Moonlight” taking home the Oscar in 2017 was a big moment for black actors and directors, and with all of the controversy surrounding #MeToo and sexual harassment, this would be a prime time to give the award to a female-centric film.
Alas, that doesn’t guarantee I’ll ever end up watching it. There are plenty of old episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” on Netflix waiting for me when I get home.  

The Grundy Register

601 G. Avenue - P.O. Box 245
Grundy Center, IA 50638
Telephone: 1-319-824-6958
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.