Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon – THE BIG SICK
Kogonada – COLUMBUS
Jordan Peele – GET OUT
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Martin McDonagh – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MONTANA
It’s quite telling that two of my choices for Best Original Screenplay — THE BIG SICK by the husband and wife team of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon; and COLUMBUS, by renowned visual essayist Kogonada — premiered one year ago, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in January. The bar that these two divergent films set has turned out to be a formidable one, and while many other films have met the challenge of approaching these two film in uniqueness and originality of story, my goal was to select works that spoke to me as an American —whatever that means. That means stories that reflect living in an insidious new normal, one in which “greatness” means regression, “diversity” has taken on a sinister double-meaning of “invasion,” and issues that are long past due to talk about (like race, for instance) are continually put off for another day. Of the remaining three recommendations on my Oscar® ballot, Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s THE SHAPE OF WATER is the undeniable period piece, albeit one with racist, xenophobic and homophobic undertones that sadly endure today and are seemingly empowered by a regressive American Presidency. Those same themes likewise turn up in Martin McDonagh’s THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MONTANA and Jordan Peele’s GET OUT, two contemporary works that don’t shy away from discussing race, class, and privilege in places where simple, honest communication utterly fail to bridge communities or perspectives. Assessing this grouping many times over before hitting the “publish” button, I come to the conclusion that these works actually succeed in reflecting the crazy, confused world that we live in. And I’m alright with that.
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