Oscars 2018: The Good, The Bad, & The Shirtless

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Since boyhood I’ve been a huge fan of the Academy Awards. And I don’t just mean the sort of fan who dutifully tunes in each year to celebrate another Meryl Streep nomination, but the kind who organizes a movie-themed party, prints off prediction ballots for all the guests, and makes a Sally Field-inspired speech at the end of the night. 

Yes, I’m THAT guy.

And I’ve been doing it since the age of 8, when my only guests were three Cabbage Patch dolls and my Mom. Back then I had a secret crush on Elijah Wood and personal aspirations to be the next Steven Spielberg, but I’ll save that for a future article. Today we are talking about the 2018 Academy Awards: The good, the bad, and the shirtless!

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Let’s start with the good! 

“Get Out”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”, and “Call Me By Your Name” (all up for Best Picture) were three of the very best films I saw this year. But what made them stand out? What did these three very different films have in common? One word: Surprise! These stories were told in fresh and unpredictable ways that left you legitimately asking - “What’s going to happen next??” Too often in today’s supercharged, superhero cinematic landscape we see plot twists and punchlines coming from a mile back - but not here. With all the ducking, weaving, and subverting of expectations, it’s wonderful to see this trio also nominated in the Screenplay categories.

These films also contain two of the most revelatory performances not just this year - but in recent memory! Frances McDormand (“BillBoards”) and Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me”) deserve all the awards. When you see them act, you forget you’re staring at a screen. It’s as close to real as it gets, and it’s thrilling to sit back and watch.

Now for the bad. 

I’m not a film critic, just a gay with an opinion - so I’m going to put a positive spin on this, okay? Bear with me while I rename this category the “Too Bad It Wasn’t Nominated!” performances of 2018.

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Beanie Feldstein for “Lady Bird”

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf - but the true standout from Greta Gerwig’s Sacramento love-letter was “Julie” (in quotes!) Lady Bird’s delightful BFF. Like a true scene-stealer, Feldstein has the light comic touch of a stalwart comedienne combined with just enough pathos to leave an impression. It’s been 2 weeks since I watched the film and she’s the one I’m still thinking about. What does that tell you?

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Betty Gabriel for “Get Out”

The escalating creep-factor of Jordan Peele’s darkly comic horror-satire (did he invent a new genre?) was perfectly encapsulated in Gabriel’s portrayal of Georgina, the housemaid. Just when you think she’s offering little more than a slightly eerie supporting role, she changes the game with a single scene that I’m still talking about 8 months later. Do yourself a favor and Google “Georgina no no no” and surrender to the chills. It’s horror at its finest. And as much as I loved Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water”, Betty Gabriel should have earned that spot.

Michael Stuhlbarg for “Call Me By Your Name”

As the endearing father of 17-year old Elio, Stuhlbarg’s Mr. Perlman delivers one of the most poignant and emotional monologues I’ve seen in years. This time don’t do yourself a favor by Googling it - just watch the entire movie and try not to cry during his impeccable final speech. How could the Academy overlook this one? I appreciate Christopher Plummer in any role, but his spot should have gone to the sneakily-sublime Michael Stuhlbarg.

Honorable Mention:

Gal Gadot for “Wonder Woman”

For all its predictability, cringe dialogue, and overblown special effects, there’s no denying the screen presence of Gal Gadot. I may risk losing my gay-card for saying this, but in a world with an already record setting 20 Meryl Streep Oscar nominations, couldn’t we have made room for an up-and-coming talent? I’m not suggesting these two are in the same league, but I bet Streep herself would have gladly absconded her spot for the effervescent Gadot. 

Just a thought!

Finally, we here at ShirtlessViolinist.com take art very seriously. Which is why we’ve included this last category: Shirtlesssness! Exactly how shirtless are the Oscars this year? Let’s take a look at our top contenders: In one corner we have the cast of “Call Me By Your Name” who have a slight advantage for being set in the sweltering heat of a northern Italian summer. And in the other corner we have our lovable, Swamp-Thing-inspired Amphibian Man from “The Shape of Water.” 

Who should take home the top prize? (This is a good time to point out that the Oscar statuette is appropriately shirtless!)

While Elio and Oliver are lovingly depicted with realistic body types and a down-right aversion to Hollywood perfection, our Underwater Adonis is rocking an 8-pack and a chest that puts Hercules to shame. Is this even a fair fight?

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I have just three words to end this duel:

“Elio, Elio, Elio” 

And if you’ve seen this year’s BEST film (there! I said it!) - you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. 

Now excuse me while I get back to planning my party for Sunday’s telecast. I’m serving Calamari By Your Name, Guillermo del Tortas, and Three Cheese Boards Outside Ebbing, Missouri!