For the Academy Awards “Best Picture” category, popularity isn’t supposed to matter.  But doesn’t it matter, practically speaking?  Academy voters hail from are across the country, and are no doubt at least indirectly influenced by water cooler chatter.  This year the nine nominated films not surprisingly run the gamut from high box office winners to barely seen pictures.  At the top, the historical drama and war film Dunkirk has taken in $188 million.  The surprise of the year, the horror thriller Get Out, has earned $176 million.  The quickly conceived and produced historical drama about the free press, The Post, was concocted by Steven Spielberg for its relevancy, and in a short period continues to climb, taking in $77 million.  The most difficult sell for many may be the fantasy The Shape of Water, a monster movie and romance mash-up about individuality, which has brought in $53 million, also still in theaters.  Historical drama Darkest Hour has been in release much longer.  It has netted $53 million at the box office.  Lady Bird, a coming-of-age drama, has taken in $43 million.  A contemporary drama, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has earned $48 million.  A character-study drama about a man with an obsessive, controlling personality, Phantom Thread, has garnered only $17 million.  Finally, the contemporary romance Call Me By Your Name, has only taken in $15 million.

Dunkirk, Get Out, Three Billboards, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, and Lady Bird are all available on streaming video services, with The Shape of Water arriving February 27.  But if you want to see all nine films in the theater, AMC Theaters are offering film fans a few opportunities to catch-up on what you may have missed, first with their Two-Day Best Picture Showcase.  Four movies will be screened this Saturday, February 24, with the remaining five the following Saturday, March 3.  Or you can binge watch all nine films in the 24-hour AMC Best Picture Movie Marathon, all on March 3.

As unique as each nominated film appears this year, each has its precursors for Best Picture.  Oscar has tapped several historical dramas fitting the Dunkirk and Darkest Hour mold, including The Hurt Locker, Schindler’s List, Platoon, and Patton.  Phantom Thread harkens back to bad relationship dramas like The Lost Weekend, The English Patient, or American Beauty.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, evokes those tough mothers enduring losses in Terms of Endearment, Ordinary People, and Mrs. Miniver.  Despite several nominations, surprisingly few historical dramas about real, singular events like The Post have an Oscar, although recent winner Argo, about the American hostage crisis in Iran, is an easy comparison.  The lead character in Lady Bird could be seen as this decade’s version of Annie Hall or a coming-of-age film like West Side Story, but it may also be another study in family relationships as found in Terms of Endearment and Ordinary People.  

Do Get Out and The Shape of Water have its antecedent in Oscar winners of the past?  Perhaps.  Each would certainly be an unusual win.  Is Get Out a new kind of surprise horror drama entry like Silence of the Lambs?  Who knew that film would sweep the Oscars in 1991?  How about the creepy No Country for Old Men or Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Rebecca?  And it may draw threads of discussion from Gentleman’s Agreement.  As for The Shape of Water, Oscar has been slow to cozy up to the fantasy movie, only knighting The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King with a Best Picture proclamation.  But at its core The Shape of Water, like Call Me By Your Name, is a love story in the most winning category of Oscar, the romance, with past winners including It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Marty, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind, and many more.

Is either Dunkirk or Darkest Hour among filmdom’s very best war films?  Will the public perception of an award for The Post be something Academy voters consider?  Box office draw would normally put Dunkirk in a noticeable position along with the financial success of Get Out.  Yet the 13-nominations for The Shape of Water should get it noticed, and its wins of other awards make for a likely winner in not only the Best Picture category, but also several other awards, including Best Director.  Nine very different nominees.  It all makes Oscar gamblers wish the Academy would return to only five nominees (the Academy switched from ten to five nominees in the 1940s then came back to allow up to ten nominees again in 2009).

But you can make your own picks, and, if you’ve got the energy for it, screen them all in the theater with AMC’s events beginning this weekend, February 24, and continuing March 3, the day before the 90th Oscar ceremony.

Check out the AMC website here for more information and to order tickets now.  The Oscars air at 7 p.m. central, Sunday, March 5, 2018, on ABC.

C.J. Bunce