This week I am going to guide you through the Oscar Nominees: All eight of them! I am going to go in ascending order (worst to first). There is a clear cut winner, or at least, one film that rules them all. I will provide a breakdown of each film a little more concisely than usual in order to ensure that we explore the merits of each one. As usual, there will be MINOR SPOILERS ahead.
First, to touch on a few points that serve as an overview. When No Country for Old Men won Best Picture in 2008, the film was both praised and maligned (I fell into the latter category) because of its lack of resolution. The Coen brothers, understanding that life mirrors art, did not wrap up their tale with a nice red bow! Why is this important? Because similarly, several of this year’s films lack an ending befitting the story and one that the audience deserves. That may be vogue for artists, but as an audience member, I want a complete story with three to five acts and a resolution. Even without a nice finale, the better films this year maintain an air of completeness that I believe is important for a best picture contender. There are popular choices that are culturally fitting, but do not fit into the best picture category for a variety of reasons. I am old school and I believe that the old five picture format is more than adequate. I lauded the addition of the most popular picture category- a return to the first oscars- that was instituted and quickly abandoned. But alas, without further delay, my oscar ballot ranked last to first.
8) BLACK PANTHER
This is simple: Black Panther is not a Best Picture Film. Aside from special effects categories (which, if you sat through the third act, then you will have realized that they were lackluster: See the Rhinos!), the film was a blockbuster and nothing else. Black Panther was not the best picture and not even the best comic book movie either (I rank it somewhere near five or six-if I am being generous).
Now, I am a fan of comics, which means I have been waiting since 2008 for comic book movies to receive their due recognition, however, comparing The Dark Knight and Logan to Black Panther discredits the genre. Socially, it made strides for inclusivity and showed that vision trumps race, yet, when people decried Black Panther’s nomination in the newly instituted and even more newly excised category of Most Popular Film, for which it was a front runner, its legitimate chances for Best Picture were torpedoed. There are always upsets and bribery that occur, so do not be surprised, but Black Panther does not belong here.
The Skinny: Two stars out of four and thumbs down. There were too many plot holes and it was a victim of its own success. Either it was more than a comic movie and missed its mark or it was just a blockbuster, which mitigates its message. Plus, the CGI in the final fight scene was atrocious.
7) THE FAVOURITE
My least favorite entry on this list. The trailer possessed tremendous wit and the cast is stellar; however, if I have said it once I have said it a million times, when a movie is billed, “the performance of… was incredible,” then the film will likely disappoint. This was the case with Black Mass and Johnny Depp, The Revenant and Leo, and Rescue Dawn and Christian Bale. Olivia Colman delivers a tour de force as Queen Anne. Rachel Weiss is also incredible in her role, but that is where the compliments stop. Emma Stone is Emma Stone set in England with a modernization on the historical backdrop in all the wrong ways. The use of profanity was jarring as I could not see the queen or member of the court loudly declaring the C-word. I felt like the attempt to be cool lost the pride needed to create a period piece that the subject was deserving of and it pandered to the Oscar’s British favouritisms. The aforementioned ending crisis presented an issue as the film cut, leaving the audience feeling like there was more to follow.
The Skinny: One out of four stars and thumbs down. Unless you are interested in fictitious adaptations of British history, enjoy watching sensational acting, or are an avid fan of Emma Stone, avoid this film at all costs.
6) A STAR IS BORN
For everyone who raved about this film, please cut me some slack. I did not see the original versions and expected to love this film; so much to my disappointment when I was checking my watch an hour in feeling like it should be getting ready to wrap up, but I was less than halfway there. The story proceeded to hit all of the necessary beats presenting a contrived and formulaic end that ultimately proved disappointing. Everybody was fine, but nothing, including the direction, “sang”. I look at Cooper’s perceived snub as an indicator of the quality of the film, instead of serving as a representation of some grand injustice contrived to stifle his creative expression and first-time chances.
The Skinny: Two out of four stars and thumbs down. This is a retread of many other romance genres and offers little to the genre and awards season. I was disappointed at the disjointed feeling from a highly celebrated first-time director, who offered a film that felt entirely pedestrian.
After loving The Big Short, I can safely say that there was no other film that I was more excited about than Vice. Then, upon hearing that making the film actually saved Adam McKay’s life because of the increased awareness of heart disease and incredible performance given by Christian Bale, I knew that I needed to see it. Watching the film, I felt nostalgic because I remember watching Colin Powell present to the United Nations, speeches that encapsulated September 11th, and Operation Iraqi Freedom vividly. Those touchstones are relatively accurate representations since they were presented in the public eye. Regrettably, Vice deviates a bit too far from its commentary on Cheney and becomes an all out assault on his character. McKay indulges into his own ego, even offering a full credit scene midway through the film, which is not only jarring but also disrespectful to the audience. I felt like, in an attempt to swing at the low-hanging fruit, McKay lost his credibility and objectivity. It was at that point that the film became an almost personal attack, criticizing Cheney without presenting all aspects of his character. I do not know the dealings of the oval office, but presenting Cheney in such an irreputable way created logical inconsistencies with characterization created earlier in the film. Bale looked perfect, but sounded a bit like an aging Batman, complete with a gravelly, menacing voice.
The Skinny: Two out of four stars and thumbs down. I felt like the aggressive nature that it attacked Cheney diminished the film- coupled with the sharp and overly tongue-in-cheek aspects. It thought it was smarter than it was.
4) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
The Freddie Mercury biopic was fantastic. It is everything that a music or Queen fan wanted and more. The music was great as was the exploration of the catalogue of Queen songs, many of which were of unknown origin to the uninitiated. Rami Malek has received way too much praise for a portrayal that borders on cartoonish at times, and the director controversy does not help its case. Unfortunately, the end pulls the audience out of the movie as the final fifteen to twenty minutes are a reenactment of the band’s Live Aid performance. This proves to be a pacing tragedy as the film would have been better served showing the first song performed by Malek and co, before swapping in footage from the real performance to create cohesion and connect the movie with reality. Additionally, upon realizing that the majority of the film was fictionalized, I felt like I had been lied to. The movie took liberties that were so large that it was not representative of Mercury’s life and only served as various set pieces for Queen’s music. Mercury was definitely depicted in a negative light and unnecessarily so.
The Skinny: Three out of four stars thumbs up. I would see the film if you are a fan of Queen or a music lover. It does not belong in the best picture race, and because of its inaccuracy, you might be better served just listening to the platinum hits collection.
So for a lot of these entries there are close calls. I tried to rank the best that I could because Oscar balloting is a point aggregate system meaning that ranking is not only necessary, but also important. In reality, A Star is Born and Vice would be tied in addition to this tie. Unfortunately, there needs to be a separation. Let me tie in my introductory comments yet again! I actually enjoyed Blackkklansman more than Roma overall. I would say the first seventy percent of the film was fantastic, but it is based on a true story. Unlike Rhapsody, Blackkklansman did not completely disregard the truth. This proved to its detriment because they needed to tie up the story and had no way to do so, which proved limiting. Also, when they introduced the news footage at the end, it did not feel natural. I would have preferred more content directly related to the characters and story. I understand its intention but felt like it missed the mark. Despite the missteps at the end, the rest is poignant and a fitting commentary on today’s social turmoil.
The Skinny: Three out of four Stars and thumbs up. It is definitely worth a watch if you are a fan of Spike Lee joints, but especially if you want an absurdist tale where the incredulity is increased by the fact that the outrageous events are reality, then this is must see.
A tale of two movies. Technically, it is the best made film nominated and, by far, the most stunning. The use of pan shots grows old quickly as does the indulgence in stories that are so personal. If the screenplay had been trimmed by fifteen or twenty minutes, the film could have been near perfect. There was thematic development that was laborious to watch with little payoff. In fact, my wife left forty-five minutes in. I persevered and the result was dramatic, beautiful, and emotionally impactful. The last forty-five minutes were unexpected, particularly for those who endured the first hour and a half. I have heard that somewhere between the hour and hour and half mark is where many people tune out. If that is the case then you are missing the best part. Despite taking its time with the build-up, my only criticism is that the end seems slightly hastened. It is not that the film is rushed, only that the emotional impact does not have time to resonate fully during certain scenes before moving to the next moment. Yet, the end is so strong that it compensates and delivers a powerful message about the resiliency of the human spirit and dynamic of a family with a strong female center.
The Skinny: Three + out of four stars, thumbs Up. Since Roma is on Netflix, go into it with the plan of breaking it into two segments. Watch one hour, then the second after an intermission and you will be pleased. The acting, directing, and story are all exquisite!
1) GREEN BOOK
The Best Picture! It is not even close. The social commentary provided fosters a deeper connectivity between the characters and the audience. As the film shifts the archetype of expected demographic norms, it develops an interesting dynamic between Ali and Mortensen's characters. The richness of the characters and setting created a complete story that made the audience feel like nothing was lost or left untold. There were laugh-out-loud moments, which balanced the serious moments and subject matter as well. Despite it being a true story, the realness was not impacted as both characters confirmed to the film’s validity. It was an excellent movie and was, in my opinion, the best picture of the year.
The Skinny: Three and a half stars out of four and thumbs way up. It is a movie for everyone and succeeds where other nominees this year, including Blackkklansman, fall short, flawlessly hitting its mark without delving into the territory of being
Bonus Rapid Fire (My Choice):
Supporting Actor (Ali)
Supporting Actress (Weisz)
Original Screenplay (Green Book)
Adapted Screenplay (Blackkklansman)
Animated Feature (Impossible to choose: Incredibles 2 and Into the Spiderverse!)
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