2019 Oscar Nominations Review

There comes a time in the latter half of winter where the walls start closing around you. After the long, festive holiday hangover that follows the Nirvana of the Holidays, a realization sinks in. Trapped in the bitter grasp of no-man’s lands, the increasingly frigid reaches of winter stretch out before you with no end in sight. Summer, sprinklers, sunshine, not having to watch the Patriots play in another Super-Bowl, there are memories and pictures of these things but little else. Sure, the first week or two may go alright– still riding high on the warm bliss of huddling around the fireplace with family (and a good number of strong eggnogs), but then the weeks of work and tedious boredom still in front envelop you, slamming you into the icy pavement below your feet.

 

Of course, I go to Berkeley now so what’s it to me? It’s gonna be 65 and partly cloudy here until the tectonic plates decide to swap things up.

 

But for the rest of you who care, I can offer one brief ray of hope: the Oscar nominees came out today! (well last night technically I think). A batch of results that had primarily been predicted by the hordes of Oscar bloggers day 1, per usual there was nonetheless a host of surprises, snubs, and, well, shit to be discussed. I’ll give a more in-depth ranking and prediction for all the major categories in a few days once I’ve finished watching everything (I’m close I really am!) but just for now I wanted to do a quick review of the stuff that really stood out to me.

 

First the good! While Ethan Hawke was (expectedly) snubbed for his powerful performance in First Reformed, the screenplay by writer/director Paul Shrader nabbed a surprising nomination for best original screenplay. The best original screenplay category has always been a sort of alternate version of the best picture award, wherein the better films that actually carried with them a spark of originality could thrive (for example Get Out was able to win this last year). While the bleak, art-house vibes from First Reformed threatened to push the film away from Oscar voters, however, that fact that the film was able to pull off the nomination I think was a product of both its political leanings and how damn good it was.

 

Similar praise can go to the nomination of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by the Cohen brothers, which while not as successful a film as First Reformed was still a welcome upgrade over the piss-poor Oscar choices that over-ran the rest of the awards. And while they were not revolutionary by any means, it was nice to see deserving films like Roma and The Favourite (leading with 10 nominations each), A Star is Born (8 nominations), and Black KKKLansman (6 nominations) not getting overly snubbed (although I’m sure Bradley Cooper is not going to be particularly happy about missing out on best director). And for the acting nominations, the two nods for Will You Ever Forgive Me (Mellisa Mcarthy for best actress and Richard E. Grant for best-supporting actor) will go along way towards filling the hole left without the film’s nomination for best picture. On the flip side, while it’s nominations in most of the major categories were unto not deserved, Vice garnered 3 acting nominations with deserving nods to Amy Adams (best supporting actress) and Christian Bale (the front-runner for best actor). Sam Rockwell got nominated too I guess; he must have been a blast at the 2018 Oscar’s after party.

 

Depending on where you go on the internet, it’s extremely possible in the coming weeks you’re gonna hear and a lot of criticism for Black Panther’s, count them, 7 nominations! I wanted to write a little on why this film was picked and why I think it’s a fitting choice, even though I agree with some of the criticisms. It’s true to say that the film was somewhat overrated. Tortuously bad dialogue and a plodding, even occasionally politically troubling first half crippled the film from the greatness it should have attained under a fantastic filmmaker like Ryan Coogler. But overall the film carried with it (especially for a Marvel film) an unprecedented ambition. In essence, it wasn’t just a super-hero movie starring black people; it was a super-hero movie about black people. Especially in the 2nd half, Black Panther dared to make weighty but well reasoned political and social arguments on everything from extremism and colonialism to black oppression and foreign intervention. Largely this was done through the antagonist Kilmonger (played in an all-time great performance by Michael B. Jordan). While he was snubbed at the Oscars for his role in the movie, his character will live on as one of the greatest and most important villains in movie history — whether you liked the movie or not. Additionally, strong acting all around, one of the best scores this year (by the composer for Creed Ludwig Goranson), and some truly memorable moments sprinkled throughout the movie, all way more than outweigh the film’s initial flaws. And for so many black Americans around the country (as evidenced by the film’s record box-office haul and cultural impact), this film is more than just a plain-old Marvel movie.

 

The snubs and disappointments this year are, on the other hand, far too many to count of course. I’ll preface this part with a message I have to tell myself every year: Oscar nominations are not indicative or often even largely correlated with the quality of a movie; so much goes on behind the scenes on the campaigning and pr side that the goal of these nominations isn’t even to display quality. I know, if you care about movies that’s not really gonna help but there it is.

 

I already railed against Bohemian Rhapsody in my last post so I’ll leave its, checks cards, 5 nominations including best picture and editing, shudders and dies inside, alone. Likewise, I’ve mentioned some of the bigger snubs already so I’ll leave those alone here. And I’m sure there are a million lists online detailing every minuscule flaw in the Oscars choices, so I’ll just go over the choices that really popped out to me. First off, while it generally cleaned up pretty nice overall, it’s the few misses for A Star is Born that may spell its doom for the best picture race. After losing to Green Book at the PGA (a highly predictive award) and struggling mightily at the Golden Globes, missing out on the best director nomination (for Bradley Cooper) and the best editing nomination may sound the death knell for the once promising movie (Roma it’s up to you to stop Green Book now).

 

And in perhaps the biggest shocker this year, the smashing success and write-in-pen lock for best documentary, the Fred Rogers biopic Won’t You be My Neighbor wasn’t even nominated. The highest grossing biopic ever made, Won’t You be My Neighbor had everything: sentimentality, a heart-warming message, and quality craftsmanship. The best documentary has always been a notoriously difficult award to predict, but I’m just stumped on this one. I guess, admittedly, I didn’t particularly enjoy it myself as the film rarely dared to dig particularly deep into its subject, but if anything that should make the movie more enticing for the average Oscar voter. It doesn’t make sense. This category doesn’t make sense. The two most successful and critically acclaimed documentaries this year, 3 Identical Strangers and Won’t You be My Neighbor, didn’t get nominated. Why even have the category?

 

No, David, stop. Remember what you said earlier. These nominations are complicated. They aren’t based on reason. Why do you even have expectations?

 

I know, I know I’m sorry. I don’t want to care but I do. I expect to be disappointed, and I still am. I mean look at First Man. The writing had been on the wall for quite some time now so I knew in my heart it was coming, but to see one of my, supposedly Oscar flavored, favorite films this year get shut out of every single major category (including, in a blood-draining shocker for best score and Claire Foy missing out for best-supporting actress) it was somewhat expected. A mix of prestige-character study and space-travel suspense, the film, directed by previously on fire Oscar Winner Damian Chazzelle (the creator of Whiplash and La La Land) First Man started off the year at the front of the awards race. But, I think a much more complicated and tragic portrayal of shiny American Legend Neil Armstrong may have soured Oscar voters and audiences who were expecting a much more celebratory jaunt (I mean where were the exploding fireworks and flying Chevy trucks over the moon’s surface).

 
If you’ve read some of my more recent reviews and you’ve seen the list of nominees you can guess the last film I want to talk about. I guess some of the other award shows have shown an inkling of what was to come, but on its surface level, I think the snub of If Beale Street Could Talk is one of the biggest in years. A deeply moving portrayal of black love and life in America, If Beale Street Could Talk is not only one of the best films in a year starved of good films, it is a revolutionary and monumentally important statement. So don’t let anyone fool you, yes, there is stuff going on behind the signs, but Annapurna, the film’s producer, was 100% behind this film in its Oscar campaign. This snub is entirely about race. Now sure, you might argue, this year is not exactly #Oscars so white. Black Panther, Black KKKlansman, and Green Book are all to a large extent about race. And while this is true, it does not come close to telling the full story.

 

 

The Oscars has long struggled with its infamously white moderate-liberalism that parades around its “race” movies like prize horses –celebrating films about slavery and colonial abuse while turning its head at the sight of films that genuinely portray the realities for black Americans in this country. Black Panther, Black KKKlansman, and Green Book are these movies this year. Get Out, ironically considering the film was blasting these type of people, was it last year. The Oscars are fine showing oppressed black people. Slavery, the struggle for civil rights, racist white people: these films succeed at the Oscars and the voters pat themselves on the back. But any films that strive for more, any film that strives to portray black people in a positive, human light?

 

Crickets.

 

And this snub is all the more disappointing considering the context of today; after years of struggling with race, thousands of new voters, and a conservative political atmosphere that more and more seeks to take us back to “the good old days”, now is the time when the Oscars should be embracing black films and black actors. And to so coldly reject a black director like Oscar winner Barry Jenkins and such a well-made film is depressing, to say the least.

 

I can repeat what I said before here. How the Oscars don’t matter. How they aren’t indicative of anything. But of course, that’s not really true. They may be political. They may not be based on merit. But for both movie fans and non-movie fans alike, they are indicative of everything.

 

Happy awards season!

 

Full List of Nominations Below:

 

Best Picture

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Black Panther

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • The Favourite

  • Green Book

  • Roma

  • A Star Is Born

  • Vice

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)

  • Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)

  • Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)

  • Adam McKay (Vice)

  • Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Best Actress

  • Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)

  • Glenn Close (The Wife)

  • Olivia Colman (The Favourite)

  • Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)

  • Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Actor

  • Christian Bale (Vice)

  • Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)

  • Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)

  • Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)

  • Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams (Vice)

  • Marina de Tavira (Roma)

  • Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)

  • Emma Stone (The Favourite)

  • Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

  • Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)

  • Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)

  • Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

  • Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Best Costume Design

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Mary Zophres)

  • Black Panther (Ruth E. Carter)

  • The Favourite (Sandy Powell)

  • Mary Poppins Returns (Sandy Powell)

  • Mary Queen of Scots (Alexandra Byrne)

Best Sound Editing

  • Black Panther

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • First Man

  • A Quiet Place

  • Roma

Best Sound Mixing

  • Black Panther

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • First Man

  • Roma

  • A Star Is Born

Best Animated Short

  • Animal Behaviour

  • Bao

  • Late Afternoon

  • One Small Step

  • Weekends

Best Live-Action Short

  • Detainment

  • Fauve

  • Marguerite

  • Mother

  • Skin

Best Film Editing

  • BlacKkKlansman (Barry Alexander Brown)

  • Bohemian Rhapsody (John Ottman)

  • The Favourite (Yorgos Mavropsaridis)

  • Green Book (Patrick J. Don Vito)

  • Vice (Hank Corwin)

Best Original Score

  • Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson)

  • BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard)

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)

  • Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat)

  • Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)

Best Documentary Feature

  • Free Solo

  • Hale County This Morning, This Evening

  • Minding the Gap

  • Of Fathers and Sons

  • RBG

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • Black Sheep

  • End Game

  • Lifeboat

  • A Night at the Garden

  • Period. End of Sentence.

Best Foreign-Language Film

  • Capernaum (Lebanon)

  • Cold War (Poland)

  • Never Look Away (Germany)

  • Roma (Mexico)

  • Shoplifters (Japan)

Best Production Design

  • Black Panther (Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart)

  • The Favourite (Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton)

  • First Man (Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas)

  • Mary Poppins Returns (John Myhre and Gordon Sim)

  • Roma (Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez)

Best Visual Effects

  • Avengers: Infinity War

  • Christopher Robin

  • First Man

  • Ready Player One

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Cinematography

  • The Favourite (Robbie Ryan)

  • Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel)

  • Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)

  • A Star Is Born (Matty Libatique)

  • Cold War (Lukasz Zal)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Border

  • Mary Queen of Scots

  • Vice

Best Animated Feature

  • Incredibles 2

  • Isle of Dogs

  • Mirai

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth)

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

  • BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott)

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty)

Best Original Screenplay

  • The Favourite (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara)

  • First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

  • Green Book (Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga)

  • Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)

  • Vice (Adam McKay)

Best Original Song

  • “All the Stars” (Black Panther, written by Kendrick Lamar, Al Shux, Sounwave, SZA and Anthony Tiffith) Performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA

  • “I’ll Fight” (RBG, written by Diane Warren) Performed by Jennifer Hudson

  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” (Mary Poppins Returns, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) Performed by Emily Blunt

  • “Shallow” (A Star Is Born, written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt) Performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch) Performed by Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson

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