Welcome to my traditional Oscars post (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), but this time with a twist. I have never been more conflicted by the best picture nominations. So accompanied with my usual cynicism around the limitations of the Academy Awards, and the endless controversies associated with this year’s ceremony – I’m pretty ambivalent. But, then again, the two most nominated films are masterpieces – so I can’t help but hang in there for their success. I would be much more interested if there was more space for Eighth Grade, If Beale Street Could Talk, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Shoplifters.
This is the best example of a superhero genre yet. The genre is still not without its limitations, but if every Marvel film was made with the same care for representation and storytelling then I would be much happier to see more superhero films. The nomination probably says more about the populist direction of the Oscars than the quality of the film; however, it feels like a worthwhile inclusion when the cultural capital of the film is considered.
It’s great to see Spike Lee getting the recognition at this level that he’s always deserved. This film is flawed, but still absolutely essential. The ending is a gut punch that feels unethical, but I applaud it. The story is relevant; the storytelling is brilliant. It is wonderfully crafted and deserves the extra attention that Oscar buzz brings.
Will Win: Adapted Screenplay
It was hard to move past the representation issues the film had that blew up on the release of the first trailer. The film is a ok biopic, but really doesn’t transcend a fairly limiting form. Take Rami Malik’s performance out of the equation and I can’t imagine the film would be left with much.
Will Win: Actor, Sound Mixing
A boring safe problematic film. Noteworthy only for the parallels with Driving Miss Daisy which shut out Spike Lee’s masterpiece Do The Right Thing 20 years ago in 1989. It’s a whimsical, poorly directed version of 1960s racism that perpetuates so many concerning stereotypes. It packages prejudice in an apolitical format, dismissing any form of complexity in favour of trailer-ready soundbites. Legitimately could win best picture thanks to the preferential ballot system.
Will Win: Supporting Actor
Yorgos Lanthimos’ style has finely found traction in the mainstream, and it is wonderful to see his work being appreciated. Far more accessible than his previous films, it maintains an absurdist quality in its form. It is exciting simply for being a film with three fully developed, flawed and interesting female lead characters. But the film is so much more than that due to the exceptional levels of craft across the board.
Will Win: Original Screenplay, Production Design, Costume Design
Roma is a transcendent experience. Motivated by Cuaron’s memories, it takes the audience on a personal journey that masterfully moves between moods and tones. The camera, which often sits in the corners of rooms, is incredibly expressive – the long takes and choreographed action capturing meaningful moments in striking ways. The story is beautiful in his construction; when I saw Cuaron speak about the film last year, he spoke of the importance of sound and the way that it structured the narrative of the film. This creates some intriguing rhythms and draws us into an immersive world of nostaliga. It is an absolute masterpiece.
Will Win: Film, Director; Cinematography, Foreign Film
A Star Is Born
I’ve previously written about this because I was so troubled by the response audiences have had to this film. We need to talk about the gender politics in the film. It is not okay that the story has not been adapted for 2018. We understand consent so much better today, so the film’s representation is simply not okay.
Will Win: Song
As Chuck Bowen wrote, “so much is going on here that nothing seems to matter“. It is so deeply unserious in its examination, I feel somewhat betrayed. It poses an important question about power, but the film undermines the audience with stupid scenes like Donald Rumsfeld laughing at Dick Cheney and shutting the door on him. The Big Short worked, but maybe this style needs an ensemble approach rather than a biopic of an unsympathetic character. There’s a disconnect with the elements of film form here. It just didn’t work for me.
Will Win: Editing, Make-Up
Other Will Wins
Actress: Glenn Close (The Wife); Score: If Beale Street Could Talk; Animation: Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse; Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War; Sound Editing: A Quiet Place; Live Action Short: Marguerite; Animated Short: Bao; Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence.
Film: Roma; Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma); Actor: John David Washington (BlacKKKlansman); Actress: Olivia Coleman (The Favourite); Supporting Actor: Michael B Jordan (Black Panther); Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz (The Favourite); Original Screenplay: The Favourite; Adapted Screenplay: BlacKKlansman; Cinematography: Roma; Editing: Roma; Score: BlacKKlansman; Song: A Star Is Born… etc.