Every year the Oscar nominations are released and everyone seems to have a conversation about it with things like the Oscars being an outdated statement of film elitism, chosen by people arguably currently out of touch with modern film going audiences as just one of the potential areas of discussion. Fun for all the family and you get to tweet about how your favourite films were robbed. In any case, whether we like it or not (and since the Oscars aren’t going anywhere for the time being) let’s look at their choices of films as a recommendation list (more than a definitive statement of value) shall we? The eight films nominated for the ‘Best Picture’ award are pretty good for different reasons, and I’m sure will get a lot of attention and discussions given to them in the next few weeks.
So, how many of the eight films have YOU seen? Are you fully up to date with the mainstream conversation surrounding cinema and have invested about 20 hours watching these films and formulating opinions on them? You have? Oh, well then, you’re excused from the rest of the article, have a nice day. You haven’t? Well you’ve come to the right place. Here are our summaries of the eight films nominated for best picture 2019, written by a guy who clearly has way too much free time on his hands.
(Also nominated for ‘Sound Editing’, ‘Sound Mixing’, ‘Production Design’, ‘Original Score’, ‘Original Song’, ‘Costume Design’ – 7 Total)
Out of all the of films nominated for the Academy Award, I’m guessing this is the one that most of you have seen. Black Panther made over $1 Billion over 2018, winning over critics and audiences on mass, and has become the first Superhero movie to be nominated for ‘Best Picture’. The film focuses on ‘T’Challa’, the newly crowned king of the fictional African Nation of Wakanda, a nation built on a meteor of Vibranium, an element that gives the Wakandans vastly superior technology. Things are thrown into disruption when T’Challa’s cousin returns to Wakanda with the intention of using the resources of Wakanda to retaliate for western colonialism and genocide of African countries, as well as contemporary institutionalized racism.
The reasons for Black Panther’s nomination are evident. In just one movie, it introduces audiences to an entirely new country, exploring its cultures, traditions, systems of government and the flaws that within said government, whilst also providing some unique characters, visuals, set pieces, and discussing themes regarding the effects of post-colonialism, isolationism, responsibility and conflicting identity. On top of all that, it was a major step forward in terms of on-screen representation, and was source of empowerment and inspiration for a huge amount of people. Out of all the films on this list, it’s this one that without a doubt had the largest cultural impact, and will remain as a major talking point for years to come.
the fact that it is predominantly a Superhero movie will definitely count against it
Will it win? If the films were judged on objective quality alone, I’d say Black Panther would stand a solid chance, far more than most of the others on this list. But this is not an objective world, and the fact that it is predominantly a Superhero movie will definitely count against it, since the Academy are always reluctant to issue their trophy to a popular movie. That having been said, we may end up being surprised by a win for this film. It did just win big at the SAG awards, and if the Oscars are trying to work to regain contemporary relevance than choosing this film would be a good way to go about obtaining that. So, there is a chance that it does manage to take away Best Picture, and if so then it defiantly deserves it. But hey, at least it is nominated for this, and not for ‘outstanding achievement in popular film’. What a mess that would have been.
(Also nominated for ‘Supporting Actor’, ‘Director’, ‘Adapted Screenplay’, ‘Film Editing’, ‘Original Score’ – 6 Total)
The first film by acclaimed director Spike Lee to be nominated for a Best Picture Award, BlackKkKlansman is film that combines political satire, comedic and farcical set ups, terrific storytelling, and a grim reminder of the continuous disturbing presence of racism and white supremacy in the modern world. This film has gained critical praise since its release in August last year, but despite being nominated in a wide variety of categories in many different award events, has failed to pick up any major awards so far. Whilst this does look bad for the film going forward, it’s still a film that you should watch. The film focuses on the character ‘Ron Stallworth’, (played by John David Washington) the first African American hired to the Colorado Springs Police Department, who undertakes a mission to infiltrate the KKK by speaking to them directly on the phone whilst a fellow police officer (played by Adam Driver) attends their meetings in person.
BlacKkKlansman is a film that sits you down in front of a power point presentation of ideas and messages, and tells you to pay attention because there will be a test. The premise of the movie already lends itself to an entertaining storyline of comedic, stressful, and emotionally satisfying moments that could have made for a great film on its own. But Lee goes even further than that, using this film to explore African American Culture and Activism in the era, as well as how the topics previously addressed still have a relevant impact for today. The film stops in its tracks at several points, sitting still in order to have the characters (and through them the audience) listen to lectures and talks given by prominent Civil Rights Activists, such as Kwame Ture, and an in-depth history of Blaxploitation films at the same time. But the film also does take full advantage of its premise, with incredibly satisfying moments such as Stallworth fooling and then mocking former leader of the KKK David Duke. This small summary isn’t enough to do it justice, but out of all the films on this list, I’d say this is the one that, if you haven’t seen, you definitely should.
the film has failed to pick up any other major wins this awards season
Is it likely to win? Well, whilst I think it’s likely that Lee gets the award for best director (which he frankly deserves), the film has failed to pick up any other major wins this awards season, and the particular form of edgy out there political film making may turn away some Oscar voters, who let’s face it, aren’t always at the for front in giving credit to films that are harshly critical of people like them. It’s a film that definitely needs to be seen by as many people as possible, and is genuinely an interesting and entertaining film and some of the best work Lee has done, but unfortunately, it’s likely that it won’t win Best Picture.
(Also nominated for ‘Lead Actor’, ‘Film Editing’, ‘Sound Editing’, ‘Sound Mixing’ – 5 Total)
Bohemian Rhapsody is an interesting one, a movie that received a huge amount of mixed critical reception by most critics, but managed to win over audiences in large numbers. The Rami Malek led film has managed to do quite well for itself this awards season, winning best actor and best drama at the golden globes, and winning best actor again at the Baftas, as well as being nominated for outstanding British film. Just goes to show what the critics know, doesn’t it?
The film is a straight up bio pic, of the British rock band queen but predominantly of the lead singer Freddie Mercury (played by Malek). The film follows their story from the genesis of the band, through their success with songs such as ‘Somebody to Love’, and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, right up to the famous live-aid concert in 1985. To me at least, the film’s two biggest strengths are its ability to properly utilize and designate throughout its story the amazing music the band created, and an absolutely stunning lead performance. Rami Malek is absolutely amazing in the role, capturing the persona and energy of Mercury in both an entertaining and heartfelt way. That having been said, the film does follow a lot of the traditional band bio pic tropes, and seems heavily reliant on changing the real-life story and events of the band, a fact that does make it feel rather uninteresting whenever the music isn’t playing. It switches up reality and the history of the band in favour of more typically band bio-pic storylines, such as the band breaking up (which never happened) and a generic stuck up music producer (who never existed), to through in tropes that the story really doesn’t need. Whilst it can pull off a good show-stopping moment, the rest of the film hardly holds up too much interest upon repetitive watching.
I’ll be very surprised if this film goes away with the top prize
Is it likely to win? I very much doubt it. Yes, whilst it does tick off a lot of the Oscar usual criteria and was a fan favourite, the mixed critical reception may likely influence the minds of the voters against the film. But that aside, considering the completely massive input of the #MeToo and Times Up movement, there’s no way people will want to give the film industry’s highest honour to a film directed by a man who has recently has multiple sexual assault allegations. Seriously, google Brian Singer and prepare to be appalled. Whilst Malek might just be the strongest contender for the Best Actor award, I’ll be very surprised if this film goes away with the top prize.
(Also nominated for ‘Lead Actress’, ‘Supporting Actress’ (Twice), ‘Best Director’, ‘Original Screenplay’, ‘Cinematography’, ‘Film Editing’, ‘Production Design, ‘Costume Design’ – 10 Total)
I knew this film was going to be good, based on nothing but the director’s previous works. I never expected that the film would go on to become this year’s accolades darling, tying with Roma with 10 Oscar Nominations. Stepping back from the tropes of the Oscars, this film is probably one of the best out of the whole list. Unique in its style, not adhering to the typical types of performances, narratives, or directing style of more typical Oscars winners. A breath of fresh air amongst the rest of the films on the list.
The film takes place in 18th century England, and focuses on the relationship between ‘Queen Anne’ (played by Olivia Coleman) and her relationship between her friend, advisor, and lover ‘Sarah Churchill’ (played by Rachel Weisz), and newcomer to the court ‘Abagail Masham’ (played by Emma Stone). The film explores the power people have over one another, how they manipulate, control through influence, or emotions, exploiting and turning on one another, and what that power ultimately means. The film has a distinctive style that pulls the audience and places them on uncertain ground, unsure how they should view all of the characters, who to support and who to despise. That grey line is one of the films best strengths, as it balances multiple character motivations, such as social power, political power, emotional and physical fulfillment, and creates an engaging story the both feels like a complex character study and a strategy game all at one.
It’s got a lot going for it, even if you include usually criteria for what Oscar voters typically go for
Is it likely to win? Personally I hope so, just so we can have something slightly different win for once compared to so many of the other perfectly acceptable and yet forgettable films that usually take away the prize. It’s got a lot going for it, even if you include usually criteria for what Oscar voters typically go for. An acclaimed, yet slightly arthouse director, themes and ideas prominent to the current times, a film that was both enjoyed by critics and audiences alike, and it’s a nice mix of a not-quite controversial and yet and not run of true mill safe that would be good for a ceremony that’s already on shaky legs.
(Also nominated for ‘Lead Actor’, ‘Supporting Actor’, ‘Original Screenplay’, ‘Film Editing’- 5 Total)
This is a film who’s set up looks designed to attract Oscar attention, but whose release has some controversial elements to say the least. The third film on this list to be about racial topics (and coincidently the only one directed by a white person), Green Book sets up to try and tell a story about how to challenge racism, but comes across very uninformed and mildly simplistic in its methods. Whilst it does have two very strong performances guiding the audience through its story, the way it handles the topic of racial prejudice is uncomfortable, splitting the audience somewhat. Whilst some have seen this as a poignant story about communication and overcoming initial preconceptions, others (such as myself) have taken a slightly different approach.
Based on the real-life friendship between ‘Tony Vallelonga’ (played by Viggo Morgenstern) and ‘Don Shirley’ (Played by Mahershala Ali), the film follows Vallelonga working as a driver for Dr Shirley as he partakes in a concert tour across the American south in the 1960s era, with segregation and prejudices still in effect. The film does have some strong elements to its name, with both Morgenstern and Ali delivering some great performances and having some genuine chemistry on screen in a way that makes for some very entertaining scenes. The music is consistently good throughout, and there are moments that the film is able to have some genuinely moving scenes, particularly between Morgenstern’s character and his wife (played by Linda Cardellini). But its handling of racial topics is a worrying element.
The film’s central message appears to be that underneath all our differences, we all have things in common if we just get to properly know each other, a message that whilst true, fails to take into account systematic levels of prejudice and discrimination that the film uses for its plot but fails to properly address. Boiled down, the film appears to be going, ‘Oh look how bad things were, good thing we’ve learned now and aren’t like that, there are good white people too’. There’s a line in the film saying that the people who listen to Shirley perform do so in order to feel cultured, but then go straight back to discriminating against him, and this is said without a hint of irony that this film is providing a platform for exactly. As I said, this is a film designed to appeal to Oscar voters, with all the demographic connotations that has.
The film is a safe choice for a nominee, but it’s too traditional in its views
Is it likely to win? No, I don’t think so. The film is a safe choice for a nominee, but it’s too traditional in its views, and it’s a clear there would be a strong backlash if it actually won, especially considering some of the other films nominated alongside it (particularly Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman). It’s also worth noting that several members of Shirley’s living family have criticized the film and its skewered portrayal of real life events, which does not do much to paint this film in more of a good light. Suffice to say, if this film does win, there are found to be a hell of a lot of film editorials complaining about it.
(Also nominated for ‘Lead Actress’, ‘Supporting Actress’, ‘Director’, ‘Original Screenplay’, ‘Cinematography’, ‘Foreign Language Film’, ‘Production Design’, ‘Sound Editing’, ‘Sound Mixing’ – 10 Total)
Roma stands out in this category in multiple ways. It’s the only film on this list in black and white, it’s the only non-English film (also being nominated for best Foreign Language film), and it’s the only film to be made by and released on Netflix, the first one ever in fact. So there’s another first to its name. It’s not hard to see why it was nominated though, Roma is a fantastically directed and magnificently told movie that keeps its focus on a number of character and letting you understand and connect to closely, whilst at the same time demonstrating the culture of the society the film takes place in. Since it’s the one most readily available for people to watch, I expect you all to go and watch this one before the ceremony okay? Okay.
Roma takes place in Mexico City in the 1970s, and tells the story of ‘Cleo’ (played by Yalitza Aparicio), who works as a housekeeper for a middle class family, held up by ‘Sofia’ (played by Marina de Tavira) mother of four, who has a strenuous relationship with her husband. Roma manages to balances the story lines of its characters, with plot points that feel very true to life, but which points are made so much more impressive through its spectacular cinematography and acting. The emotions of the characters are the forefront of the film, allowing the audience to become engaged with them very quickly. And through them, the film takes the opportunity to explore the culture of Mexico at the time, such as through the economic status of the different characters, and show casings scenes inspired by the Corpus Christi massacres in 1971. It’s a masterpiece of a film that, by utilizing all the talent and material it has, makes a film that feels close and grand all at once.
I very much doubt that the voters will want the same film picking up both best picture awards on offer
Is it likely to win? Possibly, but it has things going against. It’s very much likely to win best foreign picture, and I very much doubt that the voters will want the same film picking up both best picture awards on offer. And the fact that it is a film distributed by Netflix, which the academy is apparently against due to the preconception that it is damaging wide releases, is likely to count negatively towards it. It’s still has a chance though, after just winning Best Film at the Baftas, and I’ll be very rather confused if doesn’t take a way a good few of the nominations it’s picked up. So I’m not saying it will happen, but there are factors that are counting against it, that’s all.
A Star is Born
(Also Nominated for ‘Lead Actor’, ‘Lead Actress’, ‘Supporting Actor’, ‘Adapted Screenplay’, ‘Original Song’, ‘Cinematography’, ‘Sound Mixing’- 8 Total)
From the moment this film was released, it seemed almost inevitable that this film would get a whole bunch of praise come awards season. A contemporary remake of the classic 1937 movie, A Star is Born picked up praise from both audience members and critics alike for its compelling characters, great directing, and fantastic music. It’s on most people’s best of the year lists, and has managed to steer clear of major controversy leading up to the Oscars.
The film follows Bradley Cooper (who also directed the movie) as ‘Jackson Maine’, a country singer who suffers from addictions to Alcohol and Drugs. He meets a singer at a drag club, ‘Ally’ (played by Lady Gaga), who he forms a romantic relationship with and encourages her to pursue a professional singing career. As remakes go, this is admittedly a very good one. Cooper is a better director than a lot of people probably expected, managing to blend the suffering and conflict both characters have, with highlighting how their relationships is built on a genuine connection. His performance, as well as Gaga’s, are both extremely engaging to sit through, and I’ll be surprise if at least one of them doesn’t go away with a win, though it’ll probably be Gaga, all things considered. The music as well is immensely entertaining, with Shallows being the biggest number (nominated for an award itself) but the rest of it is written and sung immensely well.
I’d say this is a film with one of the higher likelihoods of coming away with a victory in that category
Is it likely to win? I’d say it stands a solid chance. It has a lot of the criteria that Oscar voters tend to for, such as a story centered around the importance of the music industry, and the blend of scenes that are intimate and scenes that are grander spectacles. It’s a definite safe bet for the ceremony that I’m sure the majority of people will be able to get behind and support. All in all, I’d say this is a film with one of the higher likelihoods of coming away with a victory in that category. And if not that, it’ll definitely win best original song (though I personally liked the one from Buster Scruggs, but what do I know about music.)
(Also Nominated for ‘Lead Actor’, ‘Supporting Actor’, ‘Supporting Actress’, ‘Director’, ‘Original Screenplay’, ‘Make-up and Hairstyling’, ‘Film Editing’- 8 Total)
What Oscar list is complete without a harshly political movie detailing the life and flaws of a recent political figure or incident? This year, Adam Mckay returns as a screenwriter to bring as a semi biopic, semi political unravelling film about Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale), following his life from working as a white house intern under Donald Rumsfeld, to becoming Vice President under George W Bush (played by Sam Rockwell), most specifically focusing on his actions and involvement on the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.
Adam McKay can write a very good script when he’s trying to actually say something, and his willingness to go beyond traditional film making techniques in order to get a point across is one of the reasons this film does have some good aspects to its name. The films harsh criticism of America’s actions in the Middle East is not just left to showing people talking about the ethics of the act, but goes further to the point of showing multiple shots of civilians being bombed by US planes, and directly showing how American rhetoric inspired terrorist groups. But beyond these aspects, the film has very little to actually offer, especially in how it treats its main character. No analysis is done on Cheney, very little attempts to actually show how he thinks or plans (other than a repeated fishing analogy). We learn nothing about who he is or why he is, only what he has done. Bale is given very little to work with, and mostly just offers up a dialed down version of Frank Underwood from House of Cards (a comparison I feel very awkward with using). The other actors (particularly Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell) do very little more than stand around and react to things, and there are very few actual character moments that remain in your mind the second after you see them.
If it should win anything, best editing feels like it would be the only one it deserved
Will it win? I very much doubt it’ll gain any of the major awards it’s nominated for, especially in the acting department. It’s a film most likely nominated for its strong political themes and contemporary way of depicting major political issues. If it should win anything, best editing feels like it would be the only one it deserved. But in terms of overall quality, Vice is a very mid-tier film on this list, a film that clearly has something important to say, but unfortunately delivered in a very ‘meh’ fashion.
So, there you have it. The Best 8 Films of 2018 according to the Academy Awards. Personally, if I were a betting man, I’d say put money on either Black Panther, The Favourite or A Star is Born to Win. On top of that, both BlacKkKlansman and Roma have a potential chance, whilst I severely doubt Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody or Vice manage to win Best Picture. But, at the end of the day, these are just one critic’s opinions. Whichever film ends up announced, I just hope that these films end up being ones you check out for your own enjoyment and for your own interest. The Oscars are just some people’s opinions, that is all.
That said, I’m now going out to violently protest the snubbing of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. The film was robbed!!!