So this without a doubt has to be one of the most embarrassing selection of best picture nominations I’ve seen in quite some time. When I look back at the piece I did last year on the 2018 nominations for the Oscars (click this link to check that out), I wish for a list as strong and full of such incredible films as that. I vividly remember struggling to rank those films, as almost all of them were full of something that was genuinely special; I struggled too not give them all the top spot for one reason or another.
However, this year, I find myself struggling to decide which one of these films is worse. Don’t get me wrong, a number of these films are good – and one in particular holds within it the same special magic that many of last year’s nominations had – but that’s the problem, most of them are only good films, while some actually outstanding films seems to have been ignored completely (‘First Man’ or ‘You Were Never Really Here’, for example). Minus a few of them, there’s nothing on this list that stands out to me as a film I remember having a significant impact on me. For most of these films, when I was writing the review for them, I remember how underwhelmed or how forgettably fine I was with them. To look at this list and see some of the films that are now being given a significant spotlight to shine makes me… sad.
Anyway, enough with my frustrated ramblings. Let’s get on with the ranking and find out where each film falls on the list.
A film I can’t even believe has even been considered for best picture, let alone already won some awards, Bohemian Rhapsody is a shockingly bland, unimaginative experience that at no point deserves to have the words ‘Best Picture’ be used in the same sentence as it.
Anytime I talk about this film with someone, I say the same thing: The reason this film has received the praise or enjoyment of people is purely for one reason and one reason alone: and that is that people (including myself) LOVE the music of Queen. So, when you have those infectiously joyous songs be the voice of so many scenes, people will of course feel a rush of good feelings, but it’s the songs they are reacting too, it’s the memories those songs elicit that people are responding too. It’s not the extremely bland, uninspired film they are experiencing that’s instilling those good feelings.
I fully believe that this is why Bohemian Rhapsody has received the praise and attention it is still currently getting, and I am more than confident in saying that as short as a few months from now people will be looking back and realising just how misjudged the film was and how undeserving of any of the positive praise it was. I firmly believe that!
Green Book had the potential to shine a powerful and insightful light on a man who struggled with so many undeserving methods of inequality and injustice. Dr. Don Shirley – played brilliantly by Mahershala Ali – was a black, gay, lonely man who was addicted to alcohol, living in a time when none of those aspects to him were accepted or allowed. Just imagine the impact of any of Shirley’s stories and experiences could have in our current climate and how affecting of an experience it could be for anyone who went to see it – especially for those struggling with such personal or societal struggles in their everyday life.
Instead, Green Book glosses over nearly all of that, or undercuts any message the film could deliver and plays nearly every scene for easy, uplifting laughs. The experience that Green Book offers is empty. It’s exactly the type of film award shows and critics now want apparently. Where they’re left feeling safe and comfortable at the end and at no point are faced with the realities that so many people still face to this very day.
It’s such a disappointment that this is what passes for a worthy best picture contender in 2019. I thought we were making strides forward in cinema, but as some of this year’s nominations show, we’re clearly diluting the experiences we think mean something and staying away from the films that actually have something meaningful to say.
Black Panther is a very entertaining Marvel movie that takes important steps in the right direction towards exploring and talking about all aspects of our world and the vastly diverse groups of people who live in it. I commend Marvel and Disney for what this film has not only gone onto achieve, but what it has said and is continuing to say about all of us today.
But… once again this is another diluted experience with a message that gets lost in all of the silly superhero CGI nonsense. It’s hard to take the message of this film seriously sometimes, especially when it’s bookended by CGI rhino fights that are relied upon to resolve the struggle of an antagonist that feels oppressed and who wants to right the wrongs he and his people have faced. Or the awkward attempts at comedy, which are used to lessen the impact of some particularly poignant moments.
Black Panther is in no way a bad film – I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it – and it’s a massive step in the right direction for films of this size and reach. But I don’t think the first big Marvel blockbuster to attempt something like this – in what is admittedly some quite inefficient ways at times – is the one we should then immediately consider the best-of-the-best. Rather it should be considered a loose template for what filmmakers can then go onto do in better and more impactful ways in the future.
Out of the three films nominated for best picture that explore the themes of racism, while also putting an entertaining twist on things, BlacKkKlansman is the one I think balances it best, but honestly that’s not saying much.
Spike Lee is a director whose voice is very clear and present in his films and that sometimes works out for the best, but more often than not it’s a detriment for the film. Lee has a clear message in this film and themes he wants to explore, but just isn’t able to do it in a way that successfully communicates it through the film itself.
What ends up making this film work though, is the farcical nature of its true story and the strong performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver. But ultimately, much like most of the films on this list, after I saw BlacKkKlansman, it was a film I thought very little about. Its impact never resonated, and I was baffled when I saw it as one of the nominations. It certainly has an important message, but much like the other films with a similar goal, its sloppy in execution and doesn’t do much to serve its message.
A Star is Born
We come to what is yet again a perfectly entertaining film that in the long run left very little impact on me and will be a film that will only maintain some amount of cultural staying power because of a few catchy songs.
I enjoyed my time with A Star is Born. I thought it was a strong directorial debut from Bradley Cooper, and I enjoyed the chemistry between him and Lady Gaga. But this was a film that didn’t do anything remarkable and also marks the fourth time this film has been made by a director – this one failing to really say anything new or make a mark cinematically.
Honestly, this film’s nomination – I think – is purely because Lady Gaga’s extensive fanbase will tune in (or so the Academy hopes) and bolster their ever-weakening viewership. I imagine in a few months we’ll barely be talking about this film (the songs yes, but the film… no) and we’ll look upon it’s nomination as a desperate attempt by the Academy to pull in viewers.
Vice is an interesting one, because there are elements to this film that had me unable to shake it from my memory for some time. I sat there in awe of some moments and I definitely sat there in awe of the performance by Christian Bale – who continues to output incredible work.
But Vice is also a film that has one severe hindrance and that is its director. There are so many times where I felt like Adam McKay and his intrusive, ego laden style would get in the way of this films more than compelling enough story and character. If it wasn’t for how strong Bale’s performance was, how fascinating Dick Cheney was as a focus for a film and how terrifying his time as Vice President was, I could easily have seen myself mentally dropping out of this film – much like it I did with ‘The Big Short’.
Still though, compared to the other films I’ve so far spoken about, Vice is miles ahead of the competition and actually a film that makes an impact and makes its message very clear. So far on this list, it’s the first film I actually think is deserving of being considered in this year’s award season, but it’s certainly not the only deserving nominee.
I’ve followed and loved the films of Yorgos Lanthimos for quite some time, and so to finally see him get recognition on a scale that’s never been the case before makes my little film loving heart so happy.
The Favourite is rich in deceptively nuanced characters who are boundless with their cutting words and back-handed compliments. This film is an absolute joy to sit through and it further proves that Lanthimos is one of the most uniquely funny, eccentric and delightfully sadistic directors that’s currently working.
Finally! It feels good to talk about a film that actually fully warrants the attention and praise it has been getting lofted upon it. There’s not a single criticism I have of this film, and if it wasn’t for the next film I’m about to talk about, it would certainly be my favourite (no pun intended, I promise) to win as many awards as possible.
But now… now we come to what is a truly special piece of cinema. Beyond every other film on this list, Roma is a piece of art that is so magical to share in. Alfonso Cuarón has always been one of the most exciting and talented directors to watch, and now with Roma, he has delivered his masterpiece.
I don’t use that word lightly or often, but when it comes to Roma, it fully deserves it. I’ve seen this film twice now – once on Netflix and a second time when I had the opportunity to see it at my local film theatre – and both times it completely moved me and had me in total awe of what it achieves with the medium of film.
When I look at Roma in comparison to the rest of these films on this list, I can’t believe any of the others are even being considered. Don’t get me wrong, Vice is a strong film and The Favourite is deeply rich in its offerings and sadistic joy, but Roma is something else entirely. It is what is possible when a director takes everything he knows and understands – both personally and professionally – and creates something that goes beyond the screen.
This film is something that goes far beyond anything else it’s up against and for it not to genuinely win every category it is nominated in (and yes, I mean that, I’m not exaggerating) would be a disrespectful disservice to everything it is. If you haven’t, you must watch Roma! You need to experience it!
So, I think it’s pretty clear that in terms of this year’s best picture nominations at the Oscars, I’m not very enthusiastic about most of the ones that have been selected. You see for me the Oscars is one of the few occasions to actually celebrate and shine a light on films that don’t often get the recognition they deserve. So, to see films like Black Panther, A Star is Born, or the shamefully bad Bohemian Rhapsody be given that spotlight is yet another reason to perhaps say farewell to The Oscars and its attempts to become like any other award show… a popularity contest.
Anyway, I’d love to know your thoughts on this years Oscars, so sound off in the comments section down below and let me know what you think. If you like what you read, may I suggest following me on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – and if you’d like a better insight into my opinions on film, then please consider listening to my podcast. ‘The Meandering Movie Podcast’. You can find it on iTunes (https://apple.co/2FUkAhU ) Soundcloud (https://bit.ly/2S4sMm6 ) and Castbox (https://bit.ly/2N7Z6zA). Follow the podcast on Twitter – @MeanderingPod – for all the updates. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this piece. I hope you liked it enough to return.