Historically left until last in terms of announcements, this year’s Best Movie category is a lot stronger than last year, when the top gong was taken by the rather unimpressive Shape of Water which faced little concerted competition. The line-up this year contains far more heavy hitters, movies of genuine merit and class, as well as a couple that probably don’t deserve to be there:
The Netflix production Roma is favourite for the crown, which would mark a historic first win for a film released solely on a streaming service. Charting the life of a maid to a middle-class family in 1970’s Mexico, who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and shot in black and white, it is exactly the sort of artsy, real-life, inspiring story that the Academy loves. Victory would signal a momentous landmark in the continued rise of online streaming over traditional cinema releases.
- Helmed by odds on favourite for Best Director, Alfonso Cuaron and featuring first time nominee for Best Actress, Yalitza Aparicio.
The Favourite is, unfortunately, not the favourite so I’m unable to make the obvious stupid joke and that makes me sad. It is however, allegedly, a very quirky, amusing, black comedy which has 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and stars criminally underrated actress Olivia Coleman as the sickly but high-maintenance Queen Anne. Ably abetted by Rachel Weisz and Hollywood hot-property Emma Stone, The Favourite would be a welcome nod to a more comedic contender should it win. If not, both it and Roma are nominated in countless other categories and it is likely to be recognised somewhere else.
- Olivia Coleman is nominated for Best Actress after her Golden Globe win, and both Weisz and Stone are recognised in the Supporting Actress category.
Featuring yet another example of Christian Bale’s extraordinary ability to gain and lose ridiculous amounts of weight, Vice is a biopic of former Vice President of the United States, Dick Chaney. The film is curious in that the protagonist is still very much alive and it must be very strange for the real Chaney to see Bale nail his mannerisms so accurately on screen. The enlightened casting of Sam Rockwell as a gormless George W. Bush promises to be especially worth watching if the trailer is anything to go by. Vice is definitely a film that I am personally looking forward to as it features the political intrigue that characterises every presidential regime and covers both the 9/11 attacks and both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
- Vice unsurprisingly sees both Bale and Rockwell nominated for Best Actor and Best supporting actor respectively, as well as Amy Adams in Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lynne, Chaney’s wife.
Following on from his Oscar win two years ago, Mahershala Ali continues to prove his undoubtable acting mettle with another excellent performance as a highly-strung concert pianist touring 1960’s Deep South alongside Viggo Mortensen’s streetwise Bronx bodyguard. Ali’s brief performance in Moonlight was so powerful as to make him the first Muslim to win an Oscar and after his lead role in season 3 of True Detective (it’s midway through the season at the moment and is excellent) he takes on a completely different role in Green Book as the intellectual but uptight musician. Mortensen is excellent in everything he appears in, be it Lord of the Rings or Eastern Promises, and his Bronx accent and cocky, wise-cracking persona are on point in this. The chemistry between the leads promises to be the best part of a movie that tackles the issues of racism, profound differences, and friendship.
- Mortensen is nominated for Best-Actor and Ali will be looking to win Best-Supporting Actor for the second time.
A Star is Born:
Both Bradley Cooper, and especially Lady Gaga were excellent in this second-remake of the 1937 original, charting the relationship between an aspiring singer and the alcoholic country and blues singer who falls in love with her, in a film that focussed itself on a connection that seemed both genuine and heartfelt. The movie itself was perhaps not as worthy of nomination as its two stars, but the soundtrack more than makes up for anything the slightly soppy story detracts. A film that proved that Cooper could sing and Gaga could act better than many who have stuck to their respective professions it is unlikely to win but should not be discounted by virtue of its sheer popularity.
Like A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody is on the list, more by virtue of an epic performance from Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, than because the film itself deserves to be there. Still, despite being slightly divisive amongst critics, the biopic was immensely popular and Malek’s turn as Queen’s frontman was utterly mesmerising, just as his similarities to Mercury are uncanny.
- Do not discount Malek adding to the Golden Globe he already received for his performance.
One of the older releases on the list, BlacKKKlansman should not be forgotten by virtue of its powerful message and a story that makes the viewer both laugh and think. Set, similarly to Green Book, in the Deep South and featuring stellar performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver as well as a strong supporting cast, Spike Lee’s examination of the foolishness of racism and bigotry is not expected to take the crown, but should be remembered for its intelligence, humour and scope.
- John David Washington was immensely unlucky to be overlooked in the nominations for the Best Actor category. Adam Driver is, however, recognised for his turn as Washington’s colleague and impersonator when dealing with the Klan. Spike Lee is rightly nominated for both his excellent direction and his screenplay.
I could write an entire article on the nomination of Black Panther for Best Picture. In an article earlier in the college year I bemoaned the fact that superhero movies are often unfairly overlooked at the Oscars and low-and-behold, for the first time, one is nominated. Unfortunately, I must prove myself to be a massive hypocrite when I say that this is not the movie that should have bucked the trend. Black Panther was very good, very entertaining and had some great performances from its impressive cast. It was not, however, Oscar worthy, it was not even the best Marvel film released last year, and judging by common public opinion online, one can’t help but feel that it has been nominated, more because of its success at breaking stereotypes and challenging Hollywood’s long preoccupation with casting-bias than because of its cinematic merit. The fact that none of the actors have been recognised for their respective roles should hint that the movie’s nomination is more about politics than performance. Still, if we accept that the Academy Awards should be about more than simply cinematic excellence and should focus equally on cultural impact, then one cannot deny the significance of a film like Black Panther and I personally would feel much happier advocating its inclusion, were it not being claimed by some that it was worthy of best picture by virtue of its story, script, and acting performances. If the latter is justified as reason for its nomination, then it is an absolute crime that The Dark Knight and Logan were not similarly recognised.
- The movie is also recognised, quite rightly, in the many special effect categories, as well as for its excellent soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar.