2019 Oscars: Best Picture

It may seem unbelievable, but it’s once again Oscar season, and I’m back with my usual coverage on this blog. As in past years, I’ll be covering 10 categories in total: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, the four acting and the two writing ones. At press time, I only have four movies left to see but, annoyingly, six of the 10 aforementioned categories to complete.

With no natural progression or order to these posts, why not get things started with a bang: Best Picture

BEST PICTURE – NOMINEES
“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Who will win: Roma
Who could win: BlackKKlansman
Who should win: Green Book
Who should be here: If Beale Street Could Talk

Let’s start with the good: this was a fantastic year for film, so much more satisfying than 2017. For last year’s Oscar season, I only gave one five star rating to a film (Last Flag Flying), and it didn’t even come close to a nomination. This year only half of my five stars got nominated, but the field was much stronger.

The biggest snub is Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. Like his previous Moonlight, Beale Street is quiet, textured and layered. While not for everyone, Beale Street had a lot to say, and it’s unfortunate that the Academy chose not to give it a larger stage.

This year’s crop of eight features the first-ever superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination, though I personally found Black Panther to be disappointing; I’m not even sure if it’s the second best Marvel film from 2018, let alone one of the best eight movies of the year. The themes, acting and effects were all top notch, and obviously it’s a ground-breaking film, but it stands on the shoulders of truly great films like The Dark Knight and Logan, both of which deserved nominations but were snubbed. The spine of BP’s story isn’t great – its first act is overlong, and the main drama of the story basically takes place in an afternoon.

To me, this race should come down to Roma and Green Book, two films that are virtual polar opposites. Roma is a true slice of life film; little plot, strong characters and layered, textured visuals that plays much more like a poetry reading than a story. Green Book has great characters set in a strong story, that often relies on situational humor to bring home its points. But seldom has a film balanced funny and serious so well; everything was note perfect.

BlacKkKlansman is the most likely to spoil the party for Roma or Green Book at press time, but there’s still a few weeks before the big night. Check in night of for my final picks, because this one’s going down to the wire.

My original reviews…

#BlackPanther Disappointing. I much more enjoyed the villain, the supporting characters and the subtext than the story. Bozeman’s character was one-note with little development, the plot ill-paced and just not very interesting. It’s a standard Marvel origin story, no more. 2.5/5*

#BlacKkKlansman There’s nothing subtle about Spike Lee’s best film in over a decade, but damn if it isn’t the film we needed. Washington and Driver deliver perfect performances, while the story is compelling, entertaining and educational. A must see. 4.5/5*

#BohemianRhapsody The music, of course, is fantastic, and well placed throughout the movie. Rami Malek is a revelation and should have a good shot at an Oscar nom. The two together pull it off, and keep the film entertaining, even if the story and characters are paper thin. 3/5*

#TheFavourite There’s a lot to like. The themes are timely, the cinematography beautiful, art direction perfect and three spectacular performances from a trio of superstar actresses. But the film itself is monotonous, repetitive and often heavy-handed (esp the final shot). 2/5*

#GreenBook is a truly special film. The chemistry between Mortensen and Ali sparkles throughout, elevating the already-terrific script. It’s the funniest serious movie I’ve seen in years – perhaps ever – hitting on some significant social issues while laughing my ass off. 5/5*

#Roma is pure poetry on film. Every sight, every sound, every action aims to build and add to your experience. A true slice of life story, so expect a deliberate pace. Hard to watch at times. Cuarón has crafted himself a masterpiece. 5/5*

#AStarIsBorn is run by its performances, particularly the transformative turn by Cooper and the confident one by Gaga. Cooper’s directing was solid as well, and the music was (of course) terrific. The story needed some re-pacing; big moments in the third act felt unearned. 3.5/5* (Upon further review, dropped this grade to a 3).

#ViceMovie Christian Bale is a sight to behold in this all too dark comedy, but often the real star is Amy Adams, whose performance is nearly as transformative and character something of a revelation. Narrative lacks in focus, but remains compelling and hits home hard. 4/5*

And the one we’re missing…

#IfBealeStreetCouldTalk Another moody, understated and textured film from Barry Jenkins, which is better than his previous outing – 2017 Best Picture Moonlight. Hits on a lot of themes without seeming packed, makes its points without being preachy. Solid photography as well. 5/5*