Oh, The Academy, you had one job.
I haven’t written about film for a while, but if there’s anything that could bring me back to the keyboard, it’s the Oscars. I adore everything about it and I normally try to watch at least a tiny bit of it every year. The outfits I wish I could replicate, the art in abundance, the celebration of the discipline I am always going to love, no matter what – is there a more pronounced celebration for it? Well, there is – Sundance, Berlinale, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, London Film Fest, there’s a wealth of wonderful films all year and it’s a religion for me to pay attention to it. But, it’s the Oscars.
Apropos religion: Reverend Toller was robbed, and I’m not saying this lightly after the year of our Lord 2018, which was fantastic for
The film critics I love had trouble placing their bets on nominees – usually, the guild awards and critic circles would pave a way for at least a few solid favourites,
if not one, true, The Favourite . The fact that it was so difficult this year only highlights how fruitful the year was for film.
Unfortunately, Hollywood seems to love to pat themselves on the back for the smallest of changes. After the year of Time’s Up, and after #OscarsSoWhite campaign, this year’s lineups show that the industry isn’t progressing fast enough – and different choices from the Academy would be much more prolific. No female directors were nominated this year in Best Picture or Best Director category – again. In AD 2019, when excellent films by Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Nadine Labaki (Capernaum) and Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here) were well available for the Academy’s consideration. Amid a series of scandals and general critical panning, Bohemian Rhapsody was still considered a forerunner. And finally, the mess surrounding Green Book – for instance, the complaints from Don Shirley’s family – was completely ignored. But let’s do it by the categories, shall we?
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice, Green Book
The BP winner was surrounded by a string of controversies. Firstly, Don Shirley’s family shared their complaints as the film significantly over-relied on its creative license, to put it lightly (I recommend the excellent articles from Black Enterprise and Shadow and Act, which detail the events as they happened). But they had a good reason to be concerned, and with them come the critics who pointed out the film’s flaws.
Green Book is seen in the same light as Crash or Driving Miss Daisy: all of these films are telling the black stories through a white lens, with cast, crew and producers being predominantly white. They’re pushing the protagonists of the story to the back and placing a white saviour trope at the heart of it. In the year of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a film that grinds the audience down and asks bold questions, and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, a film that pulled the bar very high for the superhero films’ storytelling and explored Afrofuturist ideas, it seems like a really misplaced choice. Also, fake accents, my pet peeve. Ugh. Please.
Had AMPAS chosen Roma, it would have helped to create a film culture in which foreign film (on American terms, that is, we prefer national cinema here) is broadly appreciated. Shot in black and white, shown to audiences worldwide with subtitles, it’s not a conventional Oscar choice, even though it’s somewhat safe given Cuaron’s prominence in Hollywood. After his pal Guillermo del Toro bagged an Oscar last year for The Shape of Water, a genre film that isn’t the typical Academy choice either, it’s disappointing that the voters decided to pull back into their safe worlds. And let’s not forget that it’s a film with a mainstream reach – thanks to worldwide Netflix release – that is not only excellent in its execution, but also helps people to foster their love for films that they might normally miss out on. Also, give Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) an Oscar, please.
Nominees: Olivia Colman – The Favourite, Glenn Close – The Wife, Yalitza Aparicio – Roma, Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born, Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Totally on board here. All five actresses shone in their respective roles, so it’d be so difficult not to give them all an Oscar, to be honest. Also, please watch Olivia Colman’s acceptance speech – it was so heartfelt (and so British!) that it broke my heart into multiple chunks.
Nominees: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody, Christian Bale – Vice, Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate, Viggo Mortensen – Green Book
I love Rami with my entire heart, but watching this talented man lipsync to Queen songs was painful. If it wasn’t the best soundtrack win from the 1980s and the Live Aid scene, then I don’t know what Bohemian Rhapsody should be nominated for when the year was filled with excellent films. Viggo is another favourite of mine, but boy, please don’t do weird accents and pick the roles that spoonfeed racism to the audiences, I beg you. I was betting on Christian Bale who was excellent in Vice or Bradley Cooper, whose performance I truly enjoyed in A Star Is Born. I shall consider this a daylight robbery. Also, you’ve done Ethan Hawke dirty by not even considering his performance in First Reformed – what?!
Best supporting actress
Nominees: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk,Amy Adams – Vice, Marina de Tavira – Roma, Emma Stone – The Favourite, Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Another category filled with wondrous performances. If I could, that would be five Oscars here, but I’m more than overjoyed for Regina King, who delivered a phenomenal performance. That’s a winner.
Best supporting actor
Nominees: Mahershala Ali – Green Book, Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born, Richard E Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me
Kind of on board here – I love Mahershala Ali, he delivered the best performance in Green Book, and I’m happy for his second Oscar. I’d only be happier if his role was a leading one… But it was also a joy to watch Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me? – I mean, at least the man enjoyed himself on the awards circuit and brought us the best tweets, and a fab Barbra Streisand story. I also loved Sam Elliott and Adam Driver in their respective roles, so that’d be a tie.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite, Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman, Adam McKay – Vice, Pawel Pawlikowski – Cold War
Another one of these “I can’t choose, kill me” categories. I love that Alfonso bagged another Oscar and it’s well deserved, as explained above. But Spike Lee brought us the most powerful film of the year, while Pawel Pawlikowski gave us folk songs, love stronger than the borders, and Polish history that doesn’t follow the “for dummies” route. Also, I might be a little biased because I love his love for absurd (Alps! Dogtooth! The Lobster! The Killing of a Sacred Deer! The Favourite! All of them!), but give Yorgos Lanthimos that Oscar already.
Best original screenplay
Nominees: Green Book – Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly, The Favourite – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, First Reformed – Paul Schrader, Roma – Alfonso Cuarón, Vice – Adam McKay
WUT? I mean, The Academy of Motion Pictures are joking, right? Green Book over First Reformed?
As I said, Reverend Toller was robbed and No, We Can’t Ever Forgive The Academy.
Best adapted screenplay
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman – Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins, A Star Is Born – Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters
Full of great nominees it might be, but I’m one hundred
Best animated feature
Nominees: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet
Again, I really and truly enjoyed all of the nominees. I loved Into the Spider-Verse for its empowering story, as well as wonderful animation that brought out the comic book feel to the forefront. But Wes Anderson didn’t disappoint with
Best foreign language film
Nominees: Roma – Mexico,Capernaum – Lebanon, Cold War – Poland, Never Look Away – Germany, Shoplifters – Japan
This selection is much better than Best Picture one, to be honest, and it even includes a female director! (I will try to chill with the sarcasm, I promise.) Capernaum was harrowing – watching a streetwise boy making his way through the events that he shouldn’t have suffered as a child will devastate even the hardest of hearts. Cold War… oh, Cold War, I could sing praises of this film again but you can read my review if you wish. Roma was another cinematic delight with a moving story at heart, while Shoplifters showed us all that sometimes the best family is not the one that
Best documentary feature
Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG
Given that I’ve only seen two of the above so far, I can only tell you that I enjoyed them. Free Solo is probably not the best film to see if you’re afraid of heights, but
Best original song
Nominees: Shallow (A Star Is Born) – Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt, All The Stars (Black Panther) – Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar, Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe, I’ll Fight (RGB) – Diane Warren, The Place Where Lost Things Go (Mary Poppins Returns) – Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) – David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Some people like to dive right in… On board with the Academy’s choice as it’s Lady Gaga how we like her (soulful and showing off her musicianship) but I’d tie this one with All the Stars. The Ballad of The Buster Scruggs’ opener works best when it’s in context of the scene, and I won’t understand why Disney went with Where Lost Things Go as their FYC option (we need to keep in mind that nominations can break out of suggested categories or be recognised beyond the promotional activities orchestrated for them, but they rarely do). I was one of the few Mary Poppins Returns fans and if you gave me Trip a Little Light Fantastic or A Cover Is Not A Book or Can You Imagine That? to work with, the choice would be a little tougher. Actually, let me put this on right now…
…okay, much better now. Also, where on Earth was Thom Yorke’s Suspirium?! (I spent half of my year listening to it, it was phenomenal, end of.)
Best original score
Nominees: Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson, BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard, If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell, Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat, Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Also on board here, though I really wish that If Beale Street Could Talk won in this category. It’d be nice to see Johann Johannson’s score for Mandy here, too, as well as Thom Yorke’s Suspiria score.
Best production design
Nominees: Black Panther – Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart, The Favourite – Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton, First Man – Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas, Mary Poppins Returns – John Myhre and Gordon Sim, Roma – Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez
If you don’t know what production design is: it’s the interiors and props, to put it simply. Undoubtedly, Black Panther deserved the win – it used the surroundings to contribute to the story and create the atmosphere. I’d give a nod both to The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns in this category.
Best costume design
Nominees: Black Panther – Ruth E Carter, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Mary Zophres, The Favourite – Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns – Sandy Powell, Mary Queen of Scots – Alexandra Byrne
Again, fully agreed. I’ve read a fascinating Twitter thread and a phenomenal article that explained the inspirations behind the designs, which honour the African tribes they were inspired by and carry special significance. The attention to detail was incredible, plus the costumes helped to take us right into the world of Wakanda. It’s a well-deserved win.
Nominees: Roma – Alfonso Cuaron, Cold War – Lukasz Zal, The Favourite – Robbie Ryan, Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel, A Star Is Born – Matthew Libatique
Some people thought it would be a good idea to screen this category over the commercial breaks… can you imagine that? Thankfully, somebody reminded themselves that cinema is, surprise surprise, a visual medium, and if it wasn’t for DPs, there would be no films to screen. The decision was retracted, just like the one about the Best Popular Oscar category, a consolation prize that AMPAS wanted to add to increase viewership of the ceremony (and there’s still no category for best choreography, or best stuntperson, because crews and their technical awards, who’d think they are in actual films really?!?!). If they thought over these two, do you think that if we give them some more thinking time, they could reconsider Green Book’s win? Anyways.
Plenty of visually delightful choices here. Both Roma and Cold War would be my winners here: both used black-and-white to take us right into the past and contribute to ever-present melancholia of the stories. The Favourite was also beautifully shot, through the sporadic use of fish-eye lens confused me a little. These would be my top three, and I can’t narrow it down, I’m sorry.
Best visual effects
Nominees: First Man – Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and JD Schwalm, Avengers: Infinity War – Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick, Christopher Robin – Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould, Ready Player One – Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E Butler and David Shirk, Solo: A Star Wars Story – Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy
The rightful winner. End of.
Best make-up and hairstyling
Nominees: Vice – Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney, Border – Goran Lundstrom and Pamela Goldammer, Mary Queen of Scots – Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
Vice winning in this category is no surprise – hair and make-up transformed Amy Adams and Christian Bale over time. But the true winner is Border, with prosthetics, hair and make-up that can hardly be topped by anything else this year. I was surprised not to see Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria in this category, as recreating Tilda Swinton as a whole new character for her double role was a fantastic feat.
Best sound editing
Nominees: Bohemian Rhapsody – John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone, Black Panther – Benjamin A Burtt and Steve Boeddeker, First Man – Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan, A Quiet Place – Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, Roma – Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay
There are surprises, then there are SURPRISES. But it shouldn’t startle me at all – last year, an anonymous Oscar voter admitted they had no idea what the difference was between the sound editing and sound mixing, and they did not bother to watch all the movies in the categories they voted for. Here’s a textbook example: Bohemian Rhapsody is a film about a band, so it must have some sound, right? In case I’m confusing you, my dear reader: sound editing Oscar is an award for the entire process that produces sound for a film. That means recording it, assembling it, selecting the music and sound effects that create a certain atmosphere. I’m so sorry to disappoint the rogue Oscars voters, but A Quiet Place wins left, right and centre in this category – it uses the sound and silence so effectively. What’s more, it actually bases the whole plot around it. You must’ve mixed up the envelopes again.
Best sound mixing
Nominees: Bohemian Rhapsody – Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali, Black Panther – Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin, First Man – Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H Ellis, Roma – Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and Jose Antonio Garcia, A Star Is Born – Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow
I’ve got exactly the same complaint here. Except there is an actual blimming difference between sound editing and mixing. An explanation for the anonymous Oscar voter if they happen to read this: sound mixing takes care of how we, as an audience, hear everything in the film. You know when you sit in the cinema, watching a horror, and the sound comes from that one speaker behind you? Or when music fades into dialogue, or vice versa? Or when a particular sound seems to just jump at you and sends chills down your spine? It’s that. And again, I was lucky to see Roma on a big screen with a sound system that allowed for this film to be heard properly (the only downside of Netflix, I guess – no theatrical release…), but it’s Another Snub And A Painful Daylight Robbery That I Will Not Forgive The Academy For.
Best film editing
Nominees: Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman, BlacKkKlansman – Barry Alexander Brown, The Favourite – Yorgos Mavropsaridis, Green Book – Patrick J Don Vito, Vice – Hank Corwin
So Bohemian Rhapsody seems to be That Fallback Film That Anonymous Voters Use When They Have No Sweet Idea What The Category Is About. A’ight, you do you. But I wouldn’t choose it for best editing, as there are so many films that have done it so much better. Thoughtful cuts contribute to the pacing of the film and setting the mood, and often
Unlike some Anonymous Academy Voters, I won’t weigh in on things I haven’t had a chance to see, but I’m just gonna tell you that I unconditionally loved Bao. It’s a few minutes long, but so wonderfully paced and multilayered that it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
What were your Oscar bets? What do you think of this year’s Academy Awards? Share your views in the comments below!