Oscars 2019: I watched all eight Best Picture nominees and I have THOUGHTS

Well friends, I have seen all eight of the Best Picture nominees ahead of the Oscars tonight and it was far more of a chore than I expected! Are the Academy on drugs this year or what?! Here’s how I ranked them ahead of tonight’s ceremony.

8. Vice

What a stylish, quirky, flashy film about a bunch of people I cared not one bit about!! You don’t have to like the main characters in movies but you certainly have to be invested in their story, and wow I honestly couldn’t give a single solitary shit!

The acting’s good, and some of the wHaCkY stylistic ideas (the fake-out ending half-way through, the bizarre Shakespearean bit) would be great in another film. But this felt many, many hours long; and I can think of at least 1,000 others that should have had the Best Picture nod instead. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, fuck even A Simple Favour to name a few.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody

Taking out the fact that in going to see it we’ve helped make an alleged serial sex abuser $40 million richer, my main problem with Bohemian Rhapsody is… what is it? Is it A), a bit of fun for the millions of people who loved Queen, in which case why did they retcon when Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and the point at which he told his bandmates? Or B), is it meant to be a standalone drama in its own right, in which case why is the first hour essentially an obstacle-free re-enactment of a Wikipedia page? Also why is a film about one of the most fascinating musicians of all time actually quite boring? And why have Oscars voters somehow mistaken “best editing” for “most editing”?

Honestly I can see why this is the big phenomenon it is – if Queen meant a lot to you, I can buy it as an an uplifting, fist-pumping delight. The acting is generally good, too. But BEST PICTURE? Absolutely not. There’s an interesting film to be made about Mercury but this isn’t it; it’s all so surface-skimming. And he’s one of the most high-profile HIV/AIDS sufferers in history – the only thing Bohemian Rhapsody does with that fact is tweak his timeline so the Live Aid gig has more ~emotional resonance. The fuckery! I wasn’t a fan.

6. Green Book

A charming, very well acted, frequently funny, warm-hearted and well-meaning film about race; clearly made by and for white people. I saw a tweet that called it an Oscar-bait movie that middle-class people can watch and think, “ah, look how far we’ve come!”, and that feels about right.

Ultimately I think Green Book just bites off more than it can chew. There’s a great movie to be made about Don Shirley and the relationship between race and class; but it would be a movie in which he is the main character, and not the supporting player in a story in which a racist guy meets a wealthy black man on whom he depends for income, and becomes a little bit less racist. Viggo Mortensen is excellent, Mahershala Ali is amazing; and the film is certainly not without its charm, but I don’t know… I found it very uncomfortable to watch in several places.

This article is very good if you want some further reading.

5. A Star Is Born

I don’t know if a remake should really be in serious contention for Best Picture, even if it is well-made. And A Star Is Born is very good: the original music all bangs (though I’ve gotta say I’ve never really ~clicked with Shallow), the acting is stellar, and it’s an impressive directorial innings from Bradley Cooper.

But for a guy that cried at the end of Cheaper By The Dozen, I was left with eyes as DRY AS A PRUNE by this. At the end I was thinking, ‘ah, this is sad’, but I didn’t really feeeeeel it, you know? I wonder if I just made the mistake of seeing it at the height of its hype, when everyone was like “YOU! WILL! SOB!”.  But I did enjoy it.

4. Black Panther

Well the good news is that at least half of the Best Picture nominees are actually excellent!!

I’m very happy Black Panther got the nod. It is about time a genuinely excellent blockbuster movie of this genre got some awards recognition, and this is more than deserving. It does get a bit stereotypical-comic-book-movie in the last act when everything descends into a general CGI battle sequence, but for the vast majority it’s sharp, inventive, playful and fun – especially whenever Danai Gurira is on screen. And its cultural impact, too, is not to be ignored.

3. BlackKklansman

WHEW this film left me breathless. I know that like Bohemian Rhapsody, this has been caught up in some rows over historical accuracy – but I think the “changed for dramatic purposes” excuse (or rather “invented for dramatic purposes”, given how little is known about certain people) is more justified here. Spike Lee has made a really brilliant film about the past that is – as the devastating coda makes clear – 1000% relevant to the present.

John David Washington, Adam Driver and Laura Harrier are all great; and seeing Mr Matthews off 90210 as a convincing white supremacist was UNSETTLING! BlackKklansman is slick, surprisingly funny in places, and – come that final showdown – incredibly affecting. It leaves you with a lot to think about, and a lot to be angry about.

2. Roma

You rrrrreally get out of Roma what you put in, and the problem with it being on Netflix is that giving it all your attention is that little bit harder. I tried twice to start watching it, then realised I wasn’t in the right mindset and would be better off going back to it another time.

But if you can be strict with yourself in giving it all your attention (put your phone out of reach!) and leaning in to the fact it doesn’t have much of a story, you will be rewarded in spades come the second half.

There are some incredible understated set-pieces here that just blew my mind: the hospital scene, the beach scene, the fire scene…. scenes that feature one incredibly long, uninterrupted shot; making it seem so realistic but also AT THE SAME TIME kind of dream-like?? It’s hard to explain. But it will leave you feeling like you’ve been through the ringer. Alfonso Cuaron will more than deserve his likely Best Director win; and if this becomes the first-ever foreign language Best Picture champion, I will not be mad in the slightest.

1. The Favourite

It’s common practise for period dramas to paint this era in history as polite, stiff and quaint. The Favourite… does not do that. It takes what is probably a more true-to-life approach, which is having everyone shagging, behaving disgracefully and dropping the C-bomb left, right and centre.

I saw director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and lord, it was not my cup of tea. So I went into The Favourite knowing I would get something unconventional, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. (Conversely, I know many people who went in expecting something conventional, and hated it.)

I love the power play, I love the cinematography, I love the weird-as-fuck humour. The three leads are all exceptional: Emma Stone has the most fun in the role of the sweet ingenue who turns out to be an All About Eve-style dickhead; Olivia Colman gets the chance to really flex her muscles with the kind of broad comedy that masks deep internal trauma; and Rachel Weisz – in what is arguably the hardest role – perfectly nails the balance between power-hungry and lovestruck. Shout-out to Nicholas Hoult and The Duck, who are also sublime.

Roma is the likely winner of this category and I’m all for it, but I think I liked The Favourite very slightly more. For a start, considering how many of this year’s movies have LGBT+ aspects, it’s the only one that didn’t shy away from its queerness (looking at you, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and Black Panther!). It’s also completely female-driven (male filmmaker aside, lol), it’s inventive and inverted-commas ‘artsy’ without being inaccessible, it’s got a good story underneath all the frills, and it’s got Taylor Swift’s boyfriend receiving a half-arsed handjob. What’s not to love?!

Shout-out also to the soundtrack, which is mostly just “bom, pffffrt, bom, pffffrt” on a continual loop.

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