The 2019 Oscar nominees have been announced. I feel like a kid who has unwrapped all their Christmas presents. After seeing Willem Dafoe in At Eternity’s Gate last weekend, I have now seen everything in all the major categories. The thrill of the hunt is gone. I suppose I can start tracking down the foreign film and feature length documentary nominees next. And the Independent Spirit Award nominees. Plus Shorts TV will be bringing the live action, animated, and documentary shorts to the beautiful Kentucky Theater (http://www.kentuckytheater.com). So I have that to look forward to.
Enough with my ennui. Let's take a look at the nominations and all the snubs and surprises. You can find a full list of the nominees here: https://oscar.go.com/news/nominations/oscar-nominations-2019-see-full-list-of-nominees. You can find my predictions for the Oscar nominees here to see how I did here: http://runpee.com/runpee-and-the-2019-oscars-predictions-for-the-2018-movie-awards/.
Let's start with best picture. Black Panther's nomination is not a surprise. The movie was practically ordained as an Oscar nominee a year ago upon its release. However, the nomination is historic and a cause for celebration. This is the first superhero movie/comic book film to be nominated for Best Picture. A few years ago, an all-black cast starred in one of the year's most financially successful and critically acclaimed films of the year: Straight Outta Compton. The movie was snubbed in all categories. Black Panther's nomination is a welcome sign that the Academy has moved past their diversity problem. Black Panther won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast (which is the SAG equivalent of Best Picture). Chadwick Boseman gave an impassioned acceptance speech. Black Panther may well win the Oscar this year.
I know people love Green Book but there are so many movies I liked better this year. I had the same reaction to Roma that I did to The Favourite: I ultimately didn't understand the point of the journey I took with the characters. To see these three movies get so much attention when a film as important as The Hate U Give is largely ignored pains me. Rami Malek makes an amazing Freddie Mercury. I wish his performance were in a better film. I have a lot of respect for Vice but it's a hard film to love. I was happy all year that The Shape of Water was Best Picture. I can't imagine walking around all year with that same feeling about Vice. But then, maybe it's the Best Picture we deserve. I would be fine with Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, or A Star Is Born taking home the gold.
At the Golden Globes, Sandra Oh took a moment to recognize what a special year this is for diversity in film. Taye Diggs performed an opening number about the same topic at the Critics Choice awards. A win for Black Panther or BlacKkKlansman would be the perfect cap to a year with several high profile films featuring diverse casts. From Widows to If Beale Street Could Talk to Sorry to Bother You to Crazy Rich Asians, there has been an embarrassment of riches this year when it comes to films featuring and made by people of color. Let's hope it's not an anomaly but rather a sea change and that this trend continues. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians have already proven it can be profitable.
All I have left to say about A Star Is Born is that it captured my heart, made me fall in love, and I'm a Gaga fan.
Snubs: Boy Erased is another important film that I hate to see largely ignored. I’m glad it was honored at the Globes. A Quiet Place was one of the most unique moviegoing experiences of the year and it’s only nominated in one of the sound categories. Crazy Rich Asians feels like it deserves some type of recognition. There hasn’t been a mostly Asian cast in a major Hollywood film since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. First Man was one of my favorite movies of the year and I hate not seeing it in the Best Picture category (and Damien Chazelle not up for Best Director).
Best Supporting Actor is my favorite category. Maybe because I love character actors so much. Maybe because I usually predict this one correctly (in other words, the Academy has really good taste). I was rooting for Mark Rylance the moment I walked out of Bridge of Spies. About three months before nominees were even announced. So I was especially excited when he won, beating out the favorite that year (Sylvester Stallone in Creed).
This year I'm rooting for Sam Elliott from A Star Is Born. A few years back, Sam Elliott quietly had the most interestimg year in movies out of any other actor. He played Blythe Danner's love interest in I'll See You In My Dreams, Lilly Tomlin's cold ex in Grandma, and a good natured T-Rex that temporarily turns The Good Dinosaur into a western. There's no award for that but there should be. I was disappointed The Academy overlooked Sam'sperformance (and Tomlin's!) in Grandma. This is their chance to not only make up for that but to reward a rich career of supporting performances. (Also, while researching this to make sure I had my facts straight, I found out he starred in a movie called The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. You have to love him for that alone. And yes, I am going to share the preview below because I love you.)
Richard E. Grant gave a great performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? He definitely deserves to be in this category. I'm a fan of Mahershala Ali and it's nice to see him back at the Oscars so soon. There are other performances from this past year I would rather see honored though. Similarly, I'm happy to see Adam Driver finally get a nomination. I wish he'd been nominated for Silence or While We're Young. I feel like his BlacKkKlansman character is missing something.
As for Sam Rockwell, he won in this category last year. He will probably win another Oscar someday for a better movie than Three Billboards... However, his inclusion here and at the Globes is an enigma to me. He makes a great George W. Bush, sure. But it's such a tiny part in the movie Vice. The meatier supporting role went to Steve Carell who did a great job as Donald Rumsfeld. Between being snubbed for this and his lead role in Beautiful Boy, I think Carell may just have to steal an Oscar if he wants one. Maybe he can grab one for poor David Oyelowo too who acts his guts out nearly every year to no avail (Selma, Queen of Katwe, A United Kingdom). There were so many better supporting roles this year that Rockwell's inclusion here simply doesn't make sense. I don’t understand how Rockwell’s brief satiric role beat out more dramatic roles that had more buzz such as Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy or Russell Crowe in Boy Erased. I’d much rather see Russell Hornsby from The Hate U Give, Josh Hamilton from Eighth Grade, Oscar Isaacs from At Eternity’s Gate, or Jonah Hill from Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot in this slot.
In the Best Supporting Actress race, we have Marina de Tavira whose performance barely registered with me. Off the top of my head, this slot could have gone to Nicole Kidman from Boy Erased, Awkwafina from Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel McAdams from Disobedience, Tessa Thompson from Sorry to Bother You, or Issa Rae from The Hate U Give. I love Emma Stone. I can't believe the Academy ignored her in Battle of the Sexes and is celebrating The Favourite. I have a love-hate relationship with Rachel Weisz. I hated The Constant Gardener, the movie she won her Oscar for. I loved her in Denial, a film she was snubbed for a few years ago, and I lover her in Disobedience, the film she was snubbed for this year over The Favourite.
At the end of the day, Stone and Weisz already have their Oscars. De Tavira's prize is her nomination. This is a race between Amy Adams and Regina King. I have loved Amy Adams since the first time I saw Junebug (and the second time and the third time and...). I have loved watching her become a star and a household name. She does a great Lady Macbeth type character in Vice. It's not my favorite performance of hers. But I'd be okay with her taking home her first Oscar for it. Regina King, however, is the one to beat. She has racked up several other awards and is a well-respected character actress. I like the idea of If Beale Street Could Talk picking up a win in one of the major categories. Claire Foy from First Man was snubbed in this category but I’m not that surprised. I thought her performance was overrated.
Rami Malek and Christian Bale are the front runners for Best Actor. Malek became Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. It will most likely be a long time before we get another Mercury biopic. So while I have my issues with this one (it tends to be uncomfortable with Mercury's queerness and downplays that part of his life), I can't fault Malek. He gave a great performance. Bale found the humanity in a villain and was able to play Dick Cheney as something more than a two-dimensional straw man or an SNL parody. Willem Dafoe made a sensitive, heartbreaking Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate. Bradley Cooper is the only actor in this category who did not play a real-life person. His self-destructive charmer brings half the romance to A Star Is Born. I'm convinced Viggo Mortensen is only in this category because Green Book is so beloved. His performance is fine. There are other names I'd rather see in this slot though: Steve Carell for Beautiful Boy, Jonathan Pryce for The Wife, Ethan Hawke for First Reformed, or Stephen James for If Beale Street Could Talk. I don't know that I'm rooting for anyone specific but a Dafoe win would be nice. Especially since he lost for The Florida Project.
I had hoped Glenn Close would score an Oscar nomination when I saw The Wife. It opened slowly around the country over several months and did not have the buzz of A Star Is Born or The Favourite. It's one of the best roles of her career. I'm excited that Lady Gaga got her first nomination for A Star Is Born. She's so lovable in that film. I was glad to see Melissa McCarthy got nominated for Can You Ever Forgive Me? She does have some comic moments in the role. However, it's a more dramatic role than we're used to seeing from her and she shows a darker side of herself too. Yalitza Aparicio is good in Roma. It's not my favorite movie of the year. But there are parts of her performance that stick out. I like the rooftop scene with the little boy when she decides that if he is going to play dead she is going to be dead with him. That leaves Olivia Colman. Again, The Favourite simply isn't that great a film to me. I'd rather see Joanna Kulig from Cold War or Amandla Stenberg from The Hate U Give in this slot.
Bradley Cooper was snubbed in the Best Director category though he was assumed to be a sure bet. Peter Farrelly was also snubbed for Green Book. Pawel Pawlikowski got a surprise nomination for Cold War. While I'm sad that Cooper didn't make the cut, I'm really happy to see Pawlikowski in this category. I love Cold War and I really liked his previous film Ida. He makes these brief, atmospheric black and white films that get under your skin. I'm also excited to see Spike Lee get his first nomination for Best Director. He got snubbed for Malcolm X, as hard as that is to believe. BlacKkKlansman has several scenes that stand out to me. When John David Washington goes to the activist meeting and the speaker talks about the beauty of black people. The juxtaposition of the speaker at the klan gathering and the speaker at the black student union. The ending that shows modern instances of racism. For Vice, Adam McKay broke the fourth wall, staged a fake ending halfway through the film, and employed other devices to make the film as slick as Cheney himself. I love Alfonso Cuarón. I love Gravity and Children of Men. I'm not as in love with Roma. I can't believe the phrase "Oscar nominee Yorgos Lanthimos" is now a thing. At least it should be for The Killing of a Sacred Deer which had symbolism. Snubs include Ryan Cooler for Black Panther. The man continues to do amazing work on both independent and commercial films. From Fruitvale Station to Creed. What’s he got to do to get a nomination? (While we’re on the subject what does muse Michael B. Jordan have to do as well?) Other snubs include Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. I can’t help but feel that the downer ending hurt this movie. I have a feeling that if it ended less realistically and more romantically the movie would be nominated for more awards. Marielle Heller was also snubbed for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The animation category is the same as it was for the Globes. There's not much to say here that I haven't already said in my coverage of the Globes or my Oscar nominee prediction post for RunPee. These are all great movies. I'm glad to see an underdog like Mirai in this category and to see anime represented. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers so I'm glad to see Isle of Dogs nominated. While Ralph Breaks the Internet wasn't as good as the original, all of the Disney princess parody stuff was golden. Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse were simply two of the most satisfying movies of the year period. I'm rooting for Spider-Man to continue its winning streak and take home the gold for a film full of originality and surprises.
I almost refuse to acknowledge the Best Original Song category this year since "A Place Called Slaughter Race" from Ralph Breaks the Internet got snubbed. The parody of Disney princess "I wish" numbers like "Part of Your World" is absolutely brilliant. While I love singer-songwriter Gillian Welch (you need her album Time: The Revelator in your collection), her song "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" can't compare. There can apparently only be one humorous song nominated per year and Ralph lost out. I'm also in shock that the song chosen from Mary Poppins was "The Place Where Lost Things Go" instead of the catchier, more upbeat "Trip a Little Light Fantastic." I honestly don't remember "I'll Fight" from RBG. "All the Stars" from Black Panther is a good song to represnt that film and its soundtrack. It's cool that Kendrick Lamar is now an Oscar nominee. The winner though will most likely be the immensely popular "Shallow" by Lady Gaga from A Star Is Born. Unfortunately, this may be her consolation prize for losing Best Actress to Glenn Close.
In the documentary category, RBG was nominated but fellow summer blockbusters Won't You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers were snubbed.
Although The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a mix of original and adapted material, it is running in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Two of the film's chapters are based on short stories (All Gold Canyon by Jack London and The Girl Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White). This helps explain why the Coens stuck to a stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans as savages in the latter chapter rather than doing something more subversive or inventive. In the other segments of the film, they seem to be having fun turning conventional Western genres on their ear (for instance, bringing Tarantino-esque violence to the carefree world of the singing cowboy). The movie is harsher than most of the Coen brothers’ films. I did particularly like the chapter "Meal Ticket" and hoped the film might generate enough buzz to get Harry Melling a Best Supporting actor nomination. Best known as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series, in "Meal Ticket" he plays a quadriplegic who goes from town to town reciting poetry, Shakespeare, and famous speeches for donations. Melling is captivating in the role and I thought about this characterfor a long time afterwards.
The adaptation of BlacKkKlansman has come under fire for including events that didn't happen like Ron Stalworth and his partner stopping a bombing. Director Boots Riley has also accused the film of over-glorifying the police and distracting from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty took Lee Israel's memoir and crafted a redemption story about creativity with Can You Ever Forgive Me? Barry Jenkins brought James Baldwin's words to life with If Beale Street Could Talk. The new version of A Star Is Born took a familiar story and made it seem new. Snubs include Black Panther adapted from the comic books, The Hate U Give adapted from the bestselling young adult novel, and Boy Erased adapted from a memoir.
First Reformed was a welcome surprise in the Best Original Screenplay category. Paul Schrader's character study of a priest wrestling with faith and doubt was one of the year's best dramas but has largely gone unrecognized on the awards circuit. Adam McKay's Vice was also nominated. McKay had to do a lot of research for the Dick Cheney biopic. The script is also unique in that it uses devices like a mysterious narrator and characters breaking the fourth wall in order to tell the story. Roma and Green Book are both personal scripts. In Roma, director Alfonso Cuaron tells the story of the housekeeper who raised him. In Green Book, Nick Vallelonga shares a story about his father. Finally, there is The Favourite, a tale of power and revenge. As far as Roma is concerned, to quote Gertrude Stein, there isn’t enough there there. Green Book was entertaining but overrated. It may be the least challenging film I’ve seen about race all year. The Favourite doesn’t even translate in my part of the country. From all reports I’ve gotten, there’s hardly any laughter at screenings (my audience was pretty dead) and people are walking out. I'd rather see Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You, Cold War, or A Quiet Place in these slots.
Best Foreign Film nominees Cold War and Never Look Away were a surprise in the Best Cinematography category. The beautifully shot Roma was a shoo-in for this category. A Star Is Born and The Favourite rounded out the nominees. I’d rather have seen Leave No Trace or First Man in The Favourite’s place.
The other foreign film nominees include Capernaum, Shoplifters, and of course Roma. I have only seen Cold War and Roma but all of these films have been on my to-watch list. While Roma will most likely take this category, I am rooting for underdog Cold War. Popular films that that did not make the cut include Burning and Girl.
It's a well known fact that a movie rarely wins Best Picture without winning Best Editing. So here are this year's most likely Best Picture candidates: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, and Vice. Bohemiam Rhapsody and Green Book are the populist choices. I'm rooting for BlacKkKlansman and Vice. But there's nothing I connect with as much as I did with The Shape Of Water.
For me, being an Oscar junkie means enjoying the journey more than the destination. While I'm excited about the big night and this year's crop of nominees, a lot of the real value I've gotten out of this year has been from watching buzz worthy films that ultimately didn't get nominated. I've already got my eyes on possible nominees for next year's Oscars. I’m already working on a blog post filled with possible contenders for next year’s Oscars. To stay in the loop for when that blog post drops, like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EtchedInGold/) and subscribe to the newsletter.