From Bad to Best: Reflections on the 2019 Best Picture Nominations

Photo Courtesy Screen Rant

Photo Courtesy Screen Rant

By Oscar De Leon

The 91st Academy Awards bring us eight nominations for Best Motion Picture, some of which obviously deserve the nomination while others don’t .

After a controversial start with Kevin Hart being yanked from hosting the Academy Awards, the Oscars announced their nominations on January 22nd. These eight movies have spanned the spectrum from critical success to failure, become cultural icons, and gained the love of film fans. No movie on this list is perfect, and not every movie is even great. Some don’t deserve the nomination at all.

Here is an examination and reflection of this year’s best picture nominees.


Black Panther

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Of all the best picture nominees, Black Panther has to be the most culturally significant. The nomination itself is monumental, as it is the first comic book movie to receive this honor. Black Panther deserves praise for its radical incorporation of black actors and production staff, something that Hollywood is desperately missing. Furthermore, ideas of colonization, Afrocentrism, and racism were explored on a world stage.

Photo Courtesy Marvel.com

Photo Courtesy Marvel.com

Highest praise goes to Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, who enticed audiences with his raw, chilling performance. Black Panther opens strong, moving into an even harsher and more stunning second act. This part of the movie strayed away from your typical MCU film.  Where the film heads south is in its conclusion, trading emotional suspense and release for your typical CGI-filled action battle finale.

It is wonderful and refreshing to see a comic book movie nominated for best picture, especially after so many have failed to receive this honor, such as The Dark Knight and Logan. Black Panther earned its spot in the nominations.

Will it Win?

Black Panther’s chances of winning are quite small, as it has not received many awards this season. Its most recent achievement was winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards’s top honor, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. This honor has made the Best Picture race even more unpredictable.


BlacKkKlansman

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

BlacKkKlansman is another Best Picture nominee that speaks to the struggle for black power and black rights in the United States. This Spike Lee joint is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth. Stallworth, a black officer played by the incredible Jon David Washington, and Flip Zimmerman, a white officer played by the Academy-Award-deserving Adam Driver, successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. This film is a rollercoaster of emotions, ranging from outright hilarious and joyful to utterly disturbing. The ending slaps you in the face and urges you to wake up.

Photo Courtesy Amazon.com

Photo Courtesy Amazon.com

This film is one of 2018’s most timely films, using the past to allude to Trump’s America. It also keeps audience members on the edge of their seats with disturbing dialogue, outstanding acting, beautiful cinematography, and a scary conclusion to make you question your role in America today. Its ability to let audiences escape and then bring them back to reality with a different perspective is what makes this movie special, and truly deserving of its Best Picture nomination.

Will it Win?

The film’s chances of winning are quite slim. Other films this award season have been favored so far. However, Adam Driver’s performance is truly Oscar-worthy, and Jon David Washington got snubbed of a Best Actor nomination.


Bohemian Rhapsody

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

There is no denying that Queen will live on forever. Freddie Mercury is a timeless legend. Rami Malek instantly shines on screen as the reincarnation of Mercury, and the rest of the band are portrayed well by their respective actors. The technical factors of this film are astonishing: it is beautiful to look at and pleasurable to hear. The recreations of the concerts are flawless and consuming.

Photo Courtesy Rolling Stone

Photo Courtesy Rolling Stone

But from a storytelling perspective, the film suffers greatly. The first act is a conflict-free, hitting-all-the-major-points sprint to get to the part where Queen makes it big and the real drama can start. It is also important to address the fact-vs-fiction element of this film. For a deeply invested Queen fan, the timeline of their songs will be very aggravating. The most upsetting creative liberty is the break-up of the band. While the band did break up, they regrouped to record and release The Works in 1984 and toured the album well into 1985, even playing Rock In Rio two months before Live Aid. This is hard to ignore when Live Aid stands as the film’s epic conclusion. Bohemian Rhapsody is merely a passable film. It is riveting in parts, mostly due to Queen’s music, but boring for large stretches. The box office and fan reception of this film is quite surprising. Freddie Mercury will live on forever, but this lackluster film unfortunately does not do justice to his wonder and struggle. This film does not deserve the Best Picture nomination.

Will it Win?

It was quite surprising to see this film win Best Motion Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes. Though Bohemian Rhapsody’s chances of winning Best Picture have dwindled significantly ever since the controversy surrounding Bryan Singer has resurged.


The Favourite

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Yorgos Lanthimos’s last two films have been daring. His directing style always creates conversation with witty dialogue, outlandish shots, and enticing stories. The Favourite shines on all these fronts and more. The sets are ornate, the cinematography is stuffed with roving camera and fisheye lenses, and the costumes are absolutely stunning. This might not be Lanthomos’s most outlandish work, but it is definitely his best.

Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone all pour themselves out with raw intensity or twitch with prickly reserve in every scene. Lanthimos’s story is a ripe tale of pure, intense jealousy, but it is also crudely hilarious, an anomaly for a period piece.

Photo Courtesy Vox

Photo Courtesy Vox

It is important to note that this tale of the Queen Anne is not entirely true. But the brilliant storytelling makes up for the historical inaccuracy. This is historical fiction done right. Every aspect about this film is wonderful and makes a boring part of history interesting, tense, and suspenseful. Cinephiles will note similarities to Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 period piece Barry Lyndon. The Favourite is an innovative film and deserves the Best Picture nomination.

Will it Win?

It has not won any other major awards, so this film will most likely sit quietly in the shadows of its other nominees. Also, Olivia Coleman took home a Golden Globe for her performance, but her chances at winning the Oscar are slim due to her competition.


Green Book

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Perhaps no one loved Green Book more than the Academy. That’s not to say that it is a bad film. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali perform well together on screen, and the screenplay is filled with so much humanity. Green Book is a very sophisticated feel-good film. Unfortunately, there is not much else that brings this film to greatness.

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Telling the story of an American-Italian driver (Mortensen) taking Don Shirley (Ali) on a concert tour in the deep South, Green Book inspires but bores. The film’s strongest asset is its screenplay, which leaves no holes in character and plot. Even the script, though, saliently falls flat in a scene in which a character reveals his homosexuality, which feels forced and is never addressed again, nor made impactful to the story. It is quite surprising to see Green Book highly regarded this award season. It really does not deserve the nomination.

Will it Win?

It took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, was named Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Review, and was named one of American Film Institute’s top 10 films of 2018. The chances of Green Book taking home the Oscar for Best Picture are very high.


Roma

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Every frame in this film is one of pure beauty. Every sound played is satisfaction. Roma is a true piece of art. It is beautiful, inspiring, and moving. Roma is the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture since 2012’s Amour. It is also the first Netflix film to receive this honor.

Alfonso Cuarón, like many of the directors on this list, has a unique vision and style of directing. The Academy recognized this in 2014 by awarding him Best Director for Gravity. Audiences will be able to feel the passion Cuarón had for this film.

Photo Courtesy Variety

Photo Courtesy Variety

Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira express such great humanity on screen that audiences will lose themselves in these characters, and may even forget they are actors. Everything about this movie feels real. The slow pacing of this film, which does get tedious every so often, only adds to its realism. There is no gigantic climax or wild confrontation. Roma is simply human, and humanity is beautiful. This is what the film ultimately conveys.

Will it Win?

Roma is a work of art, but its chances a win is far from certain. Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director at the Golden Globes and is one of the National Board of Review’s top ten films list, but not a single foreign language or Netflix film has ever won in this category. Its chances are fair though, considering Cuarón’s reputation in the Academy.


A Star Is Born

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Very rarely does a directorial debut become such a cultural phenomenon. Bradley Cooper outdid himself directing and starring in this beautiful, raw, energetic, and heartbreaking remake of a 1937 classic. Cooper blew audiences away by defying expectations of a modern romance, and tied in some of the best original music for a film this decade, brilliant performances, a criticism of the modern music industry, and a painfully romantic love story that will live on forever.

Photo Courtesy The New Yorker

Photo Courtesy The New Yorker

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are unbelievable on screen. Their connection is clear from the first moment they lock eyes. The film also takes its time to flesh out their individual characters. We are able to see how broken Jackson Maine (Cooper) is and how self-conscious Ally (Gaga) is. Cinephiles will note similarities to Albert Magnoli’s Purple Rain. The cinematography of the film makes you feel as if you’re at an actual concert.

Will it Win?

The National Board of Review named Cooper Best Director, while also naming Gaga Best Actress and Sam Elliott Best Supporting Actor. “Shallow” is receiving tons of buzz and won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. A Star Is Born has high chances at winning Best Picture.


Vice

Does it Deserve the Nomination?

Adam McKay, who took a sudden turn to more serious directing with 2015’s The Big Short, delivers a wise yet scary biopic on former Vice President Dick Cheney. Much like The Big Short, Vice will not be everybody’s cup of tea. McKay’s style is witty, fast-paced, and heavily reliant on narration and breaking the fourth wall. Vice is a closer look into a man who truly changed the course of modern American history.

Photo Courtesy The Stranger

Photo Courtesy The Stranger

Christian Bale completely transforms himself into Dick Cheney and Amy Adams owns the screen as Lynne Cheney. Their screen time is filled with tension and greatness. McKay’s directing style is comparable to that of Martin Scorsese with his use of narration, fast-paced editing, and intimidating dialogue. This comparison fits Vice well, as Dick Cheney really seems like a big gangster in the White House, taking all the power he wants. The smart writing and powerhouse cast earn this film its spot on the nominations.

Will it Win?

Christian Bale has been receiving all the awards’s buzz after winning Best Actor - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. His chances at Oscar glory are not as close as Rami Malek’s are. The film itself looks like it does not have the highest chance at winning Best Picture


This year’s Best Picture nominees ranged from inspiring and shocking to boring and overhyped. It’s also a shame that the Academy did not nominate 10 films, which is the max they are allowed. Several films, including Eighth Grade, Hereditary, or even Avengers: Infinity War could have easily filled the spots. 2018 has been a good year for film, but this year’s Best Picture selection doesn’t show it.

FilmNoah Franklin