Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Oscar Nominees

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:44

With the 2019 Academy Awards less than 48 hours around the corner (and the Annual Blackwell San Jose Oscar Party with it), it’s time to rank the nominees for the coveted award for Best Picture. There’s been some really good ones this year, making the ranking difficult. But nonethtlesss, here’s my ranking of the 8 films nominated in the category

#8: BlackkKlansman: Spike Lee (the favorite for Adapted Screnplay) directs this fantastic film about the true story of a Black FBI agent (played by Denzel Washington’s son, John) that helped infiltrate the KKK through the telephone and a white “avatar” (played by Adam Driver). Although the events in the film take place in the 1970’s, it’s relevance today is palpable. That’s unfortunately a little bit of the reason why it also ranks lowest on my list. While the film’s poignancy speaks for itself, Lee felt it necessary to emphasize the point with footage from Charlottesville and other racially-tense events planted at the end of the movie. While those current events are hideous and highlight continued unacceptable discrimination in American society, including it felt forced and out of place here. It also wasn’t necessary as the impact made by the story the movie is based on stands on its own. Nonetheless, it’s a great movie worthy of the nomination.

#7: Roma: Alfonso Cuaron directs an intensely moving film that follows a year in the life of Cleo, a Mexican nanny and housekeeper who manages the household of an lower upper middle class family on the brink in Mexico City during a series of politically-motivated protests that are becoming increasingly violent. Cleo’s life takes a series of twists and turns that are both heartbreaking and revealing, as various stressors in her life play out. Shot in black and white, the film is gritty and moving. It is, however, slow at times, which results in some unevenness to its trajectory. It is still a remarkably good film that leaves the audience speechless, sad, and happy, all in one.

#6: A Star Is Born: Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa star in Cooper’s own film about the simultaneous rise of a female singer destined for stardom and the fall of her muse, a male singer who’s losing his battles with his own inner demons while the two fall in love. GaGa gives a downright phenomenal performance and lends her voice to the movie’s fantastic original music. If Gaga’s “Shallow” fails to win her the Oscar for Best Song, it’ll be just as much a travesty as Greatest Showman’s loss for “This Is Me” last year. While the performances are remarkable, the movie itself suffers from predictable cliches and incomplete storylines that make it a non-contender for the top prize.

#5 Black Panther: The Marvel Universe gets an exceptional addition with Ryan Coogler’s take on the story of the famed comic book hero Black Panther. With dazzling special effects and a solid story, Black Panther infuses the traditional comic book genre with elements of African art, culture, and superheroes and expands the cinematic experience of action movies in a way never done before. Michael B. Jordan plays a great villain in Erik Killmonger; and Chadwick Boseman slays it with his depiction of the iconic title character, making Black Panther and fun and energetic ride.

#4: Green Book: Very few people are familiar with the true story of the relationship between Black jazz pianist Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga, a rough and tough Italian-American fresh off the streets of Brooklyn, who is hired by Shirley to serve as his driver and bodyguard during his summer tour in the Deep South in 1962. The two spark off an unexpected friendship and bond that transcends Vallelonga’s preconceived notions of Black people and Shirley’s perceptions of what a stereotypical Italian-American would have of Black people. The story is heartwarming, and at times, completely unpredictable. Those who have criticized the film for veering far from the truth behind the inspiration of the relationship depicted in the movie miss the point of Green Book. It’s not a documentary. It’s a story of an unexpected relationship between two men that became blind to race, sexuality, and heritage, to forge a bond that lasted their entire lives.

#3 Bohemian Rhapsody: Rami Malek gives a downright powerhouse performance as Freddy Mercury, an oddball artist who defied the boundaries of human sexuality and catapulted the band Queen into rock history. While not necessarily a Mercury biopic, the film puts him front-and-center and focuses on how his talent and eccentricities were both a blessing and curse for Queen. Mercury’s homosexuality is framed through his relationship with his first wife Mary, who was his best friend even after their divorce and all the way to his death of AIDS in 1991. Eventually Mercury fell victim to those who took advantage of him and his ever-increasing reliance on drugs and sex. But he rose like a phoenix to give a knockout final performance at Live Aid in 1985, which serves as the film’s final sequence and one that Malek mirrors to Mercury with perfection.

#2: Vice: Christian Bale gives an absolute whopper of a performance as the heinous Vice President Dick Cheney, who manipulated every person in his life for his own self-gain and selfishness. The film begins in Cheney’s later youth and shows how he was able to learn the art of deception quickly as a means to get ahead. Soon, Cheney’s thirst for power and money turn him to politics, where he uses his successes and failures to continue to defy the limitations that should’ve kept a very mediocre and underachieving person to living a very sub-average existence. The film is geniously made, using comedy, drama, and uniquely executed scenes to tell the story of a horrible person that was eventually able to use the ignorance of a low-intelligent President to elbow his way into a position where he was able to exert immense power. While a long shot for Best Picture, don’t be surprised if Bale takes home the Oscar for his portrayal of Cheney.

#1: The Favourite: Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, and Rachel Weisz give the performances of their careers in this story of the ailing Anne, Queen of Great Britain, her snobbish and self-centered appearing lover Sarah Churchill, and Churchill’s lower-class cousin Abigail, who finds a way to manipulate the Queen and work her way up the social chain through increasingly back-stabbing and nefarious actions. The movie is at times funny, at times quite disturbing, and at times sad and shocking. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in its ability to stir a cacophony of emotions into one hell of a ride that left me in complete shock and awe. I’ve also never experienced such brilliant story-telling that introduced the audience to one character that is so easily hated and another who is so easily loved and completely swaps those roles by the story’s end. It makes the audience question its own notions and interpretation of characters based on traditional story-telling experience and suggests people who might be thought of as sweet, kind, and funny are actually monsters and that monsters may not actually be monsters at all. These qualities make The Favourite my pick for Best Picture of 2018.

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