Oscar Rant 2019
(Honoring the films of 2018)
2018 was a year of insane disconnect between The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the audiences who would view the motion pictures. First, The Academy proposed the awful idea of starting a Best Popular Film category, as if failing to align themselves with The Blockbuster Movie Awards was the cause of lowering ratings for the Oscar broadcast. Then, they thought it would be a good idea to award some of their Oscars (cinematography, editing) during the commercial breaks of the broadcast, a move that goes against everything the phrase “Arts & Sciences” stands for.
No one is going to tune in to The Oscars where they didn’t before because they’ll be leaving out awards. The Grammys ratings continue to decline and that show is mostly a concert, interrupted now and then to give out an award. What ignoring crucial aspects of moviemaking (the parts that make it a visual medium) does mostly is hurt those who were tuning in already. Lovers of film are getting screwed by The Academy itself, not to mention the members whose hard work would no longer be showcased.
These were rotten ideas, signaling that The Academy would rather pander to a shallow crowd than proudly boast the accomplishments and grand cultural impact of its popular art. They’re running scared, which is a shame, because the art itself is still capable of amazing things. Much of which will be awarded on February 24th.
That being said, public uproar did its job and shamed The Academy into bailing on both of these horrible ideas (well, Best Popular Film was postponed…). To their credit, Oscar did nominate three hugely popular films – Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born to go alongside Roma, which has earned literally nothing at the box office, as far as we know, as Netflix doesn’t release audience or monetary figures.
What did they get right and wrong? Let me get into it as I always do by first offering up my picks for the Top Ten films of 2018:
10. THE DEATH OF STALIN: Let me see if I can describe Armando Iannucci’s farcical take on the political power plays in Russia that followed Josef Stalin’s death. It plays broadly, but takes the satire so seriously, it almost comes across like drama. But it’s hilarious. Ya dig? Great cast – Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor deliver while scenes are stolen by Jason Isaacs and a hilariously high octane Rupert Friend as Stalin’s son. But one of the real joys is getting to see the great Michael Palin again in a substantial role. His eye and ear for comedy is intact as ever. Everything from larger-than-life jokery to the subtlest of relationships quirks get utilized here, making for a deep comedy I had to see twice.
9. EIGHTH GRADE: Bo Burnham’s take on the coming-of-age movie is very current. Social media current. Unlikeable people are accurately way more unlikeable than they ever were in a John Hughes film. But our hero has universal traits, Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher) is the outsider, the girl who can’t quite get the friends she wants and struggles with the ones she has. But online, she hosts her own motivational videos as a savvy advice-giver persona that’s much more alive. Movies like The Duff have employed social media because it’s such an ingrained thing in youth culture, but Eighth Grade makes it downright scary. In the middle of it, Fisher’s performance is wonderfully honest and subtle. And if you want another welcome return of a good actor, Josh Hamilton plays her father with awkward love. His scenes with Fisher are some of the film’s best.
8. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?: The acting in this tale of a desperate writer resorting to forgery to earn extra money has been praised since the film was released. Now, the script has won a WGA award. So, perhaps…the whole movie is good? That’s a resounding yes as Can You Ever Forgive Me? deftly offers up a dour tale of careless people that somehow manages a lot of humor. They know what they have in their lead actress, Melissa McCarthy. She doesn’t just dismiss her comic timing to play the drama, she folds both into the character of Lee Israel to where you even root for her while facepalming after every bad decision she makes. And the year of seeing British actors we don’t see enough of continues as Richard E. Grant offers up an award-worthy performance as well. After Life of the Party and The Happytime Murders, McCarthy owed me this!
7. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE: Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have done once again what I think they’re best at – serving up and keeping in check a dense storyline filled with rich characters, high stakes and sequences jam-packed with references, bits, jokes and action. There is so much to see and take in with Into The Spider-verse and THEN you need to take into account that it’s animated, so…double that. Getting veteran animation directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman on board brought the nice balance of all movie elements firing at once. Tough call between this and Isle of Dogs for Best Animated Film, but all signs are pointing to Lord and Miller taking home the gold. Oh, what that Solo movie could’ve been…
6. 22 JULY: When talking about Netflix originals, skip the impressive but cold Roma and look up writer/director Paul Greengrass’ latest, the criminally-underseen 22 July. Greengrass has a knack for delivering real life tales with stunning authenticity, often taking on events that put us in places we’d rather not be (see Bloody Sunday and United 93 – seriously, SEE THEM). Now, he takes us to the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway, which had a larger scope and body count than I remember. Once again, Greengrass brings his lightning-quick, verité shooting and editing style, bringing the whole event ferocious immediacy, coupled with another outstanding array of unknown actors who are remarkably genuine. I wondered how the film would fill two hours with this story, but what happens after the attack is also fascinating, following intriguing survivors and a tense legal storyline. My only gripe is, of course, that Greengrass is a very cinematic filmmaker and the TV screen shrinks the scale of his work.
5. BLACKKKLANSMAN: Spike Lee has been one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. His ‘80s and ‘90s run is one of my favorite of any director – Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever and the outstanding Malcolm X showcased that NYU-style of engergetic filmmaking I’d come to love from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone. BlacKkKlansman is a return to form for Lee and it’s gotten him his first (hard to believe) Oscar nod for directing. Getting his groove back was no doubt aided by having of-the-moment Oscar winner Jordan Peele producing, and the result is an offbeat, at times intense, at times playful look at Nixon-era racism, with a black jersey cop posing as a white member of the Ku Klux Klan. How it all unfolds is a wild truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story with strong performances from John David Washington (who ABSOLUTELY echoes his father Denzel’s demeanor) and Adam Driver, go-to guy for offbeat. Spike’s final argument is an unsettling reminder that we have a long way to go when it comes to race relations in the era of Nixon 2.
4. GREEN BOOK: Everyone’s calling this a return to old-school filmmaking and I guess it is. I mean, it’s just a shame that quality, complicated characters in an interesting story told without showing off is “old-school”. But hey, if the noisy messes that they call Rampage and Venom make movies like Green Book stand out, then I guess I’m for making all of them because Green Book deserves to be seen! Raunchy comedy director Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber) takes a sharp turn into comedy with surprisingly good results. He co-wrote this script with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie about a black piano player’s tour through the south in the racially divided ‘60s. A N.Y. night club bouncer is hired by the pianist to be his driver, in case any tough situations arise. What heavy-handed movie descriptions would describe as “a jouney of self-discovery for both men” then takes place. But what Green Book gets right is that its content and storyline are totally accessible. Everyone can enjoy this movie. That tone starts with Farrelly and continues through two excellent lead performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Even more than Bohemian Rhapsody and Black Panther, this is the year’s most likeable Best Picture nominee.
3. ISLE OF DOGS: What a title! And what a movie! I can guarantee you you’ve never seen anything, ever, like Isle of Dogs. Like the aforementioned Into the Spider-verse, Wes Anderson has crafted a movie that is so bursting with story and characters, it’s a joy to behold. You could credit Anderson even more ‘cause it’s all an original story (collaborated on with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman). In an alternate-reality Japan, dogs are cast out to their own island when a dog flu spreads. When the canine best friend of the mayor’s son gets whisked away, the young boy sets off on a quest to find him. If you’ve seen the poster for this movie, then you’ve seen the voice talent list, which is just crazy – Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, and other members of the Anderson Repertory Cast, and add on top Bryan Cranston, whose Chief is the heart of the film. These dogs go on adventures that make Bumblebee’s look small-time and Aquaman’s look unimaginative. Picture Wes Anderson’s imagination unbridled by the laws of reality and you’ve got Isle of Dogs.
2. VICE: In an era of studios either running scared from risk and/or acting like franchise whores, what a thrill to see a real director-driven movie in Adam McKay’s Vice. The promise McKay showed with his Oscar-winning The Big Short continues as he proves to be just as adept at tackling big subjects as drawing big laughs. There is a LOT of movie in Vice, as McKay and his team tell of the rise to power of Dick Cheney, who they claim is the most secretive politician in history. McKay pulls out all the stops, with meta gags, blood-draining drama and broad re-telling of outrageous moments. Occasionally, it’s as if he’s spoofing the biopic genre itself. Christian Bale disappears into the role of Cheney, with exceptionally good makeup and the “he disappeared into the role” standard of greatness we’ve come to expect from Bale. Supporting players are also excellent across the board, but it’s Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, who nailed the character arc from braggadocio highs to dismissed lows, who seems to have been unfortunately left off Oscar’s ballot. More than any other film of his, Vice has Adam McKay’s thumbprint all over it, and the film is better for it. He even gives Cheney the last word, laying out exactly why he’s acted the way he has, for the betterment of America. Then he turns around and calls himself out for being liberal claptrap, so haters can’t even go after him for that. Get pissed if you want, but Vice is a masterpiece.
1. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR: Did I saw Hollywood was a bunch of franchise whores? Well, it doesn’t always work, but in Marvel’s case, their franchise design is succeeding unlike anything in the history of movies. I mean, to see Infinity War is to witness history! When will anything be pulled off so successfully as these twenty plus films Kevin Feige has orchestrated. I mean, Captain America alone, as a movie concept, should never work, now he’s been in seven major superhero movies! In Infinity War, Cap, Tony, Black Widow, Banner and Thor are scattered throughout the galaxy, but must come together with new allies like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther to take on Thanos, who wants to cleanse the universe of half its population. As with Captain America: Civil War, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely tell a sprawling story that gives all members of its massive hero roster of TWENTY-FIVE weight and something important to do. I can’t help but bring up DC when I talk about Marvel, but The Flash didn’t do much of anything and the Justice League script only had to juggle five heroes. This franchise also continues to authentically raise stakes among the characters and have them MEAN something. There’s importance and sacrifice surrounding many of their decisions and under the direction of Joe & Anthony Russo, the moments don’t fall flat, they never seem hokey or forced. The hero moments pile up and go through the roof and in terms of a villain, The MCU has never had one as good as Thanos (Josh Brolin). In 2018, between Thanos and Eric Killmonger, Marvel has solved its villain problem. It was a matter or time before Marvel and Pixar topped my list. Inside Out put Pixar on top a few years back, and now Infinity War puts Marvel on top this year. This is crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster material of the highest order. If they gave Peter Jackson an Oscar for making three Lord of the Rings movies, I don’t see how you can deny Marvel a gold statue for its achievement as it approaches two dozen. And that many movies in, Infinity War is one of the best?! That’s impressive as hell and the sequel has a lot to live up to.
FREE SOLO – The most eccentric and enjoyable main character of a doc since Man on Wire with vertigo-inducing filmmaking.
CREED II – Talk about “old school” filmmaking. This is Hollywood entertainment operating full tilt.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS – I can’t even with the story of these triplets who meet as adults. You couldn’t make up a story like this.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – Right now, I’m binging Game of Thrones. When Mary came back to take Scotland’s rule from Queen Elizabeth, it was Game of Thrones in real life.
FIRST MAN – Damien Chazelle proves he doesn’t need a musical story or his signature showy filmmaking style to succeed at keeping my attention.
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD: Mishandled history of the Wizarding World delivered as a whole bunch of “who cares?” First Potterverse film I wanted to walk out of.
SUSPIRIA: Weird and bizarre for weird and bizarre’s sake.
NIGHT SCHOOL: Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart lookin’ DESPERATE. There are NO laughs in this movie.
VENOM: It’s Marvel, but the opposite of the MCU – slapdash, noisy and it ends with a bunch of CGI ridiculousness. That’s DC’s job.
RAMPAGE: A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
LIFE OF THE PARTY and THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS: Filmmakers are making the mistake of asking our great comic actors to just “be funny” in their movie. They instead need to have a funny movie for them to be in.
(Full Disclosure – I haven’t seen If Beale Street Could Talk, At Eternity’s Gate, RBG, Marai, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, Never Look Away, Hale County This Morning, Capernaum, Shoplifters and Border plus all the shorts except Bao – just so you now where I’m coming from. This, as ever, is the product of the industry’s practice of backloading the year. Most of the award contenders come out within a couple weeks of year’s end and we have about a month and a half to scramble our schedule’s together to see everything and it’s near impossible. I can only imagine regular people, you know, people NOT nuts about movies, have no clue about half of these films let alone have found time to try and see them.)
Before we get too far into The Academy Awards, I want to give out The 2018 SNUBBIES! This is my list of films, actors, etc. that could easily win an Oscar, but none of them were even nominated! Imagine if you woke up Monday, and here were your Oscar winners:
PICTURE: Eighth Grade
ACTOR: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
ACTRESS: Saoirse Ronin, Mary Queen of Scots
SUPP. ACTOR: Lucas Hedges, Ben is Back
SUPP. ACTRESS: Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots
DIRECTOR: Joe & Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War
ORIGINAL SCRIPT: Isle of Dogs
ADAPTED SCRIPT: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
DOCUMENTARY: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
COSTUME DESIGN: Crazy Rich Asians
If you saw that list you’d probably sleep OK, yeah? I love the idea of two animated films winning the script categories, but no nominations among all the above. I did have a weird feeling mid-January. I was looking forward to seeing all the potential award-winning films. Then I realized…I had already seen most of them. Maybe not such an embarrassment of riches this year. But highlights were plenty. Let’s get to them!
A Star Is Born
Glaring Omission: As ever, two more nominees. Ever since what I’m calling The Dark Knight rule that bumped up the number of nominees past five, they’ve allowed up to ten. You’d think, after making room for big box office hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born and Black Panther, they’d want a few more prestige projects like If Beale Street Could Talk or Cold War.
Runners-Up: Take a look at my top ten and you’ll see I’d add Avengers: Infinity War, Isle of Dogs, 22 July and right on down the list. To make room, I’d dump A Star Is Born, the worst nominee in the list. Many, many times in that film, people just aren’t saying and doing things people would do. They’d do them in a movie, but half that film didn’t play authentically for me. And the big spoiler ending wasn’t justified for me at all. Seemed like something they wanted to do ‘cause it happened in previous A Star Is Borns, but it didn’t feel earned here. Roma was the work of a great filmmaker that I just couldn’t wrap my heart around. Dump that, too and you could squeeze Spider-verse in there, a much more adventurous and exciting film.
Great Inclusion: Black Panther. Marvel was due, their ongoing excellence can’t be denied, but with Spider-verseand Infinity War, Black Panther isn’t even the second best superhero film of the year.
Should Win: Vice. The winner will be another movie that is director-driven, but this one pulsates where Romaplays out more like it’s important to Alfonso Cuarón and that’s about it.
Will Win: Roma. The Academy voters will send a message to the public that they went to film appreciation classes.
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Glaring Omission: Ethan Hawke in First Reformed. This movie is all about Hawke and he delivers, but I guess the “indie outsider” vote already went to Dafoe. Also thought John C. Reilly in Stan & Olliehad enough pre-Oscars love to find a nod here as well, but I guess the “guy in makeup” vote already went to Bale.
Runners-Up: Michael B. Jordan in Creed II. He was great in Creed and more was asked of him in the sequel. One of our best young actors.
Great Inclusion: Viggo Mortensen. There was some mock outrage about him saying The N Word at a Green BookQ&A. I know John Mullaney’s bit that it’s such a bad word that you can’t even say it when referring to it (we call it “The N Word”!), but in context of describing the racist south, I don’t think this was as bad a crime as Twitter would lead you to believe. I’m glad social media noise didn’t sink his nomination.
Should Win: Rami Malek, barely beating out Bale, who’s excellent.
Will Win: Malek. He’s won all but a few awards leading up to The Oscars.
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Glaring Omission: Emily Blunt! She had two shots, and even won the SAG award for A Quiet Place, but couldn’t land a nomination. Cast her in your movie and it’s a slam dunk, she was great in A Quiet Place. She’ll be back. I also thought Nicole Kidman had a shot with Destroyer. She went all-out as the burnt out cop, but I thought she “put on” more so than “took on” the performance. Also, there was fringe chatter about Toni Collette in Hereditary. I hated that movie, it just went mental at the end. Collette was committed, I’ll give her that, but to what end?
Runners-Up: SO MANY, impossible to nominate them all. What a great year for female performances. Let’s run through them.
– Margot Robbie got a handful of award nominations leading up to The Oscars for her role in Mary Queen of Scots. I saw the film in late January and was more blown away by Saoirse Ronin! She will also be back because Saoirse takes roles, chews ‘em up and spits ‘em out. What a force to be reckoned with in that movie.
– Julia Roberts in Ben is Back. 2018 proved that Julia and fellow leading lady Sandra Bullock (Bird Box) can transition successfully into Tiger moms. Julia was in the better movie and she owned the desperation of her role as a mom trying desperately to reach her addict son.
– Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade. We all know a Kayla or perhaps WERE a Kayla. Fisher embodied it and gave a performance beyond her years.
– Kathryn Hahn in Private Life. This is the opposite – NO one is talking about Hahn’s funny/dramatic turn as a wannabe mother. People SHOULD be talking! She’s one of our funniest actresses and she brings real pain and stakes to her role, but perhaps it being buried on Netflix kept us from talking about it.
– And Blunt in A Quiet Place is certainly a runner-up, but SAG gave her a supporting award. Weird.
Great Inclusion: McCarthy. Great performance, but I was concerned it might be dismissed for more “serious” films.
Should Win: McCarthy, the most fiery part with REAL emotional weight and palpable loss. Again, It’s a miracle (and the miracle is HERS) that we stick with her through all her bad decisions.
Will Win: Close, beating out Lady Gaga. They’ve both won multiple awards and even TIED at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but Close has been her namesake so many times, she’s due. But good news, she’s also great in The Wife, so she’ll earn it, not just get the career award.
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Glaring Omission: Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy. This film was trying for me. The battle of the my-kid’s-strung-out-on-drugs movies was won by Ben is Back in my book because there was a mystery in the middle of that film. Beautiful Boy was repetitive and wore on me as I cared less and less about the characters. But…Chalamet proved his mettle with Call Me By Your Name and popped up on many pre-Oscar nomination lists, but no Golden Boy.
Runners-Up: Steve Carell in Vice. Rockwell was great (he always is), but playing Rumsfeld required more nuance, which Carell delivered. Also, if you see 22 July…wait, WHEN you see 22 July, you won’t forget Anders Danielsen Lie’s performance. Unforgettable to me = nomination.
Great Inclusion: Richard E. Grant. What a great cap to a project that saw his welcome return to the limelight.
Should Win: Mahershala Ali
Will Win: Ali, in a role that could just as easily be Best Actor. What a couple of years for Ali, popping up everywhere and killing it!
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Glaring Omission: Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots, turning a 180 from her all-stops-out performance as Tonya Harding to play regal and reserved quite effectively.
Runners-Up: Ryan Gosling always treads the line of being so minimal, people could find him boring (see Blade Runner 2049). Having Claire Foy be so vibrant across from him in First Man helped the film, and helped her to a few pre-Oscar nominations. Between this and Netflix’s The Crown, she’s made a name for herself in the last few years.
Great Inclusion: Marina de Tavira. Roma won’t get a lot of love from me in these pages, but the actors are quite powerful. This whole category should get a shake-up anyway because I believe Olivia Colman was a supporting character while Stone and Weisz were leads in The Favourite. Move everyone around make room for Robbie.
Should Win: I have no Favourite here, but always, always, ALWAYS like Amy Adams in everything.
Will Win: Regina King. Not gonna bet against the winner of the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Glaring Omission: As with Best Picture – three more nominees! You nominate eight films for Best Picture, but the directors weren’t part of making them nomination-worthy? I bring this up every year, but Rob Reiner, when denied a nomination for A Few Good Men, which otherwise had seven nominations, said they should do away with Best Director and when a film wins Best Picture, give a statue to the producer and give another to the director. But I’m the DGA will have something to say about that. So, here we are where Bradley Cooper’s been shut out, despite A Star Is Born getting seven nods. That’s a glaring omission. I’m more upset that the lame-o script was nominated over Cooper’s direction. More bogus is Peter Farrelly’s exclusion, but at least they’ve both been nominated in other categories.
Runners-Up: Joe and Anthony Russo. All they did was tie together nineteen movies and twenty-five plus characters whose plotlines have been intersecting for ten years. THAT’S ALL. And they directed Josh Brolin and the effects team to a mighty difficult performance. Oh, and pretty much every time he makes a movie, you need to nominate Paul Greengrass for his top-to-bottom technical and emotional expertise.
Great Inclusion: Spike Lee! Finally nominated and for a decidedly SPIKE movie, not some director-for-hire project.
Lousy Inclusion: Had to create a category here to take a crap on Cold War. What a pointless exercise in dreariness full of characters who never choose to make themselves happy in a story where they act in ways that seem instigated solely by the fact that they’re in a foreign language film. So many more projects overflowing with creativity and energy should’ve been rewarded with Best Director here (see animated films below).
Should Win: Adam McKay, in the battle of the director-led films, he took more risks…
Will Win: …but they’ll give it to Cuarón because they’ll feel like they did something artsy.
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Glaring Omission: Sorry, can’t think of one. This category is stacked. Haven’t seen Mirai, but I’m sure it’s better than Sherlock Gnomes. Could you nominate Ready Player One here? Feels like you could…
Runners-Up: Nope. Nothing. Great category.
Great Inclusion: Even Ralph Breaks the Internet is great! So much story there with a boat-load of references. Blink and you miss ‘em ‘cause they’re ALSO piling on the heart. And Incredibles 2, I mean…it’s Pixar.
Should Win: Isle of Dogs, if you go by my top ten of the year, but there’s no loser here…
Will Win: …however, Into the Spider-verse has been winning a lot up to now, including the Annie Awards, given out by the animation community.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
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, Will Fetters
Glaring Omission: Nothing too glaring, maybe Black Panther? Again, the film was worth a nomination, but not because of the script? (or director?)
Runners-Up: Josh Singer for First Man, maybe? All Singer, the writer of The Post and Spotlight, does is get award nominations, why not this?
Great Inclusion: Can You Ever Forgive Me? Why?…
Should Win: …’cause I think it should win! Without the eclectic or showy direction of something like BlacKkKlansman or Buster Scruggs, Can You Ever Forgive Me? relies wholeheartedly on the script, and it just won the WGA award in an upset, so this category just got interesting…
Will Win: Yes, interesting! I’ve no idea, although If Beale Street Could Talk had momentum until those WGA awards. Now what are we left to predict?
The Favourite, Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay
Glaring Omission: Eighth Grade!! Jokes on you, Academy, this was ANOTHER WGA Awards upset. Eighth Grade and Bo Burnham stole the award out from under Cuarón AND Green Book, which won the Golden Globe.
Runners-Up: Isle of Dogs. I repeat – this movie is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Also 22 July. That script percolates just as much as Paul Greengrass’ signature filmmaking. The Death of Stalin should also win an award just for being a thing.
Great Inclusion: Paul Schrader getting his FIRST career Oscar nomination for First Reformed. Can you believe that hasn’t happened previously?
Should Win: As much as I loved how much was packed into Vice, that movie covered more ground than A Star Is Born, but for some reason, A Star Is Born felt like it was rushing, I gotta go with Green Book’s script efficiency. Scene to scene, there’s an economy to it that assists in the movie’s likability.
Will Win: If Roma wins Best Picture, which I’m predicting, then this is where thy give out the award not to the Best Picture, but instead to the movie everybody liked, so I’m predicting Green Book wins for script.
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique
Glaring Omission: Nothing from the nerd world, this is a mostly-prestigious list of films. Something like Bad Times at The El Royale could slipped in here with its bold use of that old Cinemascope look and wild color palettes.
Runners-Up: There’s a lot of posturing (good and bad) in the cinematography here. The more risky, quick and dangerous shooting belonged to Vice and 22 July, definitely runners-up.
Great Inclusion: You gotta hand it to Cuarón for standing by his long…..long….choices.
Should Win: Man, I don’t love any of these as much as Vice or 22 July, but maybe Roma? There was a turning-the-pages-of-my-childhood-photo-album feel to his slow pans.
Will Win: Roma
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Glaring Omission: What a great year for docs! Perhaps one of the biggest omissions in any category is not including Won’t You Be My Neighbor? here. Maybe it’s because there was no warts-and-all to Fred Rogers? He was just a decent guy and this film covered that? Without argument and drama, it doesn’t win? Not sure why former winner Morgan Neville was snubbed, but then again, I haven’t seen most of these nominees to make an educated guess. Also, Three Identical Strangers is totally bananas. What a story and they guys telling it are a trip. RGB better be more than a CNN-type account of her life if it’s nominated over Three Identical Strangers.
Runners-Up: Hal. This doc about acclaimed and eccentric filmmaker Hal Ashby is a great man-against-the-studio doc. There were plenty of docs about artists, which I always find inspiring, including Every Act of Life, about writer Terrence McNally and Love, Gilda. How had we not had a definitive doc about Gilda Radner until now?
Great Inclusion: Free Solo, ‘cause it’s the one I saw…
Should Win: Free Solo, for the same reason
Will Win: Tough call for me in an undereducated category. Free Solo was really, really good and they wisely included the making of this doc about a man climbing El Capitan without tethers in the doc itself, because cameramen hanging off of the side of El Cap is CRAZY and you feel it on the big screen.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Glaring Omission: Again, I’m underversed here. These seem like the award frontrunners and the other ones I’ve heard of a lot during awards season.
Lousy Inclusion: Cold War sucks.
Should Win: Roma
Will Win: Ah, now this is where it gets interesting. Is Roma NOT locked into Best Picture if it wins here? It could pull a Life is Beautiful and take itself out of the Best Picture running by winning Best Foreign Language Film. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did the same thing. So, I’m still gonna predict Roma wins here, but now second guess my pick for Best Picture…
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin
Glaring Omission: I don’t know who would find this “glaring”, but that 22 July editing is some masterstroke, fast and furious, Greengrass style, and you never lose focus.
Runners-Up: Creed II. Isn’t it required that a boxing film get an editing nomination? Also, Avengers: Infinity War. The editing has to be a major reason why that film is a masterpiece instead of a noisy mess…!
Great Inclusion: John Ottman for Bohemian Rhapsody. Full disclosure, I’ve probed more into the editing of this film than any other of the nominees ‘cause we interviewed Ottman on The Movie Guys podcast. Great stories about how much he had to work after Bryan Singer exited the project. Plus, any tech element involved in that Live Aid finale should win something! And the production design and costumes weren’t even nominated?! We’ll get to that…
Should Win: After all that, gotta go Vice, though. McKay asked a lot of his visual team and they delivered big time.
Will Win: Ottman took home the Editor’s Guild award, so he really has a shot!
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay
Glaring Omission: Animated films. Every year I say this, but I’m shocked at how few animated films are nominated in a category awarding creation of dialogue and sound effects elements.
Runners-Up: Ready Player One, a damn-near animated movie that looked like it had a monstrous post session for audio.
Great Inclusion: Black Panther. Points to Ryan Coogler and Marvel for bringing in the legend Ben Burtt. Also, First Man. The audio was half the reason I crapped my pants when Neil Armstrong went to the moon in that rickety 1960’s rocket.
Should Win: Great category. So much to choose from. I’m gonna go with A Quiet Place. They delivered on their promise to play the audio game for thrills and it worked.
Will Win: I think Bohemian Rhapsody eeks out a win against A Quiet Place and First Man. Queen always sounded good and this film gave them larger than life sound once again.
A Star Is Born
Glaring Omission: A Quiet Place. They created great sound elements but failed to mix them together effectively? No.
Runners-Up: Creed II. Every punch from Viktor Drago felt like it crushed my chest.
Great Inclusion: Well, if you’re going to bump A Quiet Place, that concert sequence that welcomes us to the world of Jackson Maine is quite the contender to do it.
Should Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Will Win: Same, but Roma could steal both sound categories.
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler
First Man, Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez
Glaring Omission: Bohemian Rhapsody, not just for re-creation of time and place but for f-ing LIVE AID!!
Runners-Up: Crazy Rich Asians. I had no doubt they were crazy rich.
Great Inclusion: First Man. I’m a big Damien Chazelle fan. I would love it if he could keep a streak going where every film he makes wins at least one Oscar.
Should Win: Gonna go Black Panther here, just to ensure that, at least at the Paul Preston Awards, the superhero genre has been awarded.
Will Win: Unlike the Best Costumes Oscar, fantasy is awarded here more often than history, so I’m gonna say Panther here, too.
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Glaring Omission: Justin Hurwitz for First Man. He won the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe and he’s not even nominated here? He should win just for doing a very effective score that’s not jazz-related!
Runners-Up: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. What an eclectic and fun score. Shame not to nominate it.
Great Inclusion: Terence Blanchard. All these names popping up for nominations for BlacKkKlansman are the same names Spike Lee’s been working with for thirty years. And they’re as good as ever.
Should Win: Isle of Dogs. Desplat has had a long and varied career, but I don’t think I’ve heard him crank out Asian-themed tracks like these before. Apparently, he can do anything.
Will Win: Hurwitz was the front-runner. Without him in the mix, it’s a toss-up. I’m gonna lean towards Mary Poppins Returns.
“All The Stars” from Black Panther by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from RBG by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Glaring Omission: “Love Theme from VENOM”! OK, that’s not a thing, but it should be.
Runners-Up: This year’s crop of songs at the end credits of a movie that are pointless were more vapid than usual. I got nothing except maybe another song from A Star Is Born. “Maybe it’s Time” is great. The Jason Isbell, Lukas Nelson, Mark Ronson collaborations with the film’s stars were the highlight of the movie for me.
Great Inclusion: That Buster Scruggs song. Just odd. Can’t wait to see it performed live at The Oscars.
Should Win: “Shallow”
Will Win: “Shallow”. It ebbs and flows, it demands your attention. Great song.
MAKEUP AND HAIR:
Mary Queen of Scots
Glaring Omission: Stan & Ollie. I thought John C. Reilly was well-transformed into Oliver Hardy. Why not five nominees. Always curious about that with no answer.
Runners-Up: Destroyer, for making with the ugly Nicole Kidman. The downside is I think she used that look to act more than she used herself.
Great Inclusion: Vice. The world said, “THAT’s Christian Bale?”
Should Win: Vice
Will Win: Vice
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne
Glaring Omission: Bohemian Rhapsody, for those awesome ‘70s duds.
Runners-Up: Crazy Rich Asians, in my on-going quest to see that modern films get just as much recognition for their wardrobe as fantasy and period pieces.
Great Inclusion: Black Panther. Remember how the internet blew up when the cast showed up at the film’s premiere in their Wakanda outfits? Stellar.
Should Win: Black Panther. Let’s do this!
Will Win: The Favourite, because it’s a period piece.
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Glaring Omission: Bohemian Rhapsody. That scene was filmed AT Live Aid, right? Right?
Runners-Up: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The volcano explosion sequence is one of the action sequences of the year.
Great Inclusion: Yay! Infinity War! Underappreciated overall, but I’ll take it. Plus, Christopher Robin. I wish I liked this movie more, but there’s no doubt Pooh and friends were among us in that film.
Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War, for completely making us forget we were traversing the universe. That was accomplished seamlessly. These movies never win, though. The Harry Potter films, Pirates of the Caribbean, the big franchises never win.
Will Win: With that, I’m going with First Man.
Here are your Short film nominees. Didn’t get to see any of them, and I’m not happy about it.
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden, David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi
Best Live Action Short Film:
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv
With different winners in every awards night up to The Oscars, it’s going to be a competitive night. Good luck on your pool. Bohemian Rhapsody won the Golden Globe. So did Roma, but Black Panther took SAG’s main prize and the WGA went to Can You Ever Forgive Me?…so grab the popcorn and I’ll watch with you. Sunday, Feb. 24th!