The 2019 Oscars nominations are here! I’ve read through the noms, and I’m thrilled to see films like Black Panther and Roma at the top of the pack. Hopefully, this bodes well for awards night. However, there are some other films that could have things all wrapped up. Let’s get into it.
Throughout the entirety of the Oscars broadcast, there are only four films I’m rooting for hardcore: Black Panther, Roma, If Beale Street Could Talk, Hale County This Morning This Evening, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
There are some films I haven’t had a chance to see, like The Favourite. I heard that it’s a good film, but I’m not sure if it’s a limited release movie, and limited releases don’t usually come to Alabama, unfortunately. There are other films that I have seen, like BlacKkKlansman, that I’m not jazzed about seeing nominated for Best Picture. I’ll get into why in the “Oscars Fears” section.
However, the films I am rooting for are films that I feel exemplify what make great movie-going experiences. There’s always an argument about “high” and “low” art; should blockbusters be considered Oscar material? Are period pieces automatically worth awards? The Oscars themselves aggravated the conversation by trying to make “Best Popular Film” happen, a proposed category that serves no purpose except to be a “Best Picture” redundancy. It was the “Separate But Equal” of movie awards categories.
However, I feel like these films, Black Panther and Spider-Verse especially, showcase how a great film, one that provokes the mind and heart, can also be a crowdpleaser. Even something more “highbrow” like Roma aims to hit at the core essence of people’s emotions and show how everyone faces similar trials in life. In short, these films show humanity in beautiful, honest, and surprising ways.
Roma is such a surreal, gentle dreamscape of a film that I would love for it to get the Best Picture award, or at the very least Best Foreign Film. However, it’s tied with Black Panther for me. For me, Black Panther was the film of 2018. It was such a huge success, domestically and internationally (for the most part), and most importantly, it spawned some amazing conversations about the interconnectedness of the black diaspora. These talks even continued in countries such as Korea, where Chadwick Boseman was responding to questions about Martin Luther King, Malcom X by invoking Frantz Fanon and other black thought talking points such as the longstanding effects of colonialism.
Black Panther started some serious talks, helped STEM students get support, and more. It became more than film; it became a movement. For me, its cultural importance makes it worthy of getting the Best Picture award.
And on a related note, Hale County is one of the rare moments I can have state pride as a black Alabamian. My mom grew up in Hale County, and I still have family down there, so I gotta rep the film as much as I can.
Now, of course, there are hopes, and then there are definite, definite things I’m dreading could happen (and knowing Hollywood, have a huge possibility of happening).
The big things people are going to watch are how well Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, A Star Is Born and Vice will do. There’s a contingent that, of course, want these films to do well. But there’s an even larger contingent that don’t want these films to do well at all.
Some of the reasoning is just a feeling of overkill, particularly when it comes to A Star Is Born. Personally, I feel like I can root for Lady Gaga better now that she’s come out with an apology for all of the R. Kelly stuff and has pulled her duet with him from the internet. But I almost don’t want the film to win just because it’s been forced down our throats the same way Les Misérables was.
As far as films go, though, it’s been well-regarded by the critics overall, with Rotten Tomatoes writing, “With appealing leads, deft direction, and an affecting love story, A Star Is Born is a remake done right–and a reminder that some stories can be just as effective in the retelling.” And everyone’s happily discussing how great of a directorial debut Bradley Cooper’s had. In fact, his directorial debut is one thing that could give his film the edge in the Oscars run. The Academy loves giving certain actors-turned-directors (like Ben Affleck) the Oscars knighthood into the rarefied Oscars-nominated director club.
I actually like Bradley Cooper and I want to support Willam and Shangela, who were a part of this film, so I’m of a mixed mind on this film. However, I’m not of mixed mind when it comes to Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book. At this point, I’m sick to death of hearing about Green Book over all other films of the 2018-2019 season. I’m more sensitive to this film because I work at Shadow and Act, and we’ve been covering this film almost non-stop. I’d recommend you look at our coverage, which includes an interview with Dr. Don Shirley’s family, who condemned this film (but are proud of Mahershala Ali for doing what he could do with what he was given).
But to sum everything up: the Shirley family hates how the film rewrote Dr. Shirley’s life, Viggo Mortensen has put his foot in his mouth by saying the N-word at a panel (which he later apologized for) and by alluding to the Shirley family not knowing anything about their own family member. On top of all of that, Nick Vallelonga, the writer of the film and son of Tony Vallelonga (portrayed by Mortensen) has been accused of having anti-Muslim sentiment. It’s a lot of controversy going on with this film.
Similarly, there’s tons of controversy regarding Bohemian Rhapsody. First, the film has been accused of straightwashing by erasing or rewriting how Freddie Mercury lived as a bisexual man. Second, the film reportedly changed the order of events in Mercury’s life; the big ending scene, the Live Aid concert, is made to seem like a big coming-together moment for the band, who had broken up by that time. It was also showcased as a way for Mercury to open up about his HIV diagnosis, which, by the film’s logic, he’d received well in advance before the Live Aid concert.
However, according to Rolling Stone, not only had Queen never broken up, but Mercury didn’t know about his status during the Live Aid concert. According to the factchecking article, Mercury probably found out about his status between 1986 and 1987. The Live Aid concert happened in 1985.
This isn’t even getting into the fact that the film’s director credit still goes to Bryan Singer, who is an alleged sexual predator. I covered this during my Golden Globes post, but I’ve been having some problems with my feelings over this movie. Of course, I’m against Singer getting anything for this film. Thankfully, he wasn’t nominated in the Best Director category. But I definitely don’t want him to get a Best Picture Oscar for this. But even beyond him, I don’t really want this film to win regardless because it’s….messy. It pains me, since Rami Malek deserves the world, and Hollywood refuses to let him be perpetually great.
HOWEVER, there’s a lot that we could talk about regarding his (and the crew’s) lack of a response regarding Singer’s allegations. I mean, their lack of response is a response, since they were actively acting like Singer never existed. They are trying to make a statement about how they don’t stand for him by not talking about him. But couldn’t a stronger response have been…talking about it? Just my thought.
BlacKkKlansman is a film that is kinda on the same plane as Green Book in the sense that both are stories that center whiteness in a very interesting way. And by “interesting,” I mean “expected.” Granted, BlacKkKlansman is entertaining, but I found it to a film that didn’t speak to me, a black person, at all. It was Race Relations 101 for folks who somehow missed every race relations talk in school or at work. It’s also a film that’s surprisingly pedestrian from the likes of Spike Lee, who is known for more hard-hitting stuff than this.
He’s also known for hating the systemic racism that is a part of the history of America’s police force, so it’s interesting he’d make a film that makes the racist police officer the cartoon instead of a problematic character who needs to be investigated by the story and audience. That’s pretty much my biggest issues with his film: the racist characters can still be written off by the audience as exceptions to the rule instead of the rule, a point Lee seemed to be making in earlier work.
I don’t know if I’ve made my point in this section at all, so here it is: I DON’T WANT THESE FILMS TO WIN BECAUSE THEY ANNOY ME. There, I said it.
With all of this said, my expectations are cautiously optimistic, but realistically low. Hollywood surprises me (i.e., Moonlight‘s win), but it also makes me mad more often than not. And seeing how the Academy is having starts and stops when it comes to changing their culture, I’d be shocked out of my clothes if Black Panther or Roma won Best Picture. I’d be equally as shocked if Green Book didn’t win Best Picture. Hollywood has been all up in Green Book‘s behind, praising it for its safe “white man learns black people are humans” storyline. It’s a storyline that’s been tried and true for decades now, and it’s a storyline white audiences love to digest for many, many reasons.
Ditto for BlacKkKlansman. Who is this film for? I guess it’s for someone, since it’s nominated, but it’s definitely not for me, or for a lot of people who already know what “passing” is (I couldn’t with that part of the film, when the dialogue literally stopped to explain what passing is as a racial protection mechanism). But it’s the type of film the Academy loves to award, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it won.
However, I’m rooting for the films I’ already focused on above. These films were part of the best of 2018, and I hope they get the shine they deserve.
What do you hope for with this year’s Oscars? Give your comments below. The Oscars air live on ABC Feb. 24 at 8/7c.