For the past several years, my husband and I have made the effort to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture for the Oscars. In the menu are the years I’ve offered my thoughts. Below are this year’s current nominations that we’ve seen so far. Check back for updates before Feb. 24.
Bohemian Rhapsody: (4/5) A really good movie with (not surprisingly) excellent music. It’s worth seeing in the theater to enjoy the music in surround sound. Acting is good – very good at times – and there is more story line than you might expect. However, if on Feb. 24 this is my favorite for Best Picture, I’ll be disappointed. I understand why Rami Malek won the Golden Globe for best actor, but I don’t think he’ll be my pick. In reading some of the reviews, people who knew Freddie Mercury said that he nailed his performance. In a way, I think playing a real person handicaps an actor in that they have to try so hard to be that person that they lose the ability to truly act and make a character their own. Perhaps this forces a flatter performance.
BlackkKlansman: (4/5) A fantastic story with moments of really interesting cinematography. I love a richly layered drama, and this has it. Given the subject matter, I was expecting Spike Lee to push the envelope just a bit more, so I was surprised at how mainstream it felt. The scene of Ron and Patrice on the bridge in the woods is one of the most beautifully shot scenes I can remember in a while. I won’t be surprised if both Lee (Best Director) and Adam Driver (Supporting Actor) win for the categories they are nominated in. But again, I don’t think this is a Best Picture.
Vice: (2/5) Every year there is at least one movie where I leave the theater and think, “Really?” This comedy written to mimic a documentary falls short in most categories. Many viewers will forget the concession made at the very beginning – large parts of this are completely fabricated. As a comedy, I get that it isn’t trying to be subtle, but it is so left leaning that it’s awkward. I wouldn’t begrudge it a win for Makeup and Hairstyling – it shines in this area. And I have a personal bias for Amy Adams, so I’d be OK with her winning Supporting Actress. (The Academy snubbed her performance in Big Eyes – she won the Golden Globe – and missed giving her the statue for American Hustle, so she’s due.)
Green Book: (3.5/5) Another really good movie that has a great story line but that is tremendously underwhelming as an Oscar Best Picture nomination. This is another movie based on a true story, and I’m really feeling that being true to the actual events may be holding the overall movie back from being more powerful. Both men are also nominated for their roles in acting (Best Actor for Viggo Mortensen and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali). The nominations are warranted but they won’t be my picks to win. A solid movie – just not over the top like you’d expect a Best Picture to be.
Roma: (2.5/5) There is a story here, but clues to what it is only begin to come together in the last 45 minutes. This film, shot in black and white, depicts in stark realism one year from the life of a young domestic in 1971 Mexico, including the political unrest that erupts in the Corpus Christi massacre. I would liken the first half of the film to a text written in stream of consciousness where the only common thread seems to be the progression of life with the same characters in the same house. When the narrative conflicts finally converge, there is a decent message about what it means to be a family. However (and finally), this was a reminder that I may be too far gone from my days as a lit major since some of the more artistic aspects of the movie didn’t add to my appreciation but detracted from my enjoyment and the overall entertainment value.
Black Panther: (3/5) I should start by saying that I have never watched a super hero movie from start to finish. (I’m told Hancock doesn’t count.) Even in my reading choices, I steer away from fantasy. So, this genre of movie isn’t my favorite. Black Panther has many scenes that are visually stunning. We watched it at home but I can imagine that seeing it on the big screen is quite impressive. It has a noble (though predictable) story line featuring an archetype hero – the kind that would provide a good basis for teaching the formula. While the movie overall didn’t do much for me, there’s probably enough here to garner votes, and I won’t be surprised if this is the winner.
The Favourite: (1.5/5) Billed as a quirky period piece, I wanted (and tried) to like this one but just couldn’t. A story about power (and sometimes the related madness, jealousy and betrayal that accompany it – though none of these ideas held together very long), the writers picked an obscure queen as the subject and threw together a potpourri of heavy satire, weird cinematography (the fish-eye lens drove me nuts), and undeveloped characters. All for what? An “artsy” film? It just felt lazy. I like Emma Stone and the best thing I can say about this movie is she did a decent job at making one character less uninteresting than the rest.
A Star is Born: (3.25/5) It was good, but not great. The original music was excellent – Lady Gaga did what she does best, perform music, but nothing about her performance in this movie makes me think she can carry a 100% dramatic role. I’ll be pulling for Shallow to win best song. The plot skipped, and the ending was jarring – if there was foreshadowing to what happened, I missed it. This is a movie I probably would have enjoyed more had I seen it before it was nominated for Best Picture. Cooper was only OK – his character was flat. This wasn’t even close to as good as Walk the Line. Basically, another one that is fine as a nominee but should not go down in history as a Best Picture.