Ranking the Oscars 2019 Best Picture Candidates

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One thing to clarify before I get going:

I have only seen six of the eight films nominated for Best Picture this year, with Vice and BlackKklansman being those out of the picture. I do not typically see every film nominated on a yearly basis, but I do try to watch as many as I can so long as they don’t feel like overinflated goop (interpret that as you may).

I have been following the Academy Awards for the past three years now, and by that I mean I actually care enough to look through those nominated and cry over horrible choices. Last year, I wrote my first of what I’ve decided (just now!) to be an annual piece for the blog on the Oscars, assuming I’m not dead by the next one. This year… well, I may be a lot more openly hostile with the choices the Academy has made with its Best Picture nominations, as I feel there are ulterior motives at play with the selections. With that, let us begin with the worst.

#6: Bohemian Rhapsody

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My Score: 5/10

Such a painfully average film. I like Queen a lot. I grew up with their music. This film does not even live up to the lower echelon of Queen’s music, and the outcry towards this film’s nomination for Best Picture has been rather loud ever since.

It would be very easy to assume that the only reason this film was nominated was because it was popular. Because the film calls back to a legendary performer and the band he created and audiences ate it up in celebratory triumph, reminiscing about the old days and letting nostalgia win. Under that guise is a really, really formulaic and poorly-scripted film.

Rami Malek is great as Freddie Mercury. The ending performance admittedly gave me goosebumps in an ending fitting for the rock n’ roll anthem that Queen embodied. Everything else, unfortunately, was as basic as a film can be in a biopic, with shoddy editing, undisciplined focus, and a tread of “The inevitable rise to inevitable downfall to inevitable rebirth” pathway that has been done far too many times.

The fact that this was nominated for Best Picture while films like HereditaryBlindspottingFirst Reformed, and Sorry To Bother You get passed over makes my blood boil.

#5: Black Panther

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My Score: 6/10

This film falls slightly within the same category as Bohemian Rhapsody, only with some alternating situations. Bohemian Rhapsody is generally being heralded by wider audiences, who watch movies to be entertained and have a good time and don’t necessarily care for the more creative aspects. Black Panther is being heralded mostly by “woke” individuals who honor it for its progressive presentation of African Americans in the leading role in a world of white-first Hollywood superstars and blockbusters. It is also generally accepted by wider audiences because it is a superhero movie and superhero movies tend to do well with wider audiences.

Despite this, Black Panther being nominated for Best Picture is a joke to those who aren’t enthralled by the progressive messages or the fact that it’s a superhero film. I’m slightly among the former, definitely so with the latter.

I saw Black Panther all the way back when it first released, making it one of two films nominated for Best Picture I saw prior to the announcement of the nominations (the other being Bohemian Rhapsody). At the time, I thought it was fairly good. I thought it was way too idealistic in its presentation, which wrapped everything up in a tiny bow and made its political sentiments seem like those opposed to it were evil and power-hungry, which certainly could alienate some. Some moments were impressive and heartfelt, even if the characters in those moments were a tad underdeveloped. I recall Black Panther’s female love interest being a complete waste of time and ironically within the artificial shell of “token female love interest” despite the other progressive themes.

I think as a film, it’s fine, but the very idea that this film, which those among the two groups I discussed above consider the most overhyped film in years, is nominated for Best Picture is kind of hilarious. It certainly doesn’t deserve it, as the four movies I mentioned with the spot for Bohemian Rhapsody are better than Black Panther, too. This film, however, at least isn’t painfully average. Just painfully overrated.

#4: Green Book

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My Score: 6/10

This film, like Bohemian Rhapsody, is also under a lot of fire for being nominated for Best Picture. Formulaic, cookie-cutter, and relatively tame, many hardcore film buffs are calling this an obligatory “Racism for Dummies” film for the borderline-racist general audience. While the film probably isn’t that harmful, it’s also true (in my opinion) that it is very formulaic and tame with its presentation of racism. Nothing one hasn’t read before in history books, while we have films like BlackKklansman that are going above and beyond to show how horrid racism was at one point.

Personally, I was enamored with it coming out of the theater, but time has not been kind to it. What was initially a 6.5 turned into a 6, with the realization that the movie is pretty forgettable compared to the myriad of other films who tread a similar path. What puts it above, however, is the relationship between the two lead characters, which I did find to be quite charming. The performances were very good and the film, in spurts, had some nice shots. Generally clean and bland, mind you, it contained some nice shots.

Putting this above Black Panther was kind of a tough choice, because I like both of them relatively the same, but for different reasons. They’re both also at risk for having their scores lowered just because I thought I liked them a little more based on fresh emotions rather than what they really meant to me as films. Whatever the case, Green Book is an above-average film with a lot of controversy around it—deservedly so, because this doesn’t deserve a Best Picture nod.

#3: Roma

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My Score: 7/10

Alright, now we can start taking this list seriously.

Roma was kind of an interesting watch for me, especially because I didn’t get it. There are a lot of things at play with this film—some of which include feminism, toxic masculinity, and strength within obscurity—that went through my eyes and into my brain, which promptly stamped it “Does not compute” and tossed it out through the ear canals. Every passing minute felt almost like a chore, with the continuous build-up to the bigger picture was met with crickets, at least at that point in time. I almost felt the film was aimless, if only because I couldn’t figure out what it wanted to say. Even without this, however, I know this movie is a good one.

On a technical scale, this movie is kind of amazing. For those who actually clicked the link below the Bohemian Rhapsody spot, they could see that a single scene spanning one minute of time had, like, thirty cuts back-and-forth from one face to another. It’s disorienting and hard to register. I’d be surprised if the entirety of Roma‘s 130 minutes had more than 100 cuts. Alfonso Cuarón has always been known for his long, heavily-detailed shots that require an incredible attention to detail, which is on full display here. It’s genuinely impressive, but unfortunately didn’t help much for my enjoyment of the film. The acting was splendid (though I didn’t care for the kids at first), the storyline was a little dull, but interesting to follow, and the impact of what I did manage to pick up offered enough of a boost to make me think, “Yeah, this is pretty good.”

I’ll be sure to re-watch this at some point in the future, but for now, it’s kind of a dull recommendation. I’m sure many cinephiles would have long arguments with me about its place on this list (as in not at #1 or #2), but I can’t bring myself to rate it any higher if I had a lot more boredom watching it than anything else, tragic as that may be. It is what it is.

#2: A Star Is Born

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My Score: 7.5/10

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The major criticism around A Star Is Born being nominated for Best Picture is that it’s formulaic and adds nothing new to the genre. Unlike the other films, however, this is usually regarded as a pretty good film despite the use of general story foundations.

I’ll be honest, when I saw this film’s trailer for the first time and saw that Bradley Cooper was the star and the director, I was hesitant. I remember the last film whose star was also the director being A Quiet Place, and that… yikes. I became very skeptical of the film, and finding out it was a remake of a remake of a remake probably would’ve made me more skeptical, but I didn’t learn of that until after seeing it. Speaking of after seeing it, it turned out really good!

I’m genuinely shocked over how much I liked it, because there was one part of the trailer which I thought was really cheesy and dumb and had poor acting. I had the idea in my head to see this when it initially released, but never found the motivation to see it. After being nominated for Best Picture, that interest was reborn, and I’m glad I decided to watch this over Vice. The musical performances were good, I actually empathized with the male lead over a number of issues he faced later on in the film (especially the treatment of his wife in the music industry), and there were many intimate moments I thought really impacted the inevitable ending. It was somewhat general, for sure, but I think the emotional “oomph” this film has makes it somewhat excusable.

Lady Gaga can fucking sing, too. Yowza.

#1: The Favourite

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My Score: 8.5/10

This might be the majority pick for what people think should win Best Picture, and I am in full agreement. While not quite as amazing as a lot of people make it to be, it’s definitely a great film and my clear… favourite to win Best Picture.

It’s witty, satirical, quirky, and devilishly cryptic, all of which makes for an amusing, impactful, and entertaining film. Of the films I watched in all of 2018 (and the head of 2019), this might be the film with the most going on in the foreground that’s not entirely clear. All of the performances are fantastic (everyone stans Olivia Colman; I stan Rachel Weisz), which definitely make all the weirder scenes all the better. In the shelf of Yorgos Lanthimos’s films, this is my favourite of his, which is always a lovely thing to have.

This should win Best Picture, and nothing else is really that close. In a year of really bizarre, weak choices, The Favourite stands atop the mountain of quality and should really, really, really win, because if any of the three films ranked below Roma win, I will probably lose my mind for twelve seconds and then go on with my life as if nothing happened. I’m a realist.

Have you seen any of the films nominated for Best Picture this year? If so, what did you think of them?

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

7 thoughts on “Ranking the Oscars 2019 Best Picture Candidates

  1. I haven’t been able to see a lot of movies this year and due to a kind gift from a friend I was able to watch Black Panther. Enjoyable? Yes. Oscar worthy? Um…
    Now I wish I’ve seen more and I really want to find the time to watch the top two at least.

  2. The only film in this list that I managed to watch last year was Roma and I found it painfully boring. I actually appreciate it the quality of the film but it absolutely isn’t my kind of story and the only reason I watched it at all was because I was staying with someone else who was utterly enthralled by it and it would have been rude to walk away. Of the others, I do want to see Bohemian Rhapsody at some point and I guess I’ll eventually find somewhere I can watch Black Panther though I’m very much over super hero films at this point and none that I’ve seen in the last two years have really turned out all that well for me.

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