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4. Green Book
As seems to be the case with just about every Best Picture nominee in 2019, Green Book has become quite the source of division between the internet community, critics and enthusiasts alike.
The Oscar campaign for the film kicked off positively with the film receiving a host of early awards season wins and all the Oscars buzz that goes with it, but incredibly ill-informed comments from the screenwriter, the director and star Viggo Mortensen in the months that have followed have seen the film fall in the graces of just about everyone who had ever defended it. The picture, which has been judged to be white washing a Black American experience and is indisputably centred on Viggo Mortensen’s white character as opposed to the Best Actor nominee Mahershala Ali, was already a source of controversy before the comments but at this stage seems entirely out of the running.
Poorly informed comments aside, Green Book is a moving portrait of a developing platonic relationship between two entirely different people and is photographed with a class and sophistication in-keeping with some of the greatest Best Picture nominees of this century. Mortensen is simply sensational in his role as the brutish and racist Italian American at the film’s centre (characterisation controversy aside), while Mahershala Ali offers a phenomenal performance of class, sophistication and elegance as the real-life musician around whom the narrative of Mortensen’s character circulates.
Green Book looks and feels like an Oscars Best Picture nominee, but it relies too heavily on particular tropes and a whole heap of cliche to ever truly consider it to be in contention for the award. This is a well made film, but the intentions behind it are questionable and the comments of its creators even more so, placing it as high as number 4 based on the failings of its competitors more than its own successes.
If history was to repeat itself, BlackKklansman would not be director Spike Lee’s first Best Picture nomination, but given that it is, it’s truly one of the most hard to argue against in the entirety of the 2019 field of nominees.
The true story of a newly hired cop turned undercover investigator and his infiltration of the Klu Klux Klan seems to have hit the zeitgeist at just the right time and the content on offer in BlackKklansman freely alternates between Lee’s signature zest/comedic timing and moments of anxiety-inducing horror and pain that resonate long after the viewing experience has ended.
John David Washington, Adam Driver and Topher Grace are each fantastic in their roles, while the screenplay offers moments that bring laughs and tears in equal measure. The true selling point of BlackKklansman is, however, the direction. Spike Lee’s work moves freely between high concept art and simplistic, almost documentarian filmmaking, the visuals of the film being perhaps the most vital aspect of this film’s assembly and elevating already fantastic material to being one of the very best films of the year.
BlackKklansman would be a worthy winner of the Best Picture award in 2019, its spot at number 3 on this list coming via the slimmest of margins to the films that are to come. This is a fantastic, memorable, meaningful piece of cinema that struck just the right chord between accessible and challenging to become one of the most universally appreciated Spike Lee ventures yet and indisputably one of the very best Best Picture nominees at this year’s Oscars.
2. The Favourite
The Favourite is, pardon the pun, the favourite to many for the Best Picture nod at this year’s ceremony, and with good reason.
The Yorgos Lanthimos dark comedy period drama offers three stellar performances from three incredible female actors, has some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful set design, is paced to absolute perfection and features some of the best modern examples of silent cinema in-camera and editing techniques that has been on offer in Western cinema for a long time.
This difficult to conceive film about the three way personal and sexual relationship between real-life Queen Anne and her two closest confidantes was to live or die by how it walked the tight rope of its tone, but under the mindful ever-present guidance of its auteur director Lanthimos, managed to do so despite quite impossible odds, the outcome being something so sensationalist yet familiar to the Period Drama genre that the outcome was a classic in both regards.
Colman was the revelation that all who’d seen her television work had insisted she was capable of, while Stone and Weisz each offered their best borderline comedy performances each worthy of Supporting Actress recognition within themselves, meanwhile the script was sharp, witty and powerful, the cinematography at times breathtaking and the score among the very best the genre has produced in decades.
The Favourite began its journey as the off-kilter outsider for awards season attention but has slowly won over the minds of some of the most important people in Hollywood through its sheer class and brilliance. This is clearly one of the films of the year and only just misses out on the top spot in this list by the slimmest of margins owed to number one’s slowly accelerating twist of the heart strings…
It’s not very often that we are gifted the opportunity for a foreign language film to be represented to quite the level that Roma is at the Academy Awards in 2019, but thanks to Alfonso Cuaron’s phenomenal efforts as screenwriter, cinematographer and director, and Netflix’s financial plunge into the Oscars campaign race, the Mexican film about a member of the help has become one of the most talked about awards season movies of the lot; not least because it is, at times, simply breathtaking.
Debates rage around whether streamed movies are movies at all, and as such the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have maintained their stance on eligibility being earned through the exhibition of any film in at least two North American territories for at least 7 days in the year prior to their awards show. Roma was Netflix’s first real step back from their deep-rooted stance against exhibiting any of their releases, and this came in spite of the business’s ardent opposition to exhibiting Roma in France, thus causing the film to be banned from entering competition at the Cannes International Film Festival.
Yet, given its eligibility and subsequent nomination in the Best Picture category, Roma seems to be the quiet champion of a more traditional style of cinema merged with modern techniques and exhibition. In many respects Roma feels like the first true representative of the future of the film industry. This is despite how Cuaron and his team developed a film in Roma that was almost timeless in its appeal and presentation, so much of the piece being told through imagery and silence rather than more modern staples of dialogue and events. This was also so strongly reinforced by the film’s black and white colour palette which blurred all aspects of establishing an us and them or a then and now.
If we are to judge art as being instrumental to understanding the time in which it was made but also universal and timeless in terms of the story it’s telling, then Roma simply has to be the Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars.
This is bound to be a ranking that features a lot of opposition, especially from the more hardcore fans of the lower ranking movies, so if you are one of those people (or would just like to add your two cents) please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below!