Every year, my fiancé and I host a small Oscars-themed party for our close family and friends. We enjoy the awards season as much as any tweet-worthy event in the dead of winter — from this year’s anti-climactic Super Bowl LIII to the surprising, if not quite thrilling twists and turns of the 76th Golden Globes Awards — but the Academy Awards are always a particular favorite for the competitive predictions and snarky commentary they inspire.
Still, despite my best efforts to sacrifice my Netflix backlog (with the noted exception of Roma, and to a lesser extent, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) for more celebrated cinema, I never seem to manage to tick more than 40% of the nominees off of my watch list — and this year’s group of 52 feature-length and short films is no exception.
It’s not all borne out of sheer laziness. True, I find myself gravitating more toward box office-busters (Avengers: Infinity War, The Incredibles 2, A Quiet Place) than Oscars bait (Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice) out of habit, but I also passed over a few strong contenders by deliberate choice. With the blossoming of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements over the last several years, I’ve tried to take a hard line on watching films that employ racist and/or sexist actors, directors, producers, etc.
Given how much goes on behind closed doors, I recognize that it’s a near-impossible standard to hold to, and one I’m sure I fail to meet on a continual basis. In those moments when choosing not to support a bullishly ableist actor or a sexual abuser or the viewpoint of a noted racist is as simple as skipping a night at the movies, however, I’m happy to do it.
Five favorites from the last year, in no particular order:
- A Star is Born (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography). A predictable tear-jerker and a gem of a remake. “Shallow” provides the haunting heartbeat for the film and is all but guaranteed a place among Oscar lore; whether the Academy chooses to validate Lady Gaga’s on-screen vulnerability as well as the brash theatricality of her on-stage persona remains to be seen.
- The Favourite (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress(es), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing). Perhaps the strangest period piece I’ve seen since Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2006, and far superior in humor and character development (or degeneration, as it were). The final frame, while mystifying, perfectly captures the bizarre, frenetic pulse of the film.
- The Wife (Best Actress). It’s a shame this wasn’t nominated for additional categories. I was on the edge of my seat throughout every present-day scene, though the frequent flashbacks failed to advance the story with similar conviction. Glenn Close’s restrained, calculating portrayal of Joan Castleman makes her an easy favorite for the category.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Best Animated Feature Film). It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen head over heels for a non-Disney animated film, but Into the Spider-Verse is visually and narratively flawless from start to finish — and far more deserving than Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph sequel and Pixar’s 14-year follow-up to the The Incredibles. I’d like to think it’d take top honors even in a non-sequel year from Disney.
- “Marguerite” (Best Live Action Short Film). This year’s pool of live action shorts was foreboding in theme and needlessly gratuitous in execution, as nearly all of them hinged on cruelty to (and sometimes at the hands of) children. “Marguerite” offered a refreshing break from the gore, and was movingly understated in its portrayal of love longed for and love lost.
I wish I could say there was one film I feel supremely confident about this year, but nothing has gripped me as strongly as, say, Best Picture nominees Lady Bird and Get Outdid in 2018… and even then, I was still terribly misguided in my ballot selections with a final score of 14/24. This time around, I’m not at all certain of my choices, so I won’t be leaning on my intuition quite as much as I try to defend my title in the annual ballot competition.
Here we go…
- Best Picture: Green Book
- Best Actor: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
- Best Actress: Glenn Close (The Wife)
- Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
- Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
- Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
- Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- Best Animated Short: “Bao”
- Best Adapted Screenplay: A Star Is Born
- Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite
- Best Cinematography: Roma
- Best Documentary Feature: RBG
- Best Documentary Short Subject: Black Sheep
- Best Live Action Short Film: “Marguerite”
- Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
- Best Film Editing: Vice
- Best Sound Editing: Black Panther
- Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
- Best Production Design: The Favourite
- Best Original Score: Black Panther
- Best Original Song: “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)
- Best Makeup and Hair: Vice
- Best Costume Design: The Favourite
- Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War