Latest posts by makeitsnowondem (see all)
- Commentist Beer Barrel: Spoilers for Beer and Television – April 28, 2019
- Oscars 2019 Preview and Open Thread: We Got to Move These Acclaimed Motion Pictures. We Got to Move These Short Nominees. – February 24, 2019
- Oscars 2019 Preview: I Have Eaten The Polar Bears That Were In Your Ice Cap – February 23, 2019
Happy Oscar weekend! In past years, I know, I’ve spread this out a little more, but there were a few key films I had to go down to the wire to find time to watch. It’s honestly still looking questionable whether I’ll see everything on the list this year, thanks to a certain feature-length film that I’ll avoid naming until I know for certain it’s out of reach. But it’s only nominated for one award, so for now, we’ll soldier on. Here are your nominees for the art, technical, musical, and writing awards, and here also is what I think of them.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Mary, Queen of Scots
Will Win/Should Win: It has to be Vice, right? Vice is a lot like last year’s winner, Darkest Hour, in that its star (Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, this year’s Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill) is getting most of the attention, but it’s really managed a full-cast transformation, with Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, and more all nearly dead ringers for the real-life supporting characters they’re portraying.
Upset Special: All the same, this award can be pretty unpredictable, and the voters seemingly won’t rule any movie out. The category, after all, is the reason films like Jackass: Bad Grandpa and Suicide Squad can claim to be Academy Award winners. Mary, Queen of Scots‘ best work is on Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth, who starts out fashionably pale and ends up incredibly pale, with white makeup caked over convincing pox scars. Border features, basically, creature makeup, which I don’t want to say too much about for fear of spoiling the fun. I’d give Mary the better chance of surprising us here, if only because the category is called Makeup and Hairstyling, and Mary has a lot more of the latter than Border.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots
Will Win: Black Panther. The Favourite has all the ingredients of an Oscar favorite: Lavish 18th century gowns… well, that’s it, really. There’s just one ingredient for an Oscar costume design favorite. But while sci-fi costumes have, in my memory, usually played second fiddle during awards season (on the TV side of the Costume Designers Guild Awards, the science fiction category winner was the mostly western wardrobe of Westworld), if there was ever a year for them I think this is it. Black Panther is a deserving Best Picture nominee from top to bottom, its costumes are intricate and eye-catching, and designer Ruth E. Carter has a stellar resume that includes Selma, Amistad, Malcolm X, and not one Academy Award–yet.
Should Win/Upset Special: The less-heralded of this year’s two Sandy Powell films, Mary Poppins Returns. The Favourite may have had a higher degree of difficulty, but (maybe on account of my ADHD) I’ve got a slight preference for the bright, colorful, and clever designs of Mary Poppins. One particularly impressive sequence puts the characters inside a painting on a china bowl, donning outfits with painted-on accents, ruffles, and other details. Mary Poppins didn’t win anything at the CDGA, but as a 1930s piece with major fantasy elements and relatively little apparent interest in historical accuracy, it also wasn’t an ideal fit for any of that show’s categories.
Mary Poppins Returns
Will Win/Should Win: I don’t believe the other nominees can even touch The Favourite, which moves effortlessly from royal bedrooms and banquet halls so densely appointed that I worried a portrait or decoration would just fall out of the screen, to aggressively bare servants’ quarters, to the greenery of the royal shooting grounds and riding paths.
Upset Special: I dare anyone not to love the look of Black Panther, an Afro-futurist vision like we’ve never seen onscreen before. It’s the easy hedge bet, but what really intrigues me is First Man, which brings to the table possibly the best space program set design we’ve ever seen. Apollo 13 and Gravity both fell short here. Maybe First Man will finally bring the prize home to… uh… space, I guess. Or Cape Canaveral. I felt like I had something here.
A Quiet Place
Will Win/Should Win: First Man is a war movie hidden inside a space exploration movie, and it’s got the impressive and frequently harrowing sound work a great war movie demands. This is one of the hardest categories to call this year, and at least to my untrained ear every nominee has a nearly equal claim.
Upset Special: If we get the pleasant surprise of an Oscar win for A Quiet Place on Sunday, I want it remembered that I was too scared to predict it.
A Star Is Born
Will Win/Should Win: Bohemian Rhapsody. More than anywhere else, this is where the Queen biopic shines, and it never shines brighter than during the climactic Live Aid sequence. The way the band’s music is mixed with the crowd singing back at them is really powerful.
Upset Special: First Man‘s sound is often chaotic but never muddled or jumbled. I wish this movie had gotten more attention that wasn’t related to Ryan Gosling hating America, because it really is a fascinating and expertly crafted price-of-greatness story in much the same vein as Whiplash (or the more interesting parts of La La Land).
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
So I did eventually see Solo, and I thought it was an excellent Star Wars movie that, improbably for a Star Wars movie, didn’t get the hype it deserved. Alden Ehrenreich was clearly committed to recreating Harrison Ford’s inflection and mannerisms as much as he could, and the heist-movie of the structure of the thing worked spectacularly despite the film’s widely reported production woes. What “feels like Star Wars” and what doesn’t is different for everyone, but to me, Solo felt like a lot of the best parts of the series. It’s been a while since a movie in this franchise has been a runaway front-runner in the effects category, though, and Solo is probably not better than its competition here.
And while I’m on the subject of fanboy shit, I want to talk about Ready Player One, a movie I was fully prepared to hate. I described the movie’s introduction, as I was watching it, as “ten minutes of narration followed by seven minutes of no dialogue followed by five minutes of nerd reference dialogue.” The script’s a litany of name-drops of other people’s intellectual property, and yet, everyone involved in bringing it to the screen is trying so hard, and doing so well, that I can’t bring myself to dunk on it too hard. Spielberg might have been the ideal person to direct the thing, the cinematography and editing and world design are all on point, and while the movie’s younger stars won’t blow anyone away, Mark Rylance throws himself into the batty-inventor role with characteristically excellent results. I’ve watched much, much worse this year.
Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War pulls some of the best effects work from a Marvel franchise that’s put several nominees into the Visual Effects category over the years, and gets an enormous assist from Black Panther, which somehow didn’t qualify itself.
Should Win: Christopher Robin. Okay, not really. I just wanted to say, about Christopher Robin, that it’s the rare movie that gets much, much better in its second half. Christopher Robin starts out as a string of well-worn tropes about a man who’s grown up and forgotten the magic of childhood, and is also working too hard and disappointing his family. Once the cliches are out of the way, it turns infectiously fun, aided by some pretty great CGI character design. One for any kid who ever wished his stuffed animals would come to life, for sure.
Upset Special: Ready Player One. Yes, the effects are also very good. It has a genuine shot here.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns
Will Win: If Beale Street Could Talk is another criminally underrepresented movie in these awards, but Moonlight composer Nicholas Britell will get a second really good shot at the trophy on Sunday.
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman stood out most to me, though there are really no bad choices here.
Upset Special: Isle of Dogs. Composer Alexandre Desplat is coming off his second Oscar win, and his score does a lot to ground a film I thought was, overall, a little too arch and detached.
“All the Stars” from Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” from RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow” from A Star Is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Will Win: I don’t love it, but “Shallow” has already won a Grammy and has been locked in for this award since before the nominees were even announced. If it’s a key criterion that the song is integral to its movie’s story and/or message, then “Shallow” best satisfies that requirement, but the song’s never felt to me like it had any real momentum to it.
Should Win: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” is beautifully harmonized, as good a cowboy ballad as any of the classics, and thematically the perfect introduction to a movie that’s all about death.
Upset Special: I can’t count out “The Place Where Lost Things Go”, even if it might have been just my third favorite song in the movie (I’d have nominated “A Cover Is Not The Book”).
Never Look Away
A Star Is Born
I’m not sure that I fully picked up on the reasons for Never Look Away‘s inclusion during the three hours I spent watching it, but I did like the way it married imagery and theme as Manic Pixie Director of Photography Caleb Deschanel returned again and again to partially obscured point-of-view shots. A Star Is Born‘s concert scenes are good enough that I do understand why it was nominated, but a for what happens between the concerts, it’s… pretty uninspiring stuff, honestly.
Will Win: Roma. This is director Alfonso Cuarón’s first shot at handling his own photography, but you can’t tell. Some of his other movies (thinking particularly of Gravity and Children of Men) have been remarkable for high-wire feats of cinematography facilitated by frequent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki, but Cuarón’s own lens is relatively still, mostly only moving on a restrained, slow swivel. This turns out to be a blessing, as he’s able to bring out the details and use light, shadow, and especially reflection to great effect.
Should Win: The other black-and-white foreign film, Cold War. Cuarón’s camera work is objectively beautiful, but if I have a complaint, it’s that it doesn’t do his actors a lot of favors. The viewer’s physically removed so far from the action through so much of the film that it’s often difficult to get a read on the characters; when Cuarón gets in close, it seems like it’s as often on a disembodied pair of hand as on a face. For me, Cold War‘s Łukasz Żal strikes a better balance between perfectly composed imagery and up-close-and-personal emotional effect.
Upset Special: The trouble with The Favourite‘s cinematography, to me, is its inconsistency. If Robbie Ryan’s camera work reminds me of anything, it’s Vince Young. Ryan excels at making every single moment look as dramatic as possible, his work is positively breathtaking when he’s got the camera on the move, and when he stops and stands still for even a moment, the camera loses all normal sense of focus, looks in puzzling directions, and generally seems baffled about its purpose as a part of the overall production. All that said, it’s gorgeous enough frequently enough that I could see voters going for it.
Will Win: It’s shocking that Bohemian Rhapsody is even in this race, with the rapid, disorienting, and seemingly aimless editing that pervades the early part of the movie, and while I liked Vice well enough, I didn’t really love the way it was cut. Nevertheless, they’re the frontrunners here. Of the two, Rhapsody has the American Cinema Editors award under its belt but Vice is the less confusing watch and has way more nominations than I thought it would get. I’m calling it for Vice in what I suspect will be a very close decision.
Should Win: Conversely, it’s kind of hard to believe that Roma wasn’t nominated. But I promised myself I’d work with what I was given in every category (otherwise you’d have to read about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse here), and of the available choices, I’d have to give my vote to BlacKkKlansman.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman. I’m still struggling with BlacKkKlansman, because it’s good in almost every way in which a movie can be good, and that extends to its snappy dialogue and well-structured story. What bothers me is that it’s not a true story, not just in the sense that some of its details are embellished or plain made up (which they are), but because it just doesn’t accurately reflect the relationship of the Colorado Springs Police Department to the Colorado KKK at the time, or of law enforcement agencies generally to white supremacist organizations, generally. This is roughly Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley’s critique of the movie, and I recognize that it’s an intensely political one, but this is the one thing that keeps me from unreservedly adoring BlacKkKlansman: I do believe there are real social consequences for building police a largely unearned reputation for helping to fight racism, and I think the movie works, intentionally or not, toward exactly that.
Should Win/Upset Special: Can You Ever Forgive Me? This is just a much, much better field than Original Screenplay this year, and I could be very happy with James Baldwin adaptation Beale Street (I can’t be the only person here who keeps wanting to say Doug Baldwin, right?) or the Coens’ wild Western anthology Buster Scruggs. But Forgive Me outshines all of these; it’s a true crime story starring a smart and extremely difficult woman that blows 2017 adapted screenplay nominee Molly’s Game out of the water. The conversations between Lee Israel and her drinking buddy (and eventual partner in crime) are smart, but never self-consciously smart in the way Aaron Sorkin’s always are. The facts the movie is based on are absolutely bonkers, the sort of thing you’d be tempted to make a comedy of, but Forgive Me effortlessly finds the pathos in them.
Will Win: The Favourite, and it could be worse. Director Yorgos Lanthimos didn’t write this script, but like his other recent films, it’s sharp and twisted and dense with conflicts and ideas.
Should Win: First Reformed deserved so much better. One of the three best films of the year in my opinion, it’ll make its lone appearance Sunday in the usual place for underappreciated movies, the writing categories. I think “searing” is the most overused adjective in the entire universe of talking and writing about movies; it feels like both an over- and under-statement for this meditative but almost unbearably tense story, which asks very pointedly how we can live in a world that’s gone wrong, maybe irretrievably.
Upset Special: If Green Book pulls off an unexpected win, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m rioting.
make it snow is an alot of beer and extremely amateur movie watcher. He’s also got a 96-rated Madden Ultimate Team squad. Come back tomorrow for previews of the headline categories, plus documentary, animated, foreign language and short films, and our Academy Awards open thread.