Posts Tagged ‘Roma’

Yes, it’s Sunday February 24 and I’m *just* now publishing my Oscar Picks, roughly 5 hours before the awards broadcasts begin.

I was very tempted to skip the whole exercise this year. It’s beginning to feel like The Oscars is actively daring us to not care anymore, and I believe that in the relatively short future the Academy Awards currency will collapse and it will join broadcast television in cultural irrelevance.

But we’re not *quite* they’re yet, and the Academy relented and put cinematography back into the broadcast categories. Plus, if I’m being honest, I kind of want to see if this whole no-host thing is a train wreck or not.

So maybe I’ll finally quit when they institute that ridiculous “popular film” award. Yikes.

Caveat number 1: I vote with my heart, not my head, which has made me a historically terrible predictor of Oscar success.

Caveat number 2: I always try to see every Best Picture nominee, but I did not end up watching “Green Book” prior to tonight’s broadcast. Take that as you will.

Caveat number 3: For reasons I don’t understand, FiveThirtyEight did not publish their data-based predictions, which I typically rely on for a second opinion.

Best Picture

Conventional wisdom says that the more nominations a film has, the more likely that film is to win Best Picture. And that rule seems like a good measuring stick for the 2019 cohort, with Roma and The Favourite tied with 10 nominations each.

And, as it turns out, those are my personal Top 1 and 2 films of the year, so I’m feeling a little pleased with myself.

But many of the professional forecasters have noted how 2019 is one of the most wide-open Oscar slates in recent memory, with legitimate odds for many, if not most, of the 8 Best Picture films to take a shot at the statuette.

I agree with that sentiment, and will feel a range of excited surprise (BlacKkKlansmen), ambivalence (Black Panther, Green Book) or crushing disappointment (Bohemian Rhapsody) if the other films take the prize, but still feel that this year’s race is either Roma’s or The Favourite’s to lose.

That said, Roma has a political edge to it that, given the circumstances of 2018-2019, could give it enough of an edge in the final count to overcome the forces working against it (more on that in a minute).

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite — Should win

Green Book

Roma — Will win

A Star Is Born

Vice

Actress in a Leading Role

Two big caveats for this category: I have see neither “The Wife” nor “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” But I’m fairly certain my prediction would be the same even if I had.

I’m on record as *loving* The Favourite, particularly due to its cast. While “Roma” is a Director’s movie, “The Favourite” is an actor’s movie, and Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is the secret ingredient that makes the whole sauce come together.

Simultaneously egomaniacal and heartbreakingly vulnerable, Colman’s performance is magnetic (Just thinking about her “Look at me! Look at me! HOW DARE YOU!” line makes me shake with laughter) and sets the tone for the rest of the surrealist antics in the film that would crumble under their own weight if not for the film’s steady protagonist.

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” — Should win — Will win

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Actor in a Leading Role

This year’s crop of lead actor nominees is terrible, and I feel like it’s necessary to talk about *how* something comes to be nominated for an Oscar.

While the entire Academy membership votes on the final winners, the various *branches* vote on the nominees. So the directors choose the directors, the writers choose the writers, the actors choose the actors.

That’s a problem, because the acting branch is the Academy’s largest, and they’re prone to certain, well, unfortunate tropes. In short: actors are obsessed with physical transformation and the result is glaringly apparent this year: All but 1 of the nominees are portraying a real-life/historical figure.

So is Bale’s impression of Dick Cheney better than Willem Dafoe’s impression of Vincent Van Gogh? I can tell you one thing for sure, I was much more impressed with Bradley Cooper doing his own vocals than Rami Malek’s lip-syncing performance that was 90 percent prosthetic teeth.

This category, bizarrely, comes down to the old guard vs the new guard, embodied in Viggo Mortensen’s homage to golden-age Oscar bait in “Green Book” versus Malek’s hipster-age feature-length Behind the Music.

I pick the latter, because I’m interested in what an Oscar can do to Malek’s career now that Mr. Robot is wrapping up. The Academy will pick the former.

Christian Bale, Vice

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody — Should (?) win

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book — Will win

Directing

Once again, this comes down to Roma versus The Favourite, and the clear winner is Alfonso Cuarón and his pain-stakingly detailed recreation of Mexico City circa 1970.

Now, when I say “clear winner,” I’m talking about my “should” designation. There’s still quite a bit of industry prejudice toward Netflix, seen as a lesser medium for screening capitol-F films.

That may well doom Cuarón, which would be a shame. I’ve got my quibbles with Netflix, but they made the right call investing in “Roma” and did right by the film, pouring a lot of resources into marketing and, likely, putting a black-and-white film about a Mexican domestic worker in front of more eyeballs than a traditional arthouse release would have.

BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee

Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski

The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón — Will win, Should win

Vice, Adam McKay

Actress in a Supporting Role

In what is the polar opposite of this year’s Best Actor category, Best Supporting Actress is the spoils of wealth. Every name on this list gave an Oscar-worthy performance (whatever that phrase even means any more) and particularly Regina King, in any other year, would be a breakout for her great work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

But in the end, the question isn’t whether The Favourite will win this category, the question is *which* of The Favourite’s two nominees will take home the statue.

Personally, my money is on Rachel Weisz, whose Lady Sarah is cunning, manipulative and dangerous but centered around a consistent core of moral principal that ultimately leaves her susceptible to the guerilla schemes of her competitor, Emma Stone’s Abigail.

Also, Weisz hasn’t won an Oscar since 2006, compared to 2017 for Stone.

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite” — Should win — Will win

Actor in a Supporting Role

This year’s category of the misfit toys features great performances by great actors, all of whom seem wrong to win the Oscar this year. Every nominee in this categories seems a little off, either because they’re the wrong actor to get the nomination (Adam Driver?) or because they so far been overshadowed on the awards circut by their costars (Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell).

I actually like the idea of an out-of-the-box win for either Sam Elliott or Richard E. Grant, which would help spread the gold around a little and recognize some clutch thespians who have been putting in some really good work in relatively thankless roles lately.

So flip a coin on this one, you’ll be in as strong a position as I am.

Mahershala Ali, Green Book — Will win

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born — Should win

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Documentary Feature

And now for a mea culpa: I should have waited until after I saw Mind The Gap before I wrote my Top 10, because it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. (It’s also currently available on Hulu — hint, hint, nudge, nudge)

This is a strong category this year, and in an alternate reality I could see Free Solo and RBG battling it out for the statute. But if anything other than Mind the Gap wins tonight, I riot.

Free Solo

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Minding the Gap — Should win — Will win

Of Fathers and Sons

RBG

Animated Feature

Black Panther made history for being the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture. That’s a great milestone, but it’s a *different* superhero that will earn the gold tonight.

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Mirai

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Should win — Will win

Odds and ends

I’m still smitten with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but I’m betting that adapted screenplay is where BlacKkKlansmen gets some much-deserved Oscar love.

Similarly, a lot of cinephile folk were irked that Ethan Hawke was left off the Actor’s list, and imagine that sympathy vote will propel First Reformed in the original screenplay category.

If by some chance Roma doesn’t get Best Picture, than look for it to pick up the best foreign language film award. Otherwise, that statute goes to Cold War.

And finally Best Original Song, which is an all-but-guaranted lock for “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. Watch for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s live performance during the telecast, something they didn’t even bother to schedule for the also-rans.

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been sitting on this post for no good reason since before 2018 ended. I had seen everything I needed to see (within a reasonable degree of certainty) but couldn’t settle on the final order until, literally, moments ago.

I’m still not certain I got it quite right, and every film in my top five at one point or another held the top spot. So before I doubt myself and reshuffle the deck, yet again, here’s my 10 favorite moves of 2018.

10. Vice

Adam McKay’s film about the modern Republican Party and the rise, and rise, and rise of Dick Cheney has its detractors, many of whom make very good points about the film’s overt distaste for its central subjects and over-reliance on gimmickry. But there’s no denying the power of Christian Bale’s chameleon performance, juxtaposed against the otherwise surrealist take on American political “history” (characters occasionally break the fourth wall or slip into Shakespearean prose to hammer home the narrative’s points about the hollow theatrics of government).

You’re mileage will definitely vary here, but I’m always prone to award points for bending the rules of convention, which “Vice” does from start to finish.

9. A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut landed with a bang during the summer, and while its status as the “it” movie of 2018 has diminished somewhat against late-arriving contenders, it’s still likely to be one of the movies that people remember even after they stop confusing the dates on their checks (Is that still a thing? Do people still write out checks?).

That’s due in no small part to the raw and dynamic performances by Cooper and Lady Gaga, a killer soundtrack and a confident, observational directing style that feels as if the story on screen is something accidentally, and heartbreakingly, stumbled upon.

8. Hereditary

It’s easy to overlook the skill involved in a good horror film. Lesser entries over-rely on conventions: dark rooms, loud noises and ghastly manifestations that send a chill down the audience’s spine before sending them home with a smile on their face. Then there’s movies like “Hereditary,” which use those tools to burrow under your skin and sit with you for days.

“Hereditary” is packed with shocking, disturbing moment, but the movie doesn’t rely on stunts. There’s a mythology at play, and an examination of grief and familial bonds, all obscured under a deep and bewitching atmosphere of dread.

7. Annihilation

“Annihilation,” the novel by Jeff Vandermeer is, to put it mildly, ambiguous. It conveys mood — and particularly a deepening sense of unease — more than plot, with its characters barely attempting to describe the fantastic and terrifying things they encounter as they venture into…something.

It’s also a great read, and wonderfully adapted for the screen by Alex Garland, whose film combines beautiful and haunting imagery with a more concrete narrative about an expedition of women scientists exploring a phenomenon of likely alien origin located along a rural segment of the Florida coastline.

6. Paddington 2

I never got around to seeing the first Paddington, and I was somewhat confused when I started hearing reports that it’s sequel was the best-reviewed film in Rotten Tomatoes’ history (at the time).

So I took the bait, and I’m here to tell you the hype is real. Paddington 2 is infectiously joyful, a film that gushes sincerity and charm, and combines slapstick humor with thrilling chase sequences and, somehow, everything in between. As the film’s antagonist, Hugh Grant has simply never been better, and a stand-out scene utilizing pop-up book imagery took my breath away. See this movie, now.

5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

It took a few years, but Netflix finally did it. With “Buster Scruggs” the streaming giant had its first must-see feature film, a collection of six western vignettes by the Coen Brothers.

Frequently funny, often tragic, occasionally disturbing and sometimes all of the above, the Coen’s ballad has a little bit of everything and will leave you wanting more.

4. First Man

I was born into a world where man had already walked the lunar surface, with the tragedies, national rivalries and scientific uncertainties of the space race long since past. As a result, the most compelling aspect of Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic was, for me, the anxiety it conveys as now-historic ambassadors of Planet Earth set off on unproven and spectacularly dangerous missions to test the boundaries of human accomplishment.

The film’s centerpiece is a coup de grâce, as Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his crew make their decent from Lunar orbit and, once landed, step out onto an otherwordly landscape. Chazelle takes it all in, giving the scenes room to breathe without needless interruption or embellishment.

3. BlacKkKlansman

From the “You can’t make this up” file comes “BlacKkKlansman” the mostly-true story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee, the film sizzles with a sharp, darkly-comic energy, aided by the pitch-perfect, odd-couple casting of John David Washington and Adam Driver, as well as a surprisingly effective Topher Grace as KKK grand wizard David Duke.

2. Roma

The term “visionary” is thrown around a little too liberally in film criticism, but in the case of Alfonso Cuaron it applies. Consider the recent run by the director, from “Children of Men” in 2006 to “Gravity” in 2013 and now “Roma,” which was wisely snapped up by Netflix.

Known for his long takes and massive scale, Cuaron painstakingly recreates Mexico City circa 1970 for his meditative profile of an affluent family and their live-in housekeeper/nanny. It’s a movie brimming beyond the edges of the screen with life and detail, following one young woman’s path through a city, and nation, in a state of social and political flux.

1. The Favourite

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has a style all his own, simultaneously enticing and intentionally off-putting, as seen recently in “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” His films are absurd, but with absurdities masked under a veneer of sterile banality that he carefully cracks to expose the bizarre machinations at play.

With “The Favourite,” working off a script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, Lanthimos focuses his singular artistic eye on the court of England’s Queen Anne (a superb Olivia Coleman) and the schemes of two women (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) who battled for the monarch’s trust and affection.

In the world of “The Favourite,” the familiar pomp and circumstance of imperial English decorum are on full display, albeit ratcheted up to farcical heights that, while deliciously anachronistic, convey the petty jealousies and political scheming that carry through to modern society. The result is a period piece unbound by the trappings of history that, through caricature, captures something wholly real, grotesquely bizarre and hilariously relatable.

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