On the Oscar Nominations
The Oscars are shaping up to be one of the most conservative and disappointing awards ceremony in recent memory. The recently published nominations are only that more singeing when juxtaposed with last year’s outcomes, with The Shape of Water winning best picture, what was at the time considered a step forward to originality and overall strangeness on a mainstream level. However in following the same path that the Bafta’s, The Golden Globes, and the critics choice awards, the Oscars will be a celebration of monotony. I would not criticize The Oscars if they were not given a fine selection to choose from, however this year has been ripe with both indie and mainstream masterpieces, and with their choosing in the same vein as the aforementioned awards, they are deliberately choosing to ignore the cinematic value of films produced both domestically and internationally. In this article I will compare what I believe the Oscars will choose as their pick and what would have actually been chosen.
A category that has been under scrutiny even while the Oscars were still considered a viable gauge of the quality of a film, this year the award for cinematography is given plenty of solid picks to choose from. And with Deakins finally receiving his first Oscar in his entire elaborate and extensive oeuvre last year, there is a likely chance that the Oscars will make the right pick. With a May release date, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed was doomed to be forgotten by voters come awards season, however with a performance led by the always impressive Ethan Hawke and a script that is as organic as it is endearing, it has been able to reside in the minds of critics and viewers as a work that deserves full recognition. With the spiritual filming style that was once popularized by Robert Besson, First Reformed excels in a style that often features a static camera that lingers over events that, although may seem unimportant, are heightened by this style, leading the viewer to reflect on the unfolding events. I believe that First Reformed deserves the gold for their cinematography, however the Academy must not think so, as the film couldn’t even capture a nomination. There are plenty of other categories where First Reformed was snubbed, however I think this is the most reasonable. The Academy made excellent picks for their nominations, and it seems that the final contest will come down to Robbie Ryan’s The Favourite, Łukasz Żal’s foreign film Cold War or Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Each film features its own raison d’être, with each being of equal value, however I believe that Roma will win for its pensive and appreciative monochromatic view of a life upended by both domestic and political struggles.
I believe my mouth dropped when I saw the nominations for documentary. And I know that I wasn’t the only one. I expected my favorites to not make the cut (Three Identical Strangers and Shirkers) and I knew that Won’t You Be My Neighbor would be the most likely choice, however the Mr. Rogers documentary failed to even get a nomination. In its place lies 2 documentaries in which I have never heard of, Netflix’s Minding the Gab, the political entry RGB, and one that has seemingly granted enough traction right before the nominations came out to steal a nod, Free Solo. In all honesty, I am so surprised by the outcome that I cannot say what I believe should win. However, I can say that Netflix’s Minding the Gap and Free Solo are the two likely choices in this category.
With the domestic fixation on Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, foreign language film has been given a new sense of importance and popularity for the general viewer. I believe that everyone expects Roma to win, and it would be no surprise if this is the outcome. Nor would this be a great sin. However, I believe that the most deserving of this award is Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Shoplifters. A nostalgic tale of the unity of family and the warmth that is felt by familial ties, a warmth that often supersedes the daily struggles and troughs of life, Shoplifters is a beautiful film draped in the threads of simplicity and genuineness.
If any category will be the gauge of an appreciation of creativity, it would be screenplay. Within the screenplay, stories are able to flourish, unbound by the limits of reality, and the quality in which these ideas are executed. It’s exhausting going by film by film for why they deserve to be in the category so instead I’ll just list. For original screenplay, Leave No Trace, First Reformed, Roma, Sorry To Bother You and Mandy all deserved nominations. Adapted is a bit more solid, however I don’t believe Blackkklansman deserves to be given the nomination, mostly because of its fabricated story that was propelled for the sake of pushing a political agenda.
I’m going to skip on a review of best picture, because I feel that this category deserves an article for itself, mostly because all of my grievances couldn’t fit into this article. For every great pick by the Academy, it seems that it made 3 worse ones. Ethan Hawke and Toni Collete not receiving a nomination for their performances calls into question the legitimacy of the Academy. Overall, the Oscars this year marks a reality I’ve always worried would soon manifest. And their desire to integrate a “Most Popular” category was an omen of this. The Academy has realized that viewership is not attracted when true films are recognized for their artistic feats, but rather when people are able to see there favorite films compete for a prize whose implications they are not aware of. When films like Black Panther and Green Book are being nominated for best picture when Eighth Grade, Mandy, Sorry To Bother You, and the Other Side of The Wind aren’t even mentioned, it’s clear that the most popular category didn’t leave, it was just spread out into all of the other categories.