Why do we have to talk about Green Book now?
Hello again, friends! Welcome back to another wonderful and wild awards season. Did you miss it? I know I sure did! This year's Oscar nominations dropped today, and I have some feelings about them. There's gonna be a rant forthcoming about a certain film that I was hoping to never have to think about again receiving FIVE Oscar nominations, but beyond the absurdity of Green Book still being somehow relevant this awards season and some unfortunate snubs, the list is fairly decent!
Leading the way this year are The Favourite and Roma. Couldn't be happier seeing those two films at the forefront of the nominations this year. As much as I loved The Favourite, (with just a few films left to catch up on it will very likely be my number one American-made film of the year) I don't foresee it winning much outside of something like Film Editing. Roma, on the other hand, is already shaping up to be the film to watch this award's season. While it didn't win at the Producer's Guild Awards over the weekend (their best film prize SOMEHOW went to Green Book....brace yourselves, folks, the rant's coming) I think Best Picture comes down to either it or A Star is Born. You can also expect to hear Alfonso Cuarón's name called for Best Director, marking the fourth time in five years that a Mexican director wins the category. (Coincidentally, this unprecedented streak began with Alfonso Cuarón himself when he won Best Director for his amazing work on 2013's Gravity.) I also love that, in a year full of terrific performances from actresses, first time actress Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) still receives an Oscar nomination. It does mean someone like Emily Blunt for Mary Poppins Returns is left off the list as a result, but Aparicio is only the second Mexican actress to ever be nominated for the category. So I'll take it. Anyway, let's talk about some of the big winners, losers, and the perplexing decisions of this year's Oscar nominees!
Big Winners: Netflix, Disney, Amy Adams and Glenn Close, Spike Lee
Move over, old geezers. The Netflix revolution is officially here. The streaming behemoth made its presence felt in a HUGE way this year with a staggering 15 nominations, officially putting to bed the notion that the streaming platform can't compete with the big, traditional Hollywood studios. Outside of Roma's 10, the platform also had a solid showing for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a somewhat surprising entry given how little hype there was surrounding the film going into today. All of Netflix's attention has (justifiably) been on Roma, but to see the latest work from Joel and Ethan Cohen receive some love is pretty great.
Speaking of big winners, the titan of the industry, Disney, also won big. The studio leads all contenders with 17 total nominations, and, if you include Fox Searchlight's nominations (as Disney would like us to with the still-impending merger) that number increases to 32. That's right: 32! The BIG feat for Disney this year is Marvel's first ever Best Picture nominee, Black Panther. The film has displayed extraordinary staying power and is undoubtedly the most culturally relevant film of 2018, so it is well deserving of its 7 nominations. Even if (and probably when) it doesn't receive any gold outside of a technical category or two.
I was rather surprised to see Vice receive as much love as it did, particularly in the Best Director and Best Film Editing categories. I thought the film kind of fell apart at the hands of its director as well as the editing, but I guess I'm in the minority. Hopefully, though, the waves are parting for Amy Adams to finally take home her first Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category. Her portrayal of Lynne Chenney is probably the best thing about the entire film. Also, on an unrelated note, can we give some gold to Glenn Close, please? Her moving speech at the Globes was easily the best moment of the night, and it seems kind of ridiculous to give Best Actress to Lady Gaga before giving one to Glenn Close. (Now the most nominated person alive to not receive an Oscar. Would be amazing to see both her and Amy Adams break their win-less streaks on the same night!)
Finally, speaking of feats, congratulations to Spike Lee on his first ever nomination for Best Director and Best Picture. The legendary trailblazer has made a lot of films over his historic career, but has never been recognized until now. Very excited to see that, even if it is about 30 years past due!
Big Losers: If Beale Street Could Talk, Crazy Rich Asians, The "Boy" movies, Foreign films
Undoubtedly the most unfortunate loser of this year's Oscars is If Beale Street Could Talk. The emotional follow-up to Barry Jenkins Best Picture winner Moonlight, arguably the biggest upset of recent Oscar memory, If Beale Street Could Talk only snagged a meager three nominations. The film had something of a questionable distribution strategy, unceremoniously going wide the first week in January after the film was quietly held back a few weeks. I believe the sheer unknown of this film was one of the big factors in its unfortunate downfall, though I do expect Regina King to be the biggest obstacle to Amy Adams winning Best Supporting Actress. If this film has taught us anything, it's that the old "limited engagements December 31, going wide halfway through January" strategy for awards-y films seems to becoming a less viable one.
Speaking of snubs, how about the second most culturally impactful film of the year, Crazy Rich Asians, being completely shut out? The film, despite its extraordinary cultural significance being the first American-made film to feature an all Asian cast in over 20 years, was totally passed over by the Academy. I didn't expect this film to receive more than one or two nominations, but I thought a nomination for Production Design was a near certainty. After all, the sets of that film were even more rambunctious and luxurious than I could've possibly imagined, and fit the film's flamboyant theme perfectly.
Another surprising set of snubs goes to the "Boy" movies. Both Beautiful Boy and Boy Erased were shut out, which is only surprising when you think about the star power behind both of them. I thought Timothée Chalamet had a Best Supporting Actor nomination all but locked up. After all, this was the role he was hyped about when he was promoting Call Me By Your Name last year. Same for Steve Carell. Same goes for Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased. I'd say maybe this is a sign that obvious "Oscar bait" films don't work, but you know studios are going to make more "Oscar bait" films...
Finally, I gotta get on a kinda weird soapbox and briefly talk about the Best Foreign Film category. I'm not surprised Roma received a Best Foreign Film nomination. After all, it is a..... film who's dialogue is in a foreign language. But I'm a little sad that it did nonetheless, because, given the widely celebrated American filmmaker attached to it, Alfonso Cuarón, it had that category completely locked up from the moment its name was called. This ensures that an incredible slate of foreign films nominated - Shoplifters, Cold War, Capernaum, and Never Look Away - all have a zero percent chance at those 30 seconds of American cinema spotlight. Not to mention the snubs of Dogman, The Guilty, and Burning in the process. I wish there was a world where Roma wasn't nominated for Best Foreign Film and instead "simply" wins Best Picture, (of the list of nominees it is undoubtedly my pick for the category) but, lo and behold, that weird fantasy will not come to fruition.
Perplexing Moments: Green Book, Green Book, Green Book, Green Book, Best Director, Best Picture (still)
Alright, folks: we've come to it at last. Green Book. 2018's official "white man saves black man and solves the problem of systemic racism on a car ride" entry. For those that don't know, Green Book is a film from director/writer Peter Farrelly (of Dumb and Dumber acclaim) and stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The film won the famed audience choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, which has always been a strong precursor to the Oscars, but almost immediately the film started running into problems. Personally, I kiiiind of enjoyed the film. There's wonderful chemistry between Tony Lip (Mortensen) and Dr. Don Shirley, (Ali) and there's some good humor. But the film's ending is waaaaaaaay too feel-good given the subject matter, as the film basically ends with a "and that's how we solved racism, kids!" vibe that was as uncomfortable as it is untrue. But that's not where its issues end. Ohhhhhh no. For a film that claims to be about solving issues around inequality and social injustice, its production was remarkably insincere. After its wide release, the real-life Shirley family (the film is based off of a true story) immediately condemned the film and its approach to Dr. Shirley's character, even going as far as to say they were not consulted AT ALL in the making of the film and calling it "full of lies." Which is frustrating enough as is, but even more so when, on the flipside, Tony Lip's own real-life son, Nick Vallelonga, co-wrote the screenplay. I haven't explicitly specified it yet, but you can probably guess which character is black and which one is white in this story. NOT ONLY THAT, but both writer Nick Vallelonga and director Peter Farrelly have found themselves in hot water the past few weeks: Vallelonga for endorsing a racist and thoroughly debunked Trump conspiracy theory on Twitter back in 2015 about Muslims cheering after 9/11, (ironically, the highest profile Muslim in Hollywood is in this film in Mahershala Ali. Awkward.....) and Farrelly for apparently thinking it was cool to whip his junk out on set back in the 90s.
SO. Now that you're caught up, there's no possible way this film could receive any nominations outside of like one for Mahershala Ali, right? WRONG. The film received a whooping, shocking, and embarrassing FIVE nominations, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, (Viggo Mortensen, who had his own controversy on the press tour of this film. Because seemingly every white guy had to have a racist moment promoting a film about "solving" racism!) Best Supporting Actor, (Mahershala Ali) Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay. WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Ya, obviously I'm going to focus on that last one. It is simply DISGRACEFUL that this film received a Best Original Screenplay nomination. I really haven't been this disgusted with the Academy since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. THE JOB of a screenwriter is to consult every source of a story based on real-life people. IT IS LITERALLY THEIR JOB, AND THEY DIDN'T DO IT HERE. And that doesn't even mention the fact that Nick Vallelonga, fresh off deleting his Twitter account after being caught endorsing racist conspiracy theories LESS THAN 4 YEARS AGO, can now call himself "Oscar nominated" Nick Vallelonga. Even if you put all of that aside. Even if you ignore the overt racism surrounding the writers of this film and how they went about writing this screenplay the story is not very good. Just on a strictly surface level, it is dumbfounding that Green Book made it into the original screenplay category over Eighth Grade. Bo Burnham's wonderfully pragmatic debut was inexplicably shunned by the Academy, and by FAR its easiest path to at least a single nomination was through Best Original Screenplay. In my opinion, Eighth Grade is the best overall screenplay of 2018, but, hey! Let's be sure to value freaking Green Book over it, am I right?
I'm becoming increasingly worried that Green Book is actually going to win Best Picture. It won the Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures at the Producers Guild Awards over the weekend, which strongly correlates with the Academy's own Best Picture. But it would be an incredibly regressive pick for a newly diversified Academy two years removed from handing Moonlight the very same award. I'm keeping an eye on you, Academy. Don't you even think about it.
Green Book clusterbomb aside, the only other perplexing categories are Best Director and Best Picture. With the later, it's more just my standard soapbox spiel I've been delivering for years now: you can have up to 10 films on the list, so why not have 10 films nominated for Best Picture every year? The rule preventing that is stupid, and for an Academy that was contemplating a "Black Pan-I mean Best Popular Oscar" category just earlier this year, ensuring 10 films receive Best Picture nominations every year would be a simple, easy way to alleviate some of their concerns. But, I guess we gotta have another Dark Knight disaster for the Academy to actually change this. Oh, and Bohemian Rhapsody being one of the coveted eight nominated films for Best Picture is almost as dumb as Green Book being there, but that's just to be assumed. At least Bryan Singer wasn't sexually harassing anyone. Oh? He was too? Well that's just groovy. Way to go, guys.
Best Director is something of a head-scratcher too. The category is Alfonso Cuarón's to lose, which I have no problem with, and Spike Lee received his first nomination, which is great, but the inclusion of Adam McKay (Vice) and Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) is a bit confusing. Especially since it ensured that no women received a nomination in this category (again) and people like Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) were shunned as well. None of them were ever going to topple Alfonso Cuarón this year, but it would've been nice to see them get some love.
So those are my immediate reactions to the 2019 Oscar nominations! As well as my lovely rant on FREAKING Green Book. As always, thank you for reading, friends! I appreciate all of you. I will be back with my usual Oscar coverage, as well as my 2018 recap, in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
https://www.goldderby.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Oscars-Logo-Statue.jpg (title banner)
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTEwMDIwOTA3NTReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDcyMTQ0MTYz._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,735_AL_.jpg (Crazy Rich Asians)
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BYjE4ODUxMjEtYzRlZS00MTNjLTlkYWItNTRjY2ZjMDIzNTU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_.jpg (Peter Farrelly, Green Book)
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BODY0NTg2NzE4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDUyNTQ3NjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_.jpg (Alfonso Cuarón, Roma)
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