I’ve been reviewing movie reviews for years but I haven’t actually ranked the Best Picture Nominees before, so I decided to give it a go this time round. I was going to wait until I got to see If Beale Street Could Talk one way or another before writing the list, but the nominations came out and surprisingly it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, so I guess I can make this list now.
On the whole, I found the recent Academy Award nominations to be disappointing. 2018 is the best year for film that I’ve seen yet, it’s just that some of the nominations, especially the Best Picture nominees, don’t really reflect that. Not a terrible bunch of nominations, but underwhelming compared to the year in film that we just had.
Now I should point out that while my picks for the Best Picture Nominees would be quite different to the actual nominees (only 3 of these movies are among my top 8 favourite films of the year), I’m actually okay with most of the nominees, at least for Best Picture. There’s really only a couple that I am outright against, which you’ll see down below.
8. Bohemian Rhapsody
I had been planning on ranking the Best Picture nominees for the Oscars even before they were released, and after Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, it was the one movie I was hoping not having to talk about. It seems that all the backlash that followed wasn’t enough to stop the Academy from nominating it however, so I guess I must talk about it. When I first saw the movie, I did like it despite its very clear flaws, which you can see from my review. I liked Queen’s music, so it was nice hearing it in the cinemas, and Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury was quite good. However, the more I think about Bohemian Rhapsody, the worse it gets for me.
Bohemian Rhapsody was a pretty average music biopic all things considered. It follows the typical music biopic formula so much and for a movie about Freddie Mercury, it really should’ve been much more than what we got. Even as someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about the history of Queen, I could tell that there were some very clear inaccuracies in what was shown. Not only that but you can also feel the band’s clear influence on the production. I can’t get over that one scene where Freddie offers cocaine to the other band members but they turn it down because they are apparently perfectly reasonable and mature adults who wouldn’t dare dabble in drugs (in the 70s and 80s by the way). I’m just saying that decades from now there is probably going to be a Queen/Freddie Mercury movie that will portray the rest of the band as not being squeaky clean as they appear in Bohemian Rhapsody. Then there’s the treatment of Freddie Mercury the person in the second half which borders on flat out disrespect. Again, I don’t know too much about him but there are some things about how he’s portrayed which just felt wrong and even judgemental. I’m not sure whether it came from the surviving members of Queen or even Bohemian Rhapsody’s first director (who I’ll get into in a bit) but I felt it at times. Then there’s moments like him having AIDS before having him perform at Live Aid (because of course people who are diagnosed with AIDS are still perfectly able to perform like Freddie Mercury for a long period of time), even though in real life he was diagnosed 2 years after the event. I recall that there was an interview where Freddie Mercury said that he’d be fine with a movie about him, just as long as it wasn’t boring. Unfortunately Bohemian Rhapsody was that, putting aside the music of Queen, it reads more like an C grade adaptation of a Wikipedia page, an inaccurate one at that. I’m trying to think about the good parts about the movie outside of Rami Malek’s performance. I guess the rest of the acting is also decent, and the concert scenes especially the Live Aid performance was fun to watch. With that said, any director capable of making a movie could replicate the concerts and play Queen music over it while having the cast acting like they are performing it. If I’m being perfectly honest, the music of Queen is probably what made me enjoy the movie so much when I initially saw it. It just didn’t have a whole lot to offer outside of that.
An average movie getting nominated is one thing, it would’ve just been an undeserving nomination. I really don’t take film that seriously, I would’ve gotten over it. Yet you probably have noticed that I’m particularly against it for some reason outside of it not belonging amongst the other nominees, and you’d be right. What really has me against Bohemian Rhapsody is a particular person involved with this production, director Bryan Singer. If you don’t know why I’m referring to him, check out his Wikipedia page, there is an entire section with sexual abuse allegations against him. It’s been going on for years but Singer doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon despite all the allegations against him. Even after a recent long and troubling article (worth reading by the way) by The Atlantic about him, he’s still keeping his position as director of a Red Sonja movie due to the success of Bohemian Rhapsody. A year after Times Up, the Academy are really going to nominate a film directed by a sexual predator. I know people could make the case that he wasn’t the full time director and how he was fired during it, but he filmed most of it, his name is on the movie, and he was fired for not showing up to set for his own film, not because of all the things he did. I felt bad even paying to watch a Bryan Singer movie at the cinemas, and now with it having a chance at winning Best Picture, I feel even more guilty. Honestly when I watched it, I thought the only nomination it might’ve gotten was Best Actor but it got a ton of nominations. I’d prefer literally other nominee to win Best Picture over Bohemian Rhapsody, even my number 7 pick, which is saying a lot really all things considering everything with that movie. This is how I feel about Bohemian Rhapsody months after seeing it, I can only imagine how I’d feel about it on a rewatch.
My initial review of Bohemian Rhapsody
7. Green Book
When I first watched Green Book, I actually enjoyed it. It was entertaining and had great lead performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Despite all the backlash against it, I actually liked it quite a bit. As much as people claimed that it was acting like it ‘solved racism’, I saw it as a road trip movie focussing on the bond between two men who couldn’t be more different, it worked. It’s not great but it was quite good for what it was.
…with that said I’m completely with all the people who aren’t happy with its nomination for best picture. Green Book really is a rare case where receiving a bunch of awards attention actually makes the movie worse. As I mentioned before, the reason why I liked the movie when others hated it was that I saw the movie as not focussing on trying to ‘solve racism’, but rather focussing on a friendship that happens despite all racism they come up against. The more and more awards attention it gets however, makes me wonder whether my perception of the movie was just wishful thinking and whether it really was just a naïve and potentially racist take on racism. Because as a film about race, it is very misguided and flawed. From that perspective, I can really see how some people are calling this the film equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a friend who is black”. 2018 was actually a great year for films about race, with great films like Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You and BlacKKKlansman. However, the film out of all of them that is getting the most love and attention from voters was the modern day Driving Miss Daisy written and directed by white men. We all know that The Academy is often influenced by politics, but they also tend to be influenced by films that are more digestible and easy, leaning more into the easy and soft takes on issues instead of the hard hitting and difficult yet supremely better and honest takes. I’m just saying that if Green Book came out the same year as 12 Years a Slave, the former film would’ve received more attention than the latter.
It doesn’t help that it has quite possibly the worst PR campaign I’ve ever seen from an awards movie. On the same day that I uploaded my review, Peter Farrelly was revealed to have ‘revealed’ himself during meetings for films (as a ‘prank’ apparently) and an Islamophobic and pro Donald Trump tweet by Nick Vallelonga, one of the Green Book writers and the son of the real life Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (who was played by Viggo Mortensen), resurfaced. That’s not even mentioning what happened months ago when Viggo Mortensen used a racial slur during an interview for Green Book and the family of the real Don Shirley hating the movie and calling it completely inaccurate. How this movie has managed to stay in the awards game for this long, I have no idea. After the two frontrunners for Best Picture, Green Book seems to be the potential third frontrunner and that’s especially worrying. I’d be fine with Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor, it would be well deserved, just not so happy with the movie winning anything else.
6. Black Panther
Despite my very strong and negative thoughts about the last two movies, I can promise that my thoughts on the rest of the nominees this point onwards are considerably more positive. Black Panther marks an achievement as the first comic book movie to be nominated for best picture, which is really worth praising (unless you hate comic book movies). Honestly there’s not a lot wrong with the movie. Sure the CGI in the last act can be very iffy but on the whole it does everything well and is among the best films in the entire MCU. The cast is also great, with the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and others playing their roles very well. It’s Michael B. Jordan as Kilmonger however who’s the standout, as one of the best villains in the MCU. While Black Panther is director Ryan Coogler’s weakest movie to date, he does some great work here as well.
I do think there are comic book movies more deserving of a Best Picture nomination than Black Panther, even ones from this year. While I can also appreciate the significance of it, with it featuring mainly an African American cast and a unique setting, it is generally a pretty standard comic book movie, albeit a good one at that. However, it’s not like The Dark Knight came out the same year and they gave the nomination to Black Panther instead, I still consider this nomination as a good thing for comic book movies. There are also better movies than Black Panther that were released in 2018 but I don’t think we can complain about it not deserving nominations considering the previous 2 aforementioned nominees. So I don’t really have too much of a problem with it getting a Best Picture nomination nomination. As it was the first comic book movie to get nominated for Best Picture, I’m not expecting it to win at all, not that I’d complain (much) if it did win.
Vice definitely is a very divisive movie. For many Best Picture ranking lists for this year, it would probably be the 3rd worst on the list, after Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book. It’s personally one of my favourite films of the year however, even though I can partially see why some people wouldn’t like it. It also have some great acting by its talented cast. Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell and Jesse Plemons don’t give some of their all time best performances but they were still great and played their roles quite well. However, it’s Christian Bale’s transformative performance as Dick Cheney that’s of course the standout, with his weight gain and makeup enhancing his performance instead of doing 90% of the job for him. I know some people are comparing his performance here to that of Gary Oldman’s in Darkest Hour but I strongly disagree. Bale is my pick for Best Actor out of the 5 nominees and it would be well deserved if he won (he’s probably the frontrunner anyway).
What turned many people off Vice was mainly two things. One was the way it told its story. There are some people who thought that it talked down to them, and that they just restated things that they already knew in a needlessly simple way. However as someone who was born in New Zealand and grew up there and being very young throughout the Bush Administration, I didn’t know all of what happened, so I did learn things from this movie. The other reason was the editing that really divided a lot of people, and while yes it could be a little too messy at times, I still thought that it was effective enough and worked for what director Adam McKay was going for. All in all, I’m more than fine with Vice being a Best Picture nominee and their nominations (even though I don’t get the Sam Rockwell nomination, as good as he was, Steve Carell had more screentime and made more of an impact). Vice pretty much has no chance at winning Best Picture compared to most of the other nominees but I like that it’s nominated nonetheless.
4. A Star is Born
Despite my love for it when I first saw it, I don’t hold A Star is Born in high regard as I did when I first saw it. With that said, I still think it’s really good and has a lot of great things to it. The performances from Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott were really great, however, it’s Bradley Cooper’s performance that stood out the most, at times it didn’t even feel like I was watching Bradley Cooper on screen. He was unrecognisable at points and I’ve seen him in plenty of movies. Cooper’s debut at directing was really great overall, he definitely knows his way behind the camera and I’m looking forward to seeing him direct more movies. The music also was great, even though some songs are better than others, A Star is Born has one of the best soundtracks of the year. I was also invested in the story, despite its familiarity. The last act is particularly emotional and impactful.
In terms of problems, the story isn’t really anything special, while it handles a lot of the familiar plot points in a way that makes it feel fresh and not recycled, we’ve seen this sort of thing before (though that’s to be expected from a movie which is like the 4th remake of an original movie). Some people have also pointed out that the movie focusses more on A Star Falling (Cooper) than A Star Actually Being Born (Lady Gaga) and I can definitely see that, and so that is an aspect that doesn’t work quite as well in the movie. Outside of that I think it’s just that the impact that it had on me when I first saw it wore off a little bit over time. With that said, I still hold it in high regard and it’s currently in my top 15 of the year. I do admittedly need to watch it again sometime to see if it still holds up well but I’m confident with its placement on this list. A Star is Born is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture and while there are some other movies I’d prefer to win, I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to it winning.
BlacKKKlansman made an impact upon its release in a significant way and is one of my favourite movies of the year. It was able to balance the comedy and absurd elements as well as the more dramatic and sobering elements. The acting was also great, with John David Washington, Adam Driver (who finally earns his first Oscar nomination here), Laura Harrier, Topher Grace and more playing their roles excellently. The direction by Spike Lee is great, he really translated this story onto the big screen in such a great way. It really is Spike Lee’s best film in a while.
In terms of problems with BlacKKKlansman, I can’t think of much right now. I guess there are some criticisms about the movie that I can sort of see. For example, the criticism about the police generally being portrayed as a couple of bad apples and mostly not racist is one that I can understand, it did feel a little off given the time period. I guess I can also see why some people complain about the ending being too on the nose about the relevance of the story to today by flat out showing Charlottesville footage in the last moments of the movie, given that its prevalent throughout the entirety of the movie. However, it at least really drove that point in at the end in an unforgettable way, and it really was an effective gut punch. Maybe if I watch it again I’ll be more sure about certain about how I’ll feel about it. BlacKKKlansman unfortunately doesn’t seem to have any hype for winning awards outside potentially for Adapted Screenplay. All the same, I’m glad that it’s among the best picture nominees.
Roma has been making its rounds at the awards, and it’s actually impressive all things considering. The story is simple, focussing on a family and being seen through the eyes of their maid, and it works incredibly well and just feels very real and genuine. It’s such an intimate film, yet after watching it, it felt like I had experienced something large and significant. The performances were also great. Despite much of the recent nominations from the Academy Awards being disappointing, I’m happy for the acting nominations that Roma received. Yalitza Aparicio particularly gives such a natural and effective lead performance. Roma was actually her first acting job, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in future movies. Of course it’s no surprise that Alfonso Cuaron’s direction is fantastic. Much like the rest of the movie, it’s not overbearing and flashy, it’s subtle and works excellently. Roma is one of, if not the best directed film of 2018.
I don’t think Roma is a movie that I’m necessarily going to watch again. It is slow paced and really only has a sense of direction in the second half of the movie. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie, just affects the rewatch factor of the whole movie, it’s still a fantastic film. Roma is definitely going to win Best Foreign Film and also seems to be one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, it would definitely be very deserving if it did end up winning. Even though I like my pick for number one more than this film, I’d be more than satisfied if Roma won Best Picture, it would be deserving.
1. The Favourite
One of my all time favourite films of 2018, The Favourite is my pick for Best Picture. Everything from the direction, performances and writing were so great. Yorgos Lanthimos made such a unique period piece that we really haven’t seen before, and is his best film yet (although haven’t seen Dogtooth yet). The performances were outstanding by everyone. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are absolutely fantastic in their complex roles, giving some of the best performances of their careers. If they won for their nominated performances, they would be very well deserved. Even Nicholas Hoult was a scenestealer whenever he was on screen. However it’s the script that makes everything work so incredibly well. So well written, smart, hilarious, dark, twisted and effective. The dialogue especially makes The Favourite the most quotable movie of the year. All in all, The Favourite was one of my favourite experiences in the cinema.
I’m not expecting The Favourite to win Best Picture but it’s definitely got a strong chance at winning in other categories. Really Roma and A Star is Born are the frontrunners but I hope The Favourite is the third frontrunner (hopefully over Green Book). I hope at the very least they manage to pick one up for Best Original Screenplay, and maybe Best Actress (for Olivia Colman), as they would be very well deserved wins.
What is your ranking of the Best Picture nominees and what did you feel about the recent nominations?