Tag Archives: Green Book

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Nominees

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

Oh dear.

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.

My review of Green Book

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.

My review of Black Panther

5. Vice

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.

My review of Vice

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.

My review of A Star is Born

3. BlacKKKlansman

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.

My review of BlacKKKlansman

2. Roma

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.

My review of Roma

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.

My review of The Favourite

What is your ranking of the Best Picture nominees and what did you feel about the recent nominations?

Green Book (2018) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Coarse language
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga
Mahershala Ali as “Doc” Don Shirley
Linda Cardellini as Dolores Vallelonga
Director: Peter Farrelly

Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is world-class African American pianist, who is about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while controlling racism and danger in an era of segregation.

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Green Book still is one of the surprise Oscar frontrunners, both for the lead performances and for the actual film. I actually first really heard of the movie from the backlash that has been developing against it, with people comparing it to Driving Miss Daisy and criticising its attempt at taking on racism, which is surprising considering that at the same time it has been quite the crowd pleaser. I had been hearing some contrasting reactions, some really liking it, others hating it, so I really didn’t know how I was going to feel going into it, and I ended up really liking it, even if I don’t necessarily consider it to be Best Picture worthy or anything like that.

While racism is a big part of the movie, Green Book at its core is a road trip movie, and as that type of movie, its really good. Something that often happens with some road trip movies following two people who are completely different from each other that don’t get along and then become best friends, is that the change is sudden and unbelievable, usually just because of a certain event. Green Book however develops it gradually, and scene by scene we get to see the relationship change over time instead of having it occur suddenly. Despite the director’s past movies, the humour of the movie comes more from the situations and the characters interacting and doesn’t seem forced. The movie is genuinely funny throughout, even hilarious at times. Racism definitely plays a notable part of the movie, but Green Book isn’t necessarily trying to tackle it as its main focus. It’s not BlacKKKlansman or anything, again it’s a road trip movie set to the backdrop of the racist deep south. Its examination of race is pretty surface level to be honest, but at the very least its because they weren’t trying to do it. Its not romanticising the racism either (in fact from what I remember I think Driving Miss Daisy was much more so), it is critical of racism when its present. By the end of the movie, it’s pretty clear that racism isn’t solved, and it’s definitely not trying to claim that they have. While I’m at it, no, Green Book is not a white saviour movie like some people have claimed it is. Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is established as a naive racist, ignorant at many points and leaves room for him to be criticised. The only way he really ‘saves’ Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is that he’s his bodyguard, which is part of the reason he was hired to begin with. Green Book recognises the flaws with both people but at their core is a deep humanity, and they both learn from each other, so in a way they both sort of help each other. While it can be seen as an Oscar bait movie, it doesn’t feel like it was made to be, despite some scenes feeling like they were written to tick the boxes for people to want to nominate it for awards. It does get a little sappy towards the end but considering what type of movie it is, it’s appropriate and is fitting. Now with every movie based on a true story, there are questions as to whether what was said is actually accurate. Some might’ve noticed that Don Shirley’s family came out against this movie for some inaccuracies. The problem with fact checking this movie is that the story is so unknown and intimate that not many people would’ve known. Also, one of the writers is the son of Tony, who apparently got all his information from his father and apparently Shirley as well. So you may need to take this movie with a grain of salt but I think generally it’s accurate, even if some areas might’ve been tweaked as what tends to happen to true life stories turned into movies. Also while it’s a bit of a minor issue, I think it wasn’t the best idea to call this movie Green Book. On top of it just being an easily forgettable title (and easy to confuse with Green Room), it actually has very little to do in the movie. The Green Book if you didn’t know (and most people today don’t know) is basically a guide for black people travelling through the deep south for safe places they can go to. While it is interesting and does play a little bit of a role in the movie, it gets probably 2 minutes focus tops. Not only that but it gives the impression that it’s going to be from the African American viewpoint and/or have a heavy focus on racism, which it isn’t. Even Driving Dr Shirley would’ve been a better title. In terms of other actual problems, I feel like Green Book was a little too sanitised and clean for the subject matter. Not that they needed to go into R territory but going a little less sanitised may have been better.

The two leads Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are really great in the roles of Tony Lip and Don Shirley and they are great together. Both Tony and Don are very different from each other and yet despite all the odds, over time they form this unshakable bond together. Viggo Mortensen as Tony could’ve easily just fallen into a complete Italian stereotype, and at first he seems like he is. Throughout the movie he does a lot of the cliché Italian things with the accent and the things he says but despite that, he still manages to deliver the character very well. Tony is a very simple man, he’s not the smartest of people (he’s flat out dumb at some points) but Viggo makes him work and plays him really well. Mortensen is known for being a really committed and serious actor but here he seems very loose and free and is actually quite great at the humour. Mashershala Ali gives yet another fantastic performance here. Shirley is a more complex role compared to Lip, with him being very closed off and having a lot of nuances to him, he only really opens up later on and you get to learn more about why he acts and does what he does. While I get that some people wanted to see the movie from Don’s point of view, when it comes to this story, Tony is a more open, talkative and laid back character, so it’s natural that he’s placed more in the forefront and that the much more reserved Don would be explored later on.

Peter Farrelly is one half of the Farrelly brothers, and while I haven’t seen any of their movies yet, I know that they made comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, so this is definitely a departure from his previous work. While his direction of his first drama (or dramedy) isn’t anything special, it is competent enough and serves the story quite well. The costume design, production design and music all fit the 1960s era. Personally, I think the most interesting technical aspect of the movie is the fact that they managed to make Mahershala Ali look like he’s playing the piano. They actually had someone else playing the piano so the fact that they somehow made Ali look incredibly convincing is impressive.

Green Book is an entertaining and heartwarming road trip movie featuring two great performances from some of the best actors working today. It’s not a complex exploration of racism in the deep south in the 1960s, it’s meant to be an uplifting movie about a bond between two people despite all the seemingly overwhelming odds around them, and as that I thought it was really good. It’s nothing groundbreaking and I’m not exactly sure why it’s becoming a huge awards contender outside of the lead performances, but for the movie its trying to be, its good. I know that some might be put off by the backlash and some of the things that they heard about it, but I recommend at the very least checking it out for yourself, you may end up really liking it.