2019 Oscar Nominations: First Thoughts


Oscar time is funny. The guilds have voted for their individual categories, and there is the hope and thought that they generally vote for what they think is the best for their category. Of course there will be thoughts of rewarding a friend, or rewarding a consistent or even stellar career. And of course there is the coattail effect, where the “best pictures” of the year tend to get nominations in areas that really aren’t that strong. But that propensity has been lessened in recent years with a better understanding of the different elements of filmmaking by the Academy as a whole, and by the tendency for guild members to see their own category a little more clearly than the Academy.

But now that the nominations are in, we kick into other gears. Friendships and personal preferences matter, as do political concerns. Certainly there is the tension between voting for what one thinks is the best “whatever” and the desire to grant a career award before someone kicks the bucket, or simply because “it’s time”—a ridiculous train of thought of which I am occasionally susceptible.

2018 was not the best year for films, and possibly the weakest in many a year. But possibly the two “best” films are the two that are on the opposite ends on the Best Picture nomination spectrum: Roma and Black Panther. These two films will last, and could be considered great for different reasons. Certainly Roma is the best film of the year, but it’s a kind of standalone classic, and may turn out to be Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece more than anything else, while Black Panther is one of the best superhero films (and arguably the best), and one packed with several levels of significance. Yet A Star is Born is also considered “the total package,” a film that recalls Old Hollywood while being strong in nearly every aspect of filmmaking. It’s too early for predictions, but these are the pick of the pack. A Star is Born has surprisingly lost in many categories in several recent awards celebrations, and the sure award for Best Director going to Cuarón may lead some voters to want to reward Bradley Cooper for a job very well done with Best Picture award. Roma may deserve that, but Cooper’s directorial debut is more than impressive, and a foreign-language 1) has never won Best Picture, and 2) has its own category, which it will surely win this year.

I think the word “snub” is rather ill-used when it comes to the Academy’s choices, as I don’t think that folks are being snubbed as much as passed over in favor of choices that the voters think are superior. Only Cooper could be considered snubbed for not getting a Best Director Award, especially after winning the National Board of Review’s award in that category. There has been a little noise about Emily Blunt not receiving a nomination for A Quiet Place (Supporting Actress) or Mary Poppins Returns (Best Actress).  The Screen Actors Guild gave her the supporting actress award for the former film (in a surprise move that could be called the opposite of a snub), so it is unusual, with SAG making up so much of the Academy, that she was not nominated there. But she simply didn’t deserve Best Actress for Mary Poppins Returns, in spite of the Golden Globe nomination and the hype (https://film-prof.com/2019/01/01/mary-poppins-returns/).

Only Willem Dafoe was a surprise in the Best Actor category for At Eternity’s Gate, and hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades. But it might work to draw folks’ attention to the film. Christian Bale (Vice) has been the one that supposedly had this in the bag, but Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) has gained a great deal of momentum recently.

The Best Actress award has been Glenn Close’s for months for The Wife, ever since early word was leaking about the quality of her performance. Add the fact that this is her seventh nomination with no wins at this point, and it’s a lock. Lady Gaga was gaining momentum a few months ago, but has lost it. Olivia Colman might have looked like a winner when The Favourite was released, but she too has faded. It’s going to be Close’s night.

The big question about Best Supporting Actor is whether Mahershala Ali (Green Book) has any chance of losing the award. Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman) is too new and has a long career ahead of him, Sam Rockwell (Vice) has won the same award recently, and Sam Elliott’s and Richard E. Grant’s nominations are a combination of a job well done and a reward for long and respectable careers.

Supporting Actress could see long-nominated and never-won Amy Adams (Vice) win over long-time favorite Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk. That would be a surprise, but King wasn’t even nominated for a SAG award, so her inevitability can be questioned at this point. And the Academy loves Adams and at this point, hates to see her lose again.

Other thoughts:

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is up against a great many different kinds of animated films, but should prevail.

Roma has the most beautiful and luscious cinematography of any film this year and should win.

Black Panther should win Best Production Design and Best Costumes.

“Shallow” from A Star is Born will win Best Song. Not even a question here.

How did Black Panther not get nominated for Best Visual Effects?

It will be fun to see what the buzz will be these next few weeks. The best fun is hearing why folks won’t vote for what they think is the best artistically, allowing relationships, unrewarded careers, and political leanings to determine their votes. And don’t forget that this is Hollywood’s great night of self-congratulations, which always figures highly into thinking and voting. If the Academy can find a way to vote for a person or film while simultaneously patting themselves on the back with that vote, they tend to add that strongly into the mix.

About Mark DuPré

Retired (associate) pastor at a Christian church. Retired film professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband for 45+ years to the lovely and talented Diane. Father to three children and father-in-law to three more amazing people. I continue some ministry duties even though retired from the pastoral position. Right now I'm co-writing a book, working on a documentary (screenwriter and assistant director), and creating a serious musical drama (I am writing the book and lyrics).
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