5 Movies That Could, (and Probably Should) Have Been Nominated for Best Picture
So is it just me, or do the Oscars feel a little strange to anyone else this year? No it has nothing to do with the lack of host, although that certainly may be a part of it.
There were a lot of good movies in 2018, and when you try to narrow the field down to just a few, you’re not going to please everyone. But it’s strange to me that the two Best Picture frontrunners Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody (Based on the Golden Globes) have received well…
Let’s just call them ‘mixed reviews’.
The general vibe I’m getting this year is that movie fans are just hoping certain movies don’t win rather than rooting for the movies nominated, and that’s kind of a bummer. Does anyone else remember the Moonlight/La La Land feud from a few years ago, where you had to pick a side on comment sections and fight to the death. Or how about last year’s excitement over the idea of ‘Academy Award Winner – Jordan Peele’ or ‘Academy Award Winner – Guillermo del Toro.’ This year’s pre-Oscar discussion just feels like a slog of negativity and #cancelculture
At the risk of sounding too smug, I get it. The Academy Awards aren’t some being of objectivity that determines which movies ‘Did Art the Best’, they’re a professional organization that gives honorary awards. As a favorite director of mine once said “The Oscars aren’t that important.”
Still, what makes the Academy Awards fun is seeing a film that means a lot to you be recognized and watch the people that worked on it get the recognition they deserve. For the past few years, at least one Best Picture Nominee hit me on a personal level. And while I like a lot of the films that were nominated, none of them stuck with me as much as other films this year did. A pet peeve of mine is that a few years ago, the Academy expanded the Best Picture field from 5 to 10 nominees in order to attract a wider audience. However, in recent years, they don’t seem to use all the available slots. This year there were only 8 of 10 potential nominees for Best Picture.
Using those two available slots I want to talk about five different movies that in theory could have been nominated, and why they should have been actual nominees, in a somewhat arbitrary order. These were the 5 films that hit me on a visceral level this year, so I’d like to take a moment to honor them
If I didn’t include a movie you like, it’s because I haven’t seen it or it just didn’t speak to me as much. Let’s begin.
Yeah, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, but Paddington 2 really is that good, but what else would you expect from the best reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes of all time.
Even though the primary audience for this film is children, there is a lot for older film fans to appreciate. For starters, the wardrobe and set design are fantastic. Director Paul King uses a dollhouse that gives the film a unique style. The prison scenes look similar to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The acting is brilliant. Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, and Hugh Grant are giving their all in this movie. These are critically acclaimed actors giving this movie the same respect they would give a historical drama. Especially Grant, who looks right at home as Phoenix Buchanan, a washed up actor. The screenplay to this film is tight, each throwaway joke pays off later in the film. On top of that, the final shot is such a sweet and well earned moment that few films manage to accomplish.
The CGI in this movie is phenomenal. The way the special effects team manages to seamlessly blend Paddington into the real world, makes you think that the bear is actually real. On top of that, the gags are great. Whether it’s Paddington as a window washer, chasing a criminal through the streets of London, or a heart racing third act, the gags work perfectly.
While family films are not typically nominated, I actually think the gags should have gotten the Academy’s attention. A lot of the film’s influence comes from silent era comedies. One scene in particular is a direct reference to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. It’s no secret that The Academy loves to award films that respect the ‘Golden Days if Old Hollywood’. There is a reason why The Artist won Best Picture in 2011 for being silent and in black & white. Paul King managed to take the elements of Silent Era Hollywood, and translate it to a modern, younger audience. For that reason, I think this film deserved more recognition than it received.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This movie has two major strikes against it: 1. It is an animated movie 2. It is a super-hero movie. However, anyone that saw the movie knows it so much more.
Watching Into the Spider-Verse was some of the most fun I had at the movies this year. For starters, the characters are great, and nearly all of the jokes work. On top of that, one of the my favorite scenes has to be between Miles and his father at the end of the second act. The writing and voice acting for this scene work so well that it’s heartbreaking. And the way the directors chose to animate this scene matches so perfectly. It’s one of the best movie moments of the year
The real star of the movie has to be the animation. This is easily the most unique looking film of the year. The way the animation team gives each hero their own style gives the film an energy nothing else could match. On top of that, chase sequences and the 3rd act are some of the most dynamic scenes I saw all year.
If you want to be dismissive, I guess you could say “That’s what Best Animated Feature is for”. But, why can’t it be nominated for both. Into the Spider-Verse could have fit right into the Best Picture nominees for a few reasons. First, the goal of the AMPAS is to advance the art and science of filmmaking. So a movie where the studio is trying to patent it’s innovative animation style, would be a perfect candidate to be honored at your awards show. Second, The Academy has spent the past few years trying to change its image by nominating more popular films, and diversifying their voters (Race, Age, Gender). I can’t think of a better way to do this than by nominating a film where the theme is: Greatness can come from anyone.
I’m not sure if any film better captured the mood of 2018 than First Reformed. Leave it to the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to combine the themes of despair, loss of faith, and existential doubt and put them in one film.
What holds this whole film together is the lead performance of Ethan Hawke. Hawke has been a great actor for decades, but this is probably the best work of his career. His performance as Ernst Toller has him hitting so many different beats. He manages to portray a man having a crisis of faith, to finding a new passion in life; he is a counselor, as well as being in need of counseling. This is a film that could live or die by its lead, and fortunately Hawke delivers. The final scene of this film had me on the edge of my seat. I was both horrified at what was to happen, yet oddly filled with hope.
The bulk of Academy voting members are actors. Because of that, one terrific performance can often get a film nominated for Best Picture. For example, Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice both received nominations based on the performances of their respective lead actors. I think Ethan Hawke’s performance deserved to get a similar treatment, and should’ve taken up one of the leftover nominations. On top of that, ‘Paul Schrader finally receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture’ could have been a great storyline leading up to the Oscars
If Beale Street Could Talk
2016’s Best Picture Winner Moonlight is one of my favorite films of this decade. I also believe director Barry Jenkin’s follow up is a worthy successor.
For starters the cinematography is incredible. Jenkins gives the Bronx a sense of warmth that I haven’t seen in most films. The close-ups on his actors faces convey a happiness that makes the film both joyful and heartbreaking.
I was glad to see that Regina King received a nomination for her performance. But to me, the real star was lead actress KiKi Layne who manages to convey wisdom beyond her years.
Typically, The Academy likes to nominate recognizable names each year. Nominating a follow up film to a recent Best Picture Winner would have been a great choice for a leftover nomination slot.
Once again I have to say it. The Academy Awards are just industry awards that are meant to highlight the talent of Hollywood. That being said, let’s just take a look at the talent that was behind Widows:
Steve McQueen – The first black filmmaker to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. This is also his first film since he broke that barrier
Gillian Flynn – One of the most well recognized female screenwriters working right now
Viola Davis – One of the most accomplished actresses of her generation. Academy Award
Winner for Best Actress (2016). This was the film she chose to do after winner her Academy Award, and she gives an incredible performance.
Liam Neeson – One of the few stars that is equally recognized for his dramatic and action roles.
Daniel Kaluuya – A Nominee for Best Actor (2017). The hero of last year’s biggest hit movie decided to do a complete 180, and is now playing a ruthless sociopath.
Colin Farrell – A widely acclaimed actor
Robert Duvall – A widely accomplished older actor that most people can recognize
That’s not even touching the performances by Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, and especially Elizabeth Debicki.
With all of this star power, how did this film not receive any sort of recognition by The Academy? It’s a shame, because this film is more than just a crime movie. McQueen expertly uses a long take in order to address racism in modern America. The film handles issues of grief, as well as taking control of your own life. Just about every performer is giving it their all. But to me the two standout performances have to go to Davis and Debicki. The final shot of Viola Davis may be the movie moment that has stuck with me the longest in 2018.
To me, Widows was the biggest snub I could think of for a few reasons. For one thing, a film with this much talent is exactly who you would want to represent your industry. However the big picture reason was that last year, I sat through an awards show that preached about how women needed better more empowering roles in Hollywood. That year, a film would be released with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, about women reclaiming control of their lives from the abusive men that ruined it. And the same organization that preached about granting women more inclusive roles and power in Hollywood…just ignored it.
So there you have, 5 movies that I think captured the best of Hollywood this year. Let me know what you think, were there any I missed? What movie are you rooting for at the Oscars?