Saturday, February 23, 2019

The 91st Annual Academy Awards [Fat Jesus' Thoughts]

2018 was a solid year for movies. But, man I have almost no enthusiasm for who the academy has chosen to be the "top eight films of the year." I don't get why people praise the academy sometimes, when it's clear they're never for the people's choices 99% of the time. Could I be wrong about some of my opinions? No, never. But there's likely is a sizeable chunk of people out there that do like a lot of the films nominated. I’m not one of them that can't admit a lot of them are subpar. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t jazzed about going through the nominations. I only gave one of the best picture nods above a 7/10. I liked a ton of performances this year much more than the lackluster films they were in. No offense to Black Panther, but should it have really been nominated for the same award that Moonlight, Birdman or No Country for Old Men won? BlacKkKlansman was inferior to Sorry to Bother You and I guarantee it’s purely because of Spike Lee for some reason. Somehow a film about Freddy Mercury didn’t have the best singing lead actor in it. And we’re still trying to find the next The Wolf of Wall Street and newsflash, it’ll never happen. According to Brie Larson, I shouldn't be allowed to comment or review films cause I'm a white male, but I'm going to do it anyway. That'll show her. So, strap in for another year of the stars patting themselves on the back, but this year it’s with a slate of films that had better performances than things to say.

Best Picture

Black Panther
I’ve never publicly written (aside from some Tweets) about Black Panther. I’m a huge fan of the MCU, to no one’s surprise if you’ve been reading my blog, but Marvel’s 2018 offers aside from Avengers: Infinity War were wholly sub-par and lacking. Coming off Thor 3, which was awesome, Black Panther had a bare bones narrative with one of the better Marvel villains we will never see again. There were some kind of interesting Wakanda politics situations too. The acting was underwhelming and the CGI was some of the worst in an MCU film. It also didn’t really expand Black Panther's character, Wakanda or anyone else's lore that you had to go out and see the film. I felt like I knew all I needed to know through earlier films as well as Infinity War. This is a puzzling choice to say the least for a best picture nomination considering it’s literally not nominated for any other meaningful award (no offense to Best Costume and the like.)

I was on board for BlacKkKlansman for most of the film. It’s Spike Lee so I knew it was going to be overly politically charged, but those last few minutes right before the credits really irk me. There was a lot of other ham-fisted political moments too, but they weren’t just full on egregious. Regardless it was a well crafted enough story, with solid humor that kept you engaged until the end. My problem is the whole “based on a true story” thing, so you know Spike embellished the hell out of this. John David Washington and Adam Driver were great in their roles and pulled off the buddy cop dynamic well. But, as much as I enjoyed it, I would’ve much rather had Sorry to Bother You in this spot. I think it was, overall, a better made film with a unique storytelling, a better message everyone can get behind, one of a kind style and great acting.

Bohemian Rhapsody
I love Queen, they have a deep running and eclectic array of songs and history (both in music and film.) The Shaun of the Dead bar scene with “Don’t Stop Me Now” playing while they beat down a zombie to the song is still amazing. My direct problem with Bohemian Rhapsody is that it’s everything but Freddy Mercury’s iconic style. Rami Malek was fine, as was the rest of the cast. But this is a film that, while entertaining and you can tap your foot to, doesn’t do anything your average biopic would, aside from possibly pushing books (or Greatest Hits albums in this case.) We follow our [insert main character] as he goes from nobody to getting a taste of fame or glory, finding love and then we hit the big points of their life until their untimely death all while getting some cool music or montages in there. Queen’s music is legendary, Freddy Mercury was one of a kind, but Bohemian Rhapsody is anything but.

The Favourite
If this was just another period piece, I likely would’ve not cared anywhere near as much. But from the first 10-20 minutes, you’re shown this isn’t just another historically accurate period piece (of course maybe it is, I’m not the most knowledgeable.) The Favourite is a dark comedy embellished in all of the best ways. First of all the comedy and humor is very well done and it’s sprinkled in at time to keep the average dolt like myself engaged. Second, the performances by Oliva Coleman (Queen Anne), Emma Stone (Baroness Masham) and Rachel Weisz (Duchess of Marlborough) were all in top from. Abigail Masham and Sarah Churchill are both trying to court the favorites of Queen Anne and it turns into a love triangle of one-upsmanship that goes from a lighthearted affair to much darker places as the temptation of power creeps into the fold. This might be my favorite Emma Stone performance, Rachel Weisz is amazing as well, while Olivia Coleman as the queen is perfect. If I had any complaints it would the length and the fact there’s a lot of scenes that are long-winded.

Green Book
Green Book is a lighthearted buddy travel comedy that splashed in the racial tensions of the 1960s and never really commits to what it wants to be as a film. The story and presentation are fine and it’s worth a watch. Ali and Mortensen are a great pairing and it has a feel-good storybook ending. The problem is along the way, there’s a ton of “real” stuff dealing with racial inequality that doesn’t feel like it fits in 100% with the film. This is why I say it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It does a decent enough job of trying to blend happy-go-lucky narrative with the more serious racial problems present back in the 1960s. I just wish they had stuck one way or another in our second “based on a true story.” But at least this one seemed much more faithful than BlacKkKlansman.

Roma is a lighthearted…just kidding. Roma is a drama that tells the story of a housekeeper of middle-class family living in Mexico City. Apparently, this is partially related to the director’s, Alfonso Cuaron, life growing up. We see basically the every day lives of Cleo (said housekeeper) and the family she lives with over the course of two years in the early 1970s. Let me tell you what, the first half of this movie was not for me in the slightest. I have no connection or interest in Mexico in the 1970s, it’s just something I don’t really care about deeply. The character building over the first half of the film was fine, and the cinematography was great, but I thought it was utterly dull. The second half of the film for me was a lot better and I feel like trying to emotionally connect with Cleo and the rest of the family was infinitely easier to do. Cleo was the best part of this film and without her influence on the film, it would be dull and completely forgettable.

A Star Is Born
Against all odds, one of the Best Picture nominations I wanted to see the least, turned out to be my favorite of the nods. I went into A Star Is Born not even knowing it was based on another film. I thought it was going to be just another movie about a singer getting her shot at stardom, and it partially still is. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have amazing on-screen chemistry. The story is nothing new and doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s not trying to either. That’s what puts it a step above the rest, it knew what it wanted to be. It’s an emotional roller coaster (he said it) of highs and lows between the characters, telling a complete and satisfying story with well-made and sung music.

Ever since The Wolf of Wall Street came out Adam McKay (with Christian Bale) have been scouring the world of finance and politics, trying to recreate the magic. Unfortunately, they haven’t succeeded, but The Big Short and now Vice are very watchable films. The story of Dick Cheney is probably one that no one asked for and despite the sublime performances from Amy Adams and Bale, probably isn’t one you’re going to go revisit with your kids one day. But it is still fairly entertaining, Sam Rockwell does his thing as George Bush and like with most of these other best picture nods it suffers from two things. It has length problems as well shoving the current political climate into a film that has nothing to do with it.

Who I Want to Win: A Star is Born
Who Will Win: Roma

Best Actor

This category is probably most defined by Christian Bale for Vice and Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born. In classic Christian Bale fashion, he went all out for the role of Dick Cheney and completely immersed himself in the role If you didn’t know it was Christian Bale, you might not be able to tell until they cut back to his earlier years. On the other had Bradley Cooper has been playing the safe but highly effective character for years now. There’s nothing overly special about Jackson Maine. He’s a famous country music star, he has some health and drug problems and runs into his soulmate and they become a power couple. There’s nothing revolutionary about his character, but he’s still one of the best acted characters of the year. Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate I have no way of judging since I didn’t see the film and I find it unfair to judge him based off his role in Aquaman either. Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody was pretty alright, but the safe narrative and overall formulaic biopic style never let him have a chance to actually be Freddy Mercury. So, he’ll probably win. While Viggo Mortensen in Green Book was another great character, one we got to see a positive transformation in from start to finish, but like the movie, the tone of his character never really knew what it wanted to be during the duration.

Who I Want to Win: Christian Bale
Who Will Win: Rami Malek

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio for Roma is the one everybody has fallen in love with and for good reason. Even as someone who wasn’t enamored with Roma, her role as Cleo was the driving force for the film and the one character out of these you can relate to the most. Olivia Coleman for The Favourite was another astounding performance as the Queen. Not only was the Queen jugging the fate of her nation, her health seemed to always be at risk, her emotions were constantly being torn by Abigail and Sarah, also mention she had like a million rabbits to take care of. Just an absurd number of things pour into a convincing performance. Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born is in the same boat as Bradley Cooper for me. She isn’t a groundbreaking character by any means. She’s a woman with talent that hadn’t yet been discovered thrust into superstardom with her famous musician boyfriend. Gaga plays the role with conviction and emotion and has the real-life musical chops to pull of the singing. The last two left are, Glenn Close in The Wife and Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Gonna be honest, I didn’t watch either of these purely because I didn’t want to.

Who I Want to Win: Lady Gaga/Olivia Coleman
Who Will Win: Yalitza Aparicio

Best Supporting Actor

I liked Mahershala Ali’s Green Book performance a tad bit more than Viggo’s purely because he showed more emotion and vulnerability throughout the film. That doesn’t save the problems I have that I’ve already talked about twice with the film. Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman was another strong performance. While he’s not the greatest actor in the world, he brought charm, sensibility and seriousness to the majority of the runtime and, with John David Washington (why is he not nominated, he gave a better performance than Driver), keep you engaged. Sam Elliott plays Bradley Cooper’s older brother in A Star Is Born. While it’s not a role that ever dominates screen time, it’s an emotional role that’s the driving force behind a lot of the decisions and actions that Jackson makes in the film. If you know Sam Elliott, it’s a Sam Elliott-esque role. Sam Rockwell played George W. Bush in Vice and much like Elliott, it’s a role that never dominates screen time, but makes an impact thanks to the importance to the narrative. Plus, you can never go wrong with Sam Rockwell. Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a performance I have zero ability to comment on.

Who I Want to Win: Mahershala Ali, I guess
Who Will Win: Adam Driver

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for Vice would be the front runner almost any other year. She was the perfect compliment to Christian Bale. She even had her own scenes and moments that stood out to past Bale being a powerhouse. She gave campaign speeches, got Cheney out of the dirt when they were younger, was strong-willed and wasn’t afraid to show it and most of all she iss a loving mother. Adams pulled it off with aplomb. But then you have both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for The Favourite. Both for different reasons, both (like Amy Adams) better than all the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Emma Stone starts off as her likable. Humorous and charming self only to get drunk with power and deliver a performance I’ve we’ve really only seen once out of her (in Birdman.) On the other hand, we have Rachel Weisz. I can’t say I’ve personally ever seen her in a memorable role and here we are. Starting off as the no-nonsense boss of the women working in the castle, she truly does have the Queen’s best interests hidden beneath her seemingly cold demeanor. And her chess match with Emma Stone was superb to watch unfold. Marina de Tavira for Roma was the one character nominated here that I just didn’t care for at all. There was some emotion finally near the end, but it felt like a “just a mom” role to me. Regina King was nominated for If Beale Street Could Talk but I can’t speak on the performance because I never got around to watching it.

Who I Want to Win: Amy Adams/Emma Stone/Rachel Weisz
Who Will Win: Regina King

Animated Feature Film

The Incredibles 2 was bit of a letdown for me. I absolutely, like most, adore the first film and was expecting good things from the follow up, but it was just lacking something. The action was fine, the family was just as charming and it’s worth a watch. There was just something that didn’t click with me with sequel. Isle of Dogs was a charming little stop motion film by Wes Anderson that tells the tale of a boy looking for his lost dog in Japan. The only problem is that they have outlawed dogs to a trash island, the dogs have formed pacts, the mayor will never lift the ban on dogs and it’s up to a group of dogs to reverse everyone’s fortunes. Truly one of the more unique animated films of the year. Mirai is a charming anime film from Japan and the first non-Ghibli film to be nominated for an Oscar. It follows the story of Kun, his father and mother who have recently had a baby girl named Mirai. Kun is a toddler who is having his whole world changed with the addition of the baby and copes with the changes by retreated into his mind and trying to learn to love his whole family again. Ralph Breaks the Internet this is much of the same as for Incredibles 2 for me. Well worth a watch, good humor, visuals and a solid story, but it’s just missing something. The scene with all the Disney Princesses was pretty standout though I will admit. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not only is it the best animated film of the year, I think it’s the best movie of the year period. I’ve done a full review of the film already, but even if you’re not a fan of comic books or superheroes, the story, style, action, humor, animation and the list goes on and on. You owe it to yourself to give this a watch if you haven’t already.

Who I Want to Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who Will Win: One of the Disney Boys


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