OPINION: Oscars 2019 Preview Round-Up
There is no denying that 2018 has been a great year for movies. In these preceding eleven months, we have gotten motion pictures that have wowed us, inspired us, left us heartbroken, transported us, and most importantly, made us feel in the most evocative ways.
As the year winds down, it is only right to highlight a few of these films which have received awards buzz and lengthy critical acclaim which suggests that they will be significant players come the Oscars. These films are also must-sees as the year comes to a close.
Hereditary - dir. Ari Aster
Horror films, both mainstream and otherwise, have made quite the comeback in the last decade. Genre faithfuls should feel right at home with the niche, art-house properties and even the uninitiated demographic still find enjoyment and thrill in the sheer craft on display in more mainstream titles. They have become enamored so much so that it is easy to find at least one horror movie in peoples’ year-end best of lists.
Horror films make quite unconventional Oscar nominees. It’s not to say the Academy never recognizes horror movies (Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist) but there is always something of a veil when it comes to breaking through and really resonating with Academy voters. Last year, Get Out surprised by not only being nominated for Best Picture, but also winning for Best Original Screenplay.
This year, we have Hereditary. Hereditary is a harrowing film that not only presents itself as a truly unsettling horror but quite a profound family drama as well. It rightly received acclaim among critics for its performances and film-making. Toni Collette, who has continued to turn in one amazing performance after another in her career, but has not been nominated since 1999 (The Sixth Sense), makes a strong case for the Best Actress prize.
The film itself is also worthy of nods in areas such as Directing (for Ari Aster), Production Design, Sound Mixing/Editing and Score. It would be interesting to see how this all plays as the nominations approach.
A Star Is Born - dir. Bradley Cooper
It is not every day that a movie which has already been made three times gets yet another remake and turns out to be such a critically acclaimed darling.
This musical romantic drama directed by Bradley Cooper and starring pop icon, Lady Gaga is an amazing film with a powerful and raw reflection on stardom and its toll on relationships. The film also pulls off being a thoroughly entertaining spectacle of music and sound itself. Critics have extolled Gaga’s performance, labeling her a front-runner for Best Actress. The screenplay, cinematography and direction have also received praise. As the film’s director, co-lead, co-writer and co-producer, Bradley Cooper has multiple shots at Oscar glory this year.
It is safe to say the stars indeed are aligning for A Star Is Born this awards season.
If Beale Street Could Talk - dir. Barry Jenkins
When Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight won Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, it was an astounding, joyous and unprecedented event. Everyone involved was catapulted into the limelight and became revered (in one way or another) in the industry. His follow-up film If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s topical and compelling novel, centers on a pregnant woman whose life is upturned when her husband is wrongly incarcerated.
Since its world premiere in Toronto, the film has been garnering resounding approval from critics who name it among their best of 2018. The cast across the board has been praised with Regina King being singled out as the front-runner for Supporting Actress.
Merely watching the trailer alone, it is easy to tell that these claims are earned just from how masterful the film looks; from the cinematography to the costume design to the score. If Beale Street Could Talk is bound to be an Oscar favorite.
Widows - dir. Steve McQueen
Steven McQueen’s staggering heist thriller is nothing but a force just on its own. From the moment it was announced with its premise and the talents attached, it was almost set in stone that it will be a great film which not only raises relevant conversations, but commands the respect of critics and viewers alike.
Academy Award winner Viola Davis leads an all-star ensemble of women who are recently widowed when their husbands die in a heist that goes completely wrong. The women set out to finish the job in this powerful and layered drama which explores a plethora of engaging and noteworthy themes.
Steve McQueen directed the Best Picture-winning 12 Years A Slave (2013) and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated Gone Girl (2014) with Gillian Flynn. He teams up again with the amazing writer to pen Widows of which the screenplay is just heaping with intelligence and compelling narratives.
The film also stands as a showcase for each and every one of its stars. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry and Colin Farrell all turn in phenomenal performances and shine in their roles.
It’s hard to not see the film scoring big when the Oscars arrive.
Eighth Grade - dir. Bo Burnham
The Academy loves a good (indie) coming of age film. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is more than a darling in that regard. Featuring an endearing and honest look into the life of middle schoolers through the eyes of the demure Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), the film is a captivating coming of age movie that capturing the awkwardness and turmoil of being in eighth grade. It also never shies away from the hard-hitting truths about adolescence whilst still being entirely feel-good.
It was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival and racked up praise for Bo Burnham’s screenplay and direction and Elsie Fisher’s outstanding star-making performance.
Similar films like Juno (2007) and Lady Bird (2017) had great success and received Academy Award attention by the way of nominations. With the right push and campaigning from production company/distributor, A24, it should make quite a statement at the Oscars next year.
BlacKkKlansman - dir. Spike Lee
Put together a race-centered piece that addresses relevant, timely themes and you have the Academy standing at attention. Spike Lee’s latest joint is aiming to go for just that.
While never having won an competitive Oscar before, Lee is firing on all cylinders for his due recognition with this thought-provoking dramedy based on a memoir about an African American cop who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington plays the lead role of Ron Stallworth and is a breakout in the film. Its social relevance, deft direction and brilliant dialogue catapult it into being one of Lee’s best and by far his boldest as regards the subject matter.
Winning the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, there is no way several Oscar nominations (and/or wins) aren’t on the horizon.
The Favourite - dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
This is a well-known fact: The Academy finds it hard to resist British period pieces.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos who previously scored an Academy Award nomination for his dark comedy The Lobster brings this biting biographical drama about two cousins who rival against each other for the favor of Queen Anne. The film packs a formidable trifecta of acclaimed actresses as the three leads; Academy award winners, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz and veteran BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Olivia Colman and they all nail all the potent and subtextual material of the film with stellar performances.
Recently, in a record-setting near-sweep, it won 10 British Independent Film Awards while also winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Colman at the Venice International Film Festival.
The entire film just screams to be recognized by the Academy and that will surely be the case.
Roma - dir. Alfonso Cuaron
Alfonso Cuaron’s new film looks like a masterpiece, let’s be honest. Just from how beautiful the cinematography looks to how intricate and intimate the story seems to be, Roma, first and foremost, looks like an astoundingly beautiful movie.
Roma is a drama set in the 1970s, following the events of a family in Mexico City over the course of a year. Reviews have been unanimously stellar; many calling it the best film of 2018 with praise particularly going to the direction, cinematography and Yalitza Aparicio’s performance. Mexico has already selected the film as its entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and it just may win Best Picture itself, making it the first foreign language film to do so.
Even with the Academy voters’ bias against Netflix[-distributed] movies (which Roma is), I still see its chances as very high.
First Man - dir. Damian Chazelle
Just on the page, this film already has its ticket as a certified Best Picture nominee. Besides everything else, it is a biopic and the plot revolves around the Apollo 11 moon landing; hands down one of the most significant events in human history. Movies depicting such are instant Oscar contenders but when the talent involved include Damian Chazelle who helmed the glorious Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016), then you just know it is a surefire bet.
Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling stars as the titular “first man”, Neil Armstrong and has received acclaim for his performance. Emmy winning Claire Foy also appears as Janet Armstrong and receives quite some praise as well. The film has also been lauded for its Chazelle’s direction and the technicals of the moon landing sequence and Justin Hurwitz musical score.
It is destined to remain one of the strong players throughout this awards season.
Other noteworthy long shots and honorable mentions include: Boy Erased, Ben Is Back, Vox Lux, Mary Queen of Scots, High Life and First Reformed.