Every year I try, with varying degrees of success, to watch as many of that year’s Oscar nominees as possible. This year I got through 14 movies: all of the Best Picture nominees, plus a handful of other films that were nominated in other categories. It’s a light load compared to the 19 I saw last year (check out last year’s reviews here and last year’s post-Oscar reactions here), but not too shabby considering I hadn’t seen a single film before the nominations were announced less than a month ago.
This year I did hastily-written (read: typo-ridden un-proofread run-on messes, according to my loving, supportive spouse) reviews of each individual film I saw. Here’s a list of links for your enjoyment (* denotes Best Picture nominees):
Someone asked me if I thought it was generally a good year for the Oscars. My answer is yes. There are some really great movies up for big awards this year. Though none of them are 100% perfect (a tall order), several of this year’s nominees blow all of last year’s nominees out of the water. In that list I would include 1917, Bombshell, Judy, Joker, and Parasite. I appreciate the inclusion of a couple films which, like last year’s Black Panther, usually wouldn’t make it into the Best Picture category, including Joker and Parasite. But, like in every year, there are also some snubs and misses here. Bombshell, Judy, and The Lighthouse all deserved inclusion. Who should be removed to make space? Maybe Ford v Ferrari or Little Women (which were both fine but not mind-blowing). I hated the crap out of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood so I’d take that one down, but I’m sure Tarantino-lovers would disagree. The biggest miss, though, is The Irishman. Now that I have seen all the competition, I am even more confused as to how this mess is nominated for best picture. I just can’t even wrap my brain around it. So very, very baffled.
Last year I noted a couple patterns in that year’s nominees, in particular with regards to death and women. So I figured I’d do a little comparison there.
Last year 15 out of 19 (79%) of the films I watched killed off characters, either in the plot or the postscript. This year it was 12 out of 14 (86%), and the remaining two featured death threats. Yikes! Last year I was kinda disturbed that 4 movies killed off animals. Maybe this realization last year made me more susceptible to it this year, but I noticed that animal death and/or animal cruelty appeared in at least 6 films. WTF.
Did women do any better this year? Let’s start with the Bechdel test- Are there two or more named female characters who talk to one another about something other than men? By my count, 7 out of 14 movies pass this year, up from 4 out of 19 last year. Hey! Progress! Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Marriage Story, Bombshell, Harriet, and Judy all pass the test. Fifty percent representation in a world where we’re fifty percent of the population? Hallelujah, it’s a miracle! Though it is frustrating that almost all of these films are those with female leads; can’t women in a non-female-lead film have some depth, too? Apparently not, because female representation is pretty shoddy in all of our remaining selections. Three films (1917, The Lighthouse, and Ford v Ferrari) only have a single female character each (only one of them has a name, and another one is a mermaid so arguably doesn’t count). And while The Irishman and The Two Popes technically have a handful of women hanging around, they might as well not exist because they barely do or say anything.
Okay, time for some picks! This might be a let down, but I’m only commenting on three awards, partly cuz I am out of time. And two of those are super obvious.
Best Picture: 1917. I would also be delighted and unsurprised to see the big one go to Parasite. On a personal level I’d also be happy with Joker, but I do not think it deserves the win. If any of the remaining nominees win it, I will punch a pillow really hard.
Best actress: Renee Zellweger for Judy. Hands down. I have never seen a more deserving performance out of any actress, ever. Which is a shame for Charlize Theron, because she was crazy good as Megyn Kelly, and I would have given it to her in any other year. Oh well.
Best actor: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker. This was a very tough role to pull off. The Joker has always been a juicy role, but its also been done to perfection by several actors in the past and it was tough, going in, to imagine anyone beating the depictions that are already out there. But he did it. This is a very obvious win and I’d be shocked if anyone else got it.
I’ll end by saying that I will be extremely disappointed if Irishman and/or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood win ANYTHING. Ugh.