Movie Review: Best Picture Nominees

Once again I have tried my best to see all of this year’s Best Picture nominees ahead of the Academy Awards. Unfortunately, Vice is not available to see either in any theaters near here or online, so I wasn’t able to get to that one, but I do have my thoughts on the other 7 below. Let us know what your favorites were and who you think will win in the comments!


romaThis film follows Cleo, a live-in maid to a wealthy family in Mexico City in the early 1970’s. Things begin with an ordinary day in her life, as she takes care of and interacts with her employers. But what feels like little more than a peek into the life of the country’s rich at the time, becomes much more as Cleo, the family, and Mexico itself endure significant upheavals. This is a beautifully shot movie, with some of the most striking imagery ever set to film, that is also rich with symbolism. There are sequences here that I will forever remember, not just for their technical mastery, but also for how well they use pictures to fill in the details of a story. And it is an outwardly-simple but beautiful story; about the obstacles life unexpectedly throws our way, love, class, family, and most of all a tribute to women and mothers. Stunning, heart-wrenching, and beautiful. A masterpiece. ★★★★★


blackkklansmanSpike Lee’s latest shows he is still a director at the height of his powers. He tells the story of the first black detective of the Colorado Springs PD’s undercover investigation into the local chapter of the KKK, with help from his Jewish colleague, with the perfect mix of historical gravitas, caper-style suspense, satirical humor, and visual flair. Every performance is spot-on, even if they are mostly less showy than those in the other nominees. The script does a good job of tying these events to our current political climate and ends with a denouement that viscerally and emotionally drives the point home. There are very few filmmakers who could so deftly handle this blend of entertainment and messaging, but Lee proves himself once again to be a master at pulling it off. This is easily the most vital and of-the-moment film among this year’s nominees. ★★★★1/2


favouriteVery loosely based on the adversarial relationship that developed between Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and Abigail Hill as they vie for the attention of Queen Anne in 18th century England, this movie puts a fresh new spin on the staid period piece formula. Sure there are opulent sets and gorgeous costumes, but other than that this is most decidedly not your parents’ historical drama. The performances are stellar all around, with Olivia Colman’s portrayal of a frail and childish Anne especially standing out. The mixture of sharp-tongued wit and physical comedy scattered throughout keeps things entertaining, as does all of the political and romantic maneuvering. There is some pretty excellent camerawork here as well, that is often used to great effect to heighten the intended emotions during a scene, likewise with the occasional dips into absurdity. For all that though, the central question of the film is a simple one with deep ramifications; do you choose an honest love that won’t hold back from telling you things the way they really are, or do you go with an opportunistic love that will gladly tell you whatever you want to hear? ★★★★1/2


black pantherMuch of what is here could easily fit into Marvel’s well-established hero vs. villain formula, but there is a lot too that shows a willingness to play with that formula to achieve more than it has previously been allowed to. Having the bad guy change a good portion of the way into the movie is only the first bit of innovation here. Taking notes from Guardians of the Galaxy and both creating a visually fantastic world to explore and smartly using pop music (though far less liberally than that movie does), also help make it feel special. As do the compelling performances and top-notch direction. But most of why this movie truly shines is because of how well it incorporates real social issues into its story. It didn’t lazily transpose black actors into a generic Marvel movie in the hopes of getting more African Americans buying tickets, but instead allowed the filmmakers to really speak to that audience by addressing some of the very things they deal with on a daily basis (hopefully giving white audience members a little more insight as well). Still, this is a superhero movie, and as such can’t dive too deeply into things, and it does suffer from occasionally poor special effects during fight scenes, so it isn’t exactly a masterpiece. But it is a close as Marvel Studios has gotten yet. ★★★★


bohemian rhapsodyThe life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is full of interesting moments, unfortunately this movie glosses over most of them. Rami Malek is good in the lead, if not perhaps a bit exaggerated. The music, and the peeks behind-the-scenes of its creation make up most of what is interesting, and it does make you want to go out and pick of a copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits. There is little else noteworthy here however, with the whole thing feeling far more ordinary than a movie about such a dynamic figure should; though the recreation of the band’s Live Aid reunion performance at the end is thrilling. Still, for all of the movie’s faults, at least it is consistently entertaining. ★★★1/2


a star is bornThe fourth iteration of this classic tale, which follows an alcoholic megastar discovering and falling in love with a younger singer, starts out promisingly enough. The first third of the film feels vibrant and exciting in a way that makes it easy to admire, all leading up to the moment when Bradley Cooper beckons Lady Gaga onto the stage and she sings in front of a massive crowd for the first time. A moment which feels like pure movie magic. Unfortunately, things go downhill pretty quickly after that. The performances are great, with Gaga in particular really standing out, but virtually nothing for the remaining run time of the film is nearly as exciting or memorable as the beginning, and even worse, often feels more than a little boring. A decent enough movie, but hardly Best Picture material. ★★★1/2


green bookThis predictable but entertaining movie tells the true(ish) story of NYC bouncer Tony Vallelonga who winds up taking a job driving renowned African-American pianist Don Shirley on a 2 month concert tour through the American Deep South during the early 1960’s. The tough-talking Tony and sophisticated Don don’t exactly hit it off right away, but unsurprisingly wind up warming to each other, with Tony rethinking his own racist attitudes after seeing how poorly Don is treated along the way. This is about as ordinary a movie as you can possibly find, with little to make it truly stand out beyond the 2 core performances. As the feel-good moments pick up during the back third of the film, it does at least become progressively more entertaining, after only being sporadically so beforehand. If any movie about America’s racist past could be described as slight, this would be it. ★★★

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

One comment

  1. Sorry but I gave your B,s A,s Bohemian Rhapsody Green Book and A Star is born Enjoyed thoroughly
    did not like Favourite .We shall see Sunday

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