The last few Academy Awards have been hectic and replete with controversy. The 2018 Oscars saw their lowest ratings in 44 years, while movements such as #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite exposed an unconscionable history of assault, sexism, and racism in the film industry. Now, in 2019, for the first time in 30 years, the show will not have a host, after the originally scheduled host, Kevin Hart, was recently exposed for tweeting homophobic statements in the past. This year, the Oscars had also planned to introduce a “Best Popular Film” category to appeal to a broader audience. While the specifics of this award are still unclear, it is widely believed that “Best Popular Film” would nominate the most successful blockbuster films, such as The Avengers franchise, while “Best Picture” could be reserved for more traditional (and less profitable) awards contenders. But after criticisms that the Academy was shamelessly trying to get higher ratings, the idea for a new category was postponed until 2020. Finally, who could forget the stir caused when La La Land was accidentally announced as the Best Picture winner in 2017, instead of the actual winner, Moonlight?
Just as the recent movements against them suggest, the Academy Awards are self-congratulatory and entrenched in racism and sexism. For most of its history, the ceremony has largely been shaped by White men. Despite recent amendments to create a more diverse Academy, the awards feel out of touch. Whatever the reason, reports reveal that the show’s audience is shrinking every year. Furthermore, as art, the worth and value of films cannot always be objectively appraised. Is A Star is Born objectively better than Eighth Grade or Black Panther? Everyone has their own opinions, and it’s impossible for the Academy to please everyone. The Academy Awards today feel dated and aloof, while at the same time cash-grabbing and self-promoting. I’m not the only one who dislikes the Oscars. Most notably, after winning the 1971 Best Lead Actor Oscar for his role in Patton, George C. Scott refused to show up to the ceremony, calling it a “goddamn meat parade.” Perhaps today, we should follow his lead.
It is no secret that the Academy Awards are full of flaws. Regardless, the nominees at least help me pick from the variety of new movies to watch, and gives me a general sense of which films are well-liked by others. Which films win doesn’t matter to me that much; it’s fun to make predictions anyway. So, without further ado:
Who will win: Roma
Who should win: Roma
There are plenty of great nominees for Best Picture this year. Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the life of Freddie Mercury, an icon and musical visionary. A Star is Born is in its fourth cinematic incarnation, with a 21st century spin involving country music and Lady Gaga(!). However, the film that should and will win Best Picture this year is Roma. The protagonist, Cleo, is a housekeeper for a middle class family that adores her as if she’s family, yet constantly reminds her that she is their servant. Too often movies focus on royalty and elites. Roma focuses on the women responsible for the laborious work of housekeeping, caring, and raising kids, yet still have their own ambitions for a happy and meaningful life. Films are supposed to show audiences glimpses of how other people live. While normally they’re about kings or billionaires, Roma gives a voice to marginalized and under-appreciated people whose lives are just as fascinating and complex. It’s a beautiful, entertaining film that deserves to win Best Picture.
Who will win: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Who should win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Yalitza Aparicio’s performance as Cleo, the protagonist of Roma, is a memorable one because of how seemingly unremarkable her character is. Ordinary and humble characters like housekeepers are never the focus of Oscar contenders. Yet Aparicio shows the depths of someone whose role in life is to be invisible, but who also wants something more from their existence. In addition, to have a Mexican woman of Indigenous heritage nominated for the most prestigious acting accolade is both unprecedented and refreshing. However, the actress I think should win this year is the complete opposite of Cleo: Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Her character has the attention of an entire country on her at all times, yet she remains depressed due to her 17 miscarriages and the political backstabbing to gain her favor. The irony of being so important and loved yet desperately lonely at the same time makes Colman’s performance darkly funny and tragic.
Who will win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Who should win: Christian Bale, Vice
Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury has already earned him widespread acclaim, including the Golden Globe award for Best Actor. There’s even a viral Youtube video of side by side comparisons of scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody and actual footage of Queen performances that show the stunning accuracy of his depiction of Mercury. However, Christian Bale’s performance in Vice is my personal favorite of the year. His performance also went viral; in his portrayal of Dick Cheney, Bale gained an impressive 40 pounds and shaved his head to completely transform himself into an elderly, overweight D.C. bureaucrat. His appearance bares no trace of the young, handsome, British man who played Batman a few years ago. Bale plays a character who makes a Faustian pact with himself: sell his soul, his morality, even his love for his daughter, all in the name of power. The movie itself isn’t my favorite of the year, but Bale’s subtly diabolical performance elevates it to a higher level.
Who will win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Who should win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
For years, Alfonso Cuarón’s movies have transported audiences to fantastical places, be it Hogwarts, a space station, or an apocalyptic future. Yet for his most recent film, he shows us a much more modest world: Mexico in the 1970s. This isn’t a historical place that is typically covered in mainstream media, like Victorian England or Ancient Greece. However, Cuarón puts his heart and soul into recreating the Mexico City of his childhood, and it ends up being his greatest film yet. The devotion he puts into his long takes, his quirky scenes (a German man in a monster costume helping put out a fire was weird as hell), and his empathetic and layered characters are the product of a mature director late in his career. Many think Cuarón is pretentious for his scenes that seem to go on forever, but I think the opposite. Cuarón’s camera has the perspective of an observer from the actual community, curiously looking around in real-time as a person would. His unique directorial style makes you appreciate the work he puts into his scenes, and he does a flawless job of immersing the viewer into the worlds he creates. Roma is the product of a director at his peak, and actively engages audiences in a time and place that isn’t Western-centered.
Best Animated Feature
Who will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who should Win: Isle of Dogs
I hate Spider-Man. Not actually, but Sony is now releasing at least three Spider-Man films a year for the foreseeable future, and audiences still eat them up. Most recently, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced us to Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican high schooler whose origin is strikingly different from the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. It’s refreshing to see a non-White Spider-Man, and the movie itself is hilarious, exciting, and has a great soundtrack. However, there is just too much Spider-Man content out right now. People know there are other characters in the world, right? I’m getting fatigued. Isle of Dogs should win the Oscar for this category because Wes Anderson’s unique style and narratives, whether live-action or claymation, are always entertaining. The film is funny, original, and praises dogs for their unwavering affection and love for humans no matter how poorly we treat them.
As Oscars viewership declines, and controversy continues to mire the show, it is important to realize that the awards do at times promote and celebrate independent and low-budget films that tackle serious issues. In an age where 200 million dollar superhero films dominate the box office, the Academy Awards offer a voice for many unique and impressive films that otherwise may not have reached the same acclaim and success.