Staff Oscar expert gives us his picks
by Andrew Millman
Awards shows are never great about actually getting right what the best movies and performances were of any given year, which is partly understandable because it’s much easier to know what holds up in retrospect than only a few months after a movie came out. Last year, fish romance movie The Shape of Water beat out much better movies like Lady Bird and Get Out. It is only occasionally that the Academy Awards gets it right, but that’s rare. This year, it looks like the frontrunners for Best Picture are two super-problematic movies, Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. Green Book is a white savior complex movie that focuses more on the personal transformation of a white bodyguard than the other primary character, legendary African-American jazz pianist Don Shirley. Shirley’s family has called the film a “symphony of lies” and the film was written by an Islamophobe and had a director accused of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, accused pedophile and rapist Bryan Singer directed Bohemian Rhapsody, before he was fired near the end of production for unrelated reasons.
So, because of all this, here are all the nominees that should win Oscars this year, but probably won’t because the Academy Awards are generally awful. Full disclosure, A Star is Born is a masterpiece and will feature heavily in this
Best Picture: A Star is Born & Black Panther (tie)
These two were the best movies of the year. Black Panther is a movie that even people who hate superhero movies can love. Chadwick Boseman gives a great performance as a prince who becomes a king, loses his kingdom, and the gets it back to save the world. Even without the grand scale of the Marvel movies, the film is great because it has a compelling villain who people could legitimately think was in the right. Boseman’s T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger offer competing visions of non-violent and militant resistance to oppression.
Then, there’s A Star is Born, the fourth film of that name, managed to be the best version of that timeless tale of a past-his-prime star discovering a great new talent. This was Bradley Cooper’s first time directing, but it doesn’t show. Similarly, this was Lady Gaga’s first major role and she gives the performance of a lifetime. That’s not even taking into account the amazing soundtrack with songs like “Shallow” and Is that All Right?” Also, Sam Elliot, the “Coors, the banquet beer” voice guy, is in it and he’s amazing. He finally got nominated for an Oscar and his response was “it’s about fucking time.” Legends only in A Star is Born.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
This movie’s on Netflix so you have no reason not to see it. The movie is an anecdotal account of a tumultuous period in Mexican history told through Cuaron’s childhood housekeeper. It’s shot in black-and-white and completely in Spanish, so that may turn some people off, but trust me it’s worth it. Honorable mention: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman.
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Somehow, Ethan Hawke wasn’t nominated for his amazing performance as Reverend Toller, a depressed clergyman with a dwindling congregation who goes through a spiritual crisis and becomes an environmental activist and then potential terrorist. First Reformed is on Amazon Prime if you want to watch it and you should for Ethan Hawke alone. Honorable mention: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born.
Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
A Star is Born is great because of Lady Gaga’s performance, both her first-time acting and a return to form as a singer, delivering several great songs. Spoiler alert: her last song to end the film will leave you emotionally wrecked, if you have any semblance of a soul.
Best Supporting Actor: Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
I just saw Beautiful Boy (on Amazon Prime) and, wow, Timothee Chalamet was so good in this movie as a teenager struggling to cope with addiction. In the movie, Chalamet’s character goes from model son to homeless addict and frequently oscillates between the two, which makes it so shocking. Honorable mention: Sam “it’s about fucking time” Elliot, A Star is Born.
Best Screenplay: Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
This is the only movie I’ve seen more once in a theater since Avatar when I was a kid. And wow, this movie is a non-stop cringe-fest. This movie dredges up all your repressed middle school nightmares all rolled into one and somehow still comes out as hopeful and heartwarming. That is all because of Burnham’s great script, which is both current and eternal. You can watch it on Amazon Prime, but be prepared. Honorable mention: Paul Shrader, First Reformed
Best Original Song: “Shallow,” Lady Gaga
I listened to this song for months and still do occasionally. It’s great, both in the movie and just to on its own. From the “ah-a-aha-a” belting to its emotional resonance within the film, this song is amazing. Honorable mention: “All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA.