Oscars 2019

The best in film – 2019

I enjoyed many movies this year. I enjoyed the variety. I enjoyed the performances. I enjoyed the fact that Marvel is making better movies than Scorsese and Spielberg is still bitching about movies being released on Netflix and other streaming services. He’s the same asshole who sponsored a service where one would have to have to repay to see his movies after they already owned them. I need more things that bother Spielberg so he has less time to lecture people who have jobs.

Tarantino is down to his last film, and he’s certainly making them count. I would be happier if he produces one more of the level of his ode to Hollywood and save Star Trek for someone else. South Korean cinema is on the map, yes. It shouldn’t matter where you are from, though. This is especially true for a generational talent like Bong Joon-ho. Rian Johnson has reinvigorated the whodunit, and we have a chance to enjoy this one before critics over analyze the sequel. Mangold made what feels like a living documentary and everyone over 45 showed up to watch with handkerchiefs ready.

Speaking of generational talents, Gerwig and her significant other Baumbach bring two of the better films of 2019. That we’re recognizing one of them sucks, especially when Scorsese is back on deck with just an average film with two of the many old actors who are once more filling up the acting categories. Thank goodness for Adam Driver, the Bombshell ladies and the Little Women who are there to remind us there is a future.

The person holding the camera is as important as ever. There is much incredible talent to enjoy, new (The Lighthouse‘s Blashke) and old (Deakins, Richardson).

Marvel hit a milestone with Endgame. DC is struggling still, but they busted out of the humorless hole they were in to find some sort of middle ground. Joker shouldn’t feel funny, and it doesn’t for the most part. It struck the right balance for a character that many weren’t sure deserved his own film. This is due to the power of Phoenix’ performance as anything. Sure Shazam was dumb, but it is as fun and good hearted as any film in the year. Star Wars is over for now in theaters. The ending is not as good as we’d hoped, but we can’t wait for them to start rolling again. There should be an award for best blockbuster, but that’s like rooting for NASCAR in the ESPYs.

Alright, let’s cut the crap.

Best Picture:
Endgame is fantastic. It strikes every chord, and some of them twice. Portals is perhaps the best moment in film this year. It’s power will resonate in cinema for years to come. Parasite is the best film of the year, were it not for one scene filled with wacky hi-jinks throwing off every bit of the skillful manipulation of feelings and circumstance before and after. 1917 is an excellent execution of a concept that manages to be immersed with genuine feeling. The best film is as much a surprise to me as anything. Downton Abbey should not be forgotten. They had not much to say, and they said it with incredible skill and heart.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the kind of film that rewards with every viewing. It scratches the itch of what we wish could be history, while feeling more true than what actually happened. It is helped by great cinematography, a cheeky soundtrack and 3 excellent performances. If Tarantino stops after one more film, it will feel like we’re missing someone in their prime.

Of the nominees:
1917, Parasite and Once Upon a Time In Hollywood have the best chance to walk away with the Oscar.

Don’t belong:
The biggest mistake is The Irishman. This film isn’t even in Scorsese’s top 20. It’s a tired film that attempts to tie some sort of bow on his career. The material is okay, but the choice of aging and de-aging the characters through technology could not hide the fact that they move around and fight like old people even when they’re supposed to be young. The resulting opus is long-winded and meandering.

Marriage Story is good, but Lord, I never want to go through it again. That its so powerful is a sign of the times, along with a sign that Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are incredible actors.

Best Director:
Mendes, Tarantino and Bong have everything one could aspire to want from directing. Mike Flanagan is on a remarkable streak of horror adaptations. Doctor Sleep is a miracle merging of different sources, making something consistent with both. Ari Aster and Robert Eggers continue to show the talent that won people over in their first films. They are the evolution of horror in American cinema. Still, I need to go with Tarantino for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Of the nominees:
Tarantino

Don’t belong:
Scorsese

Best Actress:
Florence Pugh won me over in the first act of Midsommar. Her evolving performance is the key to the film. The events of the film, as random as they feel at first, end up setting the template for everything that follows. It’s tough to experience, but well worth it, just for watching Pugh. My favorite of the year is Ana de Armas as the poor Marta of Knives Out. She balances between terrified, saddened and curious with a face that belies her expertise. Just like Pugh, she’s going to be big time.

Of the nominees:
Theron’s portrayal of Megyn Kelly is remarkable. I would love to see someone representing her to get an award, especially when the portrayal is so resonant and accurate. There is no way this will happen. More likely to win is Johansson. She is excellent in the kind of way the Academy likes. Even more Zellweger as Judy Garland. Hollywood loves to revel in its glory, especially if that glory is the end of the line for a talented but tortured artist.

Don’t belong:
Ronan. She’ll be here many times in the future. Jo is good, but not even the best performance of a sister (that goes to Pugh, as Amy).

Best Actor:
Driver has a power, range and depth of feeling unlike most actors of his generation. Marriage Story is a tremendous vehicle for him. Joaquin Phoenix has given the performance of a lifetime. DiCaprio acted the hell out of Rick Dalton. Paul Walter Hauser’s Richard Jewell resonates for the simple beauty of one who only wants to do the right thing, even at his own expense. Taron Egerton’s Elton John is twice as good as Malek’s Freddie Mercury if one considers that he sang every note. George McKay’s frantic cross country journey in 1917 is incredible. Song Kang-ho of Parasite is the most powerful performance. His father only wants a place in the sun for his family. He finds himself somewhere completely the opposite.

Of the nominees:
Phoenix. This might be the one category that The Joker actually takes away this year.

Don’t belong:
n/a

Best Supporting Actress:
Cho Yeo-jeong is incredible as the naive mother of the Park family in Parasite. The story moves through her and is filled with life every moment she is on the screen. Pugh has had a remarkable year, and her performance as Amy in Little Women turns an unlikeable character into someone with whom the viewer can sympathize.

Of the nominees:
I have to go with Pugh here.

Don’t belong:
Johansson and Dern. I am sure the Academy could have found spots for any of three of the women from Parasite, to name just one movie. Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin and Cho are better than any of the other nominees, but giving Johansson a second nomination for a good, but not great role is hubris. Dern’s lawyer is as good as anything she’s done in decades, but it’s not as good as any of the women of Parasite.

Best Supporting Actor:
This should be a slam dunk for Brad Pitt. He’s easily the most engaging element of the best film of the year. He saunters through the scenes carefully disengaged. He’s waiting for something, but we’re not sure for what. Each time through, he’s the real movie star while he’s playing the role of the guy carrying the load for the movie star.

Of the nominees:
Pitt. Easy.

Don’t belong:
Hanks has had enough of the limelight, and him being Mr. Rogers just feels weird. Sorry, I will just go with the documentary once more. Pacino is just Al Pacino. He’s played the same guy every celluloid role since Scent of a Woman.

Best Original Screenplay:
This category is loaded. Once…, Parasite and 1917 are all worthy competition. I think I enjoyed the jubilant energy of Knives Out more than anything else this year. A whodunit that spills the beans, then picks them up, spilling them all again.

Of the nominees:
Knives Out.

Don’t belong:
Marriage Story is such a mess, it completely sapps the viewer of all hope. It’s well composed, to be sure, I just hope it doesn’t encourage more people looking to express themselves following its path of misery as some sort of justification. I wish it had been more honest about the effect on the real victims. It’s one thing to say you’re hurting the kids, and quite another to show it. I have a blind spot for self-pity, which explains my avoidance of post-Jaws Richard Dreyfus movies.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The trick of Little Women is, outside of Gerwig’s brilliant back and forth within timelines, it hasn’t ever been told interestingly before now. Her brilliance allows the viewer the near impossible task of sympathizing with Amy. Every version prior has been lacking on that front. The real winner for me is Doctor Sleep. The split between the written and movie version of The Shining caused a chasm for many over the years. This was exacerbated by King when he wrote its sequel in such a manner as to circumvent Kubrick’s vision. Flanagan walks the line and takes the story into a scary nostalgia that fits in both universes.

Of the nominees:
Little Women.

Don’t belong:
The Irishman.

Cinematography:
1917 is an obvious choice. The daring task of following a mission all the way through with one shot is incredible. The most astounding scene is the airplane crash seen through the old barn. That alone is enough to take the prize. The Lighthouse deserves mention as a close 2nd. The choice of black and white “narrow vintage” with a nearly square 1.19:1 aspect ratio adds to the mystery and the fear.

Of the nominees:
1917

Don’t belong:
The Irishman. No amount of angles and tricks can overcome bad effects.

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