The Oscars are my Super Bowl.
Last year I was rooting hard for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to win Best Picture. The year before that I was rooting for Moonlight. And the year before that, it was The Revenant. Once October hits, my interest in going to the movies leaps into overdrive. October is the beginning of what many people such as myself refer to as “Oscar season” — typically beginning when summer blockbusters wrap up and ending on December 31, which is the eligibility cut-off.
So far there are two shoo-ins for the Oscars that I’ve seen so far: A Star is Born and First Man.
Other noteworthy films that are deserving of nominations include: Mid90s (amazing directorial debut from Jonah Hill), Suspiria (all the male parts were played by women because the writers and director did not want a male point of view at all) and Sorry To Bother You. I predict a possible Best Original Screenplay win for the latter. Don’t discount Black Kkklansman (personally, I would love it if Spike Lee made a huge Oscars comeback with this one). I thoroughly enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but don’t see any nominations for it, despite a strong portrayal of Freddie Mercury by Rami Malek. As much as I enjoyed it as a Queen fan, it was too campy and didn’t have a strong enough director. After Bryan Singer was removed from the project, his assistant directors finished it for him but he is still credited.
There’s been a lot of buzz about Beautiful Boy, which stars Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet, but I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t offer an opinion. And the Dick Cheney film, Vice, doesn’t come out until Christmas Day so it’s going to be a while before I can comment on that one. The trailer looks exciting and Sam Rockwell nails his portrayal of George W. Bush.
I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. I’m hearing a lot of talk of Carey Mulligan’s performance and a possible Best Actress nod. But for real, can Jake Gyllenhaal please get Best Actor soon? I feel like he is long overdue.
Alfonso Cuaron has always been an Oscar favorite and his latest film, Roma, which doesn’t come out until December 14, about middle class life in 1970s Mexico City, could very well end up in the Best Picture category, based on his past track record.
As you can see, I’ve got my work cut out for me and will probably be at the movies every weekend until the end of December! Side note: Despite my enthusiasm for it last year, MoviePass was too good to be true. I cancelled my subscription over the summer after they made too many policy changes and rendered it impossible for me to see any movies I wanted to see.
A Star Is Born
Don’t get it twisted by thinking this is a chick flick movie just because it’s centered around a romance. It’s not. This movie is epic. A Star Is Born is the kind of movie that is made to win hearts (of both men and women) and awards. Lady Gaga was amazing, the music and the direction were gorgeous, and Bradley Cooper impresses with his directorial debut. I usually can’t stand Bradley Cooper but have realized that it’s because he’s been in a few Oscar-worthy movies with Jennifer Lawrence, an actress I absolutely loathe. I won’t go into too much detail because I already ranted about how much I can’t stand her a few blog posts ago.
But back to A Star Is Born…This is the fourth remake of this story but it’s nothing like it’s predecessors. It captures the culture at large in a beautiful, heartbreaking way. I predict a lot of repeat viewings of this film in the months and years to come.
This film was my most anticipated of all the films to come out this season. The casting is superb. There are some zeitgeist-imposing actors in this film: Bradley Cooper (even though I wasn’t a fan, I still recognized his immense talent), Lady Gaga, Dave Chapelle (I love when comedians play serious roles), and Sam Elliot, to name a few. I’m not sure if Lady Gaga plans on pursuing acting again, but this is a strong start. The charisma she has onstage is still there onscreen. Every scene where she sings is powerful and her voice is just as big and one gets the feeling that this role was written just for her. The very first scene where she walks onstage to sing “Shallow” with Bradley Cooper is pure magic and will send chills down your spine. It’s the most cinematic moment of the year.
The soundtrack, especially the song, “Shallow” is definitely the winner, if not a major contender for Best Original Song and Best Original Score and deservedly so. It should be noted that Bradley Cooper’s backup band in the film is played by Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) and his band.
I was completely invested in the love story between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s characters, which was aided by Cooper’s directing and camerawork in the first act — all those close-up and tight shots of the couple, making it feel like they were the only people in the world — before zooming out in acts two and three, showing the world around them and the struggles of fame both of them had to endure. As a viewer, you can’t help but root for both characters all the way through the film. BRING TISSUES and do not wear mascara.
This film was originally supposed to be directed by Clint Eastwood with Beyoncé attached as the female lead. I don’t think that would have worked though because despite all of her musical talent, she is too beautiful and has too much star power to be believable as a struggling, 30-something year old cocktail waitress.
I see nominations for Best Picture (and my choice as the winner), Best Actress (for Lady Gaga), Best Actor (for Bradley Cooper), Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for Sam Eliot), and Best Original Song.
First Man is the story of the first moon landing told through a character study of the notoriously stoic Neil Armstrong, who is beautifully played by Ryan Gosling (Best Actor nomination for him, definitely). Bring tissues to this one too.
It’s a different way of telling this story, which all of us have heard and seen the original footage a million times before. The film delves into the backstory of the moon landing — the sacrifices and the physical hardships the astronauts had to experience to make that historic event possible. It honored the many astronauts who died without ever realizing their dream of space exploration. I was amazed at how much I learned about the event and how dramatic the circumstances were. I think what director Damien Chazelle set out to do was tell the story of America’s space program in the context of one man and one incident — and what better person to choose than Neil Armstrong.
Two things worth noting about First Man — first, director Damien Chazelle omitted the famous scene of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon shortly after they landed. This caused a huge controversy on Twitter after the film’s release and many dissenters called the movie “unpatriotic.” I disagree with that sentiment because the movie is meant to be a story from the eyes of Neil Armstrong, who called the event a “giant step for mankind,” not America. The second thing I’d like to point out is actually my only criticism of the film — I thought it was a bit unfair to Buzz Aldrin. His character was unlikeable to the point of being almost despicable, especially in how blithe he was about the death of his fellow astronauts. What was omitted was the fact that he brought the ashes of his colleagues with him to the moon and sprinkled some on the moon’s surface to honor their legacy. Other than that, it was a gorgeous film and I can’t wait to see how far it goes at the awards shows.
I’m placing my bets on nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Ryan Goslin), Best Supporting Actress (for Claire Foy), Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.
Something to pay attention to at this year’s Oscars and in years to come:
Look for a lot of changes in the kinds of movies that get nominated and win. Ever since 2015, when April Reign coined the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to call out the lack of diversity in Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made strides to change their membership roster. They’ve been pushing to induct more women and people of color. And this year, they invited 928 new inductees to join its ranks in what is their most diverse class yet.
The glaring lack of diversity is something I’ve been complaining about for a few years too. See, it used to be that once you were in the Academy, either by winning an Oscar or by special invitation, you were a member for life. What ended happening was that a ton of old, irrelevant white people were still eligible to vote and their votes were crowding out the votes of the newer, younger, more culturally relevant members. The more diverse the voting pool, the more diverse the winners. The more diverse the winners, the more opportunities are opened up for women and people of color to enter the industry as actors, writers, directors, composers, producers, you get the idea. Diversity begets more diversity.
But all this diversity only signifies how far the Academy and Hollywood still have to go. While these leaps in membership were good news for long-marginalized members of the industry, the open floodgates were a very long time coming. (Aja Romano, Vox)
Stick with me for updates
As the awards season starts to heat up, I’ll write another follow up blog post prior to the Oscars like I did last year with all of my final thoughts and predictions. You can also follow me on Twitter (@aesthdistance1) for some reactions as I attend more movies and observe more of the controversies (there will be many, I’m sure).
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