My Brutally Honest, Not-So Anonymous Oscar Ballot of 2019
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Every year, the Hollywood Reporter interviews two to eight members’ of the six thousand plus involved in the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. These members give their no holds barred opinions on all of nominees in each category. Sometimes, THEY DON’T EVEN WATCH the movies on the list. That’s basically the equivalent of voting for your local soil and water conservation director but NOT taking the time to attend all of their town hall meetings. I mean, besides literally everyone, who would be so cruel to do something like that to those hardworking candidates?
In all seriousness, these members take no prisoners in their anonymous interviews, and that’s coming from someone who criticized the actions of a fictional veteran suffering from PTSD. From calling the movie “La La Land” a “piece of s&%^" to claiming “The Martian” is “just ‘Cast Away’ on Mars” to oddly critical remarks about Meryl Streep, they certainly throw out their fair share of brutal shanks. Their ballots are some of my favorite things to read every year, so I decided that even though I am not a member of the Academy that I would make one myself. In case you missed it, these are this year’s nominees in all categories. Now, without further ado, here are my unfiltered “in a nutshell” opinions on all of the categories for the 2019 Oscars:
I need to address the undeniable fact that I hated the movie “The Favourite” with every fiber of my being. I found it to be life scarring, and where others saw “vivid symbolism” and “grandeur allusions to absolute power,” I saw a naked fat guy dancing around, wearing a wig and laughing while rich dudes threw tomatoes at him. The film made absolutely no sense to me, and the best emotion I felt throughout the film was “uncomfortable.” I suppose I did laugh AT the movie for being so stupid, but if I voted for “Best Picture” based upon the amount of times I laughed AT a movie, “Bad Times” would be this year’s winner.
Then I eliminated “Bohemian Rhapsody,” even though I had fun watching it because I love Queen. It felt like I was watching a giant commercial for the band as opposed to an actual movie. If they ever host an award show rewarding the best infomercials of the year, “Bohemian Rhapsody” would be at the top of the list, and I sincerely hope they would give a lifetime achievement award to Billy Mays for his uncanny ability to shout at a camera (may he rest in peace).
Both “BlacKkKlansmen” and “Black Panther” had their respective qualities (“BlacKkKlansmen” for writing, “Black Panther” for aesthetics), but neither of them left a lasting impression on me to the point where I walked out of the theater going “GIVE THAT FILM A BEST PICTURE AWARD.” “BlacKkKlansmen” is slightly overrated and is mostly getting rewarded because Director Spike Lee decided to bash on President Donald Trump in an overt fashion. I get it, white supremacy is bad and so is the orange man; call me when you have more astute observations. “Black Panther” had plot and character development flaws that prevented me from getting truly invested in the movie. I felt no sense of urgency throughout the film because their go to resource, “vibranium,” was WAY too powerful. So, I had to take them both out of consideration.
Then comes “Vice.” I thought it was a solid movie from an acting/writing standpoint, and I like Director Adam McKay’s wacky comedic style. However, it felt like a remake of “The Big Short” but with Bush administration characters instead of bankers, which turned me off. He needs to veer out of his comfort zone more.
“Roma” was a powerful movie with great aesthetics, but it was overly artistic for me. A lot of references went over my head, and when I have to Google the meaning of something, I find it loses its symbolic value. Objectively speaking, it has a ton going for it, and you can sense the passion Director Alfonso Cuaron had while making this movie. I applaud the creativity, even though I do not plan on re-watching this film any time soon.
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut for “A Star is Born” nailed it on many levels. The writing and the music both electrified, the main character’s struggle was compelling for the most part, and my goodness is Lady Gaga a talented artist. There were plenty of powerful scenes that I will remember going forward. That said, their message was contradictory: they claimed that you needed to have something to say if you want to be truly famous. Yet, Lady Gaga’s character became more and more famous DESPITE clearly selling out. The inconsistency irked me.
Of all of the films, none of them made more of a powerful impact on me as “Green Book” did. That movie absolutely blew me away. The acting, the camaraderie, the aesthetics, the feels; you name it. “Green Book” was an emotional roller coaster that I will watch again and again for years to come. I know there are controversies behind this movie, but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. The point of going to the movies is to be entertained, not to see 100% accurate depictions of everything that happens in someone’s life. Save the completely factual for documentaries. I also don’t view members of Hollywood as role models; I evaluate the work separate from the actual people making it. With that said, this film was incredible, and I loved it from start to finish. Here’s to hoping Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali do more films together, their on screen chemistry was magical.
1) “Green Book”
2) “A Star is Born”
This one was an easy choice for me. I didn’t see “Cold War,” so that eliminated Pawel Pawlikowski right away. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that this film is about the Cold War… The title of this film seems very encrypted though, so I could be dead wrong. Yorgos Lanthimos, the guy who directed “The Favourite” is a sick individual who made a disgusting movie, so I took a hard pass on him. Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansmen” had great writing, but I found it to be all over the place from a directing standpoint. He seemed unsure of where he wanted to take everything. It felt like they spent way too much time glorifying a hollow victory that never really led to anything other than a fun little prank call against David Duke at the end. Oh, and they busted one racist cop in the force. Cool… Call me when you accomplish something more meaningful. Ultimately, it boiled down to Adam Mckay for “Vice” and Alfonso Cuaron for “Roma.” McKay just copied his usual style while Cuaron poured his heart and soul into a creative, one of a kind film. He deserves this award the most by far.
MY VOTE: Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
I immediately ruled out Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate” because I didn’t want to waste my time watching a film with virtually no chance at winning any awards. That left me to choose between four really strong performances. Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine in “A Star is Born” showed great range, believability and likeability, but his decisions as the film went on made me less and less sympathetic of him and I eventually lost interest in his character altogether. Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga in “Green Book” was quite possibly one of the funniest movie characters I have ever seen and came across as awesomely authentic. However, I’m not convinced he veered out of his comfort zone enough for this role. Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” stole the show on many levels, and he even had a mouthpiece that gave him buckteeth. However, from a transformational standpoint, nobody beat Christian Bale as Dick Cheney from “Vice.” It was scary how accurately he depicted the man’s mannerisms, and even though he wasn’t a sympathetic character, I have to give him credit for his work. The believability blew me away, and there reaches a point where that renders the sympathy of a character obsolete.
MY VOTE: Christian Bale as Dick Cheney (“Vice”)
I never saw Glenn Close in “The Wife” for the same reasons I didn’t see “At Eternity’s Gate.” I’m sure she did a great job given all the traction she’s getting, but I can’t cast a ballot for a performance I didn’t see. I also didn’t see “Can You Ever Forgive Me” because nobody wanted to see it with me, which rules out Melissa McCarthy. That leaves me with three options, and one right off the bat I have to rule out is Olivia Colman from “The Favourite” because even though technically speaking she did well, I despised that film. That leaves me with Lady Gaga in “A Star is Born” and Yalitza Aparicio from “Roma.” While I have my hesitations on her actual acting skills, Lady Gaga’s performance was a lot more memorable than Yalitza Aparicio’s. She did a nice job as well, but with Lady Gaga I can recall on a dime powerful moments of hers. I cannot do the same for Yalitza.
MY VOTE: Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”)
Best Supporting Actor:
Everyone in this category paled in comparison to Mahershala Ali’s performance as Dr. Donald Shirley in “Green Book.” He was incredible. His mannerisms, likability, and authenticity were off the charts amazing. This one isn’t even close. On a side note, I like Sam Rockwell and I enjoyed the movie “Vice,” but he had no business being nominated this year. He was in the movie for a mere 2 minutes, nothing he did was particularly memorable or interesting and his impersonation of George W. Bush was slightly above average at best.
MY VOTE: Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley (“Green Book”)
Best Supporting Actress:
I did not see “If Beale Street Could Talk,” though I really should go do that so I can consider Regina King. “The Favourite” had TWO nominees in this category and while both of them were technically sound, neither outshined the other in my book. Plus… Screw that movie. Marina de Tavira in “Roma” was an incredibly underrated character in “Roma” and I am glad she got some recognition for her work. That said, Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney showed great poise, depth and believability. Her performance made the most lasting impact on me. She was also the most likable in the movie. Then again, being the most sympathetic character in a movie about Dick Cheney is like being the skinniest kid at fat camp: it’s nothing to write home about. Regardless, I really enjoyed her dynamic performance.
MY VOTE: Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney (“Vice”)
Best Original Screenplay:
I did not see “First Reformed” but I heard from my good friend Lorren Stahl that the writing in it is brilliant. He judged the screenplay at a film festival and loved it. He’s pretty badass. One of these days, I’ll have to check it out. I’m so over talking about “The Favourite” so let’s just skip that one. My goodness did that film get a lot of nominations…. “Roma” and “Vice” both had solid writing, but neither of them possessed the level pizazz that “Green Book” did. I felt the writers for that movie understood class dynamics to a T and made some incredibly believable but profound dialogue as a result of it.
MY VOTE: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly, (“Green Book”)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
I watched a combined total of 15 minutes between “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me” so they’re all out of consideration. That's leaves two options. Both “BlacKkKlansmen” and “A Star is Born” possessed strong, vivid writing, but the edge goes to “A Star is Born” because not only did they have great dialogue, their song writing skills did a marvelous job at exposing the inner thoughts of the characters in a way that moved me.
MY VOTE: Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters & Eric Roth, “A Star is Born”
Best Animated Feature:
“Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” blew me away. It contained incredible depth and creativity. It was my second favorite movie of the year next to “Green Book” and I wish it was nominated for “Best Picture.”
MY VOTE: “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse”
Best Foreign Language Film
Of all these nominees, I only saw “Roma,” so it wins by default here.
MY VOTE: “Roma”
Best Documentary and Best Documentary Short:
Yeah… I’m not really into that whole “learning” thing so I never took the time to watch any of these.
MY VOTE: I abstain
Best Live Action and Best Animated Short:
To be frank, 85% of the members of the Academy don’t watch these either. That said, I actually stumbled upon one of the animated short nominees because it came on before “The Incredibles 2.” It was called “Bao.” I have to say, I was quite impressed by it, and I would be hard pressed to think any of the other nominees were better. As for Live Action Shorts, I’m going to have to go with the most commonly written phrase academy members write when casting a ballot for this category.
My Vote – Best Animated Short: “Bao”
My Vote – Best Live Action Short: I abstain
All of these films were incredibly well cut and polished, so it was tough to choose. I will rule out the obvious film that ought not be named (you know what I am talking about), and while the others on the list all did well, “Vice” did by far the best job of seamlessly transitioning real life footage into their fictional movie. It seemed effortless, but I will also add that I thought “First Man” SHOULD win this award, and they got robbed of this category. Their ability to infuse 1960s footage into a modern film was immaculate.
MY VOTE (of the nominees): “Vice” (but really, it should be “First Man”)
Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing:
Many members of the Academy do not know the difference between the two and just pick their favorite film of the nominees. I on the other hand, like to think I know the difference and that I am better than the members who don’t. “Sound Editing” is the creation of sounds for the sake of the movie, while “Sound Mixing” is taking existing sounds and incorporating them into the film. In this case, I will have to go with “A Quiet Place” for “Best Sound Editing” because they had to create intimidating, authentic sounds of fictional monsters hell bent on killing people who made noise. “Best Sound Mixing” though should go to “First Man” because they did an incredible job at making the mission sound like something straight out of the 60s.
MY VOTE – Best Sound Editing: “A Quiet Place”
MY VOTE – Best Sound Mixing: “First Man”
Best Costume and Production Design
No film this year created a more unique world with more unique costumes than that of “Black Panther.” They blew me away with the infusion of modern technology and traditional African culture. I adored the aesthetics of this film from start to finish and do not even care to evaluate the other nominees because they pale in comparison. Also, “The Favourite” was nominated in both of these categories… Dang it, I said the film that ought not be named.
My Vote: “BLACK PANTHA”
Best Make-Up and Hairstyling
Dick Cheney. That is all.
MY VOTE: “Vice”
Best Visual Effects:
This category to me comes down to “BLACK PANTHA” (every time I watch this movie, that is the way I say the title in my head) and “First Man.” The word “authentic” comes to mind here, and with “BLACK PANTHA” I could tell on certain occasions they were heavy on the CGI. Some of the effects especially at the end looked a little phony. With that in mind, I did not get the same sense of all of that with “First Man” because their effects put me in a state of awe.
MY VOTE: “First Man”
Best Original Song:
I’M OFF THE DEEP EEEND, WATCH AS A DIVE IN, I’LL NEVER LEAVE THE GROOOUND. CRASH THROUGH THE SURFACE, WHERE THEY CAN’T HURT US, WE’RE FAR FROM THE “SHALLOW” NOOOOOOW. Shout out to “All the Stars” as well from “Black Panther”, it was my third most listened to song on Spotify of 2018. Sadly, they had the misfortune of going up against “Shallow”, which is an outright incredible song.
My Vote: “Shallow” (“A Star is Born”)
Best Original Score:
I only saw two of the nominees in this category: “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansmen”, neither of which left a terribly memorable impression on me from a score standpoint. That said, I am still upset that “BLACK PANTHA” only used two songs from their entire soundtrack in the movie. Plus, I am a sucker for the style of music used in “BlacKkKlansmen”, so it’s the most deserving of the two in my books.
My Vote: Terence Blanchard, “BlacKkKlansmen”
The black and white aesthetics and various shots of Mexico City in “Roma” really did it for me. Alfonso Cuaron turned in incredible work of cinematography on his end that blew away the rest of the competition.
My Vote: “Roma”
Now that you’ve read my hot takes on all of the categories, be sure to tune into the 91st Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24th on ABC! Oh, and join my pool: