Eppler: Best Picture nominees this year won't be the best
After one of the overall best years for movies in a long time it's likely we will see one of the most mediocre line-ups for Best Picture in recent memory.
The Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 22, and after one of the overall best years for movies in a long time it's likely we will see one of the most mediocre line-ups for Best Picture in recent memory. I've said before that I'm alright with The Academy allowing more than five nominees for Best Picture especially because there are years like 2018 where there are so many good choices. I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites to ten. But the downside is movies like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," and "The Blind Side" manage to sneak in. This year we had a lot of those types of movies: popular, feel-good, tear-jerking crowd-pleasers that almost have something socially relevant to say.
You can usually find the real quality and serious Best Picture contenders in the Best Director category, which is still limited to five. The Directors Guild's Feature Film category provides a good indicator of how the Oscars will go for Best Director. The nominees are: Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born"), Alfonso Cuaron ("Roma"), Peter Farrelly ("Green Book"), Spike Lee ("BlackKklansman") and Adam McKay ("Vice").
First thing we notice: no women included. Sorry, Chloe Zhao ("The Rider"). Sit on down, Lynne Ramsay ("You Were Never Really Here"). Instead, it's likely The Academy will fall for Farrelly's saccharine and sentimental take on American racism and McKay's self-righteous judgment of a White House administration that's about 12 years too late. While I enjoyed "Green Book" - especially the performances of its stars - it is this year's "Blind Side," which is to say it is a popular and likable movie that's also problematic. "Vice" just isn't very good outside Christian Bale's makeup, and it's likely to score at least four or five nominations because, yes, liberal Hollywood.
Please also notice the director of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is not included in the DGA nominations, nor is he likely to get an Oscar nomination. That's because Bryan Singer was fired midway through production, and he's an accused sexual predator on top of that (he denies the allegations). The Golden Globes named Queen's Greatest Hits the Best Drama of 2018, and there is enough support for it to get a Best Picture nomination. I get why people like it (I mostly didn't) because everyone who's told me they enjoyed it point to two things: Rami Malek's performance and the music. It's not the story. It's not moving. It's a sing-along (and literally being re-released that way this weekend).
So if we can assume nominations for all five DGA nominees and Queen, that leaves four possible spots to fill (but probably just two or three because the Academy has never nominated more than nine). Mark one of those down for "The Favourite," a period piece that would be obnoxious Oscar bait if it wasn't so subversive and nasty. I have no problem with that. And I would expect voters to support "Black Panther," which was a watershed moment for cinema. Ryan Coogler sneaking into the Best Director category for his truly inspired vision over Farrelly or McKay would be a thrill.
That leaves two more spots, and I smell more mediocrity - namely, the dull Neil Armstrong biopic "First Man." But there may be enough support for Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk" (a movie I haven't seen because it's not in Lubbock, but I'm all in on Jenkins after "Moonlight"). And could the bright and likable "Crazy Rich Asians" sneak in there? At least it's honest about its cultural representations and judgments.
I'm not holding out hope for some of my favorites - "You Were Never Really Here," "Sorry to Bother You," "The Rider," etc., but for such a great year, we shouldn't have to settle for just good enough.