A post-mortem of film in 2018: A hard battle between mediocre crowd pleasers and aesthetic and narrative boldness.

Thank God that’s over.

Buckle Up, Folks; It’s The Academy Awards! Mara Ireta Gordon/Argosy

PREFACE

Well, the Oscars were last week. I think it’s fair to state, for the record, that the 2018-19 awards season was an absolute disaster. Even before we actually get to the films themselves, consider the numerous controversies the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got into during the months leading up to the awards – Kevin Hart; Best Popular Film; the attempt to award Best Editing and Cinematography during commercial breaks; and so on.

So, uh, are you ready for the actual mess?

THE FILMS

This year’s nominees are historically weak. Two of the three films that campaigned the most (and, surprise, won the most) are bad. Here’s a brief rundown:

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY: Firstly, it’s a badly made movie. The editing is baffling, there’s barely any narrative, there’s no arc, the dialogue is awkward, and perhaps the most insulting part is that it feels like a movie Freddie Mercury himself wouldn’t like. It’s formulaic, which is ironic considering that the movie itself makes a point to trash formulaic art.

Additionally, the thematics and politics of the movie (although far from being a film’s only important element) are very bad. Bohemian Rhapsody problematizes Freddy’s sexuality, and not in a “People were homophobic so he had to hide it” way, but instead in a “He could have had a good life but he was too gay to stay normal” way. In the end, that the average critical score of the film is 49/100, a historic low for a best picture nominee, is a good indicator that this film has more than its fair share of problems, and probably shouldn’t have been up for Best Picture. Also, Bryan Singer, the director who was booted off the film with only days left in production, has been dealing with an ever-growing series of sexual misconduct allegations since the ’90s.

GREEN BOOK: With the slightly better score of 69/100, Green Book is a well-made film, but it’s also regressive and insulting.

The story follows the “true” story of a racist man in the 1960s who learns racism is bad by driving Dr. Don Shirley, a black gay musician, around the South. The acting is good, and the film is technically competent, unlike Bohemian Rhapsody. However, the narrative is erratic and strange: The main through line of the movie is that race and culture are only skin deep, and that colourblindness is the way to go. Needless to say, this is a very baby-boomer way of looking at race, which may give us a hint as to why the Academy – 70 per cent of which is white, male, and over 50 – was such a fan. Why do we put so much importance on the Oscars, again?

Additionally, the filmmakers snagged the story of Dr. Don Shirley, who known for his blending of the classical and jazz styles, without his family’s permission and made the story about his racist driver who learned to be not racist because he hung with Shirley. The doctor’s family was so upset that Mahershala Ali, who played Shirley and won Best Supporting Actor, apologized for his role in the film.

So, how’d the awards shake out?

THE VICTORIES

If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King
I haven’t seen If Beale Street Could Talk, but Barry Jenkins’ last film, Moonlight is brilliant, and won best picture in 2017. From all I’ve heard, If Beale Street Could Talk is just as outstanding.

Black Panther
Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther
Production Design: Hannah Beachler

Note: As of now, three Black women won for a non-acting roll. These are two of them, which is cause for celebration. Also, Black Panther had some iconic costumes and production design. Remember that trial scene?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Animated Feature

This movie is revelatory, a complete game changer for animation. Watch it.

Blackkklansman
Best Adapted Screenplay
Spike Lee has been writing and directing great films for decades, such as Do the Right Thing, Malcom X, and Jungle Fever. He hadn’t won an Oscar until now.

The Favourite
Best Lead Actress: Olivia Colman

My personal favorite film of the year. Olivia Colman is incredible.

THE DISSAPOINTMENTS:

Bohemian Rhapsody

Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing and Lead Actor

Wow…. They put Queen songs… in a movie about Queen. Inspired. Great work. As for film editing: is this a joke? If you look up “Bohemian Rhapsody editing,” you’ll see a conversation that’s cut like a jack-o’-lantern. It’s embarrassing. Rami Malek did his best, no doubt. But the writing and editing are so bad that I can hardly see the performance through it all. I couldn’t take him seriously.

Skin
Live Action Short Film

I haven’t seen this one, but the critical consensus seems to be that the film is bafflingly racist.

Green Book

Best Original Screenplay and B… Best… Best Picture

Best Original Screenplay? The movie plays like a dated feel-good film about police brutality. I can’t imagine the screenplay is a chest of profound observations.

BEST PICTURE? *pained, frustrated screaming* Granted, it is, at the very least, an aesthetically solid movie. But narratively? A complete mess.

You know what movie is both aesthetically and narratively brilliant? The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Watch that instead.

Derek Sharp
Derek Sharp, born the 19th of May, 1997, is from Oshawa, Ontario. He graduated high school in 2015 and chose to attend Mount Allison on a whim, where he fell in love with writing in all its forms. He’s looking forward to an awesome year reporting on all things artsy for the Argosy.