So, almost a year after getting involved with all this funny film criticism nonsense, I’ve arrived at my first proper awards season. Alas, it was the 2018/2019 awards season, which many are referring to as one of the messiest and most anger-inducing in recent memory. From the allegations swarming around Bryan Singer to Viggo Mortensen’s use of the n-word in interviews, hope for the progressivism and diversity we’ve all been wanting out of the film industry is looking a little further away than initially thought. And particularly compared to last year’s wonderful lineup, the Best Picture nominations this year were a hell of a lot more divisive and controversial.
To get the elephant in the room out of the way up front, no, I am certainly not happy with Green Book winning the most prestigious award, and no, I have not seen it. For all I know, it could be a sensitive and wonderfully crafted film that is unquestionably the highest quality out of all of them. That is, in the non-existent vacuum where the Oscars are purely a meritocracy in which cultural and social impact is of no value. But this isn’t the world we live in, and giving Best Picture to a film about race made entirely by white people when movies like BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, and even Roma are on offer is frankly insulting. I’m happy for Mahershala Ali, but that’s where my enthusiasm ends.
Similarly, while I have little issue with Rami Malek winning Best Actor out of what was a rather uninspired bunch, as well as the various sound awards it received, Bohemian Rhapsody‘s award for Best Editing was genuinely mind-boggling. Professionals in the Editor’s Guild and film fans on Twitter alike were flabbergasted by how a film with roughly 2674 pointless cuts a minute managed to achieve this lofty feat, and also quietly wishing that they would have broadcast this award during the commercial break after all. Regardless, despite some of my issues with Bohemian Rhapsody as a whole, three out of four of the Oscars it received were reasonably well deserved, and thankfully had very little involvement from Singer.
Onto the positive. The evening certainly started off well, and for the first little while it really seemed like the Academy were making good on their promise to reward diversity. Kicking off with Regina King’s Best Supporting Actress win – I was hoping for Stone or Weisz, but I can’t really be mad here – and continuing with two awards for the mise-en-scene of Black Panther given to Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, the celebration of black excellence and women of colour in particular was fantastic. And again, as much as I wanted The Favourite to pick up some of these technical awards, the choice to award the costuming of a film that isn’t a period drama did feel fresh and relevant.
Moving onto the big awards that gave me the most joy, I actually squealed with happiness when Olivia Colman’s name was announced. Her tragicomic performance in The Favourite was absolutely captivating and original, and while I would have been happy for basically any of those leading ladies, Colman has a special place in my heart. Cuaron’s wins for Roma, though definitely more predictable, were also extremely well deserved in my opinion, and I’m relieved that it wasn’t entirely snubbed on the night. But despite my approval of both of these choices, the one that has endured in my mind for the past couple of days was Spike Lee’s first Oscar for the BlacKkKlansman screenplay – the way he leaped into Samuel L. Jackson’s arms gave me such a vicarious feeling of delayed gratification. I also need to mention his subsequent hilarious comments on the Green Book win, which have basically just revealed what most people in Hollywood are likely thinking but are too anxious to say.
So in spite of the many snubs that caused me some upset (Widows, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Eighth Grade and Hereditary to name a few), and the most undeserving winner since Crash, I struggle to be too mad. While definitely a mixed bag, some huge steps have been made in the representation and appreciation of WoC both in front of and behind the camera, and the fact that The Favourite, Black Panther, and others even got nominations shows that there’s still some hope for future change.
Let’s just stay away from race-based films about chauffeurs for a while, shall we?