CB Monet

wholly invested in fictional characters

Oscars 2019: How I’d Vote

Tonight, darlings, is the 91st Academy Awards and, as I have done the past few years, I am presenting a post (down to the wire!) about how I’d vote if I could. Mostly for my own posterity purposes.

Because this post is already long enough, I will forgo talking much about the cascade of poor decisions (all revoked, thankfully) that have already come to define this year’s ceremony. They were crap decisions, predicated on reaching some mythical standard of viewership. The Oscars have their dedicated crowd who love the whole shebang; accept them, and stop chasing the approval from those who honestly probably wouldn’t watch or care no matter what you tried.

Anyway… with that out of the way, and before we begin, this year I offer some random and scattered thoughts on nominees in general, as well as some of the higher-profile “snubs.”

  • To me, this definitely feels like a year that is a mild clapback to those who maintain the Academy never rewards movies that “real” people like or see. Both Black Panther and A Star is Born where verified megahits that dominated cultural conversation during their respective run-ups, stretches, and aftermaths. Even Bohemian Rhapsody did so to an extent, albeit in that instance those conversations quickly become much thornier (more on that shortly.) And speaking of thorny conversations… I will say that nearly every theater in my vicinity was playing multiple showings of Green Book for months on end, all while I went a little mad trying to nail down steady, reliable showings of Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. Honestly one of the only other major zeitgeist hits from the year missing is Crazy Rich Asians.
  • WHERE IS PADDINGTON 2, YOU COWARDS??? I think Brian Grubb wrote about this best, so I’ll leave it to him for fear I would be too repetitive. Though the movie was technically released in late 2017 in UK, it didn’t see its US release until January 2018 and wasn’t available for streaming until the spring. And no joke, folks — Paddington 2, along with fellow snub Annihilation, was one of my favorite movies all year (make of that particular dichotomy what you will.) Not only is Paddington 2 piled to its fuzzy ears with unabashed emotion, but numerous lovely sequences of gentle slapstick are sprinkled throughout as well. When it’s not humorous, it goes hard for the emotional throat when it totally doesn’t need to. And I was very impressed by how narratively tidy it is. Stakes & motivations are clearly, succinctly established; and there is not a useless shot in the whole movie. I mean it — even the most innocuous and seemingly extraneous bit of information sees a satisfying emotional call-back / resolution. This has become a major comfort watch for me, and I am truly testing the limits of how many times a human can possibly watch a wee bear try to get a birthday present for his Aunt Lucy. (I am also a verified sucker for anything Ben Whishaw wants to do.)
  • Speaking of Ben Whishaw… he is the recipient of this year’s Domhnall Gleeson Award! (The previous two winners were Michael Stuhlbarg and Mahershala Ali.) Close runner-ups this year were Tessa Thompson and Brian Tyree Henry — the former whom I saw in Annihilation, Sorry to Bother You, two episodes of Dear White People, and two separate appearances in Janelle Monae’s music videos; and the latter whom I saw pop up in side roles in Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and Hotel Artemis. … They probably would’ve taken it in any other year (particularly BTH, who should’ve been nominated for Beale Street); but being a verified sucker for Ben Whishaw, I’m giving it to him for his work in both Paddington 2 and A Very English Scandal (which put him once again at odds with Hugh Grant! Ha!) And because he went after his performance in Mary Poppins Returns with the gusto of putting together a goddamn awards reel.
  • I wholeheartedly believe Annihilation deserved to be in more categories. I can understand Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s work might not be everyone’s cup of tea. (Hell, judging by the discussions that swarmed Ex Machina a couple years ago, I can understand how Garland himself might not be everyone’s tea.) But I loved Annihilation. It’s the film that arguably left the biggest impact on me all year. I think it was an incomparable cinematic masterpiece — constructed for an immersive theatrical experience. Home-viewing just doesn’t do the whole experience justice. Seeing it in the theater (in a dark room, on a massive screen) was engrossing and sensory and disorienting in the best possible way. I left the movie feeling out of step with the rest of the world (literally — merely walking felt like a surreal action, and the world around me didn’t seem like it could possibly be real.) I also sob through most of it — I can think of very few things that so intuitively capture and visually externalize the feeling of trauma/depression/anxiety.
  • I’ve seen a lot of disappointment about the absence of Sorry to Bother You. While it could have been nice to see it get something, this is one where I’ll differ. I admit I’m comparatively a grinch in regards to Boots Riley’s directorial debut. It was a good movie — in that it was a specific vision, brought to its fruition well. It was unique; weird; I’d recommend anyone give it a go (and, uh, read as little about it as possible / avoid spoilers as best you can.) But I am not quite at the same level of adoration — mostly I have narrative-specific quibbles, and am not entirely sold by the sheer force of Weird = automatic profundity. I find myself more interested in how Riley develops from here as a storyteller, and am definitely eager for what his particular vision might create next.
  • I think it’s mildly disappointing that Widows didn’t manage at least something somewhere in the nominations — even though it was another movie I didn’t love as much as I’d hoped I would. I was on board for the idea of a so-called “intellectual” heist film, and it was definitely romp enough for an evening out; but I there was a lot about it that felt uneven to me, largely in regards to pacing. By that I mean that for me, most of the story’s pauses / breaths / low beats came at plain ol’ weird moments. It made momentum feel lurchy and wonky to me. But for a while it did seem like an underdog that might’ve landed something.
  • What really truly shocks me is that Damian Chazelle’s First Man didn’t make it into more categories. A significant block of movies in the running this year look a bit like some hold-out older voters wanting something “for them” / more “old school.” The thing is, if the Academy really wanted to put their weight behind an “old-school” movie like that, I think First Man is a much better candidate. It’s, frankly, a considerably better film overall than what they picked. But alas, it appears that what they wanted were films that gestured towards the idea of inclusion and diversity while not being too black, nor too queer. (::cough:: Green Book ::cough:: Bohemian Rhapsody.)

Time to get on with it.

As usual, this is not a prognostication game. This is not about which films I think will win, but is instead how I would vote if I were part of the Academy and had a ballot to cast.

As with any type of Creative awards, this is extremely subjective. In general, I try presenting a balanced rationale for my choices and why; and I have been on an active mission the past couple years to temper my flippancy. But hey — there is the occasional film that I just can’t help it! Sometimes I just don’t like things. I am not offering professional critiques on these movies; I’m just going through why I would vote (or not vote) for things. I hope we can all acknowledge it’s just kind of a fun thing to do.

You will see some nominees are crossed out, representing films I have not seen. With only a handful of exceptions, I do refrain from “voting” for a film I didn’t see.

And lastly: for the first time in my Oscar posting, I am introducing an optional drinking game (play with your favorite drink! alcohol totally optional!) The only rule? Take a drink every time I ding a film/nominee for failing to recontextualize and interrogate their own pasts! (It is, apparently, a theme this year…)

Warning! This is extensive. And SPOILERS will abound…


The Favourite
Black Panther
A Star is Born
Green Book
Bohemian Rhapsody

You’ll recall that there is no single vote in this category ever since the AMPAS instituted the Best Picture ranking system. What you have above would be the way I would personally fill out the Best Picture ballot, in this order.

If you’d ask me for the traditional 5 nominees out of this grouping, obviously I’d keep the top 5 in my ranking. It would get trickier, however, if we were talking about possibly bringing in other movies. I probably keep the first four — Roma, The Favourite, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman — and then it would become a bit of a toss-up between either Can You Ever Forgive Me? or First Man. (With A Star Is Born, If Beale Street Could Talk and Crazy Rich Asians going into an expanded field.) 


My top vote is going to Roma this year, despite my salty feelings re: the fact that Cuaron succeeded here with a Netflix movie when it was such an undue hindrance for Dee Rees and Mudbound last year. (Yes, I will probably hold this grievance dearly unto the grave.)

It’s a bit of a tough call. (I probably flipped the rankings between Roma and The Favourite about dozen different times.) But sometimes you see something and you can just feel that this is going to be The Movie this year. Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water felt like that to me last year (even though it wasn’t my favorite, nor my top vote.)

At the end of the day Roma was a genuinely remarkable film. I do think it would’ve been considerably better on a theater screen with proper sound and projection, but even on my tv at home it was remarkable.

In the wake of the film’s release, there’s been an interesting talk re: Cuarón’s choices in portraying the character of Cleo. A criticism that pops up repeatedly is that Cleo is rarely (if at any point in the story) granted the opportunity of full personhood; connected to which is a debate as to whether Cuarón himself is making a statement either for or against the imbalances of the kind of servitude portrayed, or if he is merely a neutral observer of history and culture. (Cleo is an indigenous maid serving a middle-class household.)

For my part, I think Cuarón himself believes he’s being as neutral as possible. That said, I think he’s incapable of being that.

Roma is based significantly on Cuarón’s own childhood, and his family’s own maid (“Libo,” to whom the film is also dedicated) during that period of his life. Hell, over half the furniture in the family’s home is his family’s real furniture! Cuarón says that he talked at length with the real life woman who inspired the story, and he was interested in taking his (and her) past and understanding it through the prism of adulthood. But even so — because the story is rooted so thoroughly in personal memory and connection, I’m not sure he is able to completely achieve his goal. I’m not sure he has recontextualized his childhood, or examined enough about from more critical angles. Not to mention objectivity doesn’t really exist.

One of the best aspects of Roma is how well it captures the specificity of a time and place and of life. No, we as viewers never do really know Cleo; not really; not in her fullest context, to her fullest depths. And the reason for that is simple: because Cuarón could never know his family’s maid in her fullest context, to her fullest depths. Even if he did have lengthy chats with her while he was writing this. We know Cleo in the one context we see her because that is the only context that Cuarón was able to see / is able to tell. All else is inferred and imagined. That doesn’t make Cuarón’s own memories or history outright wrongor even bad; and it doesn’t negate his affections and desire for reexamination.

In this way, I weirdly think his failure is what simultaneously makes the film a success…? What we’re seeing isn’t any less stunning, or any less affecting, or any less real because of its limited perspective. On the contrary — it presents us with a reality that we have to face. We are required to sit with and process our discomfort, and acknowledge that we’re only capable of seeing a very personal, complex, nuanced human story through a very particular lens.


Though Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite spent most of the season sitting at the top of my To See list, I admit it took a bit of work for me to get over my nerves to actually get my ass in a seat and watch it. This was largely due to my distaste for Lanthimos’ The Lobster a couple years ago. The trailer for The Favourite certainly made it seem up my alley; but I’d thought the same about The Lobster.

Whoa am glad I got over it and went. Because The Favourite is highly entertaining, and might be my personal favorite (ha.) of the year (even if I vote it second for complicated reasons.) It’s the film this year that grows on me more and more as time passes and I think/talk about it. And considering the general buzz coming from some Academy sectors, there is a chance it could benefit from the preferential ballot system — if everyone ranks it second or third in their list, it could end up sneaking away with a win. That would be hilarious; and awesome.

It is a rollicking ride of dysfunction, and the entire cast seems like they are having a blast. In some ways it feels like a film tailor-made for a very particular subset of Witty Queer Millennial Film Twitter. After a brief adjustment to the style, I was delightfully transfixed by its creativity, savviness, deviousness, costumes and bunnies, and Rachel Weisz.


Black Pantherwas absolutely one of the cultural dominators this year. Everyone saw Black Panther; everyone talked about it; most people loved it. And I like what a win for it might represent, on multiple axes.

There are many things to like about Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. Its cultural attentiveness and vibrancy; its handling of its women (plural!!) characters; its representation of familial humor; its examination of the profits and pitfalls of the ideology of duty; and its own understanding of the tensions it wants to represent.

What I (personally) love most about Black Panther is how much lovely, well-considered visual symbolism permeates it. Down to the core. I love how much emotion and theme (both broad and personal) is packed into just a few particular external choices. One of my favorite biggies that immediately comes to mind is Killmonger’s purple-herb-fueled spiritual communion with his father. It takes place not on the open, colorful plains of Wakanda as T’Challa’s does… but in a cramped, grubby apartment in Oakland. And for most of the conversation, Erik does not speak to his father as a man (again, as T’Challa does), he speaks to him as a boy. Literally everything about this is visually communicating how heavily rooted he is in his memories and trauma.

Intense and melancholic visual symbolism makes me happy.


Two things to start about BlacKkKlansman, which I will explore further, but you may do with what you will: 1) There has been A LOT of discussion/disagreement in the wake of this movie, the heart of which circles one specific question — “who are Spike Lee’s movies for?” I.E. some people are questioning if this movie paints a too-cozy illusion of white & black folk teaming up and getting along to solve racism? In a police department, no less? Or, in other words: is BlackkKlansman really a movie for white people anxious about race? 2) I am white, and I did like BlacKkKlansman; but not really for that reason.

Far as I my understanding goes, the argument against the movie is, largely, that it coddles white folk because A) white people do help! and B) well, obviously, I can’t be racist because look how ridiculous and cartoony those racists are! And Boots Riley wrote an earnest, somewhat scathing indictment re: Lee’s choice to portray Ron Stallworth as a protagonist in the first place.

I confess I don’t know how best to navigate these critiques. There is a very real limit to the levels I am able to comment on these debates considering they represent black creators trying to settle how best to engage with black audiences and why they tell certain stories.

I will say that I did think BlacKkKlansman was (mostly) well-done, and very engrossing. But I was also unaware of the extent (or not) of its fidelity to history. I also know that I had one minor issue (it revolved around Adam Driver; but more on that shortly), and one MAJOR issue that I think maybe encapsulates some of the frustrations. Essentially: there is a scene later in the film that interweaves scenes of black activists with scenes of Klansman chanting. At first I thought this was intended to show disparity between the two; but as the scene swells to intercutting of both groups angrily chanting, it winds up giving the very distinct impression of equivalency instead. The problem here being that it is a horribly flawed, if not outright false, equivalency to draw. I struggle with how Lee could have looked at this editing choice and not have seen what he was doing; and I have yet to read anyone’s take on this that convinces me how it isn’t equivalency, let alone how that’s not a bad look for this film.

And as far as the primary criticism, I am still pondering / sifting through that one. And perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the complaint, but personally, I don’t see how someone walks away feeling uplifted or comforted after that movie. Because I think the heart of BlackKklansman sits in its epilogue. The whole point is that there wasn’t some tidy toppling of racism at the end by virtue of colorblind cooperation. Because the movie doesn’t end with the end of that narrative. The end of the movie is footage from Charlottesville, proving that racism is quite alive, and plowing through crowds, and killing people. So even if you did feel a moment of cozy comfort, that ending specifically indicts you for being distracted by / focusing on that. The message being you don’t get to walk away from this that easily.


Fact #1 — I watched the trailer for A Star is Born (approximately) one zillion times. Fact #2 — I have seen every incarnation of this story, and rewatched them all ahead of this one’s release. I love retellings of stories we’ve seen before. It’s all in the details. Sure, every iteration of A Star is Born shares the same premise and broad narrative; but they’re all very different movies. Fact #3 — I spent most of the lead-up wondering aloud to any kitty in my house who would listen whether or not Bradley Cooper was going to be able to de-center the man’s role.

The answer to that last question is… eh, not really? That said, I still enjoyed the movie… mostly. The first half at least.

I love the A Star is Born story — I am a sucker for the sheer melodrama of it. BUT it cannot be ignored when talking about it that it is a rather inherently sexist story. That said, I do think you can overcome a lot of that through some very simple choices in the details. But, uh, Cooper doesn’t do that…

It’s a solid debut. It’s fine. It’s a reliable story, and an entertaining enough movie… especially at the start. But I’m not sure I can really say that Cooper’s debut deserved awards any more than Boots Riley’s. There is a chance, however, that people (mostly DGA members, I’m guessing, but possibly others) might vote A Star is Born higher because Bradley Cooper didn’t catch a Director nod. They may want to make it up to him. (Ala the Ben Affleck / Argo in 2013.) Although there could be an equal subset who feel like this is premature and he’ll get his due later.

Also worth noting is that this movie might have a leg up by virtue of being an Old Hollywood fable (that’s never won, btw) that tickles a lot of the glitzy Hollywood nostalgia while simultaneously not being too many steps backwards… ya know, because it showcases Lady Gaga, whom Jackson meets in a drag bar. Wow — you can almost choke on the modernity. (That was sarcastic.)

My point is that by being a middle-of-the-road / not too-young / not too-old/ not too weird / not too sparse / not too offensive to anyone choice… might be in its favor.


I cannot convey enough how much foot-dragging it took for me to go see Green Book. I would probably see Mahershala Ali perform in just about anything; but the film’s meta-narrative was such a dispiriting whorl of issues, trumped only by the shit-hurricane that enveloped Bohemian Rhapsody (more on that shortly.)

After seeing it, I can’t escape the sense that there is something exceedingly insidious about this movie. One of the most succinct ways I can think to put it is that it is an enjoyable movie… that makes my skin crawl. Green Book, I think, is insidious because it was as entertaining as it was.

Let’s explore why, shall we?

First: I think it is vital to note that on a craft level, it is a competent movie. It may be garbage by one metric, but it isn’t totally inept garbage. There is nothing fancy or challenging about it. It is straightforward; it is capable. There is nothing that makes the presence of a Director known; nothing that makes it feel invasive. By achieving this, it encourages you to sit back, relax, and consume passively.

Second: The actors (both Mortensen and Ali) are good. They perform their roles (however cliched) well. And there are moments spattered throughout that do come across rather charming. The big problem being that if you actually sit and take even a few seconds to interrogate any of what is happening, it is riddled with chilling problems.

When it boils down to it, it’s hard to shake that Green Book really does feel like a movie MADE for people who don’t like to think of themselves as racists — in part because it is yet another emblem for how racism is an individual flaw that can be conquered/overcome by personal revelation as opposed to a broad systemic disease.

I think it also bears mentioning that it strokes a very specific, very real sort of (particularly male) ego — Tony is just a humble, workaday bloke, ya know? He loves his family and yeah sure, he’s a little rough and gruff around the edges, and doesn’t write fancy words, and says some pretty insensitive stuff; but he does care deep down and wouldn’t hold nothing against nobody for real.

Tony, the film posits, isn’t a “real racist.” Because “real racists” are the people who behave openly aggressively and assault poor Doc Shirley; or who don’t let him eat in the dining room. The film weaves quite a comfy blanket for people who haven’t interrogated their own existence (and thus participation in) systemic racism. It lets you hold on to the lie that because you are not shouting slurs or beating up a guy in a bar or because you would let him use the bathroom indoors, obviously, you can’t be accused of racism.

Let me break it down from a more concrete direction. I like seeing movies in theaters a lot because the audience tells me a lot. The demographic of the audience, how they react and engage can be quite informative / provide considerable insight. I saw this on a weekday afternoon, in a small theater that was nearly packed with exclusively elderly white folk (save for myself and one young couple.) And judging by the consistent chorus of chuckles around me, and murmured discussions as credits rolled, they all thought this movie was great. There were repeated moments of surreal disconnect — scenes that elicited theater-wide laughter while legitimately making me wince and squirm in my seat.

And one of the worse parts of this (I think) is that the audience was 100% correctly responding to the cues the film was providing to them. They chuckle when Mortensen reaches back and practically shoves fried chicken into Dr. Shirley’s face; but they ‘tut-tut’ sadly and disapprovingly when Dr. Shirley is barred from using a bathroom in the house he’s been invited to play at.


Bohemian Rhapsody Discussion Disclaimer: As I proceed, I will not be covering any Bryan Singer Bullshit in discussing the flaws of the film. For one, I don’t have the time. (This post is long enough!) Two, I don’t have the energy. And three, I don’t want him to derail what I’m talking about in terms of the “objective” (ugh.) quality. For the purposes of discussing the movie, I will do that (kinda nonsense, but whatever) thing that some people complain about when it comes to discussing tainted product like this — I will, indeed, separate The Art from The Artist.

So. Separation complete! Let’s proceed. Just, ah, let me check my notes here… weigh the good and bad… and ah. yes. Whadayaknow. Can confirm. The movie is still not good!

Ah yes… I also note that here I have two suggested additional titles for this movie. To my mind, the first is the probably most apt — Bohemian Rhapsody: Biopic By Cliff Notes. … But I suppose also appropriate (though less catchy) would be Bohemian Rhapsody: In Case You Forgot, There Were Totally Other Dudes In Queen and They Were Totally Very Important Too.

What a bizarrely mishandled outing this was! On, like, every level. I’m not even sure I know where to begin…

The random as fuck cutaways to random things? Constantly! The only thing I’m willing to forgive in this regard are the cuts to the kitties. I admit I began to have a loopy fondness for the ubiquitous Kitty Cutaway. More Kitty Cutaways in things, please!

The weird sanitization. Like… why? I mean… I theoretically can grasp that they wanted that PG-13 rating so that it could reach as broad an audience as possible, but… lol. WHY? There’s such a built-in disconnect between glorious rockstar hedonism and “family friendly.” I was PARTICULARLY amused by the partying scenes in which The Rest of the Band Who Are Still All Alive and Executive Producers on the Movie (May and Taylor specifically) act as the super responsible adults, worriedly clinging to the hands of their significant others while Freddie (tsk tsk!) engages in wild PG-13-appropriate scenes of lechery and excess.

Similarly… I would say it’s a bit of a, ah, oddmorally questionable … suspect choice to have the band split up (never happened) because Freddie selfishly betrays them to pursue a solo career! (happened; but everyone else in the bad was doing the exact same for years.) So now Freddie has to come crawling back to them for forgiveness because he learned the error of his ways! And hey, while we’re at it — let’s put his AIDS diagnosis here as well as a way to essentially narratively punish him too! Just… UGH.

Considering Freddie Mercury was so reliably cagey about defining his sexuality in strict terms it seems highly questionable for him to come out as bisexual, and have a straight woman be the one who tells him no, Freddie, you’re not actually bisexual; you’re gay. Even if this scene is based on a real conversation, the movie itself makes no move to challenge that assertion. There is zero exploration from Freddie’s perspective about this topic; and zero interrogation of Mary’s perspective. It’s a troublesome blind spot in the narrative. Was Mercury more than his sexuality — what he was or was not? Absolutely. And I’m not saying doing better than this would’ve have been easy.

But that’s exactly part of the problem — it’s like everyone involved in this just wanted it to be easy. Make a story about Freddie fucking Mercury as easy and broad as possible to sell as many tickets as possible. No one is particularly inclined or interested in covering any aspect about Mercury other than the most superficial details. And even those get twisted.

The movie is trying to serve too many masters — and the biggest of them is Ticket Sales. I can empathize if the remaining band members were wary of doing anything that might potentially do a disservice to Freddie; but this doesn’t seem like any better a solution. Instead, in failing to recontextualize their own history and that of their bandmate, they ultimately weaken the entire story as it becomes more about maintaining their own dignities and profitability off of Mercury’s legacy. It gives off the gross sense that the movie could never explore Freddie Mercury in depth because the band still cannot conceive of him more in depth than this.

Oh, and I know I said I wouldn’t bring Bryan Singer into this discusssion. But, uh, as a parting note? Bryan Singer can fuck off straight to hell.



Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) ✅
Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Adam McKay (Vice)

I… I really don’t understand Pawel Pawlikowski’s appearance here. I don’t. I don’t get it. There is a whole list of other directors that you could’ve put here! Bradley Cooper has been the popular suggestion; but personally I would suggest Marielle Heller. Easy.

Or why not Ryan Coogler? Or Alex Garland. Or Barry Jenkins. Or, hell, yeah I’ll say it — Damian Chazelle. (I know I don’t like him! No one hated La La Land and Whiplash more than me! Trust me, I’ve been in mild personal crisis about this! But First Man was REALLY GOOD! And not really what I expected!)

I think I might have hated Cold War. However, considering Pawilkowski dedicated it to his parents, I want to be a bit forgiving and say (for now) that I am just not always into this type of romantic story. (For my less generous take, you can read later in Best Foreign Film.)

Spike Lee has never won an Oscar. Which means the big question seems to be whether or not the Academy wants to make that up to him here. In the run-up to the ceremony, there seems to be split opinion on whether he should be given the award here, for this piece, as a sort of retroactive recognition for his entire body of work (and not necessarily because the film itself deserves it)… or if this is just not the film he should be winning for. I liked BlacKkKlansman, but it doesn’t quite eek out my vote. However, if Lee does win I certainly won’t begrudge him the honor.

I loved Cuarón’s sliding dollies, and his fixation on water throughout. I love how often he cast images in contrast. His fellow Mexican director Guillermo del Toro wrote a fabulous series of Tweet Observations on the film. Half of these were things I’d noticed, and half were things I hadn’t considered at all until he mentioned them.

But I think I’m going with Lanthimos here. Something I love about The Favourite is how he made it such a grotesquerie (and yeah, I mean that in a good way!) The fish-eye lenses; the strange angles; how people are often positioned in unnatural ways… it all makes it warped and a little disorienting. It’s a spectacular funhouse of dysfunction. And it just… works.


Yalitzia Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Biggest glaring issue here?

Olivia Colman IS NOT THE LEAD! Don’t get me wrong: she’s great! The biggest gripe I would have with her winning here would be “but she’s not the lead.” That would literally be my only complaint. Her performance is raw sorrow and anxiety and loneliness transmuted to intermittent vulnerability and petulant bullying. And she is Queen afterall. … But I truly feel that Anne is the supporting role. Narratively, thematically… the bulk is not with her. Though both Sarah and Abigail indeed are the bodies in her orbit, the story (and the title!) remains theirs.

Gaga is good. Gaga is fine. It’s a great performance, especially for someone who is comparatively a newcomer. But I feel like she is the weakest of the links here.

Glenn Close does seem to have a shot here. She won the SAG, and remember that actors make up the largest guild body in the Academy. She plays a complex character loaded with interiority that is revealed in slivers throughout the film. Joan’s emotions shift and evolve almost in slow-motion as you watch. It helps her that a lot of voters interpret her role in the film (unappreciated, and quietly seething for recognition beneath the poised exterior) as a reflection of Close’s own Oscar neglect. I think it’s a great performance, but I’m more inclined to go with either Yalitzia Aparicio or Melissa McCarthy.

Aparicio I think would be my very close runner-up. She was marvelous. A lot of people have cited luminescence and grace. But what I like about her performance is its distance. I like how she makes you feel equally that you know Cleo… and that you know absolutely nothing about Cleo. She is an engaging cipher. She is never so self-contained as to be off-putting; but neither so distant as to be wholly unknowable. We are never granted true insight into her interiority, and I think that’s part of what makes the performance. Most of what we feel we do know about Cleo comes from our own experiences and inferences. But the reality is that we — as an audience — can not know Cleo any better than the family who employs her can. And as I mentioned above, talking about Roma as a whole, I think this triggers a discomfort that is part of the whole affect of the film.

My ultimate vote goes to Melissa McCarthy who was GREAT as Lee Israel. She was such a smart choice to play such a thorny, sarcastic asshole. McCarthy gives every line real biting zip and wit while the all while keeping a bubble of wounded vulnerability and yearning for artistic validation below the quarrelsome surface. She is snappy, mean, and perpetually at arms for battle with everyone around her whether it is deserved or not. She lets you totally believe this woman could pull off what she pulls off.


Christian Bale (Vice) 
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

What To Do About Rami Malek. *elongated sigh* … *gestures abstractly* … *sighs again* … *tries to gather cohesive, calm and fair thoughts* Listen. Listen. *steeples hands and talks in even tone* His performance is, I think, unquestionably the best aspect of the film. But I also don’t think that says a lot…? By virtue of the Cliff Notes format of the film, there is nothing for him to do with character much beyond impersonation and strutting (as fun as the strutting can be at times.) He won the SAG, and there’s a good chance he wins here too in spite of his less than great responses to the Bryan Singer of it all. I just don’t see how I can vote for what amounted to so little work — even if that isn’t really Malek’s fault.

Viggo Mortensen is good at what he is being asked to do. But I have a MAJOR problem with his role, what it represents, etc… And neither has he conducted himself the best in the midst of controversy.

I think I may be the only person who feels largely indifferent on Bradley Cooper…? Jackson Maine is fine and engaging enough, but the film isn’t supposed to be about Jackson Maine and his issues; it’s supposed to be about Allie.

Whatever. I don’t love anyone in this category (that I’ve seen.) My vote for Cooper is mainly by process of elimination.


Mahershala Ali (Green Book) 
Adam Driver (BlackkKlansman) 
Sam Elliot (A Star is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

I am shocked — SHOCKED, I SAY!! — that Nicholas Hoult did not weasel a supporting nomination for his deliciously catty work in The Favourite. The man truly has a talent for playing bitchy, conniving punk-ass graspers. (I think there’s a solid chance that Harley discovers an immortal well in some English backwater and ascends (ha!) to the House of Abrasax to have orgies and sneer at Mila Kunis.) [Edited later to add: Driving around over a week after the fact and I randomly realize that I am, in fact, thinking of Douglas Booth! Lol. Whatever. Hoult would have been awesome too!] Alas. He might’ve won my vote here. For I do have an established weakness for bitchy, conniving punk-ass graspers. Especially if they dress dandily and have awesome ludicrous wigs!

I also see that once more, Michael B. Jordan has been appallingly ignored. And there is nothing for Brian Tyree Henry anywhere. Okey dokey then.

Poor Mahershala Ali. He has previously won my Domhnall Gleeson award. And (arguably) more importantly, he won the SAG this year. But I kinda can’t help but pity him for being caught up in the nasty web that is the meta-narrative around Green Book. Amongst my many issues with the movie is that I would’ve loved to have seen Ali play Dr. Shirley in a movie that centers and digs into him a little more. Because in the hands of a different writer, there is something to explore with the shades and complications of how Shirley engages with his own race. Not to mention the added level of being a gay man. But maybe it’s for the best — because Nick Vallelonga was decidedly NOT the person to do that. He and Farrelly ultimately treat Shirley kinda like an effete alien trying to learn the ways of the humble blue-collar man. According to Vallelonga and Farrelly’s film, Dr. Shirley’s greatest sin is not in his being black or gay — oh no, never that — but that he is “uppity.” And I don’t love that. I would rather see Ali play Shirley in a film that embraces all of him; that doesn’t look down on him for his cultured disconnectedness, as something to be corrected, but something of nuance and interest that deserves exploration and empathy.

Sam Elliot is playing to type as a Gruff-But-with-a-Heart-Beneath-the-Disapproving-Mustache kinda guy. Personally I don’t find his role as weighty or memorable as most of his competitors. He feels like the bland, safe choice to me.

I’m between either Adam Driver or Richard E. Grant…

Driver nearly runs away with a chunk of BlackkKlansman (which is great in regards to his acting; but not so great in regards to how the movie sits.) Seriously, the man should come with a warning. Memo to directors wanting to work with Driver: keep an eye on your movie! He has an uncanny habit of taking roles and spinning a bit away from what you probably need the role to be. He has a certain kind of magnetism that pulls emotion and attention towards himself, even if that isn’t necessarily a thing he is doing on purpose.

Conversely… I feel like Richard E. Grant is a true outstanding supporting player because he feels so thoroughly like a team player. From the moment Jack and Lee meet in that bar, and bond as only two lonely, cantankerous queer alcoholic assholes can do. They fit one another like a glove, while also constantly pushing against each other in a myriad of micro-hurtful ways. It’s an actual complex relationship with a kind of grounded, bittersweetness to it. It’s fascinating to watch them work off one another.

So I think I give this to the wily, cynical, bruised-at-heart Jack Hock. (And considering Grant is a longtime actor who’s never really gotten his due, he could makes an appealing vote to a lot of Academy voters too.)


Amy Adams (Vice) 
Marina de Tavira (Roma)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite) ✅

Emily Blunt won the SAG for this (for A Quiet Place.) A curious but not undeserved choice. Since she’s not here, this becomes a bit more interesting.

First: going to summarily knock out Marina de Tavira here. She’s fine. I have no problems with her performance other than it wasn’t there much. Most people would be forgiven if they went “who? who was she?” Emily Blunt would’ve been more appropriate.

Second: I swear to the awards-season gods if Amy Adams wins for fucking Vice instead of any of the others films she’s been nominated for, I may lose my mind. If she wins and you hear an exasperated bellow ring out through the night, it might be me. (Or, really, any number of other women and gay devotees who know she deserved better.)

Regina King was great. But again, I feel like there isn’t enough to build an award on other than “mother.” I think both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz did more / had more to do.

True story: my spouse and I had an invigorating debate after The Favourite as to which of The Favourites should win the Oscar. We are divided on this vital issue. I say Rachel Weisz commanded every moment on screen — and had a FABULOUS! ENVIABLE! riding/shooting outfit! Spouse maintains that is irrelevant because the story sat the most with Emma Stone’s desperately grasping and scheming Abigail. And I admit, I don’t think he’s wrong… per se. Thematically speaking, I agree we do sit more with Abigail. There is a depressing poignancy to her conclusion — the idea that for all her grasping she doesn’t think bigger picture. Her singularly focused obsession for “winning” is what does her in. She would’ve been better off had she just stepped back at the point Sarah returned and wanted her sent away — she had gotten the husband, the money, the status; but she would’ve untangled herself from eternally owing Queen Anne an emotional (and physical) debt. It was the smarter move. Instead, she gets trapped in subservience, not much better a position than she was in than when she was poor — she just has better clothes and jewels now.

SO. My heart is truly with Sarah. Forever and always. The smarter, better player who got knocked out by someone considerably more myopic, but unfortunately considerably more desperate. Also:



Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara (The Favourite) ✅
Adam McKay (Vice)
Paul Schrader
(First Reformed)
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly (Green Book)

Ok. Let’s just get this out of the way: Nick Vallelonga based the movie off stories his father (the real Tony Lip) would tell about his driving of Dr. Shirley and their ensuing “friendship.” There is a problem in this, however, being that no other perspective is considered or involved in this portrayal.

I can’t go into every single detail of the problems here (you can read about it a lot of places), but essentially the Shirley family had no involvement, gave no permission, and is very unhappy with what the film portrayed. It tells this “story of friendship” from only one side — Tony’s. And it challenges none of his assertions about the way things were between him and Dr. Shirley. On the contrary, it outright imposes them. Consider that Mortensen had full access to Vallelonga’s family, whereas Mahershala Ali had zero access to Shirley’s family. Vallelonga has utterly failed to recontexualize anything about his father’s story, or how it might be incomplete and flawed. He hasn’t de-centered his father’s perspective on his path to telling the story, nor interrogated why this is a hurtful/harmful thing to skip doing. If Vallelonga wanted to tell just his father’s version of events… then ok (she said hesitantly)… BUT BE AWARE that if you do, you might get hit with some criticism about it, asking you to step back and look at the context of what you’ve done. And you don’t get to play ignorant and defensive. And for the love of the gods, DON’T hide behind Octavia Spencer as your black shield that makes everything you did ok! because she said it was ok! Ugh.

So that’s a heavy “NO” to Vallelonga and co. for Green Book. A better use of a nomination would’ve been for WGA winner Eighth Grade.

And as is sometimes the case with certain nominees, I don’t think the strengths of Roma sit in the screenplay itself.

I go, quite easily, with every fabulous, delicious twist and scheme in The Favourite. A sexy movie about lady love that decidedly does not cater to a straight male gaze.


Joel & Ethan Coen (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) ✅
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters (A Star is Born)
C. Wachtel, D. Rabinowitz, K. Willmott & S. Lee (BlackkKlansman)

I love every version of A Star is Born. As I said earlier, I am a sucker for the melodrama of the tale (and I don’t use melodrama in a bad way.) What I don’t love about this version is how the film struggles to prioritize Ally’s character.

What’s interesting is that each version of this story fixes some things, and then fails in others. I’m not going to compare literally every version of this (not today at least!) But I’ll focus briefly on how, in a lot of ways, the Judy Garland / George Cukor version does center more on her than on Norman Maine, largely because the camera spends so much time invested in staying on Garland at all times. For example: let’s take when the Norman/Jackson character first hears Esther/Ally sing. In the 1954 version, it is one long static shot of Garland’s performance, and only afterwards do we cut to Norman’s reaction. Comparatively, Cooper’s version is focused mainly on Jackson’s reaction to Ally. This kind of POV manipulation maintains through the entire film, and is a scripting problem as much as a directorial one. And I think it starts steadily collapsing the worst at about the halfway point (i.e. when Jackson’s struggles begin eclipsing Ally’s successes.)

Though I generally trend towards liking the Coen brothers… And though I could write a lengthy, specific point-by-point critique of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (I even have one in a folder on my computer)… I do not want to expend the energy in doing so here. Buster Scruggs is a nihilistic trashfire. And good riddance to it.

It’s a tough call between the rest, but I’m going with the WGA winner this year — Can You Ever Forgive Me? (And Barry Jenkins is my runner-up.)


Capernaum, Lebanon
Cold War, 
Never Look Away,

If I’m being generous (as I was earlier) I would softly, politely say that Cold War is just not my sort of movie. If I’m being crankier (which I am about to be) I would say that it is a tiresome movie fixated on tiresome people.

I legitimately do not understand how this has gotten attention it had! If only it were a tale of a doomed couple tragically separated by the unfair, insurmountable cruelty of war and circumstance… I can roll with that! But alas. It is not that. It is a story where a couple’s “woes” are entirely of their own shitty behavior. Because they totally surmount the awful! REPEATEDLY! Then keep fucking it up themselves because they are both kinda obnoxious, petty, sniping dumbasses. Human? Perhaps. But not super fun to watch for me. Especially since I’m not wholly convinced the movie is wholly aware of how terrible they both are. Grand Romance so far as I am concerned does not revolve around “hey we meet up every couple years, talk about how passionately in love we are, and then one of us runs away. Because… …???? Human?” Grrr. “Oh what undying love! How Fate hath cruelly kept us apart! Clearly only In Death can we truly be happy and free of this Tragic World!” NOPE. Not buying it. You both successfully escaped Poland. You were both in Paris. Together. You were employed and successful and had a very good shot. Willingly running back to Poland where you are sure to be arrested is not some romantic noble sacrifice; it’s just a bad choice! And broody male artist wankery. Just… ugh. UGH. Wow I loathed this so much…

Since Roma made it into the Best Picture, I’m ignoring it here and voting for The Shoplifters. It was a sad (but also very sweet and empathetic) soft exploration about what makes a family


Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

Mirai, I see, is our requisite Japanese entry. I would’ve seen it if I could’ve found it. But it was a pain in the ass to find. And though Ralph Breaks the Internet was available, it kept getting shunted aside to see other things… and then it became tricky to nail down times. And as far as Isle of Dogs.. … just… … *sigh* NO THANK YOU, Wes Anderson. Keep moving!

Ok. As far as what I did see… I did not love Incredibles 2. It was fine; enjoyable enough. But I am low on my ability to generate much sustained sympathy for Oh But the Poor Husband Who Has to Learn How to Empathize and Be Supportive to His Wife, Isn’t That SO HARD! That, and the entire villain’s plot is utterly nonsensical to me. Maybe I missed something vital… but… but… people already didn’t like superheroes… they were already illegal! Sooo you help make people like them again, and get them legal again… just so you can make people not like them and make them illegal…? It’s so convoluted and weird! And not, like, in a fun way… where maybe a lantern gets hung on it. We go through the whole plot because we ultimately wanted the status quo that we started with? IT MAKES NO SENSE! (Sorry, this has driven me absolutely bonkers ever since I saw the movie. THERE HAD TO BE BETTER WAYS!)

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. One of the only movies this awards season that I saw multiple times in the theater. Smart, creative. Savvy about many of its choices. It has action, heart, is funny. And is GORGEOUS.


Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) ✅
Caleb Deschanel (Never Look Away)
Matthew Libatique (A Star is Born)
Robbie Ryan (The Favourite)
Lukasz Zal (Cold War)

I think this category is wackadoodle this year. Half of these I’m not sure about. I would’ve much rather seen Beale Street or First Man or Annihilation over A Star Is Born or Cold War.

I don’t even like the black and white look of Cold War! It is a very starkly contrasted b&w. The blacks are very black, and the background is either a sea of muddled grey faces or scenery, or it is just more black. Though I will say there are a lot of frames that call to mind stunning black and white still photographs, I personally don’t love the effect in movement. So to speak. Between this and the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio, it means everything other than the two leads is obstructed in a way — or rather, crowded out. The eye remains consistently fixated on either Wiktor or Zula, because there is rarely anything else to look at. This physically gives the indication that nothing else matters other than them at any given time. It strains the idea of them being tragic pawns of circumstance and place, or even of there being other context around them. There is nothing around them in the dark box. It is only them. Them… and their terrible, tiresome choices.

The Favourite is probably the first movie that made me not entirely dislike fish-eye lenses… But I think I’ll ultimately go with Roma / Cuarón’s gliding dollies. The film is movement. Though it is interspersed with scenes of stillness, the general feel of it is anything but static. Movement is progression; it’s life. And unlike Cold War, the b&w photography has depth and complexity — there is always visual context; there is always something to look at before it moves on to the next thing.


Barry Alexander Brown (BlackkKlansman)
Hank Corwin (Vice)
Patrick J. Don Vito (Green Book)
Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Favourite) ✅
John Ottman (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Bohemian Rhapsody‘s editing is awful. Nothing about it feels natural or intuitive; but neither does its chaos reflect theme or inner emotional state of any characters. It’s just an obtrusive mess. A particular scene went viral when someone called it out as bad editing… and then a whole flurry of agreements and crank disagreements started. The thing is, no one can argue that this scene isn’t representative of the whole film. IT IS. It absolutely is. THE WHOLE MOVIE IS LIKE THIS. Even if you can’t fully blame Ottman alone for how awful it is… it’s awful. … (Except for, as established, the Kitty Cutaways. They can stay.)

No, I did not see Vice, but Corwin also did The Big Short and to this day I occasionally have flashbacks to how much I hated seeing that. Not voting out of unfair spite!

I have a hard time pinpointing anything that I felt particularly impressed by in regards to the editing with either BlacKkKlansman or Green Book… I think If Beale Street Could Talk would have made a much better candidate than either considering how it manipulated its timeline.

The Favourite it is!


Hannah Beachler (Black Panther)
Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton (The Favourite)
Nathan Crowley & Kathy Lucas (First Man)
John Myhre & Gordon Sim (Mary Poppins Returns)
Eugenio Caballero & Bárbara Enrı́quez (Roma)

Oooh. I like this category a lot this year! This one is hard!

The teams for Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns did some vibrant and stylish work. And First Man had a lot of interesting and hyper specific staging in re: to the space shuttles and such that helped make it feel as immersive as it did.

It’s a rough decision between between the decadent falderal that The Favourite operated within, and the fact that the Roma team apparently recreated an entire block of a city in Mexico; but I’m voting with my feels on this one.


Mary Zophres (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther) ✅
Sandy Powell (The Favourite)
Sandy Powell (Mary Poppins Returns)
Alexandra Byrne (Mary Queen of Scots)

Personally, I think Mary E. Vogt’s work in Crazy Rich Asians could’ve easily been included here. How about we swap it in for Buster Scruggs? I’ll just pretend in my own head…

The costuming in Mary Poppins Returns is fun, fanciful, colorful; and Mary Queen of Scots certainly has the elaborate historical edge. However I feel like The Favourite scratches that historical itch pretty well… but kinda better (though they are different time periods, and admittedly I’m judging the former based off not seeing it.)

The breadth of Black Panther is impressive, as it cobbled together clothing from a variety of African nations. All said and done, I do think that Ruth E. Carter should win this award, and that is why I vote for it.

(But alas… I confess… my truest heart remains in Rachel Weisz’s trousers and coat, and Nicholas Hoult’s wig…)


Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man

Ready Player One

I am going to be super grumpy here and knock out the Disney franchise behemoths. First Man it is!

… Seriously, though… the visual effects in First Man are stunningly incorporated, if not as immediately attention -natching as something like Thanos or vid-call-Darth-Maul.



Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther)
Terence Blanchard (BlackkKlansman) 
Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Alexandre Desplat (Isle of Dogs)
Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman (Mary Poppins Returns)

Another odd category to me — mostly in that half of these are not what I might’ve zeroed in on. For example, I actually liked Justin Hurwitz’s music in First Man a lot. And, weirdly enough, the score in The Wife got to me. Oh, and Dario Marianelli’s Paddington 2 soundtrack? CANNOT be accused of phoning it in.

I did like Goransson’s Black Panther score a lot — especially on rewatch, I noticed it and appreciated it more. It would be my runner-up.

But I’m going (once again) for a Nicholas Britell score. His music feels integral to Barry Jenkins’ stories as they’ve been so far — first Moonlight, and now If Beale Street Could Talk. They’re a piece of the guileless emotions that Jenkins seems to so naturally move and speak in. I’ve said that Jenkin’s works feel like music as much they do films. And a big part of that is the actual music. The score for Beale Street was lovely — the music alone had me brimming with tears from the very beginning of the movie.


“All the Stars,” (Black Panther)
“I Will Fight” (RBG)
“Place Where Lost Things Go” (Mary Poppins Returns)
“Shallow,” (A Star is Born)
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) 

haaa. AahahhahhAHH! Aah aah! AahhAHaaahhhAHahhHHHH!!!

Ok. “I Will Fight” and “All the Stars” are both great songs.

And “The Place Where Lost Things Go” was lovely, and one of the better songs in Mary Poppins Returns. And I get that it makes the best highlight song; but, for me, the only truly memorable/hummable song walking out of that theater was “Tripping the Light Fantastic.” … (Either that, or they could’ve sent Ben Whishaw out onto stage with a tiny attic set and let theater boy do his thing with “A Conversation.”)

Anything associated with Buster Scruggs I am going to irrationally wrinkle my nose at.

“Shallow” serves an important plot function. It is a key moment in the story. And it launched a million memes and jokes. Everyone on the internet got this stuck in their heads. It’s no contest.


Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

As a reminder, Sound Editing is the creation of sounds whereas Mixing, below, is how they are all combined as a layered whole. (A lot of times the same movie takes both, but splits can happen.)

Am going to go with First Man because one of the major features of the movie is how noises work.


Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man

A Star is Born

Am keeping with First Man. The layering of the sounds / is what creates such tense, sensory atmospheres — the hoses and air and switches and creaks while you’re being buckled into a groaning, rattling metal bucket about to be hurtled into space, unsure if it is going to stay in one piece.


Animal Behavior

Late Afternoon
One Small Step

Voting for the one I saw!

From here on out I haven’t seen anything that is nominated.

Documentaries and shorts are always my weakness in a given year, and this year was no exception. The film I was the most interested in (Free Solo) wasn’t available, and I just couldn’t drag up the energy for the others. I know I should… but… I only have so many conscious hours in a day, and documentaries aren’t usually where I want to funnel my free time and attention. Honestly, if I had been able to watch Free Solo, I probably would’ve pushed through and watched them all. But I didn’t want to watch every single other documentary except the one I wanted. So I saved myself the stress and opted to call the whole category a wash.

So aside from a single exception, I’m not voting in any of the following categories. But here they are:


Mary Queen of Scots


I don’t know what Border is!

Christian Bale wears prosthetics??? Omg how mind-blowing! …

… I like Saoirse Ronan.


Free Solo
Hale County, This Morning This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons


Black Sheep
End Game
Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence



That’s it until next year. 

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