Anyone who loves film and follows the awards season circuit is already aware of the absolute catastrophe that the upcoming out-of-touch Academy Awards 2019 has brought upon itself. First, the Academy announced that they would introduce a “Best Popular Film” category,
where “popular” films like the Marvel movies (and anything else that makes a big box office splash) would have a chance at winning an Award, indicating that those films are not prestigious or flat-out worthy enough to win any other awards otherwise. Quite the back-handed compliment. Second, the Oscars screwed up their chances at a host this year by neglecting to give Kevin Hart’s history of offensive, homophobic jokes enough of a social media background check prior to announcing him as the host, which led to nobody wanting to host the Oscars, fearing that their old Tweets and shitty behavior would creep back into the conversation as well. So now we have no host. (Which isn’t actually a bad thing, if you ask me.) Then, the Academy announced that they would only have two of the nominated Best Original Song category nominees perform during the broadcast: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper for “Shallow” (A Star is Born) and Kendrick Lamar for “All the Stars” (Black Panther), which Lady Gaga found unfair and claimed to not perform if the rest of the other nominees did not have a chance to perform their songs as well. Lastly, the big kahuna of Oscar 2019 mistakes: the Academy had announced that they were not going to broadcast the winners for Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Hair and Makeup, and Best Live Action Short– and if you are even remotely interested in film, you know how ludicrous this decision was, because of HOW IMPORTANT THE EDITING AND CINEMATOGRAPHY IS TO A FILM. Long story short, the wishy-washy Academy has since backtracked on all of these announcements, so now we will no longer have a “Best Popular Film” category, all 5 Best Original Song nominees will perform, and ALL of the categories will be broadcasted live during the show. Whew. What a mess.
On top of all this, the Oscars have included some very questionable films within its categories (cough, crappily-made and directed by a longtime pedophile Bohemian Rhapsody and the made up narrative and “racism is bad” simplistic theme of Green Book, cough)…just to call out a few. With this inclusion of such divisive, and flat-out preposterous films included in what many consider the most important night of the Film Industry, the Academy has ignored amazing gems that should have gotten more love or at least one nomination– and for that reason, I decided to make this quick list of films that are gold and should be on your radar, moreso than half of the Oscar nominated 2019 garbage.
You Were Never Really Here
Hey, Academy! Remember movies that happen to be directed by visionary women? (The Oscars once again have NO Best Director nominees that are women.) Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here tackles a difficult subject, child sex trafficking, and turns it into a beautiful, poetic film that is just as rewarding as it is dark. With an excellent performance from Joaquin Phoenix, captivating score from Jonny Greenwood, and the aforementioned flawless direction from Ramsay, this Oscar snub really hurts.
Sorry to Bother You
Arguably the strangest and one of the most thought-provoking films of 2018, Sorry to Bother You is quite literally something that you have never seen before. And isn’t that what a Best Original Screenplay nomination is supposed to be for? For a film that is a breath of fresh, original air? Guess the Academy didn’t think so, (or didn’t even see it) because this film, directed by Boots Riley, conquers capitalism, racism, and political satire into a hilarious dark comedy that felt much-needed in last year’s confusing era of political disarray. To be honest, this instant cult classic is probably too cool for an Oscar nomination anyway.
Bo Burnham’s endearing and uber relatable breakthrough feature film, about an awkward 13-year-old girl surviving her final week of Eighth Grade, is something that should be watched by everyone, no matter how old you are. You will see yourself in the film’s central character, and you will laugh, cringe, and catch yourself making peace signs and saying “Gucci” while doing so. While young lead Elsie Fisher’s performance will undoubtedly turn her into a star, it is the film’s script, the beating heart of it all, that has been winning smaller awards left and right…but failed to nab the hearts of the Academy voters for a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Go watch Eighth Grade and be baffled at its snub, asap.
Three Identical Strangers
While it may not have been anything different (on a technical level) than your average talking head-style documentary film, Three Identical Strangers depicts a fascinating story unlike anything that you have ever seen before. When triplets who had never met before are coincidentally reunited by life circumstances, disturbing secrets and revelations are revealed about why and how they were separated in the first place. The filmmakers delicately depicted this sensitive story, as they thoroughly researched and reached out to a few individuals who you will be dying to hear from, once you learn the specifics of the story. I think it could have gotten squeezed into the Best Documentary Feature category this year.
I know, I know. You’re sick of me writing about Hereditary. But guess what? I’LL NEVER STOP. First time director Ari Aster’s Hereditary has quickly become considered as one of the best horror-drama films ever made, and it remains as my favorite film of last year. No film had anywhere near the same emotional effect on me as this one did, and I know of many critics and fans alike who felt the same. There was absolutely no reason at all– aside from the fact that the Academy almost always unfairly snubs horror films, even those as prestigious as this one– for Hereditary to not have been given nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Sound Design, Best Score for Colin Stenson…and, of course, Toni Collette’s mesmerizing performance for Best Actress. Nothing against Lady Gaga and Glenn Close, but Toni was absolutely ROBBED, and I’m still not over it. Future film students will be baffled at the lack of Academy recognition for this film.
Yes, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed is actually up for a Best Original Screenplay nomination, which I was surprised and thrilled about– however– Ethan Hawke gives arguably the best performance of his career as a Reverend who is in the middle of an identity crisis, and should have gotten nominated for Best Actor over the laughable fake teeth and poor, caricature acting that was contained in certain other films nominated this year. First Reformed is not an easy watch per se, as it deals with heavy themes such as religion versus science, climate change, mental illness, suicide, honor, and dignity, but it is absolutely one of the best films of 2018 and deserved way more attention from the Academy than it received.
As divisive as Film Twitter would have you believe, Luca Guadagnino’s bewitching remake of Suspiria dazzled way more people than it offended, and its high caliber of quality is Oscar-worthy. Tilda Swinton killed it with her portrayal of three different supporting characters, and her performance(s) were warranted for a possible Best Supporting Actress nomination. Not to mention Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s haunting score for “Volk” will get in your head and haunt your dreams, and should have made the cut for Best Original Score. Plus, I really thought it may have had a shot in Best Hair and Makeup, as the film’s prosthetics in several scenes (you’ll know them when you see it) would rival anything from most genre films made within the last decade.
This ambitious, science-fiction enigma not only will challenge your brain to the point of contention, but it’s also one of the most visually stunning films of last year. The visual effects rival anything produced from nominated film Black Panther (no offense, Marvel fanatics) so it’s a travesty that a Best Visual Effects nomination was not handed out for it. Also, Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s beautiful synth score for “The Alien” did indeed make the shortlist for Best Original Score, but it fell short of an actual nomination, which is super frustrating because that score alone is near purchase-worthy.
Additionally, I did not see these films, but from what I’ve heard and read, they too were wrongfully snubbed from this year’s Oscar race: Burning, Paddington 2, We The Animals, Private Life, The Rider, Leave No Trace, and Wildlife.
And to be fair, I really did enjoy The Favorite and Roma and am happy to see all the love they’ve received from this year’s upcoming ceremony. I still need to check out Cold War and If Beale Street Could Talk, but all and all, I’m really disappointed in the amount of lackluster films that are being recognized this year. As bitter as I am, I will still be watching the Academy Awards this Sunday night (even though I will likely be annoyed for about 75% of it.) No matter the outcomes of Sunday night’s ceremony, just remember to always pay close attention to the smaller, low-budget indie films like the ones I mentioned that will likely make more of a lasting impact than many other films that do get recognized by the alleged “Academy” and go on to win the little Gold man statue ever do.~