With the Oscars just around the corner, eight of our Arts & Culture writers discuss their picks for the main awards on offer.
Frequently billed as the best film of the year, I had so many expectations when I finally had the opportunity to see Bohemian Rhapsody. You don’t have to be a fan of Queen or Freddie Mercury – I’m not – to be moved. Bohemian Rhapsody explores the story of a child of immigrants, a gay icon, a rock star, a friend, all while also weaving in a tale of self-destruction and HIV. You will smile, sing along and maybe even shed a tear in only a little over two hours. Bohemian Rhapsody truly should win Best Picture, and for all the good reasons.
I want Adam McKay to clinch best director. Vice has gotten a decent battering from critics (66% on Rotten Tomatoes) over what many perceive to be a vicious, unbalanced portrayal of Dick Cheney. It is mostly a vicious, unbalanced portrayal of Dick Cheney – and that’s exactly why it’s a great movie. Darkly hilarious, much like McKay’s previous directorial hit The Big Short, McKay finds a way of pointing out who’s dumb, who’s evil, and who’s both. His ability to turn some of Hollywood’s most charismatic personalities into bumbling, blithering real-life idiots in a digestible retelling of real-life shambles should have won him an Oscar in 2015, and should win him one now. Whether it does or not, is a “known unknown”. Rumsfeld knows at least that much.
The Favourite’s Queen Anne is a lesser-known 18th century monarch with a somewhat tragic life story. As if seventeen dead children, recurring gout and declining sanity were not enough, she contends with politicians squabbling like schoolboys and ladies-in-waiting vying for her favour. Yet Olivia Colman’s portrayal is wickedly funny, displaying at once the vulnerability of a young woman and the poise of an experienced female ruler. From acerbic one liners to telling facial twitches, she delivers an Oscar-winning performance throughout.
I have to admit that personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Bohemian Rhapsody as a whole. However, the outstanding performance of Rami Malek still makes it a must-watch film. It must have been far from easy to do justice to the legendary character of Freddie Mercury but Malek rises to the challenge admirably. Through his portrayal, we see not only the larger-than-life performer adored by millions, but also the troubled and vulnerable individual who has to navigate often tumultuous personal circumstances. Many critics and regular cinemagoers alike have Malek down as the frontrunner for Best Actor, and I have no argument against that.
Best Supporting Actress
King, Stone, Weisz, Adams, De Tavira, what a fine selection for this year’s Best Supporting Actress category. So, who will gladly be investing in some polish this year…? If you believe what you hear, it seems that Regina King, who stars in the striking If Beale Street Could Talk, is set to be the winner. Fine, but what if we take into account what’s been happening over awards season? Here again, King is to be regarded as the actress to beat, given her Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards. Fair enough, but at the end of all this, who actually deserves to win? Ok, I won’t fool you twice, it is indeed King who should triumph, simply because her character shines beautifully, strongly and always gracefully.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali won his first Oscar for his role in Moonlight, and looks set to take home a second in just two years. His portrayal of Don Shirley in Green Book is subtle, layered, and somehow light-hearted at the same time. I’m not the first to argue that he could have been nominated for Best Actor, seeing as his and Viggo Mortensen’s characters play off each other beautifully for the duration of the film. That said, he’s already won a BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG for his performance, so the Oscar seems likely, and it is certainly well deserved.
Best Animated Feature
I waited fourteen years for The Incredibles 2. Part of me was afraid to go and see it, out of fear that it wouldn’t stand up to my lofty expectations. But it delivered, and how so – critic Mark Kermode even went as far as to declare it superior to the original. And he might be right, you know, this film really does everything. The plot is cleverly developed and has a delicious, impossible to foresee twist halfway through. Then we have intelligent social commentary on issues as diverse as gender roles and consumerism. Oh and to top it off, there are heaps of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, especially when old favourites like Jack-Jack and Edna Mode get involved.
Best Foreign-Language Film
In Roma, Alfonso Cuarón expertly juggles the role of writer, director, cinematographer, editor and producer, never once dropping the ball. Despite being shot in black and white, this is a vibrantly moving story of family life in 1970s Mexico City. If Roma doesn’t clinch Best Picture or Best Director, this small-scale, Netflix-distributed, Spanish arthouse masterpiece will surely take home the award for Best Foreign-Language Film – it is certainly deserving.
Best Animated Short
One Small Step is the story of Luna, a girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. In this 7-minute short, we follow her growth and development as she overcomes failure and hardship, and ultimately succeeds in fulfilling her dream. The relationship with her father and his constant support are an important motif in the story. What is striking about One Small Step is that, despite its relatively conventional message about the importance of family and following one’s dreams, it still manages to entertain and touch viewers. Moreover, the use of colour and music is excellent, with the colour scheme changing according to Luna’s mood and the music reflecting the relationships of the characters – as composer Steve Horner explains, Luna’s father is associated with cello sounds, and Luna with piano sounds. As the characters interact with each other, the instruments interact as well.
Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo is a sports documentary unlike any other, at once a jaw-dropping spectacle and a serious exploration of the true meaning of courage. It follows the travails of Alex Honnold, the premier rock climber of our generation and a freak of nature, as he prepares to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan, a 3000-foot rock formation in Yosemite national park. It is the story of one of the greatest athletic achievements in human history, told with nuance, passion and personality. Dizzying cinematography and compelling characterisation come together to create a transformative, visually staggering documentary that goes much further beyond one man’s journey for excellence.