2019 Movies: Academy Awards

There are two approaches to judging awards picks.

Are the choices THE ACTUAL “BEST” OUT OF EVERY ELIGIBLE MOVIE RELEASED IN 2019 THAT COULD’VE QUALIFIED TO CONTEND???

Or:

Are they acceptable choices in themselves? As in, instead of pitting them against the entirety of their competition and expecting the Oscars to award our personal favorites, is the work itself worthy of recognition? This might sound like a conceptual oxymoron in terms, but I believe multiple movies deserve Academy Awards every year, and more than five merit nominations. In this regard, the contextual landscape can be disregarded.

But how about evaluating a nominee individually, as in outside of their context in the movie? No component of a movie — be it a performance or a score — exists in a vacuum; thus, separating them to be considered on their own feels wrong. How they’re used in context, their relationship to the rest of the movie (including to other components, some of which have their own Oscar categories as well), what purpose they serve, what role they play, what they add, and how integral they are to the overall effect of the movie are not only crucial; they can be central to a voter’s methodology, as could be the inventiveness of each component.

Think of it like Wins Above Replacement; if one of these components was to be replaced with an average alternative, how much is lost, and how well does the movie still function?


Here’s a key to understand the formatting of the lists below:

Self-explanatory: I’ve ranked each category’s nominees in order of personal preference.

Requiring an explanation: the different fonts.

  • BOLDED, UNDERLINED, AND UPPER-CASE = MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE WORK IN THAT CATEGORY OUT OF ALL 2019 MOVIES, NOT MERELY OUT OF THE NOMINATED FIVE.
  • Bolded and Underlined = In my top 5 for each category (or, for Best Picture, in my top 9) out of all 2019 movies, AKA: I’d nominate them for a Steven (that is, if the Stevens arbitrarily adhered to the Academy’s five-nominees limit. Which brings us to:)
  • Bolded = Nomination-worthy, with respect to my aforementioned theory that more than five movies per year are “Oscar-nomination worthy” for every category.
  • Plain text = not for me.
  • * Asterisks * denote which of the nominees won the Oscar.

Oh, and embedded throughout are thoughts on how to assess certain categories.


PICTURE
  1. Marriage Story
  2. The Irishman
  3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  4. * Parasite *
    • Despite coming in 4th place here, and not being in my top 9 of the year, I would’ve voted for Parasite. Partially because it was the sole option with a puncher’s chance of beating 1917. Partially because there’s a negligible difference in quality compared to the three ranked above it (and, for the record, the one below it). But mostly because it’s fucking embarrassing that a non-English language movie never won before. The Oscars were my cinephilia’s initial curatorial blueprint (shoutout to another: the AFI Top 100). Obviously they’re an imperfect base, but it was a start, after which I dug deeper into the artists — and their inspirations — they introduced me to. If / (Hopefully) When these cinephile foundations adequately encompass the whole world, perhaps then subtitles won’t be a deterrent for future generations, because they‘ll grow up without a stratified perspective; the most effective way to overcome a hurdle is to never build a hurdle in the first place. Sometimes, voters should realize their “favorite” is not always synonymous with what should win. Plus, Parasite‘s one of the better winners of the century, so…
  5. Little Women
  6. 1917
  7. Joker
  8. Ford v Ferrari
  9. Jojo Rabbit

INTERNATIONAL
  1. Pain and Glory (Spain)
  2. * Parasite (South Korea) *
  3. Corpus Christi (Poland)
  4. Les Misérables (France)
  5. Honeyland (North Macedonia)

SHORTLIST

  1. Pain and Glory (Spain)
  2. Parasite (South Korea)
  3. Corpus Christi (Poland)
  4. Les Misérables (France)
  5. Atlantics (Senegal)
  6. Beanpole (Russia)
  7. Honeyland (North Macedonia)

Yet to be released in America: The Painted Bird (Czech Republic), Those Who Remained (Hungary), Truth and Justice (Estonia)


ALL SUBMITTED MOVIES

  1. Pain and Glory (Spain)
  2. Parasite (South Korea)
  3. Corpus Christi (Poland)
  4. The Traitor (Italy)
  5. The Chambermaid (Mexico)
  6. Les Misérables (France)
  7. Invisible Life (Brazil)
  8. Tel Aviv on Fire (Luxembourg)
  9. Incitement (Israel)
  10. Gully Boy (India)
  11. Atlantics (Senegal)
  12. Beanpole (Russia)
  13. Honeyland (North Macedonia)
  14. And Then We Danced (Sweden)
  15. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (United Kingdom)
  16. Monos (Columbia)
  17. Furie (Vietnam)
  18. Ne Zha (China)
  19. Weathering with You (Japan)

DOCUMENTARY
  1. For Sama
  2. * American Factory *
  3. The Edge of Democracy
  4. Honeyland
  5. The Cave

SHORTLIST

  1. Apollo 11
  2. For Sama
  3. American Factory
  4. The Biggest Little Farm
  5. Maiden
  6. The Edge of Democracy
  7. Knock Down the House
  8. Midnight Family
  9. The Apollo
  10. One Child Nation
  11. Aquarela
  12. Honeyland
  13. The Great Hack
  14. Advocate
  15. The Cave

DIRECTOR
  1. MARTIN SCORSESE, THE IRISHMAN
  2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  3. * Bong Joon-ho, Parasite *
  4. Sam Mendes, 1917
  5. Todd Phillips, Joker

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  1. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
  2. * Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won, Parasite *
  3. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  4. Rian Johnson, Knives Out
  5. Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917

I focus on how well the scripts would work on the page / translate to the reading experience, without all the cinematicism (totally a word) they call for.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  1. GRETA GERWIG, LITTLE WOMEN
  2. Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
  3. Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes
  4. Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, Joker
  5. * Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit *

The eternal question: does “Best Adapted Screenplay” mean the “best” screenplay that’s adapted, or the “best” adaptation? As in, the “best” screenplay that happens to be adapted from source material, or the “best” adaptation of that source material? The former allows us to basically treat them like original screenplays, whereas the latter entails analyzing the scripts in a direct relationship with their inspirations.

This year’s slate proves to be a case study in elucidating this dilemma:

If I treat my top two as original, then Zaillian takes it. But he was given free rein to adapt the book, whereas Gerwig had to contend with all previous incarnations, and yet she managed to find a new spin, which I appreciate more. Thus, my gold goes to her.


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
  1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
  4. Charlize Theron, Bombshell
  5. * Renée Zellweger, Judy *
    • Autobiographical metatextual commentary, Round 1 (Round 2 arrives later this week): Imagine if Liza Minnelli had played her mother. Technically, she’s too old, but Garland’s intended to look frailer than her age in the movie!

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
  1. * Laura Dern, Marriage Story *
  2. Florence Pugh, Little Women
    • Not even in my top two Pugh performances of the year.
  3. Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
  4. Margot Robbie, Bombshell
  5. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
  1. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
  2. Adam Driver, Marriage Story
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  4. * Joaquin Phoenix, Joker *
  5. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
  1. * Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood *
  2. Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  3. Al Pacino, The Irishman
  4. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
  5. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Name the last year not a single biopic was nominated for one of the 20 acting slots? Put another way, when was the last time all 20 nominees were comprised exclusively of fictional characters? Why do Academy members value embodying over creativity?


CINEMATOGRAPHY
  1. The Lighthouse
  2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  3. The Irishman
  4. * 1917 *
  5. Joker

FILM EDITING
  1. Parasite
  2. The Irishman
  3. * Ford v Ferrari *
  4. Joker
  5. Jojo Rabbit

ORIGINAL SCORE
  1. Randy Newman, Marriage Story
  2. Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
  3. * Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker *
  4. Thomas Newman, 1917
  5. John Williams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I prioritize how the score operates in the movie over the raw compositions themselves. I’m convinced Academy members decide based on listening to recordings of the scores out of context, like they’re standalone albums or something.


PRODUCTION DESIGN
  1. * Once Upon a Time in Hollywood *
  2. Parasite
  3. The Irishman
  4. 1917
  5. Jojo Rabbit

ANIMATED
  1. * TOY STORY 4 *
  2. Missing Link
  3. I Lost My Body
  4. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  5. Klaus

SOUND EDITING
  1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  2. 1917
  3. * Ford v Ferrari *
  4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  5. Joker

SOUND MIXING
  1. AD ASTRA
  2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  3. * 1917 *
  4. Ford v Ferrari
  5. Joker

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
  1. 1917
  2. Joker
  3. * Bombshell *
  4. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  5. Judy

Makeup to create characters/worlds > makeup to recreate real people.


COSTUME DESIGN
  1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  2. * Little Women *
  3. The Irishman
  4. Joker
  5. Jojo Rabbit

VISUAL EFFECTS
  1. The Irishman
  2. * 1917 *
  3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. The Lion King
    • Sooooo if we agree the original is better, and since the CGI is the most significant difference between the two versions, then WTF are we doing here? Something can be a technical achievement in the field without actually working in the movie. And shouldn’t the Oscars award only work that works?

A category obsessed with movies which boast either the most visual effects, or the most photorealistic visual effects. But what about how the visual effects enhance the story, or maybe even deepen the themes?? And could we maybe factor in the style of the CGI’s design, particularly in terms of their novelty?


ORIGINAL SONG
  1. “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” from Toy Story 4
  2. * “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” — Rocketman *
  3. “Into the Unknown” — Frozen II
  4. “Stand Up” — Harriet
  5. “I’m Standing With You” — Breakthrough

The Rocketman omission toppled (temporarily?) musicals’ previous tyranny over the sound mixing category. The next aural trend to curb: closing-credit song domination (not all feel tacked on). As with every other category, how a song’s used IN THE MOVIE PROPER — you know, what these enterprises are supposed to be about! — is infinitely more important (to me) than the quality of the song when you stream it.


SHORT FILMS

I’ve listed the three short-film categories in the order of the combined strength of each set of five nominees, like a 5 on 5 on 5 cage match.

Oh, and the font designation do not apply here, because I haven’t seen any other short films this year (theaters, start screening related shorts before features!; upcoming artists need any and every platform to be discovered).


LIVE ACTION

  1. A Sister
    • One of two nominated shorts with “sister” in the title.
  2. Brotherhood
    • From sisters to brothers.
  3. * The Neighbors’ Window *
  4. Saria
  5. Nefta Football Club

All would’ve been acceptable winners, a rarity! Weirdly, my preferential order matches the order they’re played in the theatrical release package.


ANIMATED

  1. Memorable
  2. Dcera (Daughter)
    • Another family-themed title.
  3. Sister
    • The second sister.
  4. * Hair Love *
  5. Kitbull
    • The title’s the highlight.

 

Animated + Honorable Mentions Included in Theatrical Release

  1. Memorable
  2. Dcera (Daughter)
  3. Sister
  4. Maestro
  5. Hors Piste
  6. Hair Love
  7. Henrietta Bulkowski
  8. Kitbull
  9. The Bird and the Whale

DOCUMENTARY

  1. Life Overtakes Me
  2. St. Louis Superman
  3. In the Absence
  4. * Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) *
  5. Walk Run Cha-Cha

Four out of five involve the suffering of children…

A fitting sentiment to end an Oscars article with.

 

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