Why the Oscars Still Don’t Matter in 2019 (But There's Hope)

 
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The Oscars 2019

By Evan Todd-McCoy

I’m taking a break from my weekly film reviews as a) it’s a slow release week which is probably because b) the Oscars happened. Full disclosure: I’m the guy who responds to most comments about the Oscars with “who cares?” and, if pressed, I’ll also explain why the Oscars only matter because we all act like they do. I’m the Oscars grump. Sorry/not sorry.

2019 marks a year of interesting controversy both with the awards themselves and behind the scenes events. This is the first year that they went ahead without a host. The whole thing with Kevin Hart indicates a certain amount of organizational incompetence, but by all accounts the Oscars were better without a host. The controversy and changes provide an impetus for a more interesting article than just the obligatory list of winners and snubs. I’ll also include some final thoughts on the winners and losers since why not? If I’m doing this I might as well do it all the way.

First, why am I so negative about the Oscars? There are several reasons. One is the meaningless voting process where numerous articles, year after year, have revealed that some don’t see the movies they vote for, others vote for nepotic or political reasons, and so on. Another is the demographics: the Academy has been, until very recently, over 90% white and mostly composed of men, middle-aged or older. These demographics don’t encompass the staggering variety of films that deserve consideration, particularly in terms of the types of voices and identities that are involved with film-making. Only recently have people of colour even won certain awards. After almost a hundred years.

The demographics issue explains how movies like Green Book or Bohemian Rhapsody can even be in the running. These are movies made by white men, for white audiences, and voted on by a group that is predominantly white. Is it any wonder that, regardless of whether BlackKklansman deserved Best Picture, Spike Lee lost to a functional remake of Driving Miss Daisy? Even though #OscarsSoWhite was years ago, it’s a sad commentary on how much further is left to go.

This also shows that the awards are not really a reflection of “excellence” in filmmaking by any reasonable metric. This is an industry awards show where rich celebrities pat each other on the back and occasionally allow some meaningful social commentary to take place or be brought forward. There’s so much pageantry, exposure, hype, and drama that it’s not surprising why people care, involved or not. But it is a pretense they and we buy into as an annual ritual. Water coolers buzz with gossip about winners and snubs, the filmmakers and actors perform a public spectacle of their triumphs, pettiness, or quiet dignity. Many would say it’s meant to be fun, but the whole thing feels so cynical and empty that I’d rather watch the highlights reel if I want to focus on fun moments. It’s the shortest one in decades and still over three hours, after all.

For some, the Oscars represent a useful reflection of where the broader Hollywood culture is at, which is about the only good reason to care about any of this. If we adopt this view, it does suggest that things are changing for the positive, even if the Best Picture win threatens to make even that feel hollow. This has really been one of the best years yet for representation and inclusion at the Oscars. Many people of colour were nominated or won in categories where they never had before. Women were especially better represented compared to previous years. This is all a good thing and about time. If it continues, the Oscars might feel legitimately relevant one day.

Without further ado:


Best Picture

Winner: Green Book

  • Black Panther

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • The Favourite

  • Roma

  • A Star Is Born

  • Vice

Best Director

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

  • Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

  • Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

  • Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

  • Adam McKay, Vice

Best Actor

Winner: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Christian Bale, Vice

  • Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

  • Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

  • Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress

Winner: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

  • Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

  • Glenn Close, The Wife

  • Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

  • Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me

Supporting Actor

Winner: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

  • Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

  • Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

  • Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • Sam Rockwell, Vice

Supporting Actress

Winner: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Amy Adams, Vice

  • Maria de Tavira, Roma

  • Emma Stone, The Favourite

  • Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Original Screenplay

Winner: Green Book

  • The Favourite

  • First Reformed

  • Roma

  • Vice

Adapted Screenplay

Winner: BlacKkKlansman

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • If Beale Street Could Talk

  • A Star Is Born

Animated Feature

Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

  • Incredibles 2

  • Isle of Dogs

  • Marai

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

Foreign-Language Film

Winner: Roma

  • Capernaum

  • Cold War

  • Never Look Away

  • Shoplifters

Best Documentary

Winner: Free Solo

  • Hale County This Morning This Evening

  • Minding the Gap

  • Of Fathers and Sons

  • RBG

Best Cinematography

Winner: Roma

  • Cold War

  • The Favourite

  • Never Look Away

  • A Star Is Born

Best Costume Design

Winner: Black Panther

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  • Mary Poppins Returns

  • The Favourite

  • Mary Queen of Scots

Film Editing

Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • The Favourite

  • Green Book

  • Vice

Makeup and Hairstyling

Winner: Vice

  • Border

  • Mary Queen of Scots

Original Score

Winner: Black Panther

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Isle of Dogs

  • Mary Poppins Returns

Original Song

Winner: “Shallow” - A Star Is Born

  • "All the Stars” - Black Panther

  • “I’ll Fight” - RBG

  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” - Mary Poppins Returns

  • "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Production Design

Winner: Black Panther

  • The Favourite

  • First Man

  • Mary Poppins Returns

  • Roma

Sound Editing

Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Black Panther

  • First Man

  • A Quiet Place

  • Roma

Sound Mixing

Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Black Panther

  • A Star Is Born

  • Roma

  • First Man

Visual Effects

Winner: First Man

  • Avengers: Infinity War

  • Christopher Robin

  • Ready Player ONe

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

Documentary (Short Subject)

Winner: Period. End of Sentence.

  • Black Sheep

  • End Game

  • Lifeboat

  • A Night at the Garden

Short Film (Animated)

Winner: Bao

  • Animal Behavior

  • Late Afternoon

  • One Small Step

  • Weekends

Short Film (Live Action)

Winner: Skin

  • Detainment

  • Marguerite

  • Fauve

  • Mother


Phew. That’s a big list!  Final thoughts:

-Green Book should not have won but I feel like it’s my fault that it did. I was finishing it just as it was announced. My bad.

-Given the list and what I’ve seen on it, I’d pick The Favorite as the best. Roma is a close second. Green Book isn’t even top 3.

-The Best Director win is like a consolation prize. Sorry, Cuarón, can’t give you Best Picture because studios vs. streaming, so here’s option B. Then again, also took Best Foreign Language Film.

-Olivia Colman owns. Absolutely deserved. Same with Mahershala Ali, who did his level best to make Green Book even watchable. Ethan Hawke for Best Actor, please.

-Green Book winning Best Original Screenplay is funny because it was all lies.

-BlackKklansman winning Best Adapted Screenplay means Spike Lee gets his first Oscar after five nominations. He was obviously happy about that, though it feels like another consolation prize when Green Book won. His response when asked about that was pitch-perfect, however.

-Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the more triumphant wins of the night. This is a boundary-breaking, ground-shifting movie and if we’re gonna pretend these awards matter, this should be why.

-Having not seen any of the nominated documentaries, I realize once again that I have a hole in my heart where documentaries should be.

-They didn’t wind up pushing Best Editing, Cinematography, Live Action Short, or Makeup and Hairstyling to the commercials. Good on them. Roma deserves the Cinematography win if anything does.

-Black Panther taking Best Costume Design is a no brainer. That more “genre” films aren’t represented in this category continues to undermine its relevance. The other nominees make Black Panther feel like tokenism. THREE British period dramas? At least it also won Production Design.

-For that matter, why wasn’t Black Panther nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling?

-First Man winning VFX reminds me that I need to see First Man. That movie keeps coming up as one that was conspicuously underrepresented in general. My list of underrepresented movies is miles long, doesn’t include First Man, and is ironic anyway because I don’t think these awards mean anything. Wanting other movies to be nominated is inherently self-defeating.