By Bradley Lane
On Feb. 24, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host the 91st Oscars award ceremony. While the Oscars provide a vehicle for the film industry to recognize the best films and performances in their industry, it is not to be taken as an end-all be-all to which films are the best of the best. In reality they serve to recognize a specific type of filmmaking designed to appeal to academy voters, however, as a film lover, it is still a whole lot of fun to talk about. In this article, I will be sharing my personal picks in the categories of Best Original Screenplay, Best Directing, Best Actress and Actor, as well as Best Picture.
Best Original Screenplay
The Best Original Screenplay category nominees are The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma and Vice. The standouts in this category are The Favourite and First Reformed. The Favourite had hilarious, quippy, sharp and period appropriate dialogue, but First Reformed has my vote in this category. Its writing is gripping and intense with a message that deserves to be contemplated days and weeks after you walk out of the theater. This is legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader’s first ever Oscar nomination despite having writing credits on such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. First Reformed was my favorite film of 2018 by far, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The nominees for Best Director are Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) and Adam McKay (Vice). I think most of these films are great, but only Cold War, The Favourite and Roma manage to push the envelope for directors to come. Each of them has their own strengths; Roma’s impossibly unique tone, Cold War’s ever developing characters and The Favourite’s dedication to highlighting its main characters’ performances. I would be happy to see any of these directors walk away with the trophy, but my personal pick would be for The Favourite because I am such a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos’s signature weird and quirky tone.
For Actress in a Leading Role, the academy nominated Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Coleman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). This is the only category that I think is a complete blow out; Olivia Coleman had the best performance of any actress this year and it is not close. Olivia Coleman completely transforms into her portrayal of the temperamental and quirky Queen Anne.
The Actor in a Leading Role category is a much closer race, featuring Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Viggo Mortensen (Green Book). The most interesting thing about this category is that all but one performance (Bradley Cooper) features a portrayal of a real-life person. I think everyone in this category is deserving of an Oscar, but Willem Dafoe was my favorite performance of 2018. His representation of Vincent Van Gogh is somber and heartbreaking.
Best Picture has the most nominations with eight films up for the award, including Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice. Personally, my best of the year list would look much different, but as far as these films go, Roma and The Favourite might as well be in a different weight class. Most of these films fit comfortably in traditional filmmaking conventions by the numbers: editing, directing and writing. Roma and The Favourite are the only films that take real risks, ensuring they won’t be forgotten anytime soon with or without a Best Picture win. However, three standout performances from Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman in combination with Yorgos Lanthimos’s absurdist leanings make The Favourite my pick for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards.