As a stressed and fatigued third year my recreational activities have been severely curtailed and now there are few things that give me greater pleasure than the cinema. I arrive depleted and uninspired and exit in a relaxed haze as though I’ve spent two weeks on yoga retreat in the Himalayas finding my inner child, rather than two hours at Cineworld slurping down a bucket of diet coke. Expanding my horizons beyond the Market Place and the library is, for me, quite frankly essential. In the name of “journalistic research”, I have spent the entire weekend at the cinema. Despite my tireless efforts, I could not see every film nominated but I have tried to give a fair appraisal based on what I have seen.
The Oscar nominations this year have once again caused controversy, due to the lack of diversity in nominees. Nineteen of the twenty actors nominated were white and there was not a single female director nominated. This frustration was best voiced by Issa Rae, who when reading out the nominations for Best Director, commented “congratulations to those men”. Although I was not chosen by the Academy to decide the Oscar nominees for this year, in this article I will pay homage to those I feel have been overlooked as well as those I feel truly deserve to win.
Best Picture: My choice for the Best Picture Oscar is ‘Once upon a time in Hollywood’. Quentin Tarentino’s depiction of Hollywood during the last gasp of the Golden Age is unusual and entertaining with incredible acting from every cast member. The colours used throughout the movie resemble a sunset and though it was beautifully shot, the audience is acutely conscious that they are witnessing the end of an era. Tarantino’s signature use of grotesque violence is ever present and the dynamic between actors is well crafted. I especially loved Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo Dicaprio) relationship with his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) since he keeps Rick, a mediocre television star, grounded in some form of reality. I found Rick’s interaction with Trudi (Julia Butters) very sweet and despite Trudi’s young age, Rick appears in her presence even more vulnerable than we have seen him previously.
As anyone with a sister will know, the relationship you have can be difficult to explain, but I have never seen it explored so accurately on screen.
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix: Joker
Just like the majority of people, I found the idea of watching anyone other than Heath Ledger playing the Joker strange and unnecessary. There is no doubt in my mind that Heath Ledger is the greatest Joker and, despite my love for Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal, I still believe that. The reason I feel Joaquin’s Joker is worthy of an Oscar is because his psychopathy is not explained as villainous, but rather the product of failed mental health support and the abusive behaviour of those around him. Phoenix’s portrayal reveals the humanity of a character you could easily have believed had none. By walking on Ledger’s sacred ground, Joaquin doesn’t try and compete with him but instead compliments and enriches our understanding of a deeply complicated character.
Best Actress Saorise Ronan- Little Women / Renee Zelleweger- Judy
Saoirse Ronan and Renee Zelleweger are two of my all time favourite actresses. At the ripe old age of 25, this Saoirse’s 4th Oscar nomination. She gives a powerful performance in Little Women as Jo March, a fierce and unruly character who rails against the idea that women must be married to be of use to society. I loved the realistic presentation of her rivalry with her sister Amy (Florence Pugh, another nominee) since it is infuriating and heart warming in equal measure. As anyone with a sister will know, the relationship you have can be difficult to explain, but I have never seen it explored so accurately on screen.
Renee Zelleweger plays Judy Garland, the legendary entertainer, best known for her role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Judy tragically died at age 47 of a drug overdose and Zelleweger portrays her painful struggle as a mother battling with her mental health while balancing a career at the same time. Zelleweger is exceptional in Judy and it is not hard to see why she is the favourite for the Oscar this year.
Phoenix’s portrayal reveals the humanity of a character you could easily have believed had none.
Best director: Sam Mendes 1917
If I had to pick out of “all those men”, I would give the award to Sam Mendes for 1917. The film was utterly gripping throughout and I thought the intensity and sense of danger Mendes created was the perfect balance between extreme tension and the ‘jump scares’ of a horror movie. The cinematography, as opposed to the plot and character development, is what makes this film deserving of an Oscar. Mendes ambitiously chose to present the film as though it was taken in one shot.
Turning to those notable by their absence, on what planet did Greta Gerwig not deserve a nomination for Little Women. Nominated in multiple categories including Best Picture, Best actress and Best supporting actress, Gerwig unquestionably deserves a nomination for best director. In a bizarre twist of life imitating art, Gerwig’s rejection by the Academy mirrors her heroine Jo’s rejection in the film. This snub clearly indicates that there is not an absence of female directors, but rather an absence of people willing to recognise their work. When I get my inevitable call up next year, I will ensure that there is greater diversity amongst the nominees.