Op-Rob 2019 Best Picture Nominee Rankings

8. “A Star is Born”

“A Star is Born” was perhaps the worst movie I saw this Oscars season. It had a few poignant moments, such as Jackson Maine’s (Bradley Cooper) conversation with George (Dave Chappelle). However, on the whole it was an incredibly confusing and fragmented film. Ally's (Lady Gaga) transition from a homegrown country singer to zany “Pop Star” is totally bizarre and unexplained, as are Maine’s troubles with addiction and haunted past manifested through his relationship with his brother. The movie seems to lay out several different paths and never commits to any of them. A good example of “A Star is Born” done correctly is “Crazy Heart” starring Jeff Bridges. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is more in line with T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” music video than a serious film about stardom and substance abuse.

“A Star is Born” was perhaps the worst movie I saw this Oscars season. It had a few poignant moments, such as Jackson Maine’s (Bradley Cooper) conversation with George (Dave Chappelle). However, on the whole it was an incredibly confusing and fragmented film. Ally's (Lady Gaga) transition from a homegrown country singer to zany “Pop Star” is totally bizarre and unexplained, as are Maine’s troubles with addiction and haunted past manifested through his relationship with his brother. The movie seems to lay out several different paths and never commits to any of them. A good example of “A Star is Born” done correctly is “Crazy Heart” starring Jeff Bridges. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is more in line with T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” music video than a serious film about stardom and substance abuse.

7. “Vice”

Reviewed in full earlier on Op-Rob, “Vice” is perhaps worth watching for Bale’s masterful transformation into former VP Dick Cheney, but ultimately amounts to a jittery film meant to deliver leftist jeers at former Republican administrations.

Reviewed in full earlier on Op-Rob, “Vice” is perhaps worth watching for Bale’s masterful transformation into former VP Dick Cheney, but ultimately amounts to a jittery film meant to deliver leftist jeers at former Republican administrations.

6. “Green Book”

“Green Book” is named for “The Negro Motorist Green-Book” hotel guide that was necessary for African-Americans to safely travel throughout the South in the Jim Crow era. It is a film that mainly focuses on the relationship between two entirely different men: one is the Italian-American tough guy Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and the other is Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a sophisticated maestro who is also gay and black. The two somehow end up spending a lot of time together when Shirley hires Vallelonga as his bodyguard during a playing tour through the Deep South. While “Green Book” works as an uplifting sort of buddy drama, there is nothing extraordinary about the film. It has the feel of a made-for-TV movie in many ways, and from the very beginning the viewer can deduce what will happen by the end. Perhaps the most glaring problem with “Green Book” is how Shirley’s sexuality is skimmed over. When we discover that Shirley is gay, it is by far the most shocking revelation of the entire movie. Yet the film immediately shifts away from the subject and plods forward as if it were some small footnote. The same shallowness affects our understanding of Vallelonga’s racist views, which are somehow erased throughout the film without any real turning point. Thus, “Green Book” fails to get at the heart of the very issues that make the setting of the film compelling in the first place.

“Green Book” is named for “The Negro Motorist Green-Book” hotel guide that was necessary for African-Americans to safely travel throughout the South in the Jim Crow era. It is a film that mainly focuses on the relationship between two entirely different men: one is the Italian-American tough guy Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and the other is Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a sophisticated maestro who is also gay and black. The two somehow end up spending a lot of time together when Shirley hires Vallelonga as his bodyguard during a playing tour through the Deep South. While “Green Book” works as an uplifting sort of buddy drama, there is nothing extraordinary about the film. It has the feel of a made-for-TV movie in many ways, and from the very beginning the viewer can deduce what will happen by the end. Perhaps the most glaring problem with “Green Book” is how Shirley’s sexuality is skimmed over. When we discover that Shirley is gay, it is by far the most shocking revelation of the entire movie. Yet the film immediately shifts away from the subject and plods forward as if it were some small footnote. The same shallowness affects our understanding of Vallelonga’s racist views, which are somehow erased throughout the film without any real turning point. Thus, “Green Book” fails to get at the heart of the very issues that make the setting of the film compelling in the first place.

5. “Bohemian Rhapsody”

As overhyped as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was, I have to admit that I enjoyed the film as an entertaining drawn-out music video. Rami Malek is superb as Freddie Mercury, and there is an undeniable pep to each live-music scene. However, when it comes to the more daunting questions surrounding the rise and fall of Mercury, the film completely flops. We never understand Mercury’s strained relationship with his family, beyond a few scenes where it is clear they disapprove of his lifestyle. We never understand why Mercury fell in love with Jim Patton (Aaron McCusker), his eventual long time partner. And we never get a real sense of how Queen managed to make the music that made them an all-time great beyond sporadic scenes in which Mercury has an epiphany and starts belting out a hit song. The film operates as a simple showcase for Queen’s music, which serves as ample entertainment, but forgettable storytelling.

As overhyped as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was, I have to admit that I enjoyed the film as an entertaining drawn-out music video. Rami Malek is superb as Freddie Mercury, and there is an undeniable pep to each live-music scene. However, when it comes to the more daunting questions surrounding the rise and fall of Mercury, the film completely flops. We never understand Mercury’s strained relationship with his family, beyond a few scenes where it is clear they disapprove of his lifestyle. We never understand why Mercury fell in love with Jim Patton (Aaron McCusker), his eventual long time partner. And we never get a real sense of how Queen managed to make the music that made them an all-time great beyond sporadic scenes in which Mercury has an epiphany and starts belting out a hit song. The film operates as a simple showcase for Queen’s music, which serves as ample entertainment, but forgettable storytelling.

4. “Black Panther”

I reviewed “Black Panther” in full back when it was released, and thought it was a solid superhero movie and well deserving of its “Starter” rating. The fact that it squelches 4 of this years nominees speaks to just how bad this year’s lineup turned out. Sure, “Black Panther” is a good superhero movie, and it draws great strength from a primarily African-American led cast and crew. The film has vital cultural importance. But it lacks the cinematic qualities of a “Best Picture” winner. I fear that a “Black Panther” win in this category will open the doors for other superheroes who by no means belong there.

I reviewed “Black Panther” in full back when it was released, and thought it was a solid superhero movie and well deserving of its “Starter” rating. The fact that it squelches 4 of this years nominees speaks to just how bad this year’s lineup turned out. Sure, “Black Panther” is a good superhero movie, and it draws great strength from a primarily African-American led cast and crew. The film has vital cultural importance. But it lacks the cinematic qualities of a “Best Picture” winner. I fear that a “Black Panther” win in this category will open the doors for other superheroes who by no means belong there.

3. “The Favourite”

With “The Lobster”, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, and now “The Favourite”, it is hard to deny that Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has incredible skill and a wide variety of tastes. His films are uniquely strange, and the characters never cease to surprise. Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone each add to the authentic feel of this quirky 18th century drama. Everything from the costumes and the dialogue to the palace setting feels pitch perfect. “The Favourite” also deserves credit for its historical roots regarding Queen Anne and her court. Yet, despite all these praiseworthy elements, I cannot say that I enjoyed watching “The Favourite”. In fact, it is a rather queasy film that leaves you wondering what it was even about. I felt the same way about “The Lobster”, and it is not a good quality. Great films are not always enjoyable, nor should they be (think “Spotlight” or “Schindler’s List”), but if watching it requires a bit of pain then it should certainly offer more meaning than whatever “The Favourite” ends up providing.

With “The Lobster”, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, and now “The Favourite”, it is hard to deny that Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has incredible skill and a wide variety of tastes. His films are uniquely strange, and the characters never cease to surprise. Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone each add to the authentic feel of this quirky 18th century drama. Everything from the costumes and the dialogue to the palace setting feels pitch perfect. “The Favourite” also deserves credit for its historical roots regarding Queen Anne and her court. Yet, despite all these praiseworthy elements, I cannot say that I enjoyed watching “The Favourite”. In fact, it is a rather queasy film that leaves you wondering what it was even about. I felt the same way about “The Lobster”, and it is not a good quality. Great films are not always enjoyable, nor should they be (think “Spotlight” or “Schindler’s List”), but if watching it requires a bit of pain then it should certainly offer more meaning than whatever “The Favourite” ends up providing.

2. “BlacKkKlansman”

Another film previously reviewed on Op-Rob, “BlacKkKlansman” proved to be a dynamic story full of laughs, cringes, action and surprises. It certainly deserved its “All-Star” rating. And despite the fact that I don’t necessarily buy the gimmicky finish to “BlacKkKlansman”, or the overarching political spin, it is a very well made movie that utilizes a stranger-than-fiction true story to take often convincing stabs at modern day racial issues in America.

Another film previously reviewed on Op-Rob, “BlacKkKlansman” proved to be a dynamic story full of laughs, cringes, action and surprises. It certainly deserved its “All-Star” rating. And despite the fact that I don’t necessarily buy the gimmicky finish to “BlacKkKlansman”, or the overarching political spin, it is a very well made movie that utilizes a stranger-than-fiction true story to take often convincing stabs at modern day racial issues in America.

  1. “Roma”

In an ideal world, the Best Picture is a film that speaks to the critics and the audience in a balanced way. Think of “12 Years a Slave”, “No Country For Old Men”, “Silence of the Lambs”, or even lighthearted movies such as “The Artist”, “Forrest Gump” and “Going My Way”. I realize that “Roma” is a critic’s kind of movie. People I have talked to groan when I say I think it should win. Nonetheless, Alfonso Cuarón’s film is extremely rich in terms of storytelling, subtext, and film work. It is a beautiful movie that can be studied frame-by-frame (just look at the screenshot above). Yalitza Aparicio also delivers one of the best performances of the year. Her role as Cleo, the good and honest woman, is reminiscent of Morita Mitsu, the protagonist in Shūsaku Endō’s touching novel “The Girl I Left Behind”. Seeing her operate as the glue in a family splintered by a bitter situation is subtle and inspirational. Though it is not my personal pick for best picture amongst all the movies released this past year (it would be “The Guilty” directed by Gustav Möller), “Roma” is the clear winner from this rather weak crop of nominees.

In an ideal world, the Best Picture is a film that speaks to the critics and the audience in a balanced way. Think of “12 Years a Slave”, “No Country For Old Men”, “Silence of the Lambs”, or even lighthearted movies such as “The Artist”, “Forrest Gump” and “Going My Way”. I realize that “Roma” is a critic’s kind of movie. People I have talked to groan when I say I think it should win. Nonetheless, Alfonso Cuarón’s film is extremely rich in terms of storytelling, subtext, and film work. It is a beautiful movie that can be studied frame-by-frame (just look at the screenshot above). Yalitza Aparicio also delivers one of the best performances of the year. Her role as Cleo, the good and honest woman, is reminiscent of Morita Mitsu, the protagonist in Shūsaku Endō’s touching novel “The Girl I Left Behind”. Seeing her operate as the glue in a family splintered by a bitter situation is subtle and inspirational. Though it is not my personal pick for best picture amongst all the movies released this past year (it would be “The Guilty” directed by Gustav Möller), “Roma” is the clear winner from this rather weak crop of nominees.