- The nominations for the 2019 Oscars were released on Tuesday.
- The 91st Academy Awards will air February 24 on ABC.
- Some of the films nominated don’t deserve their nominations, and those spaces should have gone to other movies that received less recognition.
Award season is upon us, and so is award-season disappointment. Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani announced the 2019 Academy Award nominations at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre early Tuesday morning.
Some are groundbreaking, like superhero standout “Black Panther” and Spanish-and-Mixtec-language, Netflix-distributed “Roma,” while others, like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Vice,” are movies that received mediocre reviews only months ago. It’s a truly confounding year.
The winners will be announced on February 24, when the 91st Academy Awards air on ABC. For now, here are 12 of the worst nominations and how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should have voted instead.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” should not be in the best-picture race.
To even begin to argue over whether or not “Bohemian Rhapsody” deserves its best-picture nomination, you have to ignore the Bryan Singer sexual-assault allegations (it’s worth noting he was let go from the project but still took credit for its Golden Globe win on Instagram) and the accusations of straight-washing and lack of conversation around Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS, which Rami Malek admits is a problem.
Even if you can get past these critiques and view the movie on its own merit, there isn’t too much there. The Queen biopic garnered some pretty harsh criticism.
New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote, “You can do better with YouTube and a stack of vinyl records.” Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich panned the movie, writing “Queen’s music may have been unclassifiable, but their movie is as trite and textbook as it gets.”
While only eight of 10 possible slots for best picture were filled, “Bohemian Rhapsody” should be nowhere in the competition. The lack of films like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Paddington 2” in this conversation is disappointing, especially in light of this nomination.
There were much better original screenplays in 2019 than “Vice” and “Green Book.”
Best original screenplay is a category where films not recognised for much else in a year – in recent history movies like “The Lobster” and “Moonrise Kingdom” – are typically nominated. This year, however, we have two films that are not especially original or even that good, according to critics.
“Vice” scored 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, a result of extremely mixed critical reviews, many of which critiqued the movie’s jokes and writing as a major contributor to overall messiness. The acting was praised, but the writing is where it seemed to fail. So why is it nominated in this category?
Then there’s the Don Shirley biopic “Green Book,” which was criticised as inaccurate and dishonest by the Shirley family. On top of its regressive “Driving Miss Daisy”-era views on race relations, “Green Book” is this year’s most controversial best-picture pick, and a great deal of that is focused on how the screenplay was written and whether or not it’s true to life.
These two screenplays could easily be cut and replaced by fresh debut scripts like Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age story “Eighth Grade” and Boots Riley’s bizarre yet pointed critique of capitalism and racism in “Sorry to Bother You.”
Ethan Hawke was better in “First Reformed” than Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book.”
Plenty of the best-actor nominees this year gave flawed performances. But in the cases of “Vice” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s at least safe to say Christian Bale and Malek respectively were the best parts of their movies.
Whether it was Viggo Mortensen’s weak accent as Tony “Lip” Vallelonga in “Green Book” or the problematic storyline, his performance didn’t shine. Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed” would have been a better pick. Hawke’s performance as a Protestant minister struggling with his faith as a direct result of confronting climate-change extremists was a standout from 2018.
Adam McKay did not deliver best-director material with “Vice.”
As the reviews established, “Vice” is a polarising movie. Adam McKay’s style, however, often hamstrings his effectiveness as a director.
In her review of the film for Slate, Dana Stevens wrote, “McKay seems in Vice to be preoccupied with how best to convey the heinousness of the Bush administration to us. Will an outlandish dirty joke get the point across? If not, what about a quick cutaway to a realistically re-created waterboarding incident? And if the destabilizing effect of that juxtaposition doesn’t get you properly agitated, how about a body horror-style close-up of the vice president’s diseased and apparently compassion-proof but still beating heart?”
For a movie nominated in the best-director category, it seems audiences don’t know whether McKay was critiquing or glorifying Dick Cheney. At times, it seems like both.
Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Paul Schrader (“First Reformed”), and Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”) would all have been better choices in this category.
“First Reformed” had gorgeous cinematography. “A Star Is Born” did not.
“A Star Is Born” has a great soundtrack and some good performances all around. Director of photography Matthew Libatique and Bradley Cooper devised a shaky camera style that does the material justice but isn’t a standout in the way other nominees in this category are. This is not even close to Libatique’s best work, in the rawness of “Requiem for a Dream” or the surgical precision of “Black Swan.”
Once again, this is an area where “First Reformed” shines. Presented entirely in 4:3, it is one of the most gorgeously shot films of the year.
“Mary Poppins Returns” had a disappointing soundtrack.
Emily Blunt is a great Mary Poppins, but the movie itself isn’t a great musical. Many of the songs try to simply rip off the original. Doesn’t the “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” sequence take a bit too much from “Chim Chim Cher-ee”? Lin-Manuel Miranda may be the genius behind “Hamilton,” but his singing and dancing skills aren’t up to the standard Dick Van Dyke set in 1964.
Justin Hurwitz, on the other hand, did an incredible job with the epic orchestral score for “First Man.” Even Thom Yorke’s haunting, strange score for the already forgotten (but brilliant) “Suspiria” remake should have been a competetor in this category.
There were better choices for best visual effects than “Christopher Robin,” “Ready Player One,” and “Solo.”
This year’s best-visual-effects category is surprisingly one of the most disappointing. “Christopher Robin” was not nearly as impressive as the other adorable animated bear flick of the year, “Paddington 2” (which still holds 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). The sequel to Paul King’s first family feature contains some of the most visually inventive sequences of animation this year as well as raucous set pieces.
“Solo” was the worst-reviewed“Star Wars” film since “Attack of the Clones.” The locations are uninspired and the visuals to back them up are the least interesting “Star Wars” has ever looked. Alex Garland’s sleeper hit “Annihilation” was a more creative, beautiful science-fiction film that used its visuals to convey ideas and themes.
“Ready Player One” was a mishmash of franchise iconography you may or may not care about. The visual effects were simply not impressive enough to evoke any feelings other than nostalgia. “Black Panther,” on the other hand, brought the luscious Wakanda to life for a whole generation of comic-book fans. The fact that “Avengers: Infinity War” (which included an extended sequence set in the Wakanda created in “Black Panther”) was nominated in this category but “Black Panther” was not makes little sense.
“RBG” should make way for “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” or “Shirkers.”
“RBG,” the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, was a good movie. However, it’s a tight documentary race, and other films had a more vital and emotional impact on viewers. Some of those include fellow nominees “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” and “Minding the Gap.” But there are a couple neglected documentaries from 2018.
Sandi Tan’s “Shirkers” is the story of her film that fell apart at the hands of one man and a fascinating look into Singaporean film history. “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” is a reflection on the life of Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood” fame, and the importance of tolerance.
There is an argument to be made that “Roma” does not belong in the best-foreign-language-film category.
Best foreign-language film has historically been a place where international films are relegated. Rarely do these movies get the recognition they deserve in other categories. This is a problematic history, but “Roma” feels like an overcorrection.
“Roma” is nominated in 10 separate categories. It is a shoo-in to win best foreign-language film, making the other nominations feel like afterthoughts. It’s not that it doesn’t deserve the nomination, but it feels like including it in such a niche category could overshadow the other deserving films.
Others, including Jeva Lange for The Week, have expressed a similar sentiment.
Either way, it’s disappointing not to see Lee Chang-dong’s tense social thriller “Burning” in this race.
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