6. First Man
Damien Chazelle seemed to come out of nowhere and almost instantly earn himself the title of one of the greatest directors to come out of Hollywood for many, many years, with Whiplash being one of the greatest films of the decade, perhaps even of the century, and the somewhat polarising La La Land being an Oscar favourite, nominated for 14 Oscars and even managing to take home 6 (very nearly 7, with the best picture mix-up).
Chazelle has quickly become a name to become excited about, proving himself as a terrific, emotional filmmaker through his two most recent features (his feature debut, Guy and Madeline On A Park Bench remains mostly unknown, despite the fact that it’s really quite a charming musical and a pretty damn good film), and so the hype surrounding First Man was able to build for quite some time before the film eventually came out towards the end of 2018.
The film hit a surprisingly mixed reception, some claiming that the rather detached directorial style made the film cold and quite emotionally empty, others claiming that all of the emotional was pent up until these wonderful, infrequent releases that really sting due to the fact that they only occur once or twice within the film.
It’s a very strong film technically, with a gorgeous score from Justin Hurwitz, stunning cinematography (for the most part) and stellar performances from Gosling and Foy. The fact that it is so technically impressive, and the fact that it is the true story of one of the biggest, most important American triumphs also makes it more than likely that this will be nominated, and may even win best picture this year. Can Chazelle finally get the most prestigious film award of them all?
Coming from Steve McQueen, one of the most acclaimed contemporary filmmakers, and a man who won Best Picture for his most recent film, 12 Years A Slave. Widows also fits almost perfectly with the current political stances that the Oscars seem intent on sharing, it’s a refreshing, aware film that is keen to represent women (of varied creed and colour, too). It also helps that it’s a remake of an acclaimed series, which helps to give it a boost into the public eye.
With many calling it one of the finest films of the year, largely due to exquisite performances across the board (especially from Viola Davis, who leads the film) and the terrific screenplay, with all of its wonderful plot twists and wonderful monologues, it would be no surprise for this one to at the very least be nominated for Best Picture, and deservedly so. The real question is, though, can McQueen finally bag himself the Oscar for best director?
Directed by Oscar darling Alfonso Cuaron, Roma is the beautiful story of a year in the life of a family (and their maid) in Mexico. It contains the most piercingly poignant performance of the entire year, from the brilliant first time actress Yalitza Aparicio, the most visually arresting black and white cinematography to be seen in mainstream cinema for years, potentially even decades and maybe even the best ensemble cast (alongside Widows).
That and the fact that Cuaron’s previous film, Gravity, managed to win an insane total of seven Oscars, and also the fact that the film focuses on fair representation certainly helps the odds.
This unique, important movie is one of the most deserving films of the most prestigious award in the cinema industry, and many would be simply astonished if it doesn’t end up winning.
This shocking true story, of a black police officer infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, is one of the hardest hitting American films to be released recently, using all of Spike Lee’s auteur signatures to beautifully craft a stunning, frustrating film on race and power.
From start to finish, Lee’s film is furious, mocking racists and having audiences laughing themselves to the point of tears at the hilarity that is Alec Baldwin giving a speech on race in America, and it never loses that power, even adding to it a great amount in the finale which suddenly shows that, as much as we think it has, nothing has changed, and if anything we have only become more ignorant.
The film is excellently acted, brilliantly shot, so sharply written it almost hurts and it constantly bursts with so much fury. It is Lee’s finest film maybe since Do The Right Thing, and it is bound to become one of the best films about the Ku Klux Klan ever made, presenting this fierce, unbelievable true story in a truly brave way. Hopefully Lee will continue to prove himself in ways this strong and this effective. It’s about time he won best picture… even just a nomination would be great.
It is really, really difficult to describe the spellbinding effect that Blindspotting has. The film, which opens as a really quite light situational comedy and gradually becomes something seriously frightening, is one of the most politically aware films about the current racial issues in America to have been released.
It makes Jordan Peele’s Get Out look like a joke, as this film tackles similar themes and ideologies but manages to go even further, not using genrefare as a way to investigate race but rather using race as a way to create conflict, brilliantly pointing out the issues with all sides, looking into identity, generational fear (of children growing in the world that we create, when we can’t stand it ourselves and it only seems to be getting worse) and race in a wonderfully fierce and provocative way.
The film is just as aggressive formally as it is with its incredible script, with some of the hardest cuts to be seen in cinema this year, and a relentlessly fast pacing alongside these excellent point-of-view shots, particularly one in the end in which Collin, played so well by Daveed Diggs, performs some spoken word rap/poetry directly to the audience, which remains the most effective single scene of the entire year.
If any film should take home the Oscar for best picture this year, it just has to be this one. A politically aware, excellently directed, insanely well written film about so much that is so important today. Blindspotting is one for the ages.