I've returned for my usual rambling on the 2019 instalment of the usual barrage of awards ceremonies celebrating the very best in contemporary cinema, whilst also honouring the legends that truly make it unlike any other industry in the world.
In recent years, The Academy Awards in particular has bared the brunt of mundane millennial disgruntlement, such as lack of equal representation amongst the titles considered for Official Selection and then again Nominations, and rightly so! Social Media has been a strong driving force in shaping the way we perceive such (in)tolerances of The Academy and no such more than #OscarsSoWhite or the year the Damien Chazelle's La La Land were prematurely awards the Best Film prize only for it to be given to Barry Jenkins' Moonlight - an honest mistake of those announcing it worth documenting for year to come. Criticism has been so strong for the proposed new introduction of new category Best Popular Film that The Academy revoked it under a fortnight later. That award category's remit would have seen the biggest box office taker from each respective year be given the honour (and subsequent bragging rights, though the figures speak for themselves of course).
However, The Academy Award nominations are still a short while away - although for the purposes of this discussion, we'll discuss the Oscars Shortlist in these nine categories - and additionally offer some food for thought on who might possibly come on top; who are this year's dark horses and those who (unfortunately) might slip under the radar. Let's get right to it!
First and foremost - keep in mind that The 76th Golden Globe Awards will be on Sunday 6, January 2019 - and also that films that have done well here aren't always indicative of success at The Academy Awards - each case is it's own special case.
Please remember that although my use of language in this article may come across as blunt, there's absolutely a need for it - most major news publications and digital outlets covering Awards Season 2019 fail to mention the 'real' motivations for certain shortlisting procedure such as The Academy or award institution(s) being prompted to address certain issues with inequality or a need to appease minority communities, hence their need for including films which chart these various characteristics. Surely a nomination should be imposed on the merit of a filmmaker's execution of his/her/their vision and visual expression? Surely not - this is 2019. Also amidst what could be perceived as a seemingly pretentious taste of films (that's the inner film student and filmmaker in me speaking out), I like to counter that image by conveying my thoughts in a colloquial fashion.
The Best Motion Picture - Drama award is highly contentious as ever; even more so this year. Of the five nominations - three of them were directed by African American filmmakers for each of Black Panther, BlackKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk - directed by Ryan Coogler, Spike Lee and Barry Jenkins respectively. There's argument in favour of these three equally being hotly contested - perhaps moreso with Black Panther with many considering it to be the biggest crowdpleaser - something that if The Academy weren't to honour the film with Best Motion Picture - Drama, would surely cause quite a stir in Hollywood?
Don't forget the other two nominations for Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born; the two largely arena-set and concert-driven spectacles vying for the main spotlight.
It was unfortunate for Bohemian Rhapsody that it was plagued with issues right from the start of production - creative differences between directors and cast causing firing and hiring of directors and a lack-lustre plot that didn't seem to live up to the definitive QUEEN / Freddie Mercury biopic it was made out to be. The film was troubled even further with bad critical reviews; with many stating the film had done a disservice to the band and hadn't even consulted those that still survive on some key facts. The film's highly over-bearing marketing strategy from FOX that resonated in a lengthy teaser trailer; seemed to wash away on cinema screens as it did with audiences. No one really cared. If there's one commendation to be made it would be in the utterly unsurpassable depiction of Mercury by Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), he'll surely be a hot contender for Best Performance by An Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. Perhaps this is the award that will redeem Bohemian Rhapsody but could it be their only steal on the night?
A Star Is Born is most definitely the Dark Horse in this category; although it plays very much in tune to the beloved system of Hollywood and it's love of heterosexual on-screen couples; particularly when you've got huge names such as actor-turn-director Bradley Cooper and pop sensation Lady Gaga that helm the story; its downfall could be in its lack of diverse inclusivity amongst the cast and the less than subliminal reinforcement of Men being the make-all and break-all of a woman's career - especially in a recent media climate that has seen the Harvey Weinstein scandal break out, with stories of historical sexual harassment and assault in the industry coming out in their thousands. The film (which is a remake of a remake in case you didn't know already), sees Cooper's character (an abundantly successful country singer-songwriter) discover Gaga's character (a waitress turned dancer) in a bar; and elevates her to international success by supporting/encouraging her to achieve her dreams; much to the detriment of his own toxicant-laden habits and ultimately his own health, wellbeing and career, as she realises her own talent independently.
Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical is an intriguing category; why on earth did a film like Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic The Martian win when it did? There's an interesting array of films here. The Favourite to win is quite obvious from the title, but not without stark competition from films such as Crazy Rich Asians and Green Book.
Critics have been falling head over heels for Yorgos Lanthimos' latest evocative outing which sees him travel once again to England - though this time in a period setting. Set in the early 18th century, A frail Queen Anne (played by Lanthimos favourite Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper. Lanthimos' visual and steadily maddening worlds have only been drawing in more audiences ever since his directorial debut Dogtooth and the film which solidified his place in the indie-mainstream: The Lobster.
The Favourite seems to be unbeatable in this category though not without competition from Crazy Rich Asians. Hailed as the first Hollywood studio film centered on an Asian-American's character's story in over 25 years - (The Joy Luck Club). The film features an all-asian cast and sees numerous 'in-culture' jokes and references to Asian Culture whilst at the same time having a story as relatable as it does so as not to deter a White audience. Of course; there's reasons to celebrate why Crazy Rich Asians should win this category from a purely filmic craft point of view, with the flashy party sequences and lavish settings which echo the feelings of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby in part; However, I can't help but feel the film has an inherent weight of carrying the flag for more progressive changes in Hollywood - changes, which someday might include more diverse casts in films, including more positive and varied depictions of Asian actors. We've come a long way since the 1960s and 1970s where portrays of Asians were most bleak, though not far enough - we're in 2019. It's this reason that I think Crazy Rich Asians stands to have most of a shot at stealing the crown.
If the Golden Globes (or Academy) are feeling they need a good tickling on the 'Musical' side of things - then surely Mary Poppins Returns does the job? Of course, the film may not be as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as the 1964 original however there are some special surprises in store for those who see the Mary Poppins Returns.
A difficult choice indeed when faced with the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. There are three major contenders: Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe for At Eternity's Gate and Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody.
Cooper's gritty but honest portrayal of a musician turned lover turned alcoholic had us all spellbound when even the film first graced the screens. His presence in most films tends to lend well to generating significant box office incomes, having starred in films such as American Hustle and American Sniper. He's also a favourite of 'the establishment' of Hollywood in many respects and he continues to break new ground on Stage & Screen. Cooper stands a good chance at taking home something on the night of The Golden Globes; either on his or his film's behalf. In addition to this award, the film is also nominated for Best Director and Best Motion Picture - Drama. However; the large amounts of awards and accolades he's received throughout his career thus far might open the doors for winning to the two other well-regarded nominees.
Willem Dafoe has had an interesting career; featuring (but not starring in) an intriguing array of indie-dramas, from the exquisite creations of Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Grand Budapest Hotel) to his 'character-actor' portrays in films such as Light Sleeper and The English Patient. Similarly to Cooper, he has never won a Golden Globe (and has only ever been an Academy Award Nominee), surely Dafoe's time is now - with his masterful portrayal of enigmatic painter Vincent Van Goth? An award for Dafoe is further supported by the film's director Julian Schnabel who won the Golden Globe for Best Director for his film 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly', however he has not yet won an Academy Award, having only been nominated. This could both help and harm Dafoe's chances and considering this is nomination is the only commendation of the film on the night, could that be enough to edge out Willem Dafoe to glory?
Now we're in one of the most difficult categories to analyse: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama. For this, I'll try to get through all of them as quickly as possible - because I could (easily) waffle on about how good they all are, albeit some more-so than others. Glenn Close's portrayal of a woman who starts to think about the shared compromises, secrets and betrayals of her husband with whom she has a private role in his life is nothing short of unwavering, it would be excellent to award her considering her lifelong dedication to acting and how much she has contributed to it. Perhaps it's more appropriate if she gets an award to the Cecil B. DeMille award? This year, by the way, it's going to 'the dude' Jeff Bridges.
Nicole Kidman offers us something new with Destroyer. Kidman stars as a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department who's consumed by guilt and anger after she recalls going under cover to infiltrate a gang in the California desert - with tragic results. Recent Kidman credits such as Lion and The Killing of a Sacred Deer have contributed to Kidman reinventing herself for modern audiences - she's much more selective when it comes to the films she signs up for, in addition to the filmmakers she works with, and by all means a nomination for her work here in Destroyer is an honour of her ability to channel her acting to more affected, bewildered and troubled character archetypes.
Melissa McCarthy being nominated for a Golden Globe in a film is a huge praise for an actress who is most well-known for playing the agony aunt or awkward middle-class American mother figure, however this isn't the second time she's been nominated. In 2015, she headlined the action-comedy film Spy - for which she was first nominated, directed by regular McCarthy collaborator Paul Feig. Can You Ever Forgive Me? marked a serious dramatic endeavour from McCarthy, which . featured in a number of film festivals around the world - most notably the London Film Festival, where it received rapturous applause amongst the closing credits. Could the Academy and Golden Globe Awards honour McCarthy for beginning to solidify herself as a real dramatist outside the mainstream plethora of Hollywood comedy films or will her automatic associations with the field prevent her from winning? I personally can't get her role in Bridemaids out of my head - and think it'll stick with me for a long, long time to come.
It's around this time of year when U.K cinemas release the films that featured in #LFF that year, that Rosamund Pike seems to re-propel herself back to the forefront of the popular imagination. In 2014, her performance in psychological thriller Gone Girl was met with widespread acclaim; culminating in nods at The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes and BAFTA. She received further acclaim in A United Kingdom (2016) which also starred David Oyelowo, and also for her role in the western Hostiles (2017). My personal feeling is that we haven't yet seen Pike in her best work; and that it's yet to come however A Private War takes us a step closer.
For me though, I have to say that the takeaway performance in this category was Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born. The incredible range of emotions she showed in that film has indeed solidified her chances of making a full career out of Screen Acting - she has the charisma, versatility and above all else, honesty in creating a character that was truly wholesome (as she was flawed) like her on-screen male counterpart Bradley Cooper; and, when you can do that - you know you've reached an important stepping stone.
My Selections from Top to Bottom - (1 - Who I Think Will Win, 2 - Who I'd Like To Win, 3 - The Dark Horse - in other words; who might be victorious instead of the obvious choice, if there is one).
Best Motion Picture - Drama
Unfortunately, that's all from me folkes! I'll be sure to keep an eye on the Nominations/Winners during the subsequent ceremonies happening this year and also look forward to my next Annual Review on Awards Season! If you're wondering why I haven't reviewed the Television nominees - that's because I don't! :-)