Who’s ready for hours on end of tedious political commentary, speeches that run way too long and out-of-touch elites sniffing their own farts?
No, I’m not talking about the State of the Union — that was weeks ago! I’m talking about the Oscars, our annual tribute to achievement in film. The Oscars are a timeless tradition — one not without its flaws, but a tradition, nonetheless. So it only seems natural that we’d find something to say about the films nominated this year. And while we didn’t get to cover every single movie and every single achievement in movie-making in 2018, we did our best to find the places where MEL and movies intersect.
A quick side note before we get into the nominees: The Oscar categories are kind of boring. They really should just scrap them and start over. Until they do, however, America’s favorite film critic, Tim Grierson, has created a fantastic alternative in the MEL Movie Awards, with categories like “Most Upsetting Movie Death, Human Division.” Don’t worry, he’s still got the Best Actor category, too — except the best actors and actresses he’s nominated are the ones no one’s talking about. So, like I said, feel free to skip everything else today and check out our awards instead. After all, don’t you want to know which nominee takes home the prize for 2018’s “Best Claire Foy Movie”?
Still with me? Well, your loss. But given that you haven’t left, as promised, here’s our take on the nominations…
The Favourite: If you don’t like feeling uncomfortable — or laughing uncomfortably — you probably won’t like the movies of Yorgos Lanthimos. Grierson has thoughts on Lanthimos’ brilliant Best Picture nominee, The Favourite, and its continuation of the director’s disturbing and darkly comic oeuvre.
Black Panther: You might easily mistake Black Panther for a straight popcorn flick, heavy on the special effects and light on depth. But Ryan Coogler’s big-budget entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more depth than it can handle — particularly with regard to the bond between a father and his two sons, and how lies can shatter that bond.
Bohemian Rhapsody: I’ll be the first person to tell you that biopics, on the whole, are the worst. They’re always clichéd, and they often take massive creative liberties. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t much different. But despite the clichés and revisionism, Rhapsody just works. And that’s because it’s one of the rare rock biopics that actually has a sense of humor about itself.
A Star is Born: There are lots of leading men Bradley Cooper could have been. But he decided to be one who plays guys who aren’t entirely comfortable with the spotlight. After Cooper’s breakout hit, The Hangover, he had every opportunity to become the prototypical leading man. Since stumbling in The A-Team, however, Cooper’s been testing the limits of what it means to be the good guy. And now, with his directorial debut, A Star is Born, it’s starting to pay dividends.
Vice: You probably read my “Oscars suck” intro, and were all like, “How so?” Well, for one, Vice was nominated for Best Picture. As Grierson wrote in his review of this still-too-soon comedy about the real force behind the Bush Presidency — Vice President Dick Cheney — the movie is “actively bad.” And that’s because it’s smug, it has no interest in focusing a discerning eye on what the Bush years were actually like, and above all, it just feels cheap.
Glenn Close in The Wife: Over her 45-year career, Close has earned three Emmys, three Tonys and been nominated for seven Oscars (including this year for her role in The Wife, and one that likely will result in her first win). But among all the remarkable characters she’s played, none is as memorable as the broken, crazy, rabbit-boiling “Alex” in Fatal Attraction. So memorable, in fact, that her performance has forever changed how we view the “other woman.”
Best Feature Length Documentary
Minding the Gap: Life as a skateboarder has always projected a brokenness, and as it turns out, many skateboarders do use skating as an escape from abusive homes. That’s the theme of Minding the Gap, the Oscar-nominated documentary from Bing Liu, a 29-year-old filmmaker and skater who also adds his own personal story of domestic violence to the doc.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Oh boy, do we want this to win. Spider-Verse is an incredible film with its mind-melting, kaleidoscopic, free-associative ramble through the Spider-Man multiverse (see the movie, it’ll make sense). But what sets Spider-Verse apart isn’t just its creative storyline and wonderful cast — it’s the way the film’s bonkers screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have finally cracked the code on what a kid-friendly superhero stoner movie should be.
The Incredibles 2: We love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so much that we would like to present three reasons why its main competition, The Incredibles 2, should be completely overlooked:
- Mr. Incredible is a bad dad. Who’s got two thumbs and hates that his wife is off fighting crime while he has to stay home and take care of the kids? Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible. Not exactly a modern take on parenting.
- The film might trigger your epilepsy. The bad guy, Screenslaver, has a less-than-unique brainwashing technique: A strobe. There’s no warning prior to the start of the film, so if you get affected by that sort of thing, maybe skip this one.
- The movie’s corporate sponsorships are next level. If you’re seeing Incredibles in everything from your organic milk to your favorite online realtor, you’re not seeing things. Incredibles 2 has so many sponsors (proudly listed on its website) even the Transformers franchise thinks they’re overdoing it.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Okay, so we didn’t write specifically about this year’s nominees or their achievements in the hairstyle arts (I think that’s what it’s called, right?). Let’s just say, for the typical awards-show viewer, this isn’t one of the more anticipated categories. But good makeup is incredibly important to the ability of a film to immerse the viewer in the story — and when it’s bad, it can throw everything else out-of-whack.