If I Picked the Winners
A critic’s Oscar selections
"If Beale Street Could Talk"
Image courtesy of TIFF
It’s nearly Oscar time, and if there is one thing veteran Academy Awards watchers can all agree on, it’s that the most deserving choices probably won’t win. They might not be nominated, either.
As a (part-time) film critic, I had the opportunity to see just about every 2018 release of note. So, I’ve formed some strong opinions. If I were in charge, the people and films below would be your Oscar winners. Note that many of these are available to rent already, with the rest coming soon.
Best Picture: If Beale Street Could Talk
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’s James Baldwin adaptation is a devastating love story set in 1970s Harlem. Tragic, warm, and breathtakingly emotional, there was no better film in 2018.
Runners-up: Roma, First Reformed
Best Director: Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
While BlacKkKlansman is not the finest film of Spike Lee’s career—Do the Right Thing is hard to top—it is certainly one of his most passionate and entertaining. This tale of a cop infiltrating the KKK is deserving of its high praise, and a win for Lee would be fitting.
Runners-up: Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Hawke has become one of film’s most dependable stars, and as a small-town pastor drawn to a similarly sad pregnant woman, he gives the year’s most memorable performance.
Runners-up: Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan (Wildlife)
Paul Dano’s directorial debut is a somber story of a broken marriage, and in addition to its wonderful script (by Dano and Zoe Kazan), it features a shattering performance from Mulligan. What a shame that she did not catch fire in the Oscar race.
Runners-up: Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Best Supporting Actor: Hugh Grant (Paddington 2)
In a stellar year for supporting performances, Hugh Grant’s hilarious, multi-dimensional villain in the great Paddington 2 stands tall. Don’t sleep on this wonderful sequel based on the beloved children’s book character.
Runners-up: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Steven Yeun (Burning)
Best Supporting Actress: Claire Foy (First Man)
The Neil Armstrong biopic First Man came and went far too quickly this fall. And, while Ryan Gosling shined as Armstrong himself, it was The Queen’s Claire Foy who proved most memorable, as the astronaut’s long-suffering wife.
Runners-up: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Best Adapted Screenplay: If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
Jenkins directed the best film of the year, and I believe his script was the most delicately powerful.
Runners-up: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty), Wildlife (Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan)
Best Original Screenplay: First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
With Reformed, veteran writer-director Schrader made the most psychologically probing, dramatically profound film of the year. It also ranks among the most spiritually insightful motion pictures ever made.
Runners-up: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The seventh big-screen entry for Marvel’s beloved webslinger is the only animated film this year that can comfortably fit on the best-of list for a ten-year-old superhero junkie and a late-thirtysomething film critic. This superhero film feels utterly fresh.
Runners-up: Isle of Dogs, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Best Documentary Feature: Shirkers
If you have Netflix, you can watch Shirkers right now. My advice: Do not read the plot summary. Just push play, and the let this strange mystery about artistic creation and memory unfold before your eyes.
Runners-up: Minding the Gap, Three Identical Strangers
Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
Another 2018 entry released on Netflix, Alfonso Cuarón’s heartfelt story of a wealthy family in early 1970s Mexico and its devoted housekeeper is a stunning memoir. Roma also features the year’s most emotionally powerful ending.
Runners-up: Shoplifters, Cold War
Christopher Schobert writes about film for Buffalo Spree and Forever Young and at filmswoon.com.