Glitz, Glam and Golden Statues: Reviewing the Winning Films of the 2019 Academy Awards

 

It has been that most wonderful time of the year again…the Film and Television Awards Season of course! A time of extravagant outfits, indulgent applause and memorable speeches. And so, as the Academy Awards stamps its expected prominence for another year, let’s turn back time and examine the winners, complexions and perplexions of the 2019 ceremony and filming year.

Please note that these days, the Academy Awards are also known as the Oscars, a term used for colloquial reasons (and certainly not confusion!). The Academy Awards, first held in 1929, are considered the most prestigious awards event for the industry, with thousands of members voting to decide which films will take home one of those desirable gold statues - so no pressure at all!

Here we go.

Best Picture: Green Book

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book. Photo: DreamWorks Pictures / Universal

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book. Photo: DreamWorks Pictures / Universal

A story of ambition, inequality and forever-lasting courage, Green Book soared at the Oscars, obtaining three awards, one of which was the most prestigious Best Picture honour. To succeed in achieving this award was nothing less than remarkable, given the competition for this year was diverse and unique and included the likes of A Star is Born, BlacKkKlansman and Vice. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) succeeded in taking out a second win for the Green Book with Best Actor in a Supporting Role (for his portrayal of the remarkable musician, Don Shirley) while Best Writing (Original Screenplay) earned the film its third award.

Attributing the success of Green Book at the Oscars proves a rather simple task. An untold story captured with vibrant and vivacious jazz music, brilliantly ordinary acting and the perfect quantity of humour dotted throughout. Unpacking these points further, the musical compositions by Kris Bowers for the film succeeded in stringing scenes together, fueling audience sentiment; whether that be admiration, empathy or excitement, all whilst taking us back to 1960’s Southern America where jazz music was significantly dominant.


To accompany this, the acting performances in the film were something notable. Viggo Mortenson (portraying Tony Lip) and Ali’s performances were genuine and, as basic as it sounds, normal: there was no unnecessary over-dramatization. This allowed for the audience to find the truth, sink deeper into the characters and storyline and therefore, gain a more profound understanding. Keeping the humour short, sharp and clever in the film was effective, not letting it dominate the film but providing enough relief from a storyline that has some degree of heartache.

To decide who deserves Best Picture over an entire year’s worth of films is a momentous challenge. It’s safe to say that this is a story that will not be forgotten soon, despite how many awards it ends up claiming.

Green Book is showing in some Australian cinemas and is available for purchase on DVD and online.


Best Actress in a Leading Role: The Favourite

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Encapsulating a thriving early 18th century England (that’s debatable) and an abundant set of enthralling characters (that’s not debatable), The Favourite made a unique imprint for the 2019 film year, bolstered by its win at the Oscars. In this case, it was Olivia Colman’s (Broadchurch) frivolous yet warming depiction of Queen Anne which led her to receive the title of Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Looking at the film in its entirety, The Favourite was witty, exciting, tragic and joyful all at the same time. There was never a moment in which intrigue would be lost or where we wouldn’t have questions/exclamations bubbling away in our mind.

It could be debated whether or not there is too much going on at certain points in this film, whether the comedy clashed with the tragedy or the elegance was too often overrun by the crudeness?

The editing for this film is unique and highly memorable; I especially admired the variation in cinematography – from the wide angle framing to the panning shot. I did, however, question whether various scenes led into one another too quickly and sharply and if as a result of this, the audience’s understanding and engagement of the story is jarred?

Despite these potential concerns, the film’s setting was illustrious and a joy to immerse oneself in while the acting performances stood out exceptionally. Colman’s queen was complex and loveable. I often found myself likening her to Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen in the revitalised 2010 Alice in Wonderland film franchise as they are characters who take time to understand and sympathise with (oh and also…they are both Queens!)

To portray a historic story in the modern world would prove a significant challenge. Yet, sometimes it is through overcoming prominent challenges that a memorable piece of work is formed. Director, Yorgos Lanthimos and the extensive team behind the scenes of The Favourite are to be commended for giving us something so memorable.

The Favourite is still showing at some Australian cinemas and on DVD, Blu-Ray and online streaming.


Best Actor in a Leading Role: Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Bohemian Rhapsody. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Bohemian Rhapsody. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Don’t stop them now, Bohemian Rhapsody struck gold at the Oscars with a total of four wins across the board. Alongside victory in the areas of Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, Rami Malek scored the film’s most notable win, taking out the honour of Best Actor in a Leading Role. In this circumstance, Malek played the compelling individual of Freddie Mercury in a story of passion, triumph and ‘killer’ tunes.

Aligning with one of its Oscar wins, a prominent success of the film came from the sector of Film Editing. The film thrived in its inclusion of montage and re-enacted televised sequences (1974 US Tour, Live Aid Concert), which would shift in rapidity, intensity, colour and light all whilst accompanied by our most loved Queen songs. These sequences gave significant levels of prominence to the film, moulding it to become a visual and aural spectacle. However, the push to include over twenty songs within the 135-minute run time proved to be unreliable at times, with some songs only featured briefly. Ultimately, the strain to include as many songs as possible resulted in occasional obfuscation of the on-screen moment and unfolding drama - I also wanted to hear more of certain songs!

Another conundrum that could be raised revolves around the talented Oscar winner himself. While Malek’s interpretation of Mercury was near pinpoint accurate, the vocals of the character throughout the film were born from a mixture between recordings from the original band themselves and the voice of Canadian musician, Marc Martel. While the sound mixing was done seamlessly, can Malek’s absence from the vocal sector be justified? It’s a tough question to ask and answer.

Similar to the storyline of A Star is Born, another Oscar-winning film, Bohemian Rhapsody explores the fantasies of fame and fortune and how this cannot always lead to fulfilling happiness. With a total of 13 nominations and five wins between the two films; perspective and pressure now turns to the upcoming musical films for 2019, including the highly anticipated, Rocketman.

Bohemian Rhapsody is now available to watch on DVD, Blu-Ray and online.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role: If Beale Street Could Talk

Stephan James and Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Photo: Annupurna Pictures

Stephan James and Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Photo: Annupurna Pictures

With a narrative focused on family, injustice and the underlying power of love, If Beale Street Could Talk was a quiet success at the Oscars, taking home one award from the ceremony. In this circumstance, Regina King (227, The Big Bang Theory) was awarded Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her sensitive and passionate portrayal of mother, Sharon Rivers.

Accompanied with the task of addressing distinctive cultural and social issues in 1970s New York, the film was successful in embracing a gentle pace and a poignant and enchanting soundtrack to support and bolster the heavy storyline. Something that is often subject to criticism; the slow pace of the film, allowed for dialogue between characters to last longer than usual, letting audiences obtain a more profound understanding of the plot context and a greater appreciation for the character’s internal anxieties. The slow pace also proved to enhance the rawness and vulnerability of certain situations, including first sexual encounters and passionate family disputes.

Sidestepping for a moment, the relationship between the lead characters of Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (Kiki Layne) was one of the most honest and genuine I can remember seeing on screen – the nervous tension, the underlying care, the heartbreak and the struggle could all be felt so vividly. Nicholas Britell’s soundtrack complimented these sentiments with weight whilst acting as a powerful stimulant to carry the film along movingly.

To put it simply, watching If Beale Street Could Talk is a captivating experience, a sensitive story to tell with the right people telling it.

Let's never take for granted the notion of powerful storytelling.

If Beale Street Could Talk is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and online.

Best Director: Roma

Recognised most prominently for its unique and powerful production elements, Roma made a bold impact at the Oscars, claiming three awards overall. With awards of Best Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film, Roma has redefined what the successful modern film can look like today, leaving out the two C’s of colour and celebrities.

Corresponding to one of its Oscar wins, Roma’s cinematography was fascinating and distinctive. With major use of the tracking and pan shots, the scenes from the film became something bold, something beautiful to watch. Transcending from the bustle of the Colonia Roma neighbourhood to the serenity of the Tuxpan beaches, the cinematography played a major part in matching each location with a specific feeling. In this case, it aided in the progression of sentiment from the tense to the calm, the claustrophobic to the free.

The film’s grayscale filter, along with stark contrasts in the mise-en-scène element of lighting, also proved to bolster the representation of certain locations. In particular, days in the Mexican sun with would be portrayed as glary while silent nights under the stars would be subtly scary. Despite the film’s slow start and infrequent shifts in time without proper explanation, causing brief moments of confusion, the narrative moved in a composed and well-structured manner, encouraging audience engagement and investment.

Acting as a semi-autobiographical depiction of Alfonso Cuarón’s early life in Mexico City, it was significantly pleasurable to travel his unique journey and witness his personal experiences. Cuarón was the writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor of the film. And while the film could act as a history lesson for those who watch, it might rather be a reminder to keep those close to you, close forever.

Roma is available to watch on Netflix


And so, another monumental year complete for the Academy Awards Ceremony…and what a magnificent ride it has been. While musicians, royals and everlasting couples have made their presence, we have been able to travel along numerous storylines, all powerful and striking in their uniqueness.

I would strongly recommend giving one (or all five!) of these films a watch as well as other outstanding nominees from the ceremony and beyond!

 For now, it’s all smiles for the remainder of the highly-anticipated filming year. 

Photo: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

Photo: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

 
Film, FeaturesNick Angus