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JagWire reporters review Oscars “Best Picture Award” nominees

After reviewing the nominees based solely on their trailers, JagWire reporters Ally Nguyen and Annie Myers selected "Green Book" and "Roma" for the coveted award

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We — Ally Nguyen and Annie Myers — adore many aspects of pop culture, especially when it comes to movies and television. That being said, each year we’re extremely excited to tune in to the Oscars. However, we found ourselves lacking time for leisurely activities in the midst of our hecticly busy senior year, so, unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch many of the Best Picture nominees; Ally streamed “Roma” and “Black Panther” on Netflix and Annie watched “A Star is Born” in theaters (twice). We aren’t going to let this get in the way of our fun, though.

In true mass consumer fashion, we’re going to (metaphorically) judge a book by its cover, or more accurately, eight. In the following paragraphs, we’re reviewing each Best Picture nominee solely based on their trailers, followed by our picks for the highly-anticipated award.

THE REVIEWS

Bohemian Rhapsody

Director Bryan Singer celebrates the formation of Queen and their stereotype-defying lead singer Freddie Mercury in the Drama/Biography “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Rated PG-13)

AN: Perhaps this is due to my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to Queen and their music, but I truly have no idea what this movie is getting at just by watching the trailer. Additionally, the opening song of the trailer, and the movie’s namesake, take me back to junior year prom, where I was relentlessly teased and booed for being unfamiliar with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” So, my negative feelings are not wholly the fault of the film. Finally, while I do adore Rami Malek, I’m not sure how much I like him for this specific role — I became eerily uncomfortable the first time he appeared with the moustache. The trailer was well put-together, but I’m not sure if a Best Picture award is in the cards for them.

AM: I had to watch this trailer several times because of the mixed emotions it conveyed in me. On one hand, I enjoy a good Queen song every now and then and appreciate the telling of the band’s frontrunner’s story as it ties back to the bigger issue of the AIDS epidemic and music as a way of healing. However, this message was not conveyed very clearly. The focus seems to be on the band’s rise to fame with only a few second-long clips hinting at the real struggle, easy to be missed. That being said, the trailer was intriguing — I appreciated the sound editing at the beginning and ending, in particular — and I think it might be an enjoyable movie for fans of the band’s music. Deserving of Best Picture, though? I just don’t think there’s enough there.

 

 

The Favourite

This two-hour comedy is set in early 18th century Europe, and details the frail health of Queen Anne in the midst of an Anglo-French war. Disagreements ensue as Lady Sarah, who rules in the stead of Queen’s declining health, disproves of the Queen’s new friendship with a formerly-aristocratic servant, Abigail. (Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, rated R)

AN: This is one of the few nominees that I truly knew nothing about, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a period piece set in Europe, (though, I should’ve guessed that solely based on the spelling of “Favourite”). While I enjoyed the edgy violin music featured in the background, it made it pretty difficult for me to decipher whether this work is supposed to be of the dramatic or the comic type. Still, between the cast, costume, set design and accents, I did find this trailer intriguing, and I plan on watching this in the near future — “The Favourite” is a strong contender for Best Picture in my humble, completely uninformed opinion.

AM: Something that is important to note: I’m a sucker for period pieces and good score. From the start, I already know that “The Favourite” gives me both, along with the brilliance of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone all under the direction of one of my favorite directors as of recent, Yorgos Lanthimos. I’ve actually wanted to watch this movie for quite some time now for all these reasons plus more, including the impressive production design clearly evident in the trailer. Plus, what’s shown of the story in this short two minutes is very promising. I have a very good feeling that “The Favourite” is a strong contender for Best Picture and wouldn’t mind at all if it received the award.

 

Black Panther

Director Ryan Coogler adds another layer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Black Panther,” a film set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. After the death of his father, a newly appointed king must simultaneously defend his title from a family member plotting to overthrow him and decide the best method to protect his kingdom from the rest of the world. (Rated PG-13)

AN: In the spirit of full transparency, I will admit that I watched the second half of this movie because my brother streamed it on Netflix the day it came out. That being said, I’m not uber-impressed because I truly did not remember any of it, even while watching the trailer. However, I think there’s something to be said about the social commentary this trailer provided — between highlighting African culture in an authentic fashion to showing women as empowered warriors — and the screenwriters’ dedication to inclusion seemingly paid off. Overall, while this trailer came off of as kind of a rinse-and-repeat of other Marvel movies, the Kendrick Lamar background music, and overarching upbeat nature of the clips may have been just enough to redeem it.

AM: Watching the trailer for “Black Panther,” I felt a little neutral about it. I’ve never been a huge superhero movie gal, but this one looks like it would be a good one based on its star cast and storyline. That being said, I’m not completely sure what that storyline is from the trailer alone, as the majority of it consists of action scenes, though that’s what many movies of its kind do and I feel like it’s probably a fair reflection of what the movie itself will entail. As far as the trailer goes, “Black Panther” looks entertaining and I feel like I would enjoy it for its many strong components. Plus, I have to agree with Ally’s point that it has strong relevance; the portrayal of African culture is refreshing and adds another layer of importance to the movie, guaranteeing its impact on viewers. I can see why The Academy gave it a nomination, but don’t feel that it has a good chance at winning the award when compared to its fellow nominees.

BLACKkKLANSMAN

In this rated R film, director Spike Lee shares the true story of American hero Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth leads an investigation into the works of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a fellow undercover, white officer.

AN: I’m going to open this by saying: I’m definitely going to be watching this sometime soon. I didn’t have any overwhelming feelings of joy, sadness or anger while viewing the trailer, but that’s precisely what’s so intriguing about it to me. Throughout my life, I’ve always been met with some variation of the phrase “the things you don’t want to do are usually the ones worth doing,” and I respect those who live by this, but I choose to alter a little. I find that it’s usually the things that cause you the most internal conflict that are worth partaking in, and the “BLACKkKLANSMAN” trailer had me simultaneously laughing at the snide jokes, finding joy in the late 1900s-esque music and on-edge when the characters detail the nasty race relations of the time. Finally, from what I can tell, the roles are well-cast. I’m excited to see what Jordan Peele and Spike Lee have put together this time.

AM: “BLACKkKLANSMAN” looks like a masterpiece, if I’m being 100 percent honest. So many parts of the trailer made me excited at the potential of seeing it. For starters, the music is jazzy and fits the overall mood, from what I can tell. It’s a fresh story — one that I’ve certainly never encountered before and find very intriguing with the irony of the title itself. As far as plot goes, I can tell “BLACKkKLANSMAN” has a solid one worthy of a Best Picture nomination. After all, the story of (somewhat) foes to friends is a classic. In totally incorrect terminology, the details and craftsmanship present in the frames are gorgeous to the eye. The editing is both fun and pretty and I enjoy it a lot, as a casual consumer of movies. This seems to be a great one and I would not be surprised in the slightest if it were to win the award.

Green Book

Based on a true story, the comedy/drama “Green Book” tediously intertwines friendship with racial relations. Dr. Don Shirley is an African-American pianist embarking on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962; he enlists Tony Lip, an Italian-American club bouncer from the Bronx, as protection. (Directed by Peter Farrelly, rated PG-13)

AN: Despite not ever having seen this movie, I know in my soul it’s going to be a touching tribute to friendship in the face of adversity. I’m excited to see the drama play out between these two “tough guy” characters, especially since all I could feel for the two minutes and 30 seconds I was watching this was layers and layers of emotion. The part that impacted me the most, though, was when Mahershala Ali’s character embodied the identity crisis many people face in America: not being enough of a minority vs not being “white” enough. “Green Book” hasn’t been receiving the same level of hype as the other movies on the internet, and that may very well be because the movie wasn’t as impactful as the trailer was, but I’m rooting for it anyway.

AM: From its trailer, I can tell that “Green Book” is a touching movie about love — mainly that of two friends learning and growing from one another. Personally, I usually perceive almost any movie with this theme as being good, and I suspect “Green Book” is no different. Behind that wholesome theme, though, seems to be another: the struggle of racial identity in America. While not the center of the movie, it still holds its importance and undoubtedly leaves an impact with its inclusion. The casting of Mahershala Ali gains automatic points for the movie in my book, as I’ve been a big fan of his work since “Moonlight,” which took home the award for Best Picture, among others, in 2017. One thing I noticed, though, was the lack of wow in the visuals. The cinematography might be more impressive in the movie itself, but from the trailer that’s not entirely evident to me. I think “Green Book” could be a nice, impactful story but don’t see it winning Best Picture for its visual shortcomings.

 

Vice

Director Adam McKay pieces together the wildly dramatic life of former Vice President Dick Cheney in “Vice.” Opening with, then, governor of Texas George W. Bush asking the, then, CEO of Halliburton co. to be his running mate, the film details Cheney’s ability to manipulate his power to reshape American politics, while also giving the audience a peek into the power VP’s personal life. (Rated R)

AN: To give you some background information, I’m a huge history nerd, and this movie concept has always intrigued me. I have a lot of disdain for Dick Cheney, to say the least, but he also fascinates me tremendously, as he’s considered the most powerful Vice President thus far. Based on the trailer, I’d say the characters are perfectly cast, with Christian Bale a perfect, sneering Cheney, and Sam Rockwell as (a ditsy) President George W. Bush. I enjoyed the emphasis on Cheney’s past as a Secretary of Defense as well as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, the trailer did fail to excite me, which honestly shouldn’t have been too hard; the emphasis on the “good-ol-boy” themes the creative director was going for really show through in this short two-minute clip, seriously minimizing the complexity of it all. Overall, I would probably still watch “Vice,” but just based on the trailer, it’s not a shining candidate for the coveted award.

AM: My first time seeing the trailer for this movie — coincidentally while I was waiting to see “A Star is Born” for the first time — it made me laugh, and it still does a little. “Vice” does well in its trailer by portraying the vice presidency of Dick Cheney as somewhat comical. I appreciate the choice of topic for the movie; retellings of historical events, especially those of similar natures to this, seem to do well among the general public and The Academy alike. The movie itself appears to be entertaining due to both its plot and direction. However, it fails in creating the desire to see more of the story, as it doesn’t really tell a whole lot to begin with. That being said, the all star cast, topic and storytelling may still hold it as a contender for Best Picture, so long as the effect of the trailer isn’t lost in the actual full-length movie.

A Star is Born

Director and leading male Bradley Cooper tells the story of famous musician Jackson Maine discovering, and then falling in love with, struggling musician Ally. As Ally is about to give up on her dream, Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight, and her career takes off. However, this romantic film also details the plights of their relationship, as Jackson has his own personal issues. (Rated R)

AN: Unfortunately, despite the persistent protests of my ladies, I was never able to see Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing their emotional ballads on the big screen. Instead, I’ve listened to the beautiful soundtrack approximately a million times on Spotify. My initial reaction after viewing the trailer is the drama will be an emotion-packed, romantic rollercoaster that ends in tragedy. I’m usually not a huge fan of predictable romance movies, but I’m willing to make an exception this time, because the editor for the trailer (tastefully) left out how the heartbreak occurs. In my experience, trailers that say the least usually end up being the best movies. Still, though, something tells me this won’t have a long-lasting impact, and it certainly isn’t as hard-hitting as some of the other nominees. “A Star is Born” has won some well-deserved awards for its soundtrack, but as far as the actual movie goes, to me, the trailer just doesn’t make it a frontrunner for Best Picture.

AM: “A Star is Born” happens to be the only Best Picture nominee that I got around to seeing. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I actually paid to see it twice within two days, so it might be kind of clear how I feel about this movie. I feel similarly about its trailer; the emotion exhibited throughout seems to almost transfer from the screen to my soul. The trailer does one thing very well: without revealing too much, it tells just enough of the story by showing the intensity of the relationship between the movie’s two main characters. Looking at it artistically, I appreciate the use of color as a tool to convey the emotions of the film, as well as the strength of the soundtrack. The combination of the soundtrack and the movie itself adds to the movie’s overall quality, which I believe contributed to its nomination in the category. “A Star is Born” is well-deserving of its nomination for Best Picture based off of its trailer (though I may be biased because I’ve also seen the movie in its entirety.) However, it being a remake of several earlier versions, I have a feeling that it will remain just that.

Roma

This film is almost biographical, as it’s based on an impactful person in director Alfonso Cuarón’s life. The only nominee not to have been shown in theaters, Netflix drama “Roma” paints a picture of the mundane life of indigenous maid, Cleo. Cleo, whose character has been making headlines for speaking in both Spanish and Mixtec, works for a middle-class white family in Roma, a neighborhood in Mexico City. (Rated R)

AN: As aforementioned, I streamed this movie on Netflix after postponing its viewing for many weeks, and I absolutely loved it. However, to keep this as fair as possible, I’m going to review it solely based on the trailer — which was somehow better than the actual movie. The foreign film wonderfully gives viewers everywhere a peek into the lives of thousands of indigenous women, who rarely appear in popular media. The editing and camera work of the trailer should be enough to prompt anyone to watch, however, I’m willing to admit there’s noticeably less action in this trailer than the others, and the black-and-white scheme may not be suitable for those with a minimal attention span. Still, what some may deem “boring” may very well be the point as Alfonso Cuarón ingeniously showcases the monochromatic life of the underrated “family members” everywhere.

AM: The aesthetics and concept of “Roma” have both been big contributors in my desire to see it for so long. Unfortunately, I’d wanted it to come to theaters and it never did, so here I am reviewing its trailer for all the beauty for the time being. The movie really does look beautiful for many reasons, its simplicity and boldness being among them. While the trailer doesn’t tell one specific story, it does show that the movie centers around so much more: middle class life in Roma. This is done rarely, and I think the freshness of it is part of what makes it so much more impactful. The feeling of genuinity of the story adds to the heaviness, which is no doubt felt watching the movie itself. Additional things I love about “Roma” from its trailer include the absence of color, the framing of scenes with cinematography, the powerful music and the complexity of the main character’s life, despite very little words being spoken. I would almost be surprised if “Roma” didn’t win Best Picture.

 

THE AWARD

AN: Before I get to my choice for Best Picture, I’d like to reiterate that, short of watching one and a half of the nominees, I am completely uninformed and wildly ignorant about all of the movies. My opinions are based solely on the trailers, and would likely change had I actually watched the films. After many minutes of being torn between “Green Book” and “Roma,” I’ve decided that, based on the trailer alone, “Green Book” is the strongest contender for Best Picture. While “Roma” was an extremely close second, and I really loved and adored the film, in terms of the trailer, it just didn’t tell as strong of a story as it could have, (which makes sense as the real story develops slowly throughout the film). Additionally, I resonated more with Mahershala Ali’s “Don Shirley” than Yalitza Aparicio’s “Cleo.” As far as what sets it apart from the other films that I didn’t watch, after watching all of the trailers, l put “Green Book” at the top of my watch list, which played a large role in my ranking.

AM: I have seen a grand total of one of the Best Picture nominees. In spite of that, here I am, totally confident that “Roma” will win. From its trailer alone, I can tell the strong impact its story has. It tells one not often told that, quite frankly, I think needs to be told more. Director Alfonso Cuarón does so well with the storytelling. Granted, I am an emotional person, but its trailer evoked very strong emotions in me. Compared to the other nominees — though all very deserving of their nominations — I feel that it only makes sense for “Roma” to be awarded Best Picture, as it does the best job at delivering the best story.

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