If Renard Voted for the 91st Academy Awards (2018)

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— by Renard N. Bansale

Potential spoilers below

The 91st Academy Awards take place this Sunday. Betting contests on who will win and debates on who should win rage until the moment each category’s presenter reads the card from the sealed envelope. I just stick by my personal picks (strictly from the final list of nominees), accept the presumed frontrunners, and avoid having any of the votes I had made in small contests compromise the excitement of the whole ceremony.

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Best Original Song:
“Shallow”A Star Is Born

(music and lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, & Andrew Wyatt) (listen here)

If Disney had submitted “A Cover Is Not the Book” from Mary Poppins Returns and managed to get it nominated, then maybe I would be tempted to go a different direction. That does little to change the fact that “Shallow” from A Star Is Born won this Oscar from the first trailer, and that its final presentation only confirmed its destiny as the defining original film song of 2018. It deserves nothing less. (Listen to “Shallow” here)

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Best Original Score:
Nicholas BritellIf Beale Street Could Talk

(listen here)

When the 91st Academy Award nominations were announced on January 22 (video here), Terence Blanchard and his hard-edged score for BlacKkKlansman mysteriously replaced Justin Hurwitz and his tender score for First Man, the presumed frontrunner as well as my favorite film score of 2018. While Oscar voters might award Ludwig Göransson and his Africa-infused score as one of their limited ways to support Black Panther, I personally hope that Nicholas Britell wins for his gorgeous, romantic, and uplifting score for If Beale Street Could Talk. (Britell’s borderline-horror score for Vice only helps his cause in my mind.) (Listen to Britell’s Beale St. score here.)

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Best Sound Editing:
Ai-Ling Lee, sound designer / Mildred Iatrou Morgan & Ai-Ling Lee, supervising sound editors – First Man

The key lesson when predicting the Sound Oscars is to never split them unless the majority of precursor awards have done so. It somehow feels less embarrassing to get it wrong one or even both ways to one different movie. The strongest likelihood this year is Bohemian Rhapsody leaving the night with both Sound Oscars. However, given the widespread disappointment towards many perceived First Man snubs, I am encouraged to support First Man here. Music, though it has its own two categories, is technically a part of sound editing, so I consider this a spiritual vote for the unnominated Justin Hurwitz (listen to his score here) as much as it is an actual vote for the diverse and heart-stirring sound work by Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan.

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Best Sound Mixing:
José Antonio García, production sound mixer / Craig Henighan & Skip Lievsay, re-recording mixers – Roma

I had the fortune of experiencing Roma, not on Netflix, but twice at the Seattle Cinerama. Alfonso Cuarón’s film obviously amazed the audience and me with its cinematography (more on that and 0thers later). It also enveloped us with such delicious sound mixing that we forgot that much of the movie is less action and music and more a slice of everyday México in 1970 and 1971 (which certainly has action and music of its own). Roma’s entire sound team wholly deserves their Oscar mentions.

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Best Visual Effects:
Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, & Kelly Port, visual effects supervisors / Dan Sudick, special effects supervisor – Avengers: Infinity War

When predicting Best Visual Effects, I know it is wise to pick either a) a Best Picture nominee or, when no Best Picture nominees are present, b) a prestige film (i.e., one that came the closest to a Best Picture nomination). (This is a lesson I bet fans of the recent Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy still have to learn.) That would mean a deserved First Man victory here. Given that movie’s strong use of archive footage, however, I think I will side with quantity this time and choose the big Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster. (By the way, I rejoiced when the Visual Effects branch snubbed Black Panther. Justice for those subpar CG suits was served!)

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Best Film Editing:
Yorgos MavropsaridisThe Favourite

I am at a loss when faced with a category that remarkably missed First Man, Roma, and A Star Is Born. Yet every time I consider this Best Film Editing batch, I keep landing on Yorgos Mavropsaridis’ off-kilter work on The Favourite. Yorgos Lanthimos has always made weird features (2017’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer included) and the film editing have played a major role in generating that tone. Therefore, as with Lee Smith and Dunkirk for 2017 (see here), it feels appropriate to award yet another modern auteur’s longtime go-to film editor.

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Best Makeup & Hairstyling:
Kate Biscoe & Greg Cannom, makeup / Patricia DeHaney, hairstyling – Vice

 As with Gary Oldman in 2017’s Darkest Hour (see here), I bet we all needed only one glance at Christian Bale’s extraordinary transformation into former Vice President Dick Cheney in the trailer for Vice to hand Oscars to Vice’s makeup and hairstyling team at once. That said, I would have voted for Suspiria in a heartbeat had it gotten nominated.

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Best Costume Design:
Sandy PowellThe Favourite

Ruth Carter of Black Panther might benefit from Sandy Powell’s dual nods for The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns splitting votes. However, the subpar CG work in Black Panther applies especially to the Black Panther suits. It almost offends me that Marvel has decided lately to cover actual physical superhero costumes with fake ones in post-production (consider this video essay). The frills during Queen Anne’s reign ought to prevail this year.

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Best Production Design:
John Myhre, production design / Gordon Sim, set decoration – Mary Poppins Returns

Even though The Favourite or (God forbid) Black Panther are the frontrunners here, I consider this a spiritual vote for Mary Poppins Returns in Best Visual Effects. Behold those colors!

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Best Director **&** Best Cinematography:
Alfonso CuarónRoma

My goodness, Alfonso Cuarón! How on earth did you accomplish this? (By the way, I will not mind one bit if Łukasz Żal of Zimna Wojna (Cold War) upsets in Cinematography.)

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Best Adapted Screenplay:
Barry JenkinsIf Beale Street Could Talk

(from the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin)

While BlacKkKlansman’s screenplay serves as Spike Lee’s best chance to finally win an Academy Award, I choose to go with the Black American cinema offering I preferred more in 2018.

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Best Original Screenplay:
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, & Peter FarrellyGreen Book

My sincere apologies to fans of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s impressive script for likely frontrunner The Favourite. For both of these screenplay Oscars, I simply must vote for my own favorites, and Green Book’s screenplay, however problematic some may find it, is a major reason why I regard it so highly (see here). (Congratulations to Alfonso Cuarón for managing to get Roma here, despite it being more of a technical achievement rather than a storytelling one.)

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Best Supporting Actress:
Marina de Tavira as “Señora Sofía” – Roma

 Voting for Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk was once a no-brainer. Yet I keep looking back at surprise nominee Marina de Tavira in Roma. Both seem like average mother roles. Yet while Ms. King’s screentime feels slight at first, then thrusts her to the forefront with her Puerto Rico sequence towards Beale Street’s end, de Tavira’s screentime edges forward into greater prominence as the film progresses.

Hmm…

Ms. King and BAFTA winner Rachel Weisz of The Favourite will be deserving winners should they prevail (even though Weisz and Emma Stone are co-leads and Olivia Colman is more supporting), but at the moment I feel like voting for Seño de Tavira. As with Avengers: Infinity War in Best Visual Effects (see above), quantity is on her side today.

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Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali as “Dr. Donald Shirley” – Green Book

 Though one can argue that Ali is a co-lead in Green Book, Viggo Mortensen’s presence dwarfs his well enough for me to not turn away in disgust at potential category fraud. (I hate category fraud, i.e., The Favourite’s Acting Oscar nods.) Arguably one of the biggest locks this Oscar Sunday.

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Best Actress **&** Best Actor:
Lady Gaga as “Ally Maine, née Campana” & Bradley Cooper as “Jackson Maine” – A Star Is Born

Rami Malek of Bohemian Rhapsody (with Christian Bale of Vice close behind) and Glenn Close of The Wife (with Olivia Colman of The Favourite close behind) are this Sunday’s lead acting frontrunners. I, on the other hand, wish to commend the co-leads of once-Best Picture frontrunner A Star Is Born. Recognition for Lady Gaga’s showstopper of a performance, coupled with Bradley Cooper’s heartbreaking turn that also serves as a spiritual award for also writing, producing, and directing—such an outcome would be most irresistible and fitting if it were only possible at this stage.

If it were only possible…

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Best Documentary—Short Subject:
“Period. End of Sentence.” – dir. Rayka Zehtabchi / pr. Melissa Berton & Rayka Zehtabchi

I expressed my fondness for the Indian dramedy Pad Man in my recent Scenes of 2018 list. As I trudged through this year’s Documentary Short nominees, it somehow did not occur to me that “Period. End of Sentence.” serves as a nonfiction sequel of sorts to the real-life story that inspired Pad Man. Though real-life “Pad Man” Arunachalam Muruganantham cameos early on, the short centers on the women who have taken on and have been empowered by the sanitary pad crusade he pioneered. While I can accept a “Black Sheep” victory here, “Period. End of Sentence.” easily exudes the most life, energy, and freshness of the five Documentary Short nominees.

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Best Animated Short Film:
“Bao”– dir. Domee Shi / pr. Becky Neiman-Cobb

Shown before Incredibles 2 in theaters, “Bao” is my pick for the most well-rounded Animated Short nominee, though “Weekends” had fantastic animation while “Animal Behaviour” was fascinating and quirky. Only “Late Afternoon” would feel like a weak winner out of the five.

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Best Live Action Short Film:
“Madre (Mother)” – dir. Rodrigo Sorogoyen / pr. María del Puy Alvarado & Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Tense long takes get me every time. “Fauve” would also make for a deserving Academy Award winner, while a win for “Marguerite”, despite being the “happiest” of the five nominees, would feel weak over time.

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Best Documentary—Feature:
Free Solo – dir. Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi / pr. Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill, Evan Hayes, & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Of this baffling category put forward by a demonstrably corrupt branch, Free Solo undoubtedly carries the most death-defying excitement. (Seriously, producer-director Jimmy Chin and his camera crew risked capturing the death of Alex Honnold had he failed.) The viewers at my screening lost their minds (as did I) whenever Honnold encountered particular “no second chance” challenges en route to conquering El Capitan in June 2017. Either this or Minding the Gap would make for fine Documentary Feature Oscar winners.

Have I mentioned that the Academy’s Documentary branch was demonstrably corrupt for snubbing both Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Best Animated Feature Film:
Isle of Dogs – dir. Wes Anderson / pr. Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, & Scott Rudin

I know, I know, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has been the undeniable frontrunner for this category since the start of 2019. That does not mean that I turn my back (ON MAN-KIND!) on my favorite film for much of 2018 (see here), nor do I deny wholeheartedly hoping that either my favorite film for much of 2018, the first non-Studio Ghibli anime nominee (Mirai), or even the long-awaited yet disappointing-in-hindsight Disney-Pixar sequel (Incredibles 2) miraculously upset this Sunday.

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Best Picture **&** Foreign Language Film:
Roma – dir. Alfonso Cuarón / pr. Alfonso Cuarón & Gabriela Rodríguez (México)


*****

My Best Picture Rankings: 1.) Roma ~ 2.) Green Book ~ 3.) A Star Is Born ~ 4.) BlacKkKlansman ~ 5.) The Favourite ~ 6.) Vice ~ 7.) Black Panther ~ 8.) Bohemian Rhapsody

I ask you again, Alfonso Cuarón: How on earth did you accomplish this? (By the way, I will not mind one bit if Green Bookthe only other Best Picture nominee in my top ten for 2018—beats frontrunner Roma here, likewise for Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) or Zimna Wojna (Cold War) in Foreign Language Film as a consolation prize.)

Roma by Alfonso Cuarón—the best film of 2018. Of course it earns my vote for Best Picture.

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MY VOTING TALLY (in alphabetical order by work):

  • 6 votes
    • Roma: Picture, Foreign Language Film, Director, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, and Sound Mixing (out of 10 nominations)
  • 3 votes
    • A Star Is Born: Actor, Actress, and Original Song (out of 8 nominations)
  • 2 votes
    • The Favourite: Film Editing and Costume Design (out of 10 nominations)
    • Green Book: Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay (out of 5 nominations)
    • If Beale Street Could Talk: Adapted Screenplay and Original Score (out of 3 nominations)
  • The remaining works come away with 1 vote each: Avengers: Infinity War (Visual Effects, sole nomination),“Bao” (Animated Short Film, sole nomination), First Man (Sound Editing, out of 4 nominations), Free Solo (Documentary—Feature, sole nomination), Isle of Dogs (Animated Feature Film, out of 2 nominations), “Madre (Mother)” (Live Action Short Film), Mary Poppins Returns (Production Design, out of 4 nominations), “Period. End of Sentence.” (Documentary—Short Subject, sole nomination), and Vice (Makeup & Hairstyling, out of 8 nominations)
  • The following 3 Best Picture nominees receive no votes: Black Panther (7 nominations), BlacKkKlansman (6 nominations), and Bohemian Rhapsody (5 nominations)

What would you vote for if you had a ballot for the 91st Academy Awards?

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One last time…

Godspeed and Farewell, Cinema of 2018!

Welcome, Cinema of 2019!

 

R.N.B.


About the Author

Renard N. Bansale once aspired to become an astronaut, before he found his passion in film discussion, criticism, conducting script-reading sessions of feature film screenplays, and annual Oscar tracking. Hailing from Seattle, WA, Renard graduated from JPCatholic in 2016 with a B.S. in Communications Media (Emphasis in Screenwriting) and is currently pursuing his M.A. in Theology online at the Augustine Institute.

For more movie reviews by Renard, click here

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