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Review

Student Voice reviews Academy Award nominees

February 13, 2019

To give the Oscars their striking appearance, all surfaces have to be perfect. Gold plating is only one micron thick and would not cover even the smallest indent. To accomplish a perfect surface, the castings are plated first with copper, then nickel, and polished to a high luster.
To give the Oscars their striking appearance, all surfaces have to be perfect. Gold plating is only one micron thick and would not cover even the smallest indent. To accomplish a perfect surface, the castings are plated first with copper, then nickel, and polished to a high luster. (Dorith Mous / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

The Academy Awards, also known to many as the Oscars, is the oldest worldwide entertainment award ceremony, going on its 91st iteration. The first award was presented back in 1929, and has been a staple of film achievement ever since. Many categories have come and gone over the years, however, the Best Director category has been around since the beginning.

Best Director

Shelton Jackson, also known as Spike Lee, is the first nominee for best director due to his film “BlacKkKlansman.” In 2015, Lee was awarded the Academy Honorary Award and has been nominated for five prior Academy Awards. Other notable works of Lee’s include his debut film “She’s Gotta Have It,” “Malcolm X,” and “Inside Man.”

Pawel Pawlikowski is the second nominee for best director, due to his film “Cold War.” In 2015, Pawlikowski won Best Foreign Language Film for his film “Ida.” Pawlikowski is most well known for his documentaries “Last Resort and My Summer of Love,” and obviously for his film “Ida.”

Yorgos Lanthimos, an upcoming greek director, is the third nominee for best director due to his film “The Favourite.” Lanthimos films have previously been nominated for four Academy Awards, two of which being this year. His other notable works include his debut as a co-director for “My Best Friend,” and his films “Dogtooth and The Lobster.”

Alfonso Cuarón is the forth nominee for best director for to his film “Roma.” Cuarón has previously been awarded an Academy Award for Best Director from his film “Gravity” in 2013, and films of his have been nominated for 10 separate awards. His notable films include “Y Tu Mamá También,” “Harry Potter,” “Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Children of Men.”

Adam McKay is the fifth and final nominee for best director for his film “Vice”. McKay has previously received the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for his film “The Big Short” in 2016. His other notable works include two seasons of being the head writer for “Saturday Night Live,” “Directing Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, and “Step Brothers.”

When it comes to who will be the best director this year it’s still up for debate. There are industry veterans and new upcoming directors, but what it really comes down to is how hard they worked. The films that are presented next to each director are some of the best films of 2018, however only one director can truly be the best of the year. –Dawson Flaherty

Best Animated Feature

Nominees for Best Animated Feature include “Incredibles 2,” “Isle of Dogs”, “Mirai,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” and “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse.”

2018 has been a commendable year for animation trends in film. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has improved in leaps and bounds, making special effects almost eerily realistic. In each of the films nominated for Best Animated Feature, colors are bolder, motion is smoother, and animators are taking new approaches to their art.

Wes Anderson’s adaptation of the manga “Isle of Dogs” uses stop-motion, an excruciating process that took several years and 12 sculptors working tirelessly six days a week, according to an interview with one of the puppet fabricators, Andy Gent.

Audiences waited 14 years for the release of “Incredibles 2” and were not disappointed by Disney’s attention-to-detail and captivating action sequences. Similarly, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” was well received, with sleek and colorful animation synonymous to Disney/Pixar. However, many reviewers noted that the plot seemed convoluted and overrun with meme references. Studio Chizu’s “Mirai” is the sixth anime film to be nominated for an Academy award, with an emotional storyline and an endearing visual simplicity that won the hearts of many.

I pity the Academy members who have to decide between these utterly incredible films, but I believe that one movie truly rises above them all. I’ve never been a big comic fan, only knowing the basic facts about Peter Parker and the accompanying canon, however, Marvel Comics’ “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse” made me wish I was.

The comic book practically came to life on screen with a modern interpretation of a classic animation style. The animators paid homage to the original artist with the charming graphics, panels, motion lines and onomatopoeias (THWIP!)that appealed to children and adults alike.The soundtrack combined orchestral and modern music, making it both an immersive experience and an aurally pleasing one.

Not only is the animation stellar, but voice actors, such as John Mulaney as Peter Porker, Nicolas Cage as Spider-man Noir and Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, kept the dialogue interesting and enjoyable. The characterization of Miles Morales stole the show, with his portrayal incredibly realistic and hilarious to watch.

“Into the Spider-verse” convinced me that animated movies don’t always have to be for kids, and you don’t need to read the endless volumes, editions, off-shoots and variations of a comic to enjoy a Marvel movie. –Kacey Joslin

Best Animated Short

As UW-River Falls students enter the 2019 spring semester with far below zero temperatures, they also enter another season: the Oscars. The Oscar is a tiny golden statue that is given out as an Academy Award. This year will mark the 91st year of presenting these statues to various celebrities. Whether it is for being the best actress/actor or having the best picture, there is a statue for the most notable individuals in the industry annually.

One category of the Oscars is the best animated short film. An animated short is another way of saying a brief video that is created using animations. The nominees for the best animated shorts of this year are: “Animal Behaviour” by Alison Snowden and David Fine, “Bao” by Domee Shi, “Late Afternoon” by Louise Bagnall, “One Small Step” by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, and “Weekends” by Trevor Jimenez. If none of these sound familiar, do not fret, clarity is on the way.

“Animal Behavior” is an animated short written and directed by Alison Snowden and David Fine. This short film consists of characters who are seen in a group therapy setting. Each character is welcomed into a weekly group which is conducted by Dr. Clement, a dog psychotherapist. Each week, the group meets to discuss each one of their individual anxiety’s.

One of the characters in this short film is a pig who suffers from an eating disorder. Another is a praying mantis who can not hold a steady relationship with a man. There is also a leech who is experiencing bouts of separation anxiety, a feline who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and lastly, a bird who experiences issues with guilt.

The short film is a light-hearted approach to difficult topics. Comedy is incorporated, and perhaps this comedic relief of some real-life issues is the reason this animated short is nominated for an Oscar.

A second animated short that was nominated this year called “Bao,” which was written and directed by Domee Shi. This short film may sound familiar because it was produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and also released with the movie “Incredibles 2”.

This animated short ties in experiences of loneliness a mother feels while she is suffering from empty-nest syndrome. Empty-nest syndrome comes about when all the children have left for college, or are  living on their own and no longer are in need of the constant care and attention.

“Bao” follows a Chinese mother who is suffering from empty-nest syndrome, when all of a sudden, one of her dumplings she has made for a meal sprung to life as a little dumpling child.  

As the dumpling child grows older, the mother and him butt heads. Eventually, she eats the dumpling child during a fit of anger. The mother’s real son visits and upsets his mother by explaining to her that it was all just a dream. The mother is now upset at her son and ignores him, and the father demands the son apologizes for what he has said. Shortly after, the whole family, including the son’s fiancee, forgive one another and sit around and cook dumplings together and sit at the kitchen table to eat and watch the television.

“Late Afternoon” by Louise Bagnall follows an elderly woman, Emily, through time as she recalls her past memories. Emily is unhappy and feels detached  with the current state of the world around her, so she decided she must drift through her happier memories in order to fully appreciate the present.

The short film, “One Small Step” by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas features a young Chinese-American girl named Luna. Luna dreams of becoming an astronaut some day. Luna uncovers this desire while she watches a rocket shooting into space on the television.

Luna is lives in a large city with her father, Chu, who runs a very small shoe repair business out of his own garage. Despite Luna’s challenges while growing up, she remains determined to stay on the path of one day going into space.

The final short film that is short-listed for the Oscars is “Weekends” by Trevor Jimenez. This short film pursues the trek of a young boy with divorced parents. Like many children with parents who are seperated, the young boy is having problems seeing both of his parents finding their own bliss without one another.

Dreams interrupt reality in this short film. As the boy dreams of closeness within his broken

family, he is anxious of others coming into his family picture. Although this boy is not able to control what is happening in his reality, he finds a way to manipulate his dreams to create the family picture he longs for. –Madelyn Markulics

Best Actor

The five nominees for The Oscars Best Actor award this year each fulfilled very distinct roles within their separate films. This years nominees include: Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born,” Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate,” Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book,” and finally, Christian Bale in “Vice.” By looking at the nominated actors, other film awards, as well as each films reviews, it is still hard to pinpoint which actor deserves 2019’s Best Actor Academy Award.

Rami Malek, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale are the three top actors out of all the nominees to be predicted to win this years award, each for differing reasons. Rami Malek portrayed Freddie Mercury,  the lead singer from the band Queen in the film “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Although performing and executing a real-life portrayal can be difficult, he has won awards from both the SAG awards and the Golden Globes this year for his performance. This makes him a top contender for the Oscars.

Another real-life portrayal in the nominations this year goes to Christian Bale in “Vice.” Where Bale plays former U.S. Vice President, Dick Cheney. Critics have said that the comparison between the actor and the character he was portraying was extremely similar, and his performance was excellent. This helped with the achievement of receiving this year’s Critics Choice Award for Best Actor.

The third top nominee is Bradley Cooper for his performance in “A Star is Born.” Cooper has been nominated for Best Actor at other awards ceremonies this year, but has fallen short to both Bale and Malek. His role in the film “A Star is Born” contrast from both Bale and Malek’s roles. Cooper did not portray a  real-life character, which can be extremely difficult.

As for Willem Dafoe from “At Eternity’s Gate” and Viggo Mortensen from “Green Book”, each actor gave strong performances, but the films did not receive the same attention as the other three. Each actor was also considered for other awards throughout the course of the year but did not receive anything. This may put both actors at the tail end of the competition.

Overall it is hard to say exactly who will take home the award for this years Best Actor award. The awards ceremony may take a turn and surprise viewers, however, it is easy to say that the top three actors within this category are Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek and Christian Bale. –Melissa Thorud

Best Picture

“A Star is Born” – This is the third time that “A Star is Born” has been remade for the cinema since its original adaption was first released in 1937. The plot is not necessarily the same as the previous three versions as this adaptation of “A Star is Born” spends more time focusing on the relationship between Jack (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) and how Ally’s rise to stardom tears at the romance that the two develop in the first half of the film. This version of “A Star is Born” is certainly the best to date, as Cooper’s directorial debut shows how much passion he had in making this film in his camera work and performance. The film also gave Lady Gaga the opportunity to shine in her acting skills in her first big screen performance since 2014 and most certainly being well deserved for her best actress nomination at the Academy Awards this year. “A Star is Born” certainly exceed its predecessors and is a worthy nominee for earning Best Picture in 2018.

“BlacKkKlansman” – Spike Lee teamed up with Jordan Peele and his crew from 2017’s “Get Out” to adapt the story of Ron Stallworth, an African American Colorado Springs, Colo. police officer who goes undercover to infiltrate the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan. Ron Stallworth is portrayed by John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son) who does a phenomenal job playing the role and showing how Stallworth was able to convince the Ku Klux Klan over the phone that he was white and expose how sick and frightening the mindsets of White Supremacists are. Helping Stallworth is his Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver) who goes into the KKK meetings pretending to be Stallworth in the flesh as they learn of a plot the KKK is developing to attack the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Black Student Union. “BlacKkKlansman” is a well adapted book to film production where Spike Lee again reminds his audience of how alive racism is in America today, and how we as all people can become better at fighting it. This is also the first time in Spike Lee’s legendary career that he has finally received a nomination for Best Picture and Best Director.

“Black Panther” – “Black Panther” has become the first Marvel Cinematic film to be nominated for the best picture category. This is also the best eye candy film that has been nominated for the best picture as special effects technician Ryan Amborn and visual effects artist Alex Aucoin out did themselves with the visual effects in this film. Michael B. Jordan gave a outstanding performance as the relatable villain of the film Erik Killmonger, and really creates a drift in the audiences cheering for both the hero and the villain. No matter what, “Black Panther” will be remembered for its historical significance in featuring a majority black cast in a superhero film.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – The long awaited Freddie Mercury biopic certainly gave his lifestyle justice solely thanks to Rami Malek’s performance of Mercury. “Bohemian Rhapsody” took over eight years to make and the director Bryan Singer has faced accusations of sexually assaulting and harassing multiple women, it is hard to say if “Bohemian Rhapsody” will win the Best Picture this year. “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” screenplay has also faced criticism for being over glamorized by the Hollywood storytelling archetype for biopics. Regardless, the performance that Rami Malek did of Freddie Mercury in the film was spot on throughout its entirety both in dialogue and in his “on stage” performance. The supporting members of Queen Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) are also performed well and provide a fair representation to their real life counterparts. “Bohemian Rhapsody” also did very well in exploring what Freddie’s life was like once he started to explore his sexuality and how it eventually lead to his isolation from those closest to him.

“Green Book” – “Green Book” follows a working-class Italian-American bouncer living in New York City, Tony Lip, (Viggo Mortensen) who decides to become a chauffeur of an African-American jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, (Mahershala Ali) at the start of the 1960’s in America’s Deep South. The relationship in this film between Lip and Shirley starts out with an uncomfortable tension at first. Lip is not happy about his new job and lets it show to Shirley with rude, racist remarks whenever they speak. “Green Book” takes an extensive look at the Jim Crow South during a time when Civil Rights was a constant fight in the Deep South and even in its lens of realistic fiction, still provides to be a feel good film.

“Roma” – “Roma” is the first ever motion picture released directly onto Netflix that has ever received a nomination for the best picture category. The film takes place in Mexico City, Mexico, over the course of the decade that is the 1970’s, it follows the life of a maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who works for a wealthy middle class family. When conflict strikes for both Cleo and the family she works for, the film pushes the characters into confronting themselves in some of their darkest times. “Roma” is nominated for ten Academy Awards this year which is tied for the most nominations with the Favourite. Director and writer Alfonso Cuaron certainly delivered an all time classic with “Roma” and it’ll be interesting to see if the Academy agrees with rewarding them with wins this year.

“The Favourite” – Taking place in early 18th century England, “The Favourite” follows Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) as the new air to the throne governing her kingdom during a period of war with the French. While Queen Anne falls ill, her friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the United Kingdom in her stead. During this time, a new servant named Abigail (Emma Stone) comes under Lady Sarah’s wing, Abigail learns to fulfill her ambitions of leadership in a time when women are not seen as people to men. This biopic comedy is tied with Roma for the most nominations at the Oscars this year with ten, and has both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz nominated for Best Supporting Actress. “The Favourite” certainly provides many laughs throughout and certainly is worthy of its nomination for Best Picture of 2018.

“Vice” – This biopic of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has not been receiving good reviews from both audiences and critics alike. Still, there was enough liking from audience members and some critics for “Vice” to receive a nomination. Dick Cheney is played by the method actor Christian Bale, and the film shows his rise from being a drunk getting kicked out of Yale to becoming the most powerful man on Earth during the time of 9/11. The film tries to depict Cheney as somewhat of a relatable protagonist and avoids confronting some of the controversies surrounding his life. After 9/11, Cheney went extreme in authorizing torture of suspected terrorist, most notably by waterboarding almost all suspects on Cheney’s list. Some might argue this film is too Hollywood in its depiction of Cheney’s work. Due to the films attempts to avoid facts on Cheney’s life, it is certainly the least deserving of the eight Best Picture nominations. –Theodore Tollefson

Of all of these films that are shortlisted for all of the categories, only one will receive the title. Watch to see which of your favorite films, actors, scenes, etc. get chosen on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. CST.