2018 had a diverse set of movies, as did 2017. I'm not in complete agreement with the Academy's choices, but overall, I'm not complaining with the nominees they've given me to vote on (even though they haven't actually, you know, given me a vote on anything).
My ranking of the Oscar nominees is based on the grades I gave the movies immediately after seeing them. (With hindsight, I like "Roma" more and more.) In case of ties, I ordered them by my considered judgment today. Note this is not my prediction of which movie will win, but which I would vote for, had I a vote.
The envelope please. The winner of "The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures" goes to...
- A Star is Born (2018): After seeing too many mediocre films, I was ready for something good. Third remake doesn't lose a thing. Two stars on opposite trajectories in a classic tragedy. Convincing portrayal of addiction. Biggest surprise? Lady Gaga can act as well as sing. A-
Congratulations to the runners-up.
- Vice (2018): Part dark satire, part Dick Cheney biopic. Half the country will hate it. Cheney is portrayed as evil, Bush a dupe. Nailed it? Squeezes a career of undermining American democracy and Constitutional government into 132 minutes. Most important movie of the year. A-
- Green Book (2018): Unlikely friendship blossoms between Italian-American driver and black pianist on tour of Jim Crow South, an inhumane era treated with kid gloves. Watch it for its characters, its history, or as a feel-good Christmas movie. Combination makes it Oscar bait. A-
- Roma (2018): Mexico in 1970s. Society is coming apart as are the lives of an affluent family and their live-in nanny/maid. An art film: black&white, subtitles, slice-of-life feel, lush panoramic images that linger, mesmerizing ambient sounds. A slow build to a powerful whole. B+
- BlacKkKlansman (2018): Undercover cops infiltrate Klan in 1970s. A broad satiric look at America's dark history, but Spike Lee slips in a word or scene now and then to show he's more interested in today than the 1970s. And he connects with a gut punch by the end. B+
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): If you like the music of Queen, you'll love this movie. If you like historical accuracy and innovative moviemaking, well, you'll love the music of Queen. Still, it's just a movie. It's a cautionary tale of temperamental genius. But mostly fun. B-
- The Favourite (2018): Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz vie for favor of Queen Anne in era when ambitious women had to be tougher than men. Here, cruder, too. Acting by all is tightly balanced between villain and victim. Too serious for farce. Too over-the-top for straight drama. B-
- Black Panther (2018): James Bond meets Tarzan in a galaxy far, far away. With a touch of Jumanji and Iron Man tossed in. Jokes? Yes. Acting? Minimal. Special effects? All sorts. Plot? As needed. Commentary on global racial divide? Potentially powerful, but easy to miss. C-
- Best Actor: Christian Bale (Vice)
- Best Actress: Glenn Close (The Wife)
- Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
- Best Supporting Actress: Emma Stone (The Favourite)