“Predictable” has been the most common word to describe the Oscars in recent years. The experts offer their surefire picks, and they’re usually right. But this year, there were more than a few genuine gasps when the ballots were read, and more than a few groans too as history repeated itself and racial tension once again took center stage.
The first shake-up of the night was the lack of a host to guide us through the evening. As it turns out, the Oscars don’t even need one. This was the best-paced telecast in recent memory. The show breezed by free of an opening monologue and all the awkward moments that inevitably result from comic hosts trying to leave a mark. The Academy may just decide to nix the job altogether. No matter how good hosts are, they always get stale by the two-hour mark. Why not fill the evening with fresh personalities and keep the show moving?
As for the experts, in some categories they nailed it. Regina King and Mahershala Ali picked up Best Supporting Performance Oscars as expected, and Afonzo Cuarón took home Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Director which were both predicted and deserved. The Best Actor and Actress categories, however, were shockers. Christian Bale was the favorite for Best Actor, but Rami Malek stole the spotlight for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie won far too many awards for my taste (best editing — really?), but at least this one was earned. And Glenn Close was a sure thing for Best Actress, but she lost to Olivia Colman for The Favourite. Emma Stone clearly couldn’t believe it, and Colman went on to give the best speech of the night.
Up until the end of the show, it was an encouraging night for diversity. Fifteen women and ten people of color won awards throughout the evening. One of the ten from the latter group was Spike Lee who won his first competitive Oscar for the BlacKkKlansman screenplay. But Lee’s win also highlighted a recurring problem in the Academy. 30 years ago, Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture in the same year that Lee’s masterpiece on racial tension Do the Right Thing wasn’t even nominated. This year, Lee’s BlacKkKlansman was at least nominated, but it lost to Green Book — another film like Daisy about a driver and rider from different races who form an unlikely friendship. As Lee said in the post-Oscar press conference: “Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose.”
Green Book is a good movie, but that’s actually part of the problem. As Wesley Morris explains on The Daily podcast, Peter Farrelly knows how to keep us entertained and that’s what keeps the farce at the center of the film hidden so well. Both Driving Miss Daisy and Green Book present a racial fantasy where all that’s needed to heal lifelong prejudice is a long enough time together in a car. The black people in both films are functional props to assist the white characters in their journey of self-discovery. Green Book could have and should have been presented from Dr. Shirley’s point of view. Instead, Dr. Shirley’s life was misrepresented so that Tony Lip could be the hero of the movie and become a better man. Peter Farrelly made a bad situation worse on Sunday by refusing to address the controversy surrounding the film. He never thanked Dr. Shirley, and instead stated point blank in his Best Picture acceptance speech that the movie couldn’t have happened without Viggo Mortensen. Farrelly’s tone-deafness provided a sour ending to what was otherwise a smooth and entertaining Oscar night.
But the good news is that the Oscars never get the final word. Yes, they signify the official end of the movie year, but what we’re left with when all the controversy and award ceremonies are through is the movies themselves. And 2018 was a fantastic year for film. You Were Never Really Here, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and A Quiet Place are three movies that weren’t nominated for Best Picture, but they’ll be remembered long after the events of Sunday night.
Below is our list of the best movies of 2018. As the movie season draws to a close, we invite you to re-watch these ten films and re-engage with our reviews on each of them. This is a time to relish the best of the best and remember all the different places movies took us to throughout the year. Then, buckle up because a new year has already begun. Our 2019 top ten list is up and running, and over the course of the next twelve months, we’ll be adding to it and revising it as new films come our way.
We hope you’ll check back often and join us on the journey as we grab our tickets, gather our popcorn, and welcome in a brand new year at the movies.