Oscar, Oscar: Marc’s choices in the Big Six:
Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress
Film Feature, Feb. 22, 2019
By Marc Glassman
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
This is a tough category. As the winner always says, “We all deserved it.” In particular, I have to say that few performances in any year have delighted me as much as Richard E. Grant’s dissolute friend to Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? And Sam Elliott deserves an Oscar simply for his voice and moustache. But no one can top Mahershala Ali’s extraordinary embodiment of Doc Shirley, the conflicted idealistic pianist, who wanted to fight along with his fellow African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement and did so through a concert tour of the Deep South. He’s a commanding presence in nearly every scene and is extraordinary when he shows his vulnerability and gratitude to Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Lip for getting him out of a charge for being gay (anywhere) in 1962.
Best Supporting Actress
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Again, a very tough category. Rachel Weisz can do no wrong, in my book. She’s stellar in The Favourite but I suspect she’ll be cancelled out by Emma Stone’s terrific portrayal of a woman who calculates her way to the top in the same film. There are great things to say about Amy Adams and Marina de Tavira, too. But Regina King is wonderful as a mother trying to save her boy from prison. Her failed attempt to convince a woman who has been raped that her son couldn’t have done it is the most complex scene in If Beale Street Could Talk. There are no winners in this tragic attempt at a meeting of minds and hearts. King plays it beautifully, trying her best and, even in despair, acknowledging defeat, she shows a defiant core of human decency.
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
There are five showy performances in this category; probably Dafoe delivers the best and the flashiest is Bale’s. Without a clear winner in mind, I’m going with the Golden Globe and SAG winner. At least Rami Malek is (for Hollywood) a fresh voice and face—and, hey, if you’re trying to be Freddie Mercury, you should be flashy.
Glenn Close, The Wife
It’s a lifetime achievement award for Close but she does deserve it as much for her theatrical work as what she’s accomplished on screen. In a way, the much younger but invariably professional Olivia Colman should get it for the same reasons as Close—but she won’t because you’d have to British to know how much fine work Colman has done. I’ll always feel that Melissa McCarthy deserves this for her stellar work in Can You Forgive Me?–but that won’t happen.
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Cuaron is an outrageously talented director: he writes, edits, and shoots wonderfully as well as knowing how to guide actors into great performances. I love the way he starts so many scenes with slow camera movements from the left side of the screen to the right. When he reverses the shot, it’s to show the youthful marchers moving into the centre of a scene, where they’re shot en masse by the Mexican police in the infamous Tlatelolco massacre. You realize that Cuaron has set up his shot list to greater emphasize this brutal moment in Mexican history—and, yet, he never mentions it by name. That’s powerful directing.
One of the few Oscar nominated films that was actually a box office hit, Black Panther gives the Academy a chance to vote for African Americans and Marvel Comics at the same time. Isn’t America great? This fantasy of a Black utopia led by an appropriate superhero is a myth worth endorsing. I know. Roma could sweep or The Favourite could win because it looks like (but isn’t) a standard British costume drama. But I’ll go for Black Panther amid a general sweep of African-Americans and Mexicans—and even an Indian—in a graceful riposte to Trump’s America.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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