The Baruch Students' guide for What to Watch Before You Watch The Oscars
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
It may only be nominated in one category, but any viewers seeking the best films of the year would do themselves a disservice by missing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of the most entertaining and visually creative films among all the nominees. The three-director team created a world that looks like a comic book, beyond just word bubbles and action words popping up on screen. The creators have been very open online and in the film’s official art book, detailing effects that were created to replicate printing errors and even choosing the right frame rate for animation. Spider-Verse is a movie made by people who care.
The film puts an Afro-Latino in a superhero lead, it’s chock-full of humor from writer Phil Lord and producer Chris Miller — the minds behind The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street — and it’s full of heart. The painful moments hurt, and even bad guys get those moments. With Nicolas Cage as a 1930s, black and white, noir Spider-Man and John Mulaney as the Looney Tunes-inspired Spider-Ham, Spider-Verse is the rare comic book movie that’s willing to push boundaries and go wacky, making a compelling argument along the way for animation as a valuable superhero medium, even for big-budget films. This is the rare film that sets up a web of potential sequels and spinoffs, nearly all of which are immediately exciting. Spider-Verse is not to be missed.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is nominated for best animated picture. Watch it in theaters now or on home release after Feb. 26.
A Star is Born
Mostly interesting for the awards circuit narrative, A Star is Born is the classic case of a film that looked to be an awards darling shoo-in before Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody became surprise — at least to the critics — award-winners. It’s not hard to see Sam Elliott taking home the best supporting actor trophy or the song “Shallow” winning the award it’s been primed for since October. As the fourth film of its name and plot, A Star is Born is a powerful, yet flawed, film that ran out of steam. Jackson Maine — which Bradley Cooper plays — never did well at awards shows anyway.
A Star is Born is nominated for eight awards, including best picture and best original song.Watch it on home release now.
It never hurts to have something to root for in the technical categories. Before actors, directors and producers take the stage to accept their awards, films are celebrated for the details that make them up. First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong, may have quickly lost its place as a potentially high awardee, but the skill that made the flight and rocket scenes of the film is evident. A big enough screen and a loud enough sound system put viewers into the intense, claustrophobic spaces of flight, staving off potential boredom for viewers still trying to distinguish between sound editing and sound mixing.
First Man is nominated for four awards, including best visual effects. Watch it on home release now.
As the third English-language film by renowned absurdist director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is the least off-putting and the most recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Favourite is built upon its three central performances — nominations for the roles as supporting and not lead were certainly surprising — by the extremely talented Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. With as many nominations as it has and with the unique use of language and cinematography, The Favourite is an entry that very easily sets itself apart from the pack.
The Favourite is nominated for 10 awards, including best picture and three acting awards.Watch it on home release after Feb. 12.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director Barry Jenkins did not get nominations in the top categories for If Beale Street Could Talk, his James Baldwin adaptation and Moonlight follow-up, but his work is an important film to be aware of. The score by Nicholas Britell — his Moonlight score was previously nominated — contributes to the overall sense of warmth present in Jenkins’ work. As a story of false accusation by police and painful racism, Beale Street has every right to be a depressive tale, but it is, instead, so much more caring and hopeful. Far from a feel-good movie, Beale Street is empathetic, and beautifully so.
If Beale Street Could Talk is nominated for three awards, including best adapted screenplay. Watch it in theaters now.
This could be the movie that changes the landscape. For the first time ever, a Netflix film is nominated for best picture —the film made eligibility requirements by playing limited theatrical runs — and as much as it deserves accolades, it would still be a surprising win. If Roma were to win best picture, it would be the first-ever foreign language film and primarily streaming film to do so. As a potential legitimizer for Netflix, past the studio’s myriad of TV awards, Roma is a must-watch, if only for viewers to be able to participate in the conversation.
Roma is slow going and it develops its emotional range on a gradual basis, but as it builds, it does so with a gentle touch. The cinematography by director Alfonso Cuarón is one of the film’s most notable elements. Shot in black and white, Roma is rich with textures and visuals, the contrast just right to make visuals look like portraits in motion.
It is not a work that is ambitious in its scale, but it does seek meaningful understanding of and attachment to human suffering. Any 2018 movie catch-up session without Roma would be sorely lacking.
Roma is nominated for 10 awards, including best picture and best foreign language film. Watch it on Netflix or in select theaters now.