Thoughts on the 2019 Oscar Best Picture nominations

Eight films are nominated for the 2019 Oscar “Best Picture”. They are; “A Star is Born”, “Black Panther”, “BlacKkKlansman”, “Bohemain Rhapsody”, “The Favourite”, “Green Book”, “Roma” and “Vice”.

Some of these films did not screen locally nor are they streaming so we haven’t had the opportunity to see all of them. As we ponder on which film will win the Academy’s most coveted award for the night, here are our thoughts on some of the nominations.

A Star is Born

A scene from 'A Star is Born'
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper on stage in ‘A Star is Born’

Already wrote a review for “A Star is Born” so won’t dwell on this one. The movie received seven 2019 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. That most of its other nominations are for acting, proves that the actors pull their weight. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga showed their hidden talents unknown to us. Gaga, an accomplished artiste, played a budding singer so convincingly. And who knew Cooper could sing so beautifully? For a fourth remake, Cooper did an awfully good job directing this film. And we absolutely love it .

Black Panther

We connected with “Black Panther” on a lot of levels. It is deeply rooted in African history and a celebration of strong women. The Dora Milaje – Wakanda’s female regiment which Danai Gurira and Nyong’o served are similar to historic African female warriors. Our history tells us of female warriors like Queen Amina of Zaria, Queen Idia – the warrior queen mother of the Bini kingdom and Dahomey Amazons or Mino, an all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the Republic of Benin.

By the way, it’s not the first Marvel film to include a scene set in Nigeria. Captain America Winter Soldier did. It had a fight scene set in Lagos Island. However, the “Black Panther” storyline was more purposeful. Nadia (Lupita Nyong’o) goes undercover to rescue the captured girls in the Sambisa forest. The filmmakers imagination of Sambisa is however a far cry from reality. Much like the generic almost southern African accent.

We also connected very much with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) although an anti-hero. A lost child who just wanted to find his roots. In a scene Nigeria’s Edo people could totally relate with Erik stole a Wakandan artifact from a museum. When opposed by the curator, he says, “How do you think your ancestors got these”? However, we doubt that it “Black Panther” will win the 2019 Oscar Best Picture. Should it win, it will be historic.

Green Book

Green Book

The makers of “Green Book” have been criticised for this film. And while we do not take a dim view of the critics’ opinions, we do like this take on a race film because it doesn’t tell the story from the perspective of a slave. In “Green Book”, we see the story of a wealthy Jazz piano player whose talent, affluence and influence could not shield him from segregation. We learn from band member, Oleg (Dimiter Marinov), that Don Shirley embarked on the tour to spur some change. We see the tour as his own way of lending a voice to the cause. And if you argue that Don Shirley’s experience might not be as weighty as those of Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcom X then his talent which many didn’t know of hitherto should be a reason good enough to have made this film.

Shirley was a piano-Jazz legend who ought to be celebrated. And “Green Box” does that. Our review of “Green Book”, tells of all the reasons why this movie is a solid contender for “Best Picture” – acting, screenplay, production design, are brilliant.

Roma

A scene from Alfonso’s Cuaron’s Roma

Like “Black Panther”, “Roma” is a celebration of strong women. It’s the story of three women who support each other through trying times. And that’s what we liked most about this film. Yalitza Aparicio plays a strong female lead Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez. She is one of the family’s maids but essentially pillar of the family. But when she’s faced with her own challenge, her boss Sofia (Marina de Tavira) takes her under her wing despite having her own troubles. And Teresa (Sofia’s mother played by Verónica García) is there for Cleo during her most trying time.

It’s hard to fault Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma for artistry. The cinematography, production design and screenplay are extraordinary. However, despite the strong story, “Roma” didn’t get under our skin. We wanted to share in Cleo’s pain but just couldn’t. And for that reason, we struggle with this 2019 Oscar “Best Picture” nomination.

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About the author

A lover of the arts who sees film and television through the prism of the Nigerian viewer.