Loyal listeners of The New Classical FM and readers of our website are aware that film critic Marc Glassman takes an idealistic position on the Academy Awards. Year after year, our faithful reviewer seems to think that the old Hollywood pros who make up the lion’s share of the Academy will reward the best films (or at least the best nominated ones) with Oscars. Of course, he’s wrong as often as he’s right, leaving him in the laughable position of hitting about 60% on Oscar bets while friends and neighbours regularly get 85% or 90% right. Adding insult to injury, Marc has seen the films while many of his pals are simply guessing, having watched half or less of the nominees. Still, Marc (who is schizophrenically writing this note) lives in eternal hope that the Academy—especially after MeToo, will vote properly this year. And, if not, there’s always next year…
In part one of this two-parter, Marc shares his thoughts on Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Feature, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplays—Adapted and Original. Next week, he’ll give his choices for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress.
And from now, Marc will step forward in his film critic role
Best Foreign Language Film
This is usually my favourite category because all of the films are worth seeing. My personal favourite among the nominees, Cold War, gorgeously shot in black and white, is an impossibly romantic tale of a musically gifted couple who play out their tragic love affair during the heighted political era of the Forties and Fifties when Communism battled Capitalism. Capernaum, Never Look Away and Shoplifters also have their deserved advocates but the clear winner is Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s beautifully rendered evocation of an haute bourgeois Mexican family in the Sixties, complete with servants, and how they respond to the end of a marriage and a miscarriage during a period of violence and disruption in their country. Roma may be the first film to win Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film; even I know it will win in this category. By the way, the best foreign language film didn’t even get nominated. It’s Burning from South Korea; trust me, you should see it.
Best Documentary Feature
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
When this perfectly judged essay film about the current life in the rural county in Alabama, where Walker Evans and James Agee photographer and wrote Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was released, I wrote: “It’s a poetic journey into the world of young African-Americans leading difficult lives in a racist, segregated state.” RaMell Ross’ African-American documentary should win but will it? I suspect that RBG will win, simply because Hollywood liberals love Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and, heck, they’re around her age, too. I love Ms. Ginsburg but the doc is mediocre.
Best Animated Feature
Isle of Dogs
There’s no choice here for me. This is one of the best films of the year—animated or not. Wes Anderson’s bizarre and brilliant depiction of a dysfunctional future where dogs are deported to die in a ghastly island says a lot about the nationalism and xenophobia that is gaining ground through much of the world. It’s a political film, brilliantly constructed by one of the U.S. Indie greats.
I’m still not sure if Cuaron will win Best Picture for Roma but he wins in a walk in this competitive category—Lukasz Zal’s shooting of Cold War is particularly great—because no other director can do what he does, shoot film brilliantly.
Best Adapted Screenplay
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
One of the most delightful cultural shifts in the past few years has been the revival of interest in James Baldwin, a complex and poetic writer whose books and ideas were studied with intensity in the Sixties and Seventies. Raoul Peck’s documentary on Baldwin I am not your Negro started off the wave of renewed interest in him and Barry Jenkins’ heartfelt adaptation of one of Baldwin’s finest novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, will continue the fascination with this excellent novelist and essayist. Turning Baldwin’s deliberately slow and poetic novel into a film was difficult but Jenkins handled it well, beginning with his fine screenplay.
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Of course, Cuaron could easily win this category with Roma but I’m going to bet that Paul Schrader’s persuasive and empathic account of a preacher battling to find his faith will win—especially because the Academy shockingly didn’t nominate Ethan Hawke for Best Actor or First Reformed for Best Picture. Surely Schrader, whose previous scripts include Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, deserves to win best script.
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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