Wrongful Oscars 2019 Winners

Disclaimer: all opionons are of the author's own.

Every year the Academy Awards seem to get more and more frustrating, and 2019 seems to be the year of some significantly wrongful winners. While many awards were well-given and well-received, there has been an undeniable backlash as to the winners in several major categories. While I agree with many of these opinions, I also believe there are some smaller, potentially more controversial undeserving winners that also deserve discussion and analysis. Welcome to my yearly scrutiny of the Oscars, this time shared with the world!  

Best Sound Editing—Bohemian Rhapsody

Let’s be extremely clear: sound EDITING is the crafting of the sounds that go into the movie, to fill in sounds that the shooting process might have missed. Sound MIXING involves the processes of re-recording and adjusting the levels of the different sounds, layering them to create a cohesive soundscape. The soundscape in BohRap is predominantly comprised of existing Queen songs, and thus did not require much sound editing in themselves. The layering of Rami Malek’s voice with that of Freddie Mercury and famed Mercury impersonator Marc Martel falls under Sound Mixing, not Editing. Do the math. While the film may deserve its Sound Mixing Oscar, it certainly does not deserve an award about the creation of sound itself. This is especially true when you look at its competitors. A Quiet Place is a film crafted entirely on the premise of sound editing, invoking later-added sounds to make every moment suspenseful or terrifying in a soundscape with little to no dialogue. And yet, it lost to a film with barely any sound editing in it at all. Thanks, Academy.

Best Film Editing—Bohemian Rhapsody

To be fair, this category had no clear front-runner this year, and why Roma, First Man or You Were Never Really Here weren’t even nominated for this category, we will never know. However, that doesn’t mean every film nominated deserved the win—Bohemian Rhapsody least of all. BohRap’s editing is choppier than a first-year student film, and has been lambasted by critics for months for its messiness, with critiques as scathing as “there are so many cuts in a single scene and showy match-cut transitions between scenes that it becomes a confoundingly fascinating watch in a way, like a disaster you can’t turn away from.”  With so much widespread backlash, it’s not surprising that this win is causing much grief over what is defined as “good” editing these days, and it’s not just the critics who agree: check Twitter for some great memes on this subject.

Quickly, I just need to say—Bohemian Rhapsody won the most Oscars out of any film. Up against seminal films like Roma, BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther, that isn’t just surprising, it’s a little offensive… BohRap was an entertaining, heart-pumping film. However, it had an alleged sexual predator as a director, shied away from portraying Freddie Mercury’s overt bi-sexuality and featured horrific editing and vehemently lacking sound editing that prove ceaselessly that it did not deserve Best Sound Editing or Best Editing at the Oscars this year.

Best Original Score—Black Panther

If Beale Street Could Talk deserved this one, and that’s all I can really say about it. Black Panther’s soundtrack wasn’t bad in any sense of the word, but Nicholas Britell’s work on If Beale Street Could Talk was the most talked-about score (pardon the pun) of 2018, and was filled with historically specific meaning and beautiful composing. Unfortunately, this category has a history of awarding Best Picture nominees over non-BP nominees, so Beale Street was already at a disadvantage even before you consider Black Panther’s more widespread appeal. I digress; both soundtracks are great, but If Beale Street Could Talk had the affective meaning and plot centrality deserving of the Best Score Oscar. Listen to the music and hear for yourself.

Best Visual Effects—First Man

Once again, a category will some substantial missing nominees… where was Black Panther and Fantastic Beasts 2, or even Aquaman? Best Visual Effects is usually given to the film with the most loud and elaborate work nominated, which would indicate a win for Avengers: Infinity War, especially given the film’s overall admiration and notoriety by not just superhero fans but the general public as well. And yet… First Man, which had a lot of practical effects, (normally turning the Academy off its trail in related to its almost wholly-CGI competitors) but NOPE. Don’t get me wrong, First Man was not a bad film in the slightest, but other films used visual effects more frequently and more effectively, and deserved the win that much more this year.

Best Actress—Olivia Colman

I think this win was a surprise to everyone, and let’s be clear—Colman’s acceptance speech was unequivocally the best part of the night. She is an international treasure and I was so happy for her win, especially since I’ve supported her since Broadchurch. However, (and this is a smaller however since clearly I’m ecstatic about her win) there are two problems with her trophy: 1) Glenn Close deserved it and 2) Colman’s character in The Favourite was not the lead. Critics and the public at large were banking on the seven-time nominated Glenn Close to clinch the win, and her loss is surprising, considering her recent track record. The Critic’s Choice Awards had Glenn Close and Lady Gaga tied for Best Lead. The SAG and Golden Globe awards for Best Actress went to Glenn Close. Yet somehow, the Academy decided to go out of left field and give Olivia Colman the Oscar for Best Actress. Colman’s Queen Anne had the least screen time of all the lead actress nominees, and it’s clear that Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone’s Best Supporting Actress nominations were a simple caveat in the system; they should have been considered for the Lead category. Colman’s performance was wonderful, and her speech was incredibly endearing, but is she the fair winner here? Unfortunately, I would say no.

Best Picture (& Best Original Screenplay)—Green Book

I’m going to end with the biggest controversy of the night, which involved a historical film about racism and black culture made almost entirely by white men, Green Book, winning the coveted Best Picture category at the end of the night. This is by far the most disputed win, if not for the lack of representation of the Othered subjects of the film in its production, then for the white saviour narrative, lack of recognition for “The Negro Motorist Green Book” itself upon winning (the director instead credited it all to Viggo Mortensen, the lead white actor, and did not address the importance of the book and its creator at all) and backlash straight from the lead black character Don Shirley’s family themselves. Green Book features an Islamaphobic producer, reproduces racism through its micro-aggression filled plot, and is far less of a celebration of racialized people than Best Picture competitors like BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther and Roma.

Green Book fabricates a “problem” within the character of Don Shirley that must be “fixed” by the white character of Tony Lip to satisfy the mutually-beneficial relationship between the two. On one hand, Tony learns to be less racist and more accepting from Don, but Don must learn to integrate his identity with the image of stereotypical blackness in return. Don’s “problem” is not being correctly black, according to Tony, which is remedied by introducing him to the music “of his people” and the famously racialized dish of fried chicken. The film frames the characters this way in order to create a mutual need that must be resolved through the men’s friendship. By creating falsely “equal” problems and allowing the characters to soften these issues through their growing friendship, the stereotypical model of blackness is positioned as the “goal,” and all other forms of black identity are sublimated. In this way, the character of Tony is portrayed as not only as a reformed racist, but as a white saviour to Don’s “incorrect” blackness. This reflects the racial microaggressions of white, hegemonic production of a single “correct” blackness, and it cannot be tolerated any longer in this day and age. To viewers, this appears as Don Shirley existing only to help Tony overcome his problems, which acts as a classic example of the Magical Negro caricature—an outdated, intrinsically racist depiction of black identity—hardly fodder for a Best Picture Oscar in 2019.

Green Book won because it’s classic Oscar-bait, and it couldn’t have been released in a better political climate for a win. The Trump era presidency sees well-off white people looking for any way to feel humanized and absolved by the black community, and Green Book gives them just that. As a film constructed around the white character while claiming to be about Don Shirley and his struggle, we get racial microaggressions, the reproduction of systemic prejudice, and the satisfaction of white guilt prioritized over fair representation and accurate storytelling. It seemed like the Oscars were moving away from such standard fare for Best Picture, especially with BP wins for films like Moonlight and The Shape of Water in recent years, but once again we are disappointed by the Academy and their penchant for shitty films and shitty people.

In the minds and hearts of people who truly value the innovation and narrative lushness of film, Roma should have won this award. Roma is culturally significant, beautifully crafted, and a stand-alone film in the categories of stunning visuals and detail of plot and character construction. It had the BAFTA, DGA, Critics’ Choice and the Golden Globes for Foreign Language Film awards and won the Oscar for Best Director—a win that, more often than not, secures Best Picture too. Green Book wasn’t even NOMINATED for Best Director. Of the 92 Oscars ceremonies that have occured, only 4 films had won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director before Green Book. Roma was the film of the year, and now audiences will look back on 2018 and remember it by… a re-telling of Driving Miss Daisy centered around the outdated theme of a white everyman “overcoming” racism? Mark my words, Green Book’s win over Roma is going to join the legions of Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain, The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network and Driving Miss Daisy vs. Dead Poets Society ... a classic example of a Best Picture scandal in which an undeserving winner thwarted a widely-accepted, clearly delineated true winner. The choosing of the Best Picture winner sends a message, and unfortunately, this year’s message is one of deep-seated white comfortability over a true celebration of cinema. We need to hold Green Book responsible, and acknowledge that its Best Picture win reflects outright racism at worst and pandering at best. Complacency breeds prejudice, and now is not the time to sit back and tolerate this win because it made the white people in the crowd feel good about themselves.

So, did my film-fuelled rage convince you that some of the 2019 Academy Award winners were undeserved or wrongfully awarded? Am I completely wrong and Bohemian Rhapsody should have won every single award? However you feel about this year’s winners, we can only hope that 2019 will bring a host of wonderful options that will eliminate the need for debate come the Oscars 2020.

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