Arts·Point of View

The good, the bad and the Green Book: Breaking down the 2019 Oscar nominations

Amanda Parris and Peter Knegt lay their highs and lows of the Academy Award noms on the table.

Amanda Parris and Peter Knegt lay their highs and lows of the Academy Award noms on the table

Green Book. (Universal)

The 91st Academy Award nominations came out this morning, and CBC Arts's Amanda Parris and Peter Knegt got up bright and early to watch the announcements together — and then spent an hour digging into them. The below transcription has been edited and condensed.

Peter Knegt: OK, so...I guess my main takeaway from these Oscar nominations is...they could have gone way worse?

Amanda Parris: They definitely could have gone worse. But there is still something making me so angry in my soul: Academy voters. How the hell do you not include If Beale Street Could Talk for Best Picture? And instead you give us...

PK: Instead you give us two incredibly mediocre films! Bohemian Rhapsody...

AP: Which I have yet to see, but I know that you have very strong feelings about it.

PK: I do, which I shall withhold ranting about right now because I'm just too tired. Same goes for the other mediocre nominee, Green Book, which we both have strong negative feelings about.

If Beale Street Could Talk. (eOne)

AP: I love Mahershala Ali so I have been avoiding Green Book debates on Twitter. I even avoided watching the actual movie for weeks. When I saw the trailer, I just knew that this was a story I've already seen on the big screen and that this story is not made for me. But it was winning all these awards —

PK: Yeah, starting right here in Toronto, it won that TIFF People's Choice Award which arguably was what put it in the awards conversation to begin with. Sarcastic thank you to the people of Toronto!

AP: There's a whole other conversation: the films TIFF audiences love. Three Billboards in 2017?

PK: La La Land over Moonlight in 2016?

AP: Yeah. We'll save that for another day. So anyway, Green Book was winning everything so I thought to myself, "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's something I'm missing." So I finally watched it and I just...I don't get it. Ignore all the politics and controversy — which is definitely worthy of discussion — but put all that aside and I just still don't get it. THIS is the movie that people are rallying behind?  It's just one of those moments where the industry doesn't make any sense to me. Or it does make sense to me in a way that is very depressing.

PK: OK, but let's at least enjoy that it did not get nominated for best director, which is a very good sign in terms of us avoiding the nightmare that it wins best picture. Only three films have ever done that in the past 91 years. And at least Beale Street did get in for adapted screenplay and its score, which a lot of people were scared wasn't gonna happen.

AP: That made me really happy because it's one of the most beautiful scores I've ever heard, not just in 2018 but period. I love the work of Nicholas Britell.

PK: Me too. And what also makes me happy is that the two films that were nominated for the most awards — Roma and The Favourite — are two absolutely fantastic films.

AP: Agreed. I assumed that Roma would get a lot of nominations but I did not predict this amount of love for The Favourite.

PK: And something pretty much no one predicted is that all the women from Roma and The Favourite — Yalitza, Marina, Olivia, Emma and Rachel — would be nominated in the acting categories, which is probably my favourite thing about the nominations overall.

AP: I'm excited for all of them but particularly for Yalitza. A Mexican Indigenous woman who's speaking Indigenous languages in a film about domestic workers who's never acted before is now an Oscar nominated actress and gracing the covers of Vogue...It's just one of those fairytale stories that you kind of hope for every year.

Roma. (Netflix)

PK: It's not in the same vein, but something else that seemed unthinkable not very long ago? Black Panther — a Marvel superhero film — is nominated for best picture.

AP: Huge. And I'm so excited Ruth Carter got that best costume design nomination and Hannah Beachler got the production design nomination. I think Hannah made history with that as the first African-American nominated in the category of production design. These nominations are such a huge win. I'm so excited the Academy recognized the brilliance of Black Panther and didn't just dismiss it because it came out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

PK: It's a really big deal — and kind of crazy that's not what we led with, which says a lot about how wild this awards season has been. I mean, a movie called BlacKkKlansman that's directed by Spike Lee is somehow the least controversial best picture nominee?

AP: Honestly Spike is a legend and his lack of nominations has been one of the biggest crimes in recent Academy history. That man has been making art and influencing generations of filmmakers for decades.

PK: He notably beat out Bradley Cooper for best director. Anyone still holding on to the idea that  A Star Is Born could win best picture can officially give up now.

AP: At least Lady Gaga got her best actress nomination.

PK: And I'm sure she was sobbing about it in a hotel somewhere. Probably still is.

AP: And they got also best cinematography.

PK: I guess really its only major snub was Cooper for director — which might have something to do how he apparently wasn't that game for campaigning and refused to play the "Oscar game."

AP: Which actually heightens my respect for him.

A Star Is Born. (WB)

PK: I do wonder if it could ultimately help him win best actor though? It does seem like Christian Bale or Rami Malek's to lose, but maybe a la Ben Affleck for Argo, the snub helps you win in another category. Anyway...who else were you sad missed out?

AP: I was really sad that Sorry to Bother You didn't get nominated for best original screenplay. I thought Boots Riley's script was one of the weirdest and most fascinating narrative that I experienced in the cinema last year. It's part of this move to surrealism that's happening in African-American TV and cinema, which I love.

PK: But hey, they nominated Green Book in that category instead so...all is well in the world!

AP: I just don't understand. OK, you want to give this movie that's going to make a certain population — not me — but a certain population feel good some recognition. Fine. But best original screenplay? It's not particularly distinct or interesting...

PK: And poorly researched, to say the least. I'm also pretty bummed Green Book's nomination helped deny Bo Burnham some extremely deserved recognition for Eighth Grade, and equally bummed the adapted screenplay category didn't find room for a few films that wouldn't be recognized elsewhere, like Paddington 2 or Widows or Leave No Trace or even Crazy Rich Asians. Like, did A Star Is Born really need a nomination for screenplay there?

AP: Wow, Widows didn't get anything did it?

PK: Nope, sadly.

AP: I knew it was unlikely but I would have loved to see Daniel Kaluuya get a best supporting actor nod for his role in Widows. He was such a great villain. I'm also surprised Crazy Rich Asians didn't get any nods for costume design or production design.  

PK: You know who did get nominated for best production design?

AP: Who?

PK: A Canadian. Gordon Sims was one of I think eight Canadians nominated, for his work on Mary Poppins Returns. And then we basically dominated the short film categories. Animal Behaviour, which we featured here at CBC Arts, plus Fauve, MargueriteWeekends...

AP: And Bao! I actually got goosebumps when they announced it. That movie is so beautiful and distinct. Do you think it has a chance?

PK: I definitely think it will win, to be honest.

Bao. (Pixar)

AP: It would be so great for Domee Shi — a brilliant Chinese-Canadian woman — to go home with a gold statue.

PK: I guess that's a mild comfort, considering that this will definitely be the 90th time in the last 91 years where a woman doesn't win the best director award since it was once again a full-fledged sausage party.

AP: It would've been nice if Marielle Heller got that nomination for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, or Lynne Ramsay for You Were Never Really Here.

PK: Or Debra Granik for Leave No Trace, which didn't get a screenplay nomination either. In fact, of the 20 nominees in those screenplay categories, only two were women: Deborah Davis for The Favourite and Nicole Holofcener for Can You Ever Forgive Me?.

AP: And in cinematography, our fave Rachel Morrison also didn't get nominated for her work on Black Panther, which is unfortunate.

PK: OK well, let's talk about one of two categories where we can be absolutely certain a woman will win: best actress.

AP: Do you think it's gonna go to Glenn Close? She's the actress who's been nominated the most and has never won, right?

PK: Indeed. She is now 0 for 7, and I'm pretty much certain that ends here. They didn't seem to love A Star Is Born enough to make me feel like Gaga can beat her. Honestly, if anyone can beat her, it's Olivia Colman. But I'm still pretty sold on Glenn.

The Wife. (Mongrel)

AP: So this means Amy Adams will become the new Glenn Close? She's what...0 for 6?

PK: Yep. And for Regina King's sake, I hope that stays that way. Glenn can hand Amy over the biggest loser baton at the end of the night.

AP: I mean, you can't be considered a loser if you continuously get nominated like Amy Adams does. And she will win one soon. She gets so many amazing roles and is still so young.

PK: Totally. And if I were Amy Adams, Lynne Cheney isn't the role I'd want to win for after all this.

AP: So you definitely think Regina is winning?

PK: Honestly, I think her bigger hurdle was getting the nomination. Now that she's in, she'll win.

AP: Well at least If Beale Street Could Talk wins something, then.

PK: Is that pretty much the best-case scenario for you?

AP: I'm just scared of what I'm going to throw at the TV if Green Book wins best picture. I know you say it isn't happening because it didn't get nominated for best director but I keep thinking about this thing I read about the 1989 Oscars that sounds eerily familiar.

PK: What was that?

AP: There was no host for the show, Spike Lee was nominated but lost, and Driving Miss Daisy won best picture.

PK: Oh god, Driving Miss Daisy...the Green Book of 1989! And you know what's even more scary about that?

AP: What?

PK: Driving Miss Daisy is one of only three films in Oscar history to win best picture without a best director nomination.

AP: Where's the wine? I need a drink.

PK: Well, I'll need about 14 drinks on Oscar night if Bohemian Rhapsody wins best picture is all I'll say.

Read more about this year's Oscar nominations via CBC Entertainment.