There were a lot of visually appealing films in 2018. Films with a diversity of aesthetic styles. There’s something disorienting in First Man. Something queasy in The Favourite. Something slow and crafty in Roma. Something sumptuous and classical in Cold War. Etcetera. Etcetera.
With that being said, narrowing down the final Oscar shortlist to five is no short order. And with the American Society of Cinematographers not dropping their nominees in this category until January 7, we’re flying a bit blind here. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Black Panther
- Cold War
- The Favourite
- First Man
In the Mix:
- If Beale Street Could Talk
- A Star is Born
- The Rider
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Roma will likely take this one in a walk. Alfonso Cuaron shooting his own movie and still doing it beautifully. Roma and Black Panther make this one of the least ordinary Oscars in recent memory. The contemporary Academy doesn’t like franchises. It has been hesitant to include streaming in the major categories. Now it seems to not have the option to ignore the two.
I still doubt that the Academy will grant Netflix a Best Picture Oscar. Roma is a heavy contender, but there are more conventional choices for the Academy to pick from. All the same, Roma could take the Best Foreign Language and Best Cinematography awards, thereby giving the film and Cuaron recognition without giving it major category wins.
Beale Street and A Star is Born have the easiest path to take over some of the flimsier spots. A Star is Born is going to be an overall favorite this year, and Matthew Libatique does some great camera work during the musical numbers. Beale Street, meanwhile, has a less stellar Oscar campaign, but it does have some beautiful visual compositions.
I think the first out in this category is First Man. It is such a big-swing Oscar movie, in that it is an Oscar-winning director taking the conventional space biopic genre and turning it into something that feels fresh again. But people didn’t respond to it. And, frankly, the cinematography is great in First Man because it is at times incoherent. I don’t know if that translates to Oscar success.
While The Rider is my favorite film of the year, and it earned indie film accolades throughout its festival run, Chloe Zhao’s film is a longshot here. As is Widows. But A Star is Born or Beale Street could shake up the top five. They could replace First Man and Cold War, although Cold War is tracking the same way Ida did a few years back.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)