A look into Academy Award best picture nominees

Courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Salena Moran & Evan Penrod | Staff Writers


Oscar season will once again highlight various aspects of the movie industry for its cinematic excellence at the 91st annual Academy Awards. The ceremony, set to air without a host following Kevin Hart’s controversial tweets, rewards hardworking production staff/actors in several categories including best costume design, lead actor/actress, cinematography, animated feature film, and of course, best picture. After viewing all eight nominated movies, we have explored the intrigues of each film and pondered the ultimate contenders for the famous gold statuette.

Black Panther

Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel cinematic universe and features Chadwick Boseman as T’challa/Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. This film is currently the only superhero movie to ever be nominated for best picture, surpassing Avengers: Infinity War, which only received a nod for best visual effects. While some fight sequences of this film are very well choreographed and the script contributes to successful characters and dialogue, some of the CGI looks completely out of place or downright poor. Black Panther definitely shows the importance of strong African-American representation in the movie industry. However, the overall movie does not lend itself to the artistry of other pictures nominated.


Director Spike Lee’s film, based on true events, introduces the story of the Colorado Police Force’s investigation of their local Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s with help of the force’s first African-American Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington). While Stallworth operates over the phone, he enlists the help of white Jewish officer,  Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to meet the Klan in person. This film has all the trademarks of a traditional Spike Lee film with the addition of cinematic style, creative character dialogue and a good sense of humor. Beneath the surface, BlacKkKlansman reveals scarier truths about the racial prejudice and brutality that still exists today.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody glorifies the origin story of the rock band Queen with as much depth as a Wikipedia article. Unfortunately, the fantastic story of one of the greatest rock bands in history becomes a watered down greatest hits montage that only seems to encapsulate the fact that people love the music of Queen and not the story. The plot is entirely carried by Rami Malek, who portrays eccentric lead singer Freddie Mercury and has understood the character down to the inflection and mannerisms.

Green Book

In another film based on true events, Green Book takes place in the 1960s and follows Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American classical pianist, and Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer enlisted as Shirley’s cab driver. The events take both characters into the deep South for Shirley’s U.S. tour and reveal the complications associated with a budding interracial friendship in the era of segregation. The excellent plot reveals a dynamic shift between both characters in what it means to be a loyal friend and to speak out for change.

The Favourite

The Favourite takes place in 18th Century England during the rule of Queen Anne and tells the story of two cousins (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) vying to be the Queen’s favorite.

This film truly embellishes 18th century Britain and revels in the bold and unsavory side of royal life. The film’s set is simply dripping with a rustic design and excellent camera shots as well as exquisite costumes. Many scenes are not spelled out but are heavily implied, trusting that the viewers are smart enough to connect the pieces. This film knows how to have fun with its subject genre while also tackling serious and sentimental plot points.


Roma is the first ever Netflix movie to be nominated for an Oscar. Loosely based on the life of the director Alfonso Cuarón, Roma tells the story of a Mexican domestic worker, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and the family she cares for during politically-charged riots in the 1970s. This film has plenty of heart and emotion in both its writing and performance. Although the movie lags on for a majority of its duration, the last 45 minutes are probably the most heart-wrenching parts of any movie nominated for best picture this year. This film features expert cinematography that utilizes the camera’s personality to its fullest extent, almost making the camera feel like a cast member watching the entire scene take place.

A Star is Born

In the third (and hopefully last) remake of A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper takes on directing and acting, earning nominations for best actor and best picture. The film highlights rock star Jackson Maine (Cooper) as he falls in love with aspiring singer Ally (Lady Gaga) and helps her rise to fame. A Star Is Born puts mental illness at the forefront, revealing the harsh truths of finding ways to support loved ones silently suffering. Cooper opted for interesting artistic cinematography and, of course, cast the ever-talented Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, the movie did not take time to develop Ally’s journey to stardom and seemed corny at times. At one point, it was frustrating to watch Ally convince herself to hold back from her potential because of feeling pity for Jackson’s situation.


Vice details the political life and rise to power of Vice President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) in a pseudo-biopic. The movie primarily focuses on the events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and their outcome in the ensuing years. This film feels as if it is trying to be a political comedy; However, the black humor does not come across as cartoonishly humorous and the intricacies of Cheney’s character are not completely evident.

Throughout the eight nominated movies that highlight various social, racial, and sexual subjects, the Academy will certainly have their hands full discerning which film reigns supreme. Several of the best picture nominees also hold nominations in other categories, including best actor/actress and best cinematography. In terms of the movie that carries the whole package of cinematic, costuming, editing and acting excellence, The Favourite and Green Book are two very strong contenders for the award.