The Oscars are supposed to be the ultimate judge of a film's quality. If you actually follow the Oscars, though, you know that's not always the case. They do get it right sometimes. Other times, though, they really miss the mark. The 2019 Oscar nominees are a mixed bag. They feature some great titles, and some that, if you're not made of time, you should probably just skip.
Certain Oscar-nominated movies, like Black Panther and A Star is Born, may go on to become classics. Not every film nominated is a winner, though. This year's Oscars is particularly rife with controversial films. In some cases, these controversial films may be worth a watch. In other cases, not so much. Here are all the films nominated for Best Picture, an acting award, or Best Animated Feature, ranked from must-see to skippable.
It may seem odd to call a foreign language film the most watchable film nominated, but it's well worth a look. Not only is it easily available to stream on Netflix, it's also an absorbing look at life in 1970s Mexico. Following an upper-middle-class family's maid and caretaker, the film is stunningly shot and perfectly visualized.
It leads the pack of nominated films with 10 nominations, and it deserves every one of them. The film's performances are all beyond reproach, and its direction from Alfonso Cuaron is impeccable. It may not be in English, but Roma is one of the easiest things to watch this year. It's also a remarkable achievement.
If you still haven't seen Black Panther, feel free to ignore the rest of this list and go watch it. It's one of the best superhero movies ever made. The film is also a remarkable examination of how different movies can be when they're told from a new perspective. Director Ryan Coogler had a specific vision, and managed to stick to it.
What's more, he got incredible performances out of his whole cast. Michael B. Jordan, who has worked with Ryan before, is especially great. He's wounded and angry and raw. Black Panther is serious and political, but it's also so much more fun than most of these movies.
The Favourite is way weirder than you might think. It's set in the 1700s, and follows Queen Anne and two women around her as they vie for her attention and favor. All of that sounds pretty conventional, complete with the corsettes and poofy dresses. In practice, though, it's all much funnier and darker than you would expect it to be.
Only director Yorgos Lanthimos could make a period drama so distinctly odd. It's one of the most fun movie-going experiences you'll have this year, or in any year really. Also, Emma Stone has a killer British accent, and it's matched by a conniving performance.
A Star is Born is a deeply compelling film, but also a very sad one. Bradley Cooper's directorial debut is impressive for 18 different reasons, and his performance in the film is even better. His co-star, Lady Gaga, is equally great. Together, the two made one of the year's best films.
Telling the familiar story of an aging rock star who finds and falls in love with a young star in the making, the two actors have incredible chemistry. This version of A Star is Born wisely puts the love story at its center, to great effect. Ultimately, it's a movie about what love can and cannot do.
The Best Animated Feature category this year is stacked. Most years, the Pixar film wins mostly by default, although many of those films are terrific. This year, though, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is the deserved frontrunner. It's also one of the best superhero films of the year.
Following Miles Morales as he goes on an interdimensional journey, the film is at once about his coming of age and what it means to be Spider-Man. In balancing those two things, it also finds time to be poignant, funny, and original. In an age filled with superhero storytelling, this film rises to the top of the pile.
30 years ago, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was overlooked at the Oscars. Now, his film BlacKkKlansman has given Spike his ticket to the Oscars. The film follows a black Colorado cop in the 1970s who infiltrates the KKK.
The film is an impressive effort that feels sadly relevant today. It's a fun movie that's overtly political. That's been Spike Lee's specialty for his entire career. Now, it seems like the Academy has finally caught up with him. He may not win any awards this year, but at least they finally seem to know he's great. It took them long enough.
Disney movies really don't have to be about anything. They're guaranteed to make a certain amount of money either way. How lucky are we, then, that Ralph Breaks the Internet is willing to deliver some actual ideas. The movie's ideas about internet culture and toxic masculinity feel sadly, shockingly relevant.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is also a movie about losing friends and growing up. In fact, it's really pretty sad for a kids' movie. The ideas aren't simple, and there's no easy resolution at the end. Growing up is hard, and sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your friends. There's no way to avoid that.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is about a forger. It's not the most exciting subject on paper, but it makes for an interesting, wry comedy. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, who are both nominated for their work, are both funny and angry and reserved.
It's not a grand, showy movie, exactly, but it does involve a couple of heists. Mostly, though, it's a character study of prickly people who don't always get along with the world they live in. They're not good, exactly, but they are human, sometimes painfully so. That's what makes the movie worth your time.
Everything director Wes Anderson touches has a distinct, sometimes overly quirky tone. It can be a turn-off for some people. Others love his movies, though, and eagerly anticipate every one. Isle of Dogs had built in appeal in part because it was so focused on man's best friend.
The stop-motion movie follows a group of dogs as they help a young boy find his pet. The animation is beautifully rendered, and the story is moving and thought-provoking in equal measure. It's not hard to make dog-lovers cry, but if you are one, Isle of Dogs is sure to do just that.
If Beale Street Could Talk is beautiful, contemplative filmmaking. It's the story of two young black people in the 1970s who try to build a life together. The film is also about the injustice this young couple faces, and the way it warps and shapes their lives.
The film is a wonder to behold. It can be a little slow at times, but it's well worth some patience. Regina King may win an Oscar for her supporting turn, and it will be one she's earned. The only shame about Beale Street is that it isn't nominated for more awards at this year's ceremony.
The original Incredibles is one of the best animated films ever made. The sequel couldn't quite live up to the hype around it, but it's still a fun watch. The Incredibles 2 picks up right where the first one left off, and tells a story that winds its way toward a thrilling conclusion.
The script is a little less tight, and the ideas are a little less coherent, but it's still a lot of fun. Of course, Jack Jack never disappoints. That superpowered baby could do pretty much anything at this point and the world would love it. The movie's great, but that baby is iconic.
Mirai is a delightful animated film that is well worth your time. Having said that it won't likely be critical on Oscars night. The film is nominated for best animated feature, but it's unlikely to win that award.
It follows a young boy who has a series of time-bending adventures with his sister. It's a delightful entry in the category that signifies the Academy's interest in foreign animation. If we were being honest, Japanese animated films should win in that category a lot more often than they do. With Mirai's nomination, at least we know that the Academy isn't ignoring them completely.
Sony Pictures Classics
Look, The Wife is not a movie anyone will remember in 5 years. Glenn Close has given many Oscar-worthy performances, and she's quite good in The Wife. The reason to watch this movie is so you understand that when she takes home the Oscar. Otherwise, the film is fairly superfluous.
All in all, Glenn Close's various acceptance speeches have been more exciting. That's not to say The Wife is bad, necessarily. Instead, it's merely a reminder that a great actress can shine wherever she's working. Glenn Close is one of those great actresses, and in a few weeks, she'll have the ultimate recognition of that.
Vice is a big swing. It doesn't really work all that well, but it might be worth watching just to see how it fails. The movie wants to be about how insidious Dick Cheney was in spite of his lack of charisma. It gets that message across, but in doing so, it feels like it's working way too hard.
There's also a level of condescension hanging over the film that's tough to swallow. Like, we get it, he sucked. Either you think that or you don't. What we don't need is a movie to yell at us for two hours for not caring enough about it. Nobody likes a scold.
Green Book is actually a very watchable movie if you don't think about what you're watching. It's a fairly broad, funny movie about a road trip through the South between a white driver and a black musician. If you don't examine it, it's fine.
Once you do, though, things start to fall apart. Green Book is the kind of movie that might have been released 30 years ago. Its views on race are based only in understanding and don't really consider the systemic issues at play in all forms of racism. It's a movie about a white dude who learns to be less racist. Green Book is not going to change the world.
20th Century Fox
Bohemian Rhapsody is a bad movie that many people have already seen. It's a huge worldwide smash, but one that works best as an ode to Queen's many great songs. Otherwise, the film works mostly as a running list of cliches that most other music biopics try to avoid.
Behind the scenes, things get even worse for the film. Director Bryan Singer has been credibly accused of rape, and none of the film's stars know how to handle it. It's better to just avoid this film altogether. After all, there aren't very many reasons to watch it in the first place.