The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this year's Oscar nominations on Tuesday January 23.
Here's a look at the contenders for Best Picture, including likelihood that they will win and where you can view the film in the UAE.
What is it? Spike Lee's comedy/drama tells the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who, in the early 1970s, successfully infiltrated his local branch of the Ku Klux Klan. Even more incredibly, he did so with the assistance of his Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who acted as Stallworth's white stand-in when face-to-face meetings with Klan members were required.
Will it win? It's not among the favourites, but it's definitely in with a chance. It also picks up bonus inclusivity points at a ceremony still feeling the effects of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
Can I see it in the UAE? BlacKkKlansman released in UAE cinemas last August, and the DVD/download is available now.
What is it? Marvel's ground-breaking flick marked the first time a major super hero movie featured a largely black cast, and wowed audiences and critics alike with its blend of action, social commentary and heroics. On the surface, this is a film about an African king who wears a hi-tech catsuit and fights baddies, but beyond that, this was a watershed moment for cinema – a film from a black director (Ryan Coogler) with a black cast, in which both the baddies AND the goodies are black.
Will it win? There's plenty of goodwill for Coogler's film – so much so that the Academy briefly introduced an "Achievement in Popular Cinema" category to try to get around the fact that super hero movies generally don't win Oscars. That category was swiftly rescinded after popular backlash and ultimately, despite all the good will, Black Panther won't win because, as previously noted, super hero movies generally don't win Oscars.
Can I see it in the UAE? Black Panther released in UAE cinemas last March and DVD/downloads are already available.
What is it? Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher's biopic of late Queen singer Freddie Mercury struck a chord with fans of operatic rock and incredible rock'n'roll stories in December, and Rami Malik seems a very strong contender for the Best Actor gong for his performance as the flamboyant lead singer. It's a rags-to-riches, rock'n'roll rollercoaster as Mercury goes from shy immigrant and Heathrow Airport baggage handler to global celebrity, with plenty of excess and partying along the way.
Will it win? The film wasn't loved by critics, who felt it omitted some of the less savoury aspects of Mercury's life to appease the remaining band members, who were closely involved with production. It also went through some production troubles, with Dexter Fletcher stepping in as director mid-shoot and original star Sacha Baron Cohen quitting over the movie's overly PG tone. A month ago, I'd have said a firm "no," but it just picked up the Golden Globe for Best Film – Drama – so who knows?
Can I see it in the UAE? Bohemian Rhapsody released in the UAE in November, and is still screening in select cinemas.
What is it? Yorgos Lanthimos' period comedy/drama tells the story of two cousins, played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, vying to be the court favourite of Queen Anne of England (Olivia Coleman), in the midst of the country's 18th-century war with France. There's political and romantic intrigue aplenty as the pair seek to make the most of their relationship with the emotionally fragile queen. There are Machiavellian politicians thrown into the mix and, this being Lanthimos, a fair dose of outright weirdness too.
Will it win? Lanthimos was criminally overlooked for a nomination for The Killing of a Sacred Deer last year, and for the Academy to snub him two years running seems unlikely, especially given the critical praise heaped on The Favourite. It may be overstating the case to say that The Favourite is the favourite, but it is certainly a favourite.
Can I see it in the UAE? So far, no. The film currently has no UAE distributor, and since the demise of DIFF 365, which valiantly stepped in to screen last year's previously unseen-in-the-region Ladybird, we may be waiting until the DVD/download becomes available.
What is it? Peter Farrelly's road trip follows the adventures of African-American jazz pianist Don (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony (Viggo Mortensen) as they embark on an eight-week tour of the US Deep South in the 1960s. The film is inspired by the book The Negro Motorist Green Book, which helped black motorists find motels, restaurants and petrol stations that would serve them on their travels. Yes, that was a real thing. In true road trip style, there's tension, bonding, and added racism as the uncouth Tony and the cultured Don hit the highway.
Will it win? It's an outsider, though a lot less so since it picked up the Producers Guild of America prize for Best Film, as did last year's winner The Shape of Water. It theoretically scores highly for inclusivity, though it has received some criticism for telling an overly "white" version of the story, as well as for historical inaccuracies.
Can I see it in the UAE? Green Book is in cinemas now.
What is it? Oscars mainstay Alfonso Cuaron directed, edited and produced this highly personal project inspired by his life growing up in Colonia Roma, a suburb of Mexico City, in the 1970s. It wouldn't be unfair to say that, narratively, not a great deal happens in the film as a middle class family go about their daily lives, but this is all about the aesthetic – a visually stunning memory piece that manages to move and inspire the audience without needing to resort to dramatic plot twists.
Will it win? Maybe. Its Achilles' heel is the fact that it is a Netflix film that received only a limited release, so a lot will depend on whether the purists among Academy voters are ready to bestow Best Picture on a streaming service.
Can I see it in the UAE? Yes, on Netflix.
A Star Is Born
What is it? Bradley Cooper's directorial debut is the fourth remake of William A Wellman's 1937 musical, including the Bollywood version Aashiqui 2, which confusingly was a remake of Wellman's film, not a sequel to Aashiqui. Cooper's hard-drinking musician discovers and falls in love with talented young singer Ally, played by Lady Gaga. The road to fame is – naturally – rocky, and you may need some tissues to hand for the weepy ending.
Will it win? It's hotly tipped, and the Academy are no strangers to rewarding weepy, romantic musicals, as evidenced by La La Land's sweeping of the board two years ago (although it did lose to Moonlight for Best Picture in an awkward mix-up).
Can I see it in the UAE? A Star is Born was in UAE cinemas last October and is now available for DVD/download.
What is it? Adam McKay's political comedy/drama stars Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, who would rise to become one of the most powerful non-presidents in US history during his second term as vice president under George W Bush. The supporting cast includes Sam Rockwell as Bush, Steve Carrell and Amy Adams, and some impressive make-up to put the actors in character, which would suggest a strong call for a further award in that category.
Will it win? Probably unlikely. The film has polarised critics – the more liberal wing of the US press has praised the film as biting political satire, but those to the right have criticised it as hateful polemic. If voters are similarly divided it'll struggle to gather the required numbers.
Can I see it in the UAE? Vice is in cinemas now.
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