As Audrey Hepburn once said: “Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.”
Since films first graced our screens, they have illustrated their power to inspire ideas and encourage social commentary within communities. As a result, opinions can differ widely when someone is asked to name their favourite movie and what they might recommend for others to watch.
This shows that as much as movies can bring people together – they can also just as easily divide!
So, when the annual Academy Award season arrives each year, there is always much debate, contention and often controversy surrounding the nominees and winners – and in particular, which movie deserved to be announced as Best Picture.
With drama and biopics dominating this year’s field of nominated films – described by media as ‘positively dripping in diversity’1– not surprisingly, the choice of final winner was always likely to be contentious. So, if you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, here’s a snapshot of what each movie has to offer in terms of storylines to help you decide what you might want to watch.
Announced as winner of Best Picture:
Based on the real-life story of two men, Don Shirley and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, who get to know one another in the 1960s. Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist about to embark on a concert tour in the deep south. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Lip, a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond, while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini.
Other nominated Best Picture films were:
After the death of his father, Prince T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, it tests T'Challa's mettle as king and Black Panther when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of his nation – and the entire world – at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Angela Basset and Forest Whitaker.
Set in the 1970s and based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department who sets out to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. As a young detective, he soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman, into the undercover investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group, as the organisation aims to sanitise its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream.
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver and Laura Harrier.
The film is based on the true story of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the iconic band Queen. The movie traces the band’s meteoric rise to success, when Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. After a difficult period, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, he leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton and Gwilym Lee.
This costume drama is set in the early 18th century, when England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead while also tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper. When Abigail, the new servant arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Abigail is then taken under Sarah’s wing and sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.
This film is an emotional portrait of a domestic worker’s journey, set against the social backdrop and political turmoil of 1970s Mexico. Cleo is one of two domestic workers who help Antonio and Sofía take care of their four children in Mexico City. Complications soon arise when Antonio suddenly runs away with his mistress and Cleo finds out that she's pregnant. When Sofía decides to take the kids on vacation, she invites Cleo for a much-needed getaway to clear her mind and bond with the family.
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.
A Star Is Born
A remake of the original 1954 movie of the same name, the film sees seasoned musician Jackson Maine discover and fall in love with struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
Starring: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
The film tells the story of Dick Cheney, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush after becoming his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney's impressive résumé included stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defence secretary. When Bush wins the 2000 election by a narrow margin, the movie shows Cheney beginning to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.
Looking back at the more than 90-year history of the Academy Awards, drama has been the most frequent genre of the Best Picture winners, with romance also popular, while the rarest genre is fantasy, with The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King (2003) the sole winner in that category.
Gone with the Wind (1939 Best Picture winner) was the first all-colour film to win the award and also one of the two longest films (at 222 minutes, without music).
1. Sydney Morning Herald February 26, 2019: “Why the internet is right to be furious about Green Book’s Oscar win” by Karl Quinn