Oscar Bait – Bohemian Rhapsody / BlacKkKlansman

Title: Bohemian Rhapsody
Director: Bryan Singer
Year: 2018
Country: USA

The Academy are a mysterious beast. Scratch that, awards season is a mysterious beast. Acclaimed films like First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk and Can You Ever Forgive Me? get scraps and then there’s Bohemian Rhapsody with it’s middling-to-negative reviews and a more-than-problematic director… that somehow gets a nomination.

I’ve mentioned before about my complicated feelings about Queen, which means that I am most definitely not their target demographic. However, it does have the benefit of my being able to watch this purely as a movie and not be won over by the frequent clips of the Queen discography. Stripped of that, this movie is very much a paint-by-numbers biopic that takes timeline liberties and sanitizes a subject for mass appeal.

In the end, this gets by on Rami Malik acting his socks off (although, at times, it feels like something more out of Saturday Night Live than an award-winning film). Divorced of this performance and a liking for the music of Queen, then Bohemian Rhapsody is a bad film plain and simple. However, so many people love Queen which would go a long way to explain the massive divide in critical and public opinion. Will it win? No, but Malik might pick up Best Actor if Singer’s recent child sex allegations don’t damage his chances.

Title: BlacKkKlansman
Director: Spike Lee
Year: 2018
Country: USA

It’s unusual for there to be multiple films in the running for Best Picture that are already playing on the movie channels or have already been released on DVD. This year’s nominees have been a treasure trove for this and have allowed me to watch three of the films from the comfort of my own sofa in the company of a stuffed walrus.

BlacKkKlansman is one of those films that I was so happy to see nominated for the Oscar. Not only did it give me a proper excuse to prioritise it over watching movies on the 1001 list, but it gave Spike Lee an overdue nomination for Best Director. Also, it’s one of the few nominees that I was actually interested to watch – especially because it’s based on a ridiculous, but true, story about an African-American cop who infiltrated the KKK.

Despite being set in 1972 (although the events of the film actually happened 7 years later), Lee ensures that we as viewers understand the timelessness of the messages of his film. He makes a lot of effort to hammer home the atmosphere of racism that was (and still is) prevalent in areas of America. He does this not just with the members of the KKK, but also members of the police. This is also tied into misogyny, antisemitism and homophobia – but racism is the main issue of the film.

Some of the messages are very on the nose, especially when you think of the pre-selection that will occur of people who would want to see this film, but these are the times we live in. The ending sequence where he plays real footage of neo-Nazi marches and how Trump apologizes for them is remarkably chilling; the final footage depicting the death of protester Heather Heyer being particularly harrowing.

It’s weird to think that a film like BlacKkKlansman, which depicts so much darkness, has so many comedic moments. Then again, it would be hard to watch if it wasn’t for those moments. Sometimes the switching between tones gives a bit of whiplash, but for the most part it’s done well. It’s also worth heaping praise on both John David Washington and Adam Driver for their roles – just a pity that the former couldn’t achieve a nomination at the Oscars.

So, will this win? Probably not. It may snag a screenplay award, but I would be surprised if it would achieve much else. Still, it’s a very interesting and worthy nomination – and I am so glad to have seen it.

Current Rankings:

1) The Favourite
2) Roma
3) BlacKkKlansman
4) A Star Is Born
5) Black Panther

6) Bohemian Rhapsody

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