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Every single film nominated for a 2019 Oscar, ranked

Every single film nominated for a 2019 Oscar, ranked

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There is no reason anyone should watch every single feature film nominated for an Academy Award.

But, if you must, you will find that the 37 films nominated across all categories run the gamut from flops to masterpieces, from over-hyped disappointments to underrated gems, from an 87-minute visual poem about a rural Alabama town to a 188-minute German Cold War epic. We’ve gone ahead and done the hard part so you don’t have to: 73 hours of movie-going later, these are your 2019 Oscar films, ranked.

37. Capernaum

Nominated for: Foreign language film

Lebanon’s foreign language Oscar entry tells the story of 12-year-old Zain, who, born in the ghettos of Beirut, decides to sue his parents for giving him “life.” Championed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the film is social-realist poverty-porn awards bait, meant to make audiences shake their heads in dismay at the portrayal of “third world” atrocities like child marriage and food scarcity. But the underlying takeaway of the film — that it is criminal for people to have children if they cannot properly raise them — is deeply troubling, and slides dangerously close to a classic eugenics argument. While young Syrian actor Zain al-Rafeea is magnificent in the role of Zain, the nauseating ethics of Capernaum far outweigh its scattered merits. Rather than examine the political conditions that led to the extreme poverty it depicts, the film is an appalling propaganda piece, packaged as an awards darling, and it has no place as a 21st century foreign language nominee.

36. Bohemian Rhapsody

Nominated for: Best picture; actor in a leading role (Rami Malek); film editing; sound editing; sound mixing

Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was plagued with scandal before it was even completed. The initial director, Bryan Singer, was reportedly absent for lengths of his film’s shoot, a fact that is made clear in part by the abominably bad editing. Singer was later formally accused by multiple men, some underage, of sexual assault, although some people believe the cast might have been aware of Singer’s history when they signed onto the film. Bohemian Rhapsody ended up embodying the worst of Hollywood’s tendencies: a blind eye to the director’s known abusive history, a “queerwashing” of Mercury’s story, and technically unskilled filmmaking. Nevertheless, the film was a huge hit with audiences even as it was mostly panned by critics. Hey, at least there were a lot of great Queen songs in it!

35. Christopher Robin

Nominated for: Visual effects

Disney’s live-action remake of the 1977 animated classic feels a bit like everyone involved was asleep at the wheel: The script is lifeless, the plot cliché, and Ewan McGregor took the “drone” part of office drone a little bit too seriously. That’s not to mention the weirdly creepy stuffed animals for which this film is Oscar nominated, including a beat-up-looking Winnie the Pooh and a graying Tigger. It’s not especially clear who the intended audience for this film is — children? But then why is it so boring and bleak? Christopher Robin is compelling evidence that Disney is just in the remake business for the money. What other reason could there possibly be for this film’s existence?

34. At Eternity’s Gate

Nominated for: Actor in a leading role (Willem Dafoe)

Willem Dafoe and painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel tried to get in the head of Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, but mostly just succeeded in making me dizzy and irritated. The film experiments with disorienting sound, point-of-view shots, and eye-scorching saturation that are meant to put you in the mind of the unraveling artist, but fail to shed any new light on the “tortured artist” trope. Even stranger, Schnabel chooses to depict Van Gogh’s death as a mugging, rather than suicide, as is more commonly believed to be his cause of death. While Dafoe is his usual terrific self here, the filmmaker’s bold choices do more to befuddle than to awe.

33. Avengers: Infinity War

Nominated for: Visual effects

In rewatching Avengers and Age of Ultron ahead of Infinity War, I was reminded of what I’d liked about this series — its smart, rapid-fire dialogue; its willingness to limit multiple plotlines and winky in-jokes for the sake of building character arcs and relationship dynamics; and its overarching sense of humor. But the latest Avengers installment, Infinity War, loses whatever life its predecessors had. The film is infuriatingly uninviting to audiences who might have missed even one of the phase three stand-alone films, and the script arrogantly refuses to offer any structural exposition or reminders of who all of the dozens of heroes we’re expected to cheer on are. I don’t even agree that Infinity War deserves its special effects nomination, despite being largely shot on green screen; many of the action sequences and conversations with Thanos’ children look like bad video game cut scenes. I found it difficult to even be invested in the movie’s ultra-self-serious stakes; I’m not sure what all the fuss is over those dramatic character deaths when we’ve just seen the Time Stone used to bring back recently-killed characters. And most offensive of all, I will never forgive that punk Spider-Man for calling Aliens a “really old movie.”

32. Vice

Nominated for: Best picture; actor in a leading role (Christian Bale); actor in a supporting role (Sam Rockwell); actress in a supporting role (Amy Adams); directing; film editing; makeup and hairstyling; writing (original screenplay)

Sorry Christian Bale, but the ability to gain and lose weight does not an Oscar-worthy film make. Vice, which offers a sort-of-true, sort-of-Shakespearean, sort-of-fantastical portrait of former Vice President Dick Cheney, fails to ever fully figure out what it is trying to say. Worse, it expects us to laugh along while it stumbles through the motions. No thanks.

31. RBG

Nominated for: Documentary (feature); music (original song)

RBG is a color-by-numbers documentary about 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the formulaic execution does little to appeal to anyone who isn’t already a superfan of the Supreme Court justice. But while there are plenty of RBG diehards to go around — several of them appear as talking heads in the doc — the film doesn’t offer much more depth than a self-righteous portrait of its subject. It would have been interesting to see the film grapple with some of the more troubling and business-friendly parts of Ginsburg’s legacy; unfortunately, RBG‘s inclusion on the otherwise superb documentary feature roster feels more like a political decision than an artistic one.

30. Green Book

Nominated for: Best picture, actor in a leading role (Viggo Mortensen), actor in a supporting role (Mahershala Ali); film editing; writing (original screenplay)

Green Book follows the story of a prejudiced Italian-American, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Mortensen), who takes a job driving and protecting the black pianist Don Shirley (Ali) on his concert tour through the Deep South in the 1960s. The film has faced fierce backlash since its release, however, with Shirley’s relatives condemning it for misrepresenting the relationship between Vallelonga and Shirley, and for failing to consult them to get the facts straight. “Tony Lip drew an impression of Dr. Shirley for his friends and family, and in the making of Green Book, no one seemed to question whether those impressions were honest,” writes Vanity Fair. “No one ever seemed to wonder if Shirley’s family might want a say, too.” The result is a cringe-worthy buddy comedy in which Mortensen’s character winkingly teaches Ali’s the joys of eating fried chicken (really) — a story about unlikely friends who were never actually friends.

29. Mary Queen of Scots

Nominated for: Costume design; makeup and hairstyling

Sometimes crummy films still deserve their nominations — Mary Queen of Scots was a weak attempt at a feminist epic, but I don’t have a bad word to say about the magnificent costumes, designed by Alexandra Byrne (you might be more familiar with her work from the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Then there’s Margot Robbie’s makeup, which the actress said was so well done it made her feel alienated, and Saoirse Ronan’s crested, queenly locks. What Mary Queen of Scots loses in the script, it makes up for in its sweeping Scottish landscapes. It is a smörgåsbord for the eyes. Thankfully, looking at set stills can do just as well.

28. Ready Player One

Nominated for: Visual effects

Yes, Ready Player One somehow came out last year. Steven Spielberg’s love letter to pop culture is an obnoxious (and some argue, toxic) parade of insider video game and movie references, packaged in a not particularly engaging story. Admittedly, Ready Player One isn’t nominated for its screenplay — it’s up for special effects, which includes the best scene in the film, a romp through the set of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Unfortunately, even looking like a big budget video game can’t redeem Ready Player One‘s faults, including its unoriginality as well as its reinforcement of post-Gamergate gatekeeping (if you don’t know what “Easter egg” means, you’re a n00b). I’ll pass.

27. Never Look Away

Nominated for: Cinematography; foreign language film

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is seeking to repeat the success of his 2006 foreign language Oscar-winner The Lives of Others with 2018’s Never Look Away, a film modeled on the life of the German artist Gerhard Richter. But even as Never Look Away sets its love story against the backdrop of the Nazi sterilizations and exterminations of native Germans with mental health conditions, the film feels hopelessly in search of something profound to say. It never quite finds it; Richter, for one, has also reacted to the script poorly, accusing Donnersmarck of managing to “abuse and grossly distort my biography.” But while the screenplay might be potentially exploitative, the technical filmmaking is lovely, and earned Donnersmarck’s DP a cinematography nomination.

26. First Man

Nominated for: Production design; sound editing; sound mixing; visual effects

If you’d asked me on Jan. 1, 2018 to pick the year’s Best Picture winner based on synopsis alone, I’d have put all my money on First Man. It’s a Damien Chazelle film starring Ryan Gosling, and it’s about space — the Academy loves space! But in the end, First Man slipped into contention only in production categories like sound and design. All are well-deserved; First Man orchestrated its tension with the rattles, clanks, and hisses of the tin-can technology that sent the first people to the moon. And although Chazelle might have achieved the impossible here — making space boring — I will concede that First Man‘s score was unfairly snubbed.

25. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Nominated for: Visual effects

Daenerys Targaryen goes to outer space in this Star Wars prequel starring Emilia Clarke, Alden Ehrenreich, and Donald Glover. Unfortunately, the results are less than stellar, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s short turn as L3-37 ends up being the best part of this otherwise overly-long and unnecessary film. Still, a new Star Wars movie can’t be entirely devoid of fun (however hard it tries) and Solo poured its budget into its world-building, so at least we have cool new worlds and creatures to look at. For visual effects, it’s a respectable contender.

24. Border

Nominated for: Makeup and hairstyling

I don’t even know where to start in explaining Border — in fact, some people don’t think I should start at all. Written by the same screenwriter behind the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, Border is similarly fantastic and beguiling, horrifying and weird. It is rightly nominated for transforming actress Eva Melander into a startlingly ugly woman — there’s a particular noun I could use to compare her to, but it’d be giving too much away. Border is worth being surprised, or even repulsed, by. I’m not convinced it entirely works, but I am sure I’ve never seen anything like it.

23. A Quiet Place

Nominated for: Sound editing

Yes, A Quiet Place is an Oscar nominated film … for sound editing. The hit horror film required moviegoers pay very, very close attention to the sound, and resulted in one of my favorite theatergoing experiences of last year: Picture a sold-out theater that is nearly pin-drop quiet, with the silence only broken by tense and frightened giggles. The sounds you did hear in the film, and the negative space around them, were all the more important. A Quiet Place doesn’t ever try to be more than its gimmick, and that’s totally fine: It’s a solid effort, and a fun way to explore the importance of sound in the horror genre.

22. Of Fathers and Sons

Nominated for: Documentary (feature)

The Berlin-based Syrian documentarian Talal Derki returns to his homeland to record the everyday life of one family of radical Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists. Of Fathers and Sons centers specifically on the patriarch Abu Osama, who brags about one young son being born on the anniversary of 9/11 and another being named after Osama bin Laden. The family’s trust in Derki, and the access afforded to him, are eye-popping, and Of Fathers and Sons satisfies that morbid curiosity that causes us to want to gawk at life behind enemy lines. One might find themselves wishing that Derki had instead offered more narrative insight into the family, the crisis, or extremism at large; instead, he chooses to stand back, sometimes questionably, and just let the film roll.

21. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Nominated for: Costume design; music (original song); writing (adapted screenplay)

If “Meal Ticket” were its own film, it would be one of my top three movies of the 2019 Oscars. Alas, there was a whole lot of extraneous material in the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, including pieces like “The Mortal Remains” and “Near Algodones,” which felt like half-baked filler. I found myself wishing that Buster Scruggs‘ other chapters, including “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” had been fleshed out into feature films instead of thrown together in this inconsistent anthology piece. At least there were a lot of really good horses.

20. Mirai

Nominated for: Animated feature film

The Japanese film Mirai is the sweet story of a young boy who becomes intensely jealous when his parents bring home his new little sister. But when the boy, Kun, begins to throw his umpteenth tantrum over the newborn, Mirai, he begins to have magical visions of the family dog as a prince, and even of Mirai as a teenager. Each of these episodes is a new adventure for Kun, including a particularly frightening one involving a demonic bullet train. While the anime-style art is lovely in the way that’s come to be expected from Japan’s greatest animation studios (this one comes from relative newcomer Studio Chizu), Mirai itself is nothing special — but it’s a fun little daydream while it lasts.

19. Mary Poppins Returns

Nominated for: Costume design; music (original score); music (original song); production design

Mary Poppins Returns‘ primary fault is that it tries to cleave too closely to its source material — the remake is otherwise delightful, with Emily Blunt making a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Mary Poppins, even despite her formidable predecessor (I do question, however, Blunt’s oddly raunchy cabaret scene). Too much of Returns, though, is dragged down by Disney’s apparent attempts to recreate almost scene-for-scene the magic of the 1964 feature, and I found myself wishing the studio had just allowed the story the room to exist on its own.

18. The Favourite

Nominated for: Best picture; actress in a leading role (Olivia Colman); actress in a supporting role (Emma Stone; Rachel Weisz), cinematography; costume design; directing; film editing; production design; writing (original screenplay)

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has encouraged his film’s comparisons to 1975’s Barry Lyndon, although his absurdist English period piece is neither as funny nor as beautifully lit as Stanley Kubrick’s (and why deploy that hideous fisheye lens?). Looking at the categories The Favourite has been nominated in alone, however, this movie could do very well at the ceremony — Academy members clearly loved it, and have heaped on some prestigious nominations. Even if The Favourite‘s sense of humor isn’t your cup of tea (it wasn’t mine), the ambition of this project makes it one of the more adventurous and cheeky Best Picture nominees in awhile.

17. Roma

Nominated for: Best picture; actress in a leading role (Yalitza Aparicio); actress in a supporting role (Marina de Tavira); cinematography; directing; foreign language film; production design; sound editing; sound mixing; writing (original screenplay)

The current Oscar frontrunner has wowed audiences with its sensitive portrait of a Mexico City family, as seen through the eyes of the beloved housekeeper and nanny. Along with Never Look Away, Roma even broke the “subtitle barrier” this year, landing itself not only the foreign language nomination, but one for cinematography as well. Certain parts of the film really shine — the one that always comes to mind for me is actress Yalitza Aparicio standing one-footed, eyes closed, in a crowd — but too much of the film felt like a rehashing of bad clichés, and director/cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón seems to rely on his horizontal dolly as a crutch when he doesn’t know how else to shoot a scene. I’d love to see Aparicio get the leading actress award, and the film’s sound mixing was a feat; every other nomination Roma is up for, alas, feels like an over-appreciation of this perfectly adequate film.

16. Isle of Dogs

Nominated for: Animated feature film; music (original score)

Wes Anderson’s quirky stop-motion film about a boy searching for his banished dog on a radioactive trash island has a star-studded cast of voice actors, from Bill Murray to Scarlett Johansson to Bryan Cranston and Yoko Ono. Isle of Dogs‘ biggest problem, though, is perhaps thinking itself a bit too clever. In the end, Dogs is perfectly fine — I mostly enjoyed myself, and then walked out of the theater and barely thought about it again. And while Anderson’s Japan-inspired Megasaki “at times slides dangerously close to tokenism,” in the words of The Atlantic, the more than 200 sets and 1,000 puppets generally looked great on camera.

15. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Nominated for: Animated feature film

Ralph Breaks the Internet is the charming follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, and finds arcade game characters Ralph and Vanellope trying to save the game Sugar Rush from being junked by buying it a new racing wheel over the internet. But Ralph and Vanellope’s adventures in the land of Wi-fi are fraught with danger and threats to their friendship. It’s not all monstrous game-destroying viruses, though; there are also fun cameos and references to other movies and characters, including a particularly great scene in which Vanellope has a pajama party with a bunch of Disney princesses. Smart, funny, and clearly made with a big heart, Ralph Breaks the Internet is one of the rare sequels that feels justified.

14. The Wife

Nominated for: Actress in a leading role (Glenn Close)

Glenn Close’s smouldering performance as the wife of a man who has just won a Nobel Prize makes Björn Runge’s melodrama worth seeing alone. While I’d written this film off as boring before finally going to see it in a second-run theater, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself mistaken; as the characters themselves inform you, if you think the story is about a long-suffering wife, then you’ve sorely misjudged it. That being said, The Wife is a melodrama to the fullest extent of that word — it is outrageously dramatic, to the point of silliness — and it takes approaching it with a particular mindset to appreciate its subtleties. While I’ll concede that The Wife perhaps would have made a better play than film, Close makes the price of admission a steal.

13. Black Panther

Nominated for: Best picture; costume design; music (original score); music (original song); production design; sound editing; sound mixing

The first superhero movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, Black Panther is worthy of its history. As The Week‘s Lili Loofbourow raved in her review, “What sets Black Panther apart from our vast stable of superhero films is that, beyond being entertaining and beautiful, it manages every aesthetic and narrative choice with a pained intelligence that cuts to the contradictions it has to traverse.” While some had feared that the Academy’s flirtation with a “popular film” category was to give films like Black Panther a handicap, Ryan Coogler proved that he needs no favors to gain recognition for his talent. Panther still falls into some of the same traps many Marvel films do with character development and an emphasis on action sequences over plot, but I’m pleased it’s getting recognized as more than just another “comic book movie.” On that note: Someone please give Shuri her own series.

12. BlacKkKlansman

Nominated for: Best picture; actor in a supporting role (Adam Driver); directing; film editing; music (original score); writing (adapted screenplay)

It is incredible that this is Spike Lee’s first directing award, particularly because, as far as Lee’s films go, it’s pretty middle-tier. Still, I’m thrilled that this sharp and snappy KKK dark comedy is up for so many awards, including Best Picture. With ample reference to blaxploitation films and racist American blockbusters like The Birth of a Nation, BlacKkKlansman situates itself not only within the historical narrative — I won’t say too much, but oof, that ending — but also the way that history has been reflected on film. There are Lee films I love more than BlacKkKlansman, but this is a solid nomination all around.

11. Incredibles 2

Nominated for: Animated feature film

Take note: This is how you make a sequel. I was utterly smitten with Incredibles 2, which didn’t try to rehash the success of its 2004 predecessor by playing it safe but instead took us on an entirely new adventure with the characters we know and love. Jack-Jack’s fight with the raccoon remains one of my favorite movie scenes of last year. Sure, Incredibles 2 might not be anything wildly fancy — it looks and feels like watching a big-budget Pixar film, which it is! — but it was a rip-roaring good time, and there are far too few of those out there these days.

10. A Star Is Born

Nominated for: Best picture; actor in a leading role (Bradley Cooper); actress in a leading role (Lady Gaga); actor in a supporting role (Sam Elliott); cinematography; music (original song); sound mixing; writing (adapted screenplay)

A Star Is Born could be in the top 10 based on the memes it produced alone. Okay, okay, it was also a pretty great movie. An update on the classic showbiz story, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut “revives some of what made the earlier A Star Is Born films special: namely their depiction of the intricacies involved in becoming famous in a multimillion-dollar business,” writes Noel Murray for The Week. While snubbed in the directing category, some of my favorite scenes from the year are in the first half of this film — Lady Gaga’s club scene and parking lot song come immediately to mind. Although A Star Is Born had once looked to sweep the Oscars, its chances have paled in recent weeks. At least it’s a lock for best original song with “Shallow.”

9. Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Nominated for: Documentary (feature)

Hale County This Morning, This Evening almost isn’t a movie — it’s very nearly a place, an experience, a spiritual journey, a political treatise. Looking specifically at one county in Alabama, filmmaker RaMell Ross offers miniature portraits of black lives, each as electrifying and beautiful and brief as the flickers of lightning in the summer sky. Hale County is far more experimental than its competitors in the Documentary Feature category, and shows that nonfiction filmmaking need not be formulaic to be powerful.

8. Shoplifters

Nominated for: Foreign language film

Shoplifters won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, but success on the European foreign arthouse circuit rarely equates success with the Academy. While there are likelier winners in this category (Roma, for one), the Japanese-language film is my favorite work yet from the prolific director Hirokazu Kore-eda. The story follows an impoverished family’s adoption of a neglected five-year-old neighbor, Yuri (played by a talented-beyond-her-years Miyu Sasaki). Only nothing is what it seems: Is the “family” really related? Did they take Yuri in, or kidnap her? Even Yuri’s name is suspect. Shoplifters is a sensitive examination of the complicated and often misunderstood bonds that knit people together.

7. Minding the Gap

Nominated for: Documentary (feature)

Nothing makes you feel inadequate quite like director Bing Liu, who made this Oscar-nominated documentary at the age of 24. Knitting together 12 years worth of home videos, amateur footage, and intimate interviews, Liu turns the lens on his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, where domestic violence is prevalent and opportunities scarce. Interviewing his friends in the local skateboarding community as well as his family, Liu draws out a portrait of what it means to be a young person in America without ever getting heavy-handed or preachy. The film is a magnificent debut that lingers with you long past its 93 minutes, and makes me unbearably excited for what Liu does next.

6. Free Solo

Nominated for: Documentary (feature)

Even knowing how Free Solo ends — with Alex Honnold successfully summiting the 3,000-foot face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes — I was in a state of anxiety and borderline nausea for the entire runtime. I hid my face in my scarf. I whispered oh god oh god oh god under my breath. Never before have my hands actually gotten sweaty while watching a movie! But this documentary is about far more than just Honnold’s climb: It it also an impossible love story, a heartbreaking family drama, and an exploration of the ethics of nonfiction filmmaking, in which the crew could capture, or even lead to, Honnold’s death on camera. Fully deserving of the price of an IMAX ticket, the footage captured by Jimmy Chin’s crew of climber/cameramen is as impressive as the story. The result of their efforts is a jaw-dropping, blood-pumping interrogation of the particular madness that drives us to the brink — and beyond it.

5. First Reformed

Nominated for: Writing (original screenplay)

The legendary screenwriter of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader, earned his first Oscar nomination for this film about a deeply troubled pastor (Ethan Hawke) presiding over a congregation at a historic church in upstate New York. One part ecoterrorism movie, one part religious allegory, one part Pepto-Bismol, and one part whiskey, First Reformed deserves far more than just a writing award. It is an instant classic in the truest sense, and a film I plan to return to over and over again for years to come.

4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Nominated for: Actress in a leading role (Melissa McCarthy); actor in a supporting role (Richard E. Grant); writing (adapted screenplay)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? features an Oscar-worthy dramatic turn by actress Melissa McCarthy as the literary forger Lee Israel. But this is far more than a powerfully-acted movie — director Marielle Heller has created a real gem in this story about the death rattle of the New York publishing industry, unlikely friendships, and, above all else, loneliness. It is a shame that Heller was left off the Academy’s boy club of best directors, because hers is one of the finest films of the year.

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

Nominated for: Animated feature film

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was hands down the most fun I had at any film from 2018. Pushing the expectations of animated filmmaking, which has on the whole become boringly homogeneous thanks to the popularity of CGI, Spider-Man set itself apart by blending hand-drawn techniques with digital animation, all in order to capture the sense of a comic book breathed to life. And breathed to life it was: I was so invested in the story and characters that I didn’t want it to ever end. Spider-Man reminded me of the sheer joy of filmmaking, and reaffirmed why I love the movies. What a splendid treasure this movie is.

2. Cold War

Nominated for: Cinematography; directing; foreign language film

The Polish-language film Cold War has divided audiences, with half won over by the decade-spanning love story, while the other half feel frozen out by its fairytale-like pacing and classically tragic ending. I am firmly in the former camp, finding Cold War to be one of the most romantic movies of the year, as well as the most beautifully shot. The Academy has apparently been seduced too; Cold War is the rare foreign language film to have been nominated for cinematography and directing as well. It is my belief that it deserves to sweep all the categories it’s up in, with my sincere apologies to Roma. Now, could someone please release its fantastic soundtrack?

1. If Beale Street Could Talk

Nominated for: Actress in a supporting role (Regina King); music (original score); writing (adapted screenplay)

The best picture at the 2019 Academy Awards wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. I’ve been arguing that Beale Street is deserving of an Oscar since it came out, and all the catch-up I’ve done in the interim has done nothing to change my mind, even after voters gave it a snub in the top category. But Barry Jenkins’ gorgeous James Baldwin-based love story is visual poetry and a wonder of filmmaking, with an incredible performance by Regina King (although I’d argue KiKi Layne should have been nominated as well for her turn as Tish). There is no better movie in 2018 than this.

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WATCH: Heated argument between black man and officers at man’s home

WATCH: Heated argument between black man and officers at man’s home

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Transcript for Heated argument between black man and officers at man’s home

Yeah. And the way. O. Well I’m. And lead. Or even being. I. Here. And me like every other. And so. By Robert. Yeah. You don’t. Calling Cameron. Yeah. Warm bodies. All day. Ball with the blues. One. And the way. Yeah. Good Friday. You know my home. Double platinum. And oh yeah. It’s no. And.

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Cardi B on Relationship with Offset, Being a Mom to Baby Kulture, and Music Career Success –

Cardi B on Relationship with Offset, Being a Mom to Baby Kulture, and Music Career Success –


When Cardi B visits her favorite nail salon in the Bronx, she enters through a raggedy hallway covered with a rug emblazoned with the image of a $100 bill. The salon, which overlooks a bustling avenue of pizza shops, sports-gear superstores, and boutiques with weaves in 70 colors, is a temple to money, excess, and sexiness, symbolized in the application of nails that look like diamond-encrusted Buck knives. Portraits of two icons of pulchritude hang on the walls—namely, Marilyn Monroe and the very 2019 version of Marilyn: Cardi.


Vera Wang gown; Jimmy Choo shoes, Cardi’s own ring

Mariano Vivanco

With a posse that includes her dad, her half-sister, her half-brother, and two Drogosize bodyguards whose names I don’t catch but imagine to be Bulwark and Spear, Cardi, 26, heads toward a private side room. She surrenders her hands and feet to Jenny Bui, her sharp-tongued nail tech of more than half a decade, even back when she didn’t have the money to move out of this borough.


Dolce & Gabbana dress; Cartier Paris Vintage ear clips; Van Cleef & Arpels cuffs; René Caovilla sandals

Mariano Vivanco

A tiny, makeup-less sprite in magenta leggings and a playful Moschino sweatshirt, Cardi talks about where she’s at today. On one hand, she says, “I feel like my life is a fairy tale and I’m a princess—rags to riches, people trying to sabotage,” she says. But she also complains fervently about being over the fairy-tale life and wanting peace and quiet. “Before, I cared about everything—relationship, gossip. Now I don’t feel like I have the time to please people,” she explains. “I don’t care about anything anymore—just my career and my kid.” What about money, the thing she raps about caring for quite a bit? “Well, I care about my career because of my money,” Cardi says, giving me a “c’mon, stupid” face.

“Before,” in this context, means before the tectonic shifts that have taken place in Cardi’s life in the past year: that she became a global superstar; relocated from New York to Atlanta to live with the charismatic rapper Offset, her new husband; gave birth to an unplanned but much loved daughter, Kulture Kiari, in July; then, five months later, after the drip-drip-drip of rumors about Offset’s infidelity, announced on Instagram that the marriage was over.

2018 American Music Awards - Red Carpet

Cardi B and Offset at the 2018 American Music Awards

Getty ImagesJeff Kravitz

Today Cardi tells me that Offset has been to her apartment, but they haven’t seen each other and are “not really” talking, which is a bit hard to believe after she shows me videos of her gurgling baby on her iPhone and happens to scroll past a photo of Offset with a time stamp reading today. When I ask her if she’s getting back with Offset, I can almost hear her curious entourage, who have arranged themselves on sofas on the perimeter of the room, lean forward to catch the answer. For a moment, the only sound is Bui engaging in some hard-hat-level sanding and scraping of the star’s three-inch nails. Then Cardi says both, “I don’t think so,” and “Who knows? You never know, you can never tell,” neither of which is exactly a definitive answer.

I’ve interviewed dozens of pop stars, and Cardi, despite the massive entourage and the bear-claw-like nails, seems the most normal. She’s not the most down-to-earth or the most perfect, and she’s definitely not the least into social media, but she knows who she is and where she came from, and has somehow managed to keep expressing genuine emotions in the face of blockbuster success. And while her emotions can sometimes seem out of control, who hasn’t been there? We might not have screamed and thrown a shoe at Nicki Minaj at a Harper’s Bazaar event this past September (in retribution, Cardi has said, for various slights from Minaj, including liking a negative comment about her parenting skills), or allegedly ordered an attack on two female bartenders at a strip club visited by Offset (a judge issued orders of protection in December for the accusers), but we’ve all been mad as hell. And the unbearable cuteness and sexiness of Cardi, a raunchy L.O.L. doll, quickly erases those moments, drowning them in adorable high jinks.

Balenciaga dress and shoes; Bulgari earrings

Leaving aside the fake nails and boob implants, with Cardi the artifice is in the artwork. In the space of less than a year, her music, videos, and fashion have made her a star of Lady Gaga proportions. She releases hit after hit; following last summer’s “I Like It,” the first Latin trap song to rise to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Money,” a song, unsurprisingly, about money. In the video, she wears gorgeous clothes (she’s got “10 different looks and my looks all kill,” she raps), including outfits referencing Thierry Mugler, a gold bikini inspired by 1990s Lil’ Kim’s, and a custom Christian Cowan bodysuit fabricated from dozens of actual watches. She’s a post-Kardashian American superstar, a master of selfies, belfies, late-night Instagram videos, and all other manner of self-promotion— and also a creative genius. In 2019, no one needs to pick.

Raised in the Bronx, Cardi was the naturally rebellious daughter of a Trinidadian-born cashier mother and a Dominican Republic–born cabdriver father. Her mother was strict. Nevertheless she joined the notorious Bloods gang, moved out of her mother’s home and in with a boyfriend and, finding herself broke, took a job as a cashier at a grocery store. To build a nest egg, she became a stripper. To build a bigger nest egg, she became a hot girl on social media. In 2015, she was cast as a lovable loudmouth on the VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York, then began releasing her own mixtapes. Her debut single, “Bodak Yellow,” went to the top of the charts, and it took her only one album to achieve escape velocity: Invasion of Privacy, arguably the best debut album from a female rapper since Lil’ Kim’s 1996 Hard Core.

It’s an intense time for Cardi, now one of the biggest rappers—and one of the most famous women in the world—caring for an infant and dealing with a semi-estranged husband. Her answer is to be as real as she can. As much as she may imagine herself as a princess, she talks about admiring Meghan Markle for becoming a real one. “She must just be like, ‘Who am I?’” Cardi says, referring to Markle’s having to live by the royal family’s rules. Not being able to be herself would be the worst punishment for Cardi.



Up and down, joy and pain, sunshine and rain—we’ve experienced all her days on her social media channels, where she posts close-up, emotional videos like an Instagram mime. She’s not your typical grasping celebrity, and doesn’t get off on endless adulation. “I work with somebody who gives me compliments all day, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, can you just stop?’” she says.

Cardi’s fans have been so protective of her that when Offset broke in to her set at a concert, walking onstage with a $15,000 rolling floral display made of 2,000 roses that read TAKE ME BACK CARDI, they exploded on social media with anger over a man who refused to take a woman’s “no” at face value. (A backstage video showing one of Cardi’s reps escorting Offset to the stage did little to dim the outrage.)

I ask if any family or friends influenced her decision to leave Offset. “No, I decided on my own,” she declares, looking me straight in the eye. “Nobody makes my decisions about my life but me.” Before they broke up, Offset begged Cardi to see a therapist. “I didn’t want to go to marriage counseling,” she says, in a firm tone of voice. “He suggested it, but it’s like, ‘I don’t want to go.’ There’s no counselor or nothing that could make me change my mind.”


Vera Wang Shawl, collar, shirt, bustier, and shorts

Mariano Vivanco

Like many women who’ve experienced heartache and alleged infidelity, she seems caught between wanting to stay and leave. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat Pray Love, Offset is “[her] lighthouse and [her] albatross in equal measure.” But Cardi also knows that dating new guys might be bizarre. “I have a kid, and I’m also famous,” she says quietly. “So I can’t just sleep with anybody. People talk. You know, if I date somebody in the industry, that’s another person in the industry. If I date somebody who is not in the industry, he might not understand my lifestyle.” Since the breakup, she’s been getting a ton of messages from guys but ignoring them. “It’s like, ‘Bro, why would you want to holler at me right away? You’re weird.’ If you think Imma automatically hop onto you after a marriage, that just means you think I’m a sleaze. And I’m not. I have a kid—I have to show an example.”

Bui, who has been listening intently to our interview while crafting Cardi’s nails, waves a hand and then interjects, “You’re so old-fashioned!”

“Jenny, just because I’m out there and very sexual doesn’t mean that I have to be whorish,” says Cardi. “I like to have sex. That doesn’t mean I have to have it with everybody.” She pauses, then adds, “Not that I judge women who want to have sex with the world.”

Done with her rant, Cardi turns her attention to her nails. “Damn, that’s sharp,” she says to Bui, whistling a little under her breath. “The polish will make them less sharp, right? Because we can’t forget about the baby.” Ignoring her, Bui says only, “Don’t move.”



Throughout our conversation, Cardi has been jiggling her leg up and down like a schoolkid. I ask her how long she’s had that habit. “Forever, and you know what? People always talk shit about it, but now it’s like, ‘Ha ha,’ because when I do it my daughter likes it,” she says.

Despite the indelible image of Cardi breast-feeding in the “Money” video, wearing a black gown open at the bodice, she isn’t breast-feeding Kulture, whom she’s nicknamed KK. “It was too hard,” she explains. In fact, she spent most of the time after the baby was born in a haze of postpartum depression. “I thought I was going to avoid it,” Cardi says. “When I gave birth, the doctor told me about postpartum, and I was like, ‘Well, I’m doing good right now, I don’t think that’s going to happen.’ But out of nowhere, the world was heavy on my shoulders.”

Realizing that taking KK with her on the tour bus was unrealistic but unable to bear leaving her at home, Cardi dropped out of a lucrative tour with Bruno Mars. She started feeling better a couple of months after the baby was born, she says, and her mother has been helping out; Cardi hasn’t hired professional help because she isn’t sure she can trust anyone outside her family.

As a new mom, Cardi is still experiencing aches and pains. “For some reason, I still don’t feel like my body’s the same,” she says. “I feel like I don’t have my balance right yet. When it comes to heels, I’m not as good at walking anymore. I feel like I’m holding a weight on me. I don’t know why because I’m skinnier than I’ve ever been. But there’s an energy I haven’t gotten back yet that I had before I was pregnant. It’s just the weirdest thing.”

The baby is starting to help Cardi balance her emotions, though. “Sometimes I’ll see something online and it’ll piss me off, and then my baby will start crying or something, and it’s like, ‘You know what? I’ve got to deal with the milk. Forget this.’” She’s thinking about pulling back a little from social media. “I’ve noticed that every time you respond, you just make things worse, so I’m over it. I’m just over it. I really don’t need it, and sometimes it just brings chaos to my brain.” She adds, “I can stay off social media. I’ve been trying.” For months after KK was born, Cardi didn’t put pictures of her on social media, and certainly didn’t sell any to the tabloids. She says Offset wanted to put a picture up, but she was unsure.

“As soon as she was born, one month in he was like, ‘She’s so beautiful. Watch how people gonna go crazy.’ ’Cause a lot of people were saying mean stuff, like that we don’t post her because she’s ugly. He was like, ‘I’m about to post my baby right now.’ But then we were very concerned because we were getting a lot of threats, so he said, ‘The world don’t even deserve to see her.’” Eventually Cardi wanted to put a photo up because “it’s really annoying and we don’t have a life. We have to hide her all the time. I can’t go to L.A. or Miami and walk down the beach with my baby. I want to go shopping with my baby. I want to take a stroll with my baby. Sometimes I feel bad for her because all she knows is the house.” But can’t you put on a baseball cap? I ask. Will people still recognize you? “Yeah,” she says. “It’s my nose.”


Chloé gown, earrings, and bracelets

Mariano Vivanco

Bui applies a final coat of purple paint on Cardi’s nails—a brief discussion ensues about whether the shade is the exact “baby purple” Cardi has requested—and then she talks about needing to get home to go to sleep. “I’ve got a big meeting in the morning in Boston,” Cardi says, nodding slowly. “Lots of money in Boston.” She begins horsing around with her six-year-old half-brother, ribbing him for being rebellious the way she used to be. “He’s a child of the corn!” she wails. “He’s just like me.” (Her half-sister adds, “Like you, sharp but sweet.”) Bui says she thought that when Cardi hit it big, she wouldn’t see her in the salon again. “I told her, ‘You’re going to forget about me,’ ” Bui says. “And she said, ‘Never.’”


This article originally appears in the March 2019 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands February 19.

Hair: Tokyo Stylez; Makeup: Erika La Pearl for Pat McGrath Labs; Manicure: Chelsea King; Production: Joey Battaglia for LOLA Production; Set Design: Gille Mills.

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