Queens, Dick, and Lobster: A Review Of The Oscar Front-runners

By Linus Coersmeier

The films ‘Vice’ and ‘The Favourite’ are set 300 years apart, with a budget difference of 45 million dollars, one about a drunk turned Vice President and one about a peasant turned into the Queen’s lover, seemingly having no connection other than their ‘underdog’ themes. However, upon further examination, the two are similar in their historical settings and cinematic production. But their likeness in execution did not produce the same levels of public and critical acceptance.

‘The Favourite’ has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% and an audience score of 62% while ‘Vice’ has a critics score of 66% and a fairly awful 55% audience score. Both films, while not very well regarded by their audiences, seem to have done well when it comes to industry standards. As far as the Oscars go, both films were among the best, ‘Vice’ with 8 Academy nominations and ‘The Favourite’ with 10. However, as shown by the Rotten Tomatoes scores, there seems to have been some discrepancy in critics’ opinions, so what’s the difference if both were nominated so many times?

‘Vice’ uses the dramatic prowess of Christian Bale and Steve Carell to lead the topical drama. Told from the perspective of Dick Cheney’s heart donor, which is only made known to the audience about ¾ way through the movie, it has many instances of the ‘third wall’ being broken and audience engagement in a fairly colloquial manner. Throughout the 132 minute long movie, Christian Bale follows Dick Cheney from a young, failing husband of Lynne Cheney, his motivational wife, to a manipulative millionaire Vice President. The initial themes of Lynne pulling the strings behind the scenes and helping her husband strive, reappear in Cheney as he goes on to call the shots for George Bush while posing as his sideman. He uses legal loopholes and his lack of direct public attention to make millions off of being the Vice President and pushes his nationalist and “Big Oil” agenda even if he, at times, seems to be fighting for nothing but his own power. Besides his central story, there are also a few subplots, such as his daughter’s homosexuality and his other daughter’s political campaign which was eventually foiled by Cheney’s other daughter being exposed as gay. Furthermore, these subplots are what make the film hard to follow as shown clearly by the public’s lack of appreciation for the movie. Certain aspects, such as the movie’s feel of a personal touch are fresh and fun to watch. Adding on, this includes liberty as it utilizes Shakespearean scenes in several instances, one time Mr. and Mrs. Cheyney are seen in their bed breaking into Shakespearean English and passion. Moments like these and its topicality in the current Middle Eastern conflicts and political drama make the movie fun and original but they don’t come often enough and feel forced at times.

‘The Favourite’ follows Emma Stone’s character, Abigail, a disgraced peasant in 18th century England who arrives at the bustling, dreary castle of Queen Anne, who has become weak and mentally unstable through her years of rule and is hired as a lowly servant. While she is first met with perverted men, violent co-workers, and the abuse of Queen Anne’s second hand, Lady Sarah, her luck and charm allow her to work her way up. Abigail is taken under Lady Sarah’s guiding wings, eventually becoming close to the Queen herself as well as others in the Queen’s court. The lifestyles littered with powdered wigs and the insane luxuries enjoyed by the aristocrats of England while the country is at war are portrayed in a comical and sinister tone in the true, yet exaggerated tale. The film should be even more hard to follow than ‘Vice’, with its unexpected and unlikely twists and turns, but culminates in a harmonious and humorously odd fashion – more so than in ‘Vice’, to critics’ delight.

So, do critics like the fantastical or what’s happening? Even though both films are doing well in Oscar Nominations – and even being nominated is considered an incredible honor and privilege – it is clear that ‘Vice’ has much less of a chance of actually winning than ‘The Favourite’. One could even argue that the Oscars are so arbitrary to the actual prowess of a film, which although fair, makes the quality of films too abstract to measure, yet these awards are the simplistic measure I chose. With this in my mind, ‘The Favourite’ seems to be of higher quality, at least more recognized quality. As a viewer of both films, I can say that while both are good it makes sense that ‘The Favourite’ is an Oscar favorite or favourite as the British prefer it. The director, Yorgos Lanthimos’ other most recent work is a film called ‘The Lobster’, another incredible about 2-hour long film. The basic plot is, ‘In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice.’ This plot summary as put by the avid IMDB user, ‘grantss’ is a perfect shortened version of the film’s convoluted story. The movie was the Greek director’s first English film and, while very well received by critics for an American debut with a Rotten Tomatoes Critics score of 88%, had only a 64% audience score. ‘The Lobster’ put Yorgos Lanthimos on the radar of American critics and the Academy with one Oscar nod at the time, and ‘The Favourite’ seems to be his chance to make good on all of those missed nominations.Critics and the Oscar Academy have always liked the more Avante-Garde films, even if their choices may appear snobbish at times, in instances such as ‘The Favourite’ show that peculiarly good films sometimes are rewarded for their unique and even absurd beauty. Perhaps ‘Vice’s’ fatal flaw was holding back too much. While you can’t blame them with awful movies such as ‘Aquaman’ garnering a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 64% but an audience score of 78% it may be hard to be motivated to not just make something bad but consumable and gross the reported $750 million ‘Aquaman’ scored. As an artistic U.S. and global community, we as a people need to encourage art and not just more of the same. If the pursuit of the best artistry is not enough for you, keep in mind that there were quite a few nipples to be seen in ‘The Favourite’ and ‘The Lobster.’