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Ranking the Oscar Clips

by Ben Miller

Of all the decisions the Academy Awards producers/directors must make, the Oscar clip decisions are surely the most covetous -- who among us wouldn't want to chose? They're fairly crucial, too.  I ranked all the clips last year, and Nathaniel was nice enough to let me do it again.  The clips preceding each of the categories ranged from brilliant to “what the hell was that?”  Let’s rank them 20-1…


I sometimes wish I'd never been born at aaaaaaallllllll 🎵

20. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
19. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Woo boy.  I would personally defend the work of both of these performances, but the snippets shown on Sunday did not lend any firepower to those arguments.  Viggo gets to wax on like an idiot about not knowing the difference between Russian and German before laying on some casual racism. Malek has plenty of good moments in the Queen biopic, but a simple shot of him lipsyncing reads like an Oscar producer’s opinion on the performance itself seeping through.

Not Doing Anyone Any Favors...

Is it? Just a meeting.

18. Sam Rockwell, Vice
17. Amy Adams, Vice
16. Yalitzia Aparicio, Roma

The performances in Vice are fairly solid, but both Rockwell and Adams don’t have much to work with, and it shows in their clips.  I’ve been cool on that pair all season and if you were also hoping that the clips would show you something you were missing, they came up empty. As for Aparicio, her performance itself wasn’t showy, but there were at least 20 more expressive clips than that longshot “I like being dead” interlude.

Go Big or Go Home

It's not your fault. It just isn't.

Who does that? Garbage!

15. Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
14. Mahershela Ali, Green Book
13. Christian Bale, Vice
12. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

This is a great example of “This is my time, I’m going for it” in each case.  Ali is the only real outlier as he had a plethora of other material to work with, but they chose the clip that shows him the actor-iest outburst.  Pretty much any other clip of his works better. I’m glad they went with King’s “that’s your grandchild!” speech, but it does not encapsulate the performance as a whole.

Less is More

He speaks to me. He threatens me. And all he wants to do is plunge a knife into my heart.

Good luck Nathaniel, I'm sure you'll write a wonderful book.

11. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
10. Marina De Tavira, Roma
9. Adam Driver, BlacKKKlansman
8. Glenn Close, The Wife

I was worried they were going to butcher these clips because the roles themselves were not overtly showy.  This is where Aparicio should have placd with a better selection. Dafoe’s restraint is on full force, while De Tavira has some strange editing around her best scene in the film.  As for Driver, we surely all knew after seeing BlacKKKlansman, that his “I didn’t grow up Jewish” speech should be his Oscar clip, but they cut it off one line too soon.  If they had only had the “I’m thinking about it now…” part, it jumps a few more spots. The eternal Oscar bridesmaid Glenn Close had plenty of yelling in The Wife, but her calculated brilliance is on full-force in her clip as she threatens and reassures in a five second span.

Cream of the Crop

...but I'm not very good at keeping secrets.

7. Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
6. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
5. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
4. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

A pair of pairs do the heavy lifting.  Gaga’s perfect clip is the performance of Shallow, but she already had her Oscar at that point so something subtler was smart.  Cooper’s brilliance lies in his drunken charm, and that Supermarket parking lot scene has that charm in spades.  McCarthy’s courtroom monologue is where everyone expected her clip to be, and it proves why she is so good. I had a specific clip in mind for Grant and I was ready to crown him the champ, but they went with broader comedy.  It doesn’t change the fact that he is wonderful in the entire film.

The Favourites

A monster for the children to play with perhaps? Grrrrr.

1a. Rachel Weisz
1b. Emma Stone
1c. Olivia Colman

Whoever put the Oscar clips together, they LOVED The Favourite.  Yes, all three clips are somewhat obvious choices, but they are also brilliant ones.  They're all singularly memorable (“Oh, I did not know that”/ “Grrrr!” / “I do fear confusion and accidents”) and showcase highlights of the performance via comic timing, physical spontaneity, and line readings respectively. That said, the clips are upsetting, since they remind us of the war crime that was the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.  

Until next year…


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Reader Comments (49)

Gaga's clip was so short compared to someone like Amy Adams' clip which went on FOREVER

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatagonia

Yeah, as someone who is higher on Rami’s performance compared to 99% of the internet, that clip they chose didn’t help his case AT ALL, lol.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGuest

I thought all the "Vice" stars had great clips. Rockwell's Dubya might just be the best I've ever seen, and the clip showcased his note-perfect rendition. Adams is steely and stern in all the right ways. Bale is chilling.

Aparicio's clip was definitely puzzling.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I was so pissed at the clip chosen for Rami! It didn't showcase any of his talent. They should've used something from Live Aid, which was clearly his (and the movie's) pride and glory. Ugh so annoyed at that!! On another note, the Bohemian Best Picture montage was awesome! So it should've been something more hard-hitting like that.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGuest

Can't begin to understand the lumping together of Mortenson's and Malek's performances, much less Viggo behind? I mean, I apologize, but that's crazy.

Out of context, and the most obvious bit of lip-synching. Very stupid. Then I saw Viggo's and said "Picking some awkward ones", but the comparison can't begin to be made. Not to mention that the scene is great, in context. Just a bad Oscar scene. As is any scene where something is given away or is the obvious climax.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I think Coleman's funny in her clip, but as someone who LOVED her performance (even though I'm still a bit sour on her win), I thought they could have gone with something where she was more of the focus. Like the scene where she's threatening to jump.

Aparcio's clip was puzzling. It felt like someone clicked to a random moment on netflix and just played that.

I was a bit surprised they went with the scene with Close on the plane rather than the silent one where she watches her husband thank her. But, it was still a great clip.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Any scene of Weisz would’ve worked! But I was rooting for the 96 year old French whore’s vajuju.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

I thought Rachel Weisz and Richard E. Grant won the clips. Rami Malek's was a laughably poor choice.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

I loved all the clips from The Favourite ladies, but I would've chosen Weisz's "that's not love" monologue at the end of the film. She's just aces in that.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Yes, the Best Original Screenplay Oscar was a "war crime" - because veteran icon Paul Schrader lost for writing the best (and most timely) movie of the year. Honestly, the praise heaped on The Favourite has been difficult for me to understand all season, and it even more difficult after watching the clips last night. (That Emma Stone bit captured in the photo above is particularly corny.)

I do agree that Malek's clip was hilariously bad. He deserves the bottom spot all to himself.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Can people who claim to love Colman's victory remove the e from her name.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Your top 5 is pretty spot on.

As someone who hasn't seen THE WIFE yet, I actually love Close's clip. It made me more intrigued by the film!

I wish they picked a different King speech since EVERY award show used it.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Shut up you drama queen

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRdf

It wasn't just the screenplay Oscar that was a war crime. It was also the costume and production design ones and, of course, the supporting actress Oscar.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAR

I actually kind of like Aparicio's scene. Sure, the hospital or beach scenes are more obvious, but I thought she gave some good nuance here and it acts a nice introduction to her character. Would be be better if they start with her interaction with the child though. Also, as a bonus, it is one of the very few scenes in the movie where her character makes an explicit choice and is not just reacting.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkin

Lady Gaga’s clip was pretty underwhelming. I’d put it in the not doing anyone any favors category.

I liked Close’s clip rather a lot.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteranonny

Often the default Oscar clip is the big yelling scene, or intense rage. I found it a nice change of pace that for once I was spared some violent rant, or bit of actual physical violence. For once there was an actual range of emotions, and clips that showed (or tried to show) nuance.
I found myself actually intrigued to go see "Vice" which I have resisted because of my loathing for Dick Cheney.

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Don't worry, you will still loathe Cheney after seeing the film!

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

are these clips all online? very annoyed i cannot find them

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteranonny

Jonathan, thanks - I think I will pass. Although Bale's make-up is exceptional.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Ha /3rtful, I confess feeling the same, though i’ve Seen the error around from some fanatic Close Stan’s, probably deliberately. Plus unless Close is secretly 95, she has 1-2 competitive noms left. Hold out from that honorary, seemed to cripple OToole’s Venus campaign from the really competing against Whittaker.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFdr

"It wasn't just the screenplay Oscar that was a war crime. It was also the costume and production design ones and, of course, the supporting actress Oscar."

This is weird. So all the black women? Sometimes, it's just best to not express everything you're feeling.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan (the 1st)

Is it the Academy who chooses the clips? Or do the individual production companies supply them to the Academy?

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

The greatest clip of all time for me personally was the Sissy smashing plates scene from 2001..

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Seems obvious that whoever compiled these clips is no movie lover.
For Close-wish they went with something from her post Nobel fight scenes. Christian Bale ruined this film for me-showing him at that airplane scene,and reminding me that his role torpor don’t that film,almost made me happy for a Colman win.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

I was so happy for the clip they showed for Malek. It showed how shallow the performance is vis-a-vis the strong clip chosen for Bale. We were all laughing that the person who will win had the worst clip.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoshTheMan

I hope this becomes an annual tradition. I'm obsessed with Oscar clips!

I think they did a very poor job this year. In my opinion, Melissa McCarthy got the best clip with Dafoe and Driver as runner-ups.

Worst? Adams, probably.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

You can't have a great Oscar clip without a great scene and Glenn Close had both in Dangerous Liaisons.

I'll be fine.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Yeah... Malek has now replaced Zellweger as the worst Acting win of my lifetime (starting in 1992).

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Malek is a terrific young actor. If you have not seen his other work, you should. Its not his fault the academy went crazy and gave him an oscar for this; dont hold it against him.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteranonny

Good Lord, these were some WEIRD choices. Malek's clip was a HILARIOUS bit of shade, and would have been even better if they had chosen one for Cooper where he was singing (I thought his clip, while fine, was also a strange one). Viggo's was borderline embarrassing. Aparicio's was exactly the type of clip that haters of Roma would use against the film to showcase how pretentious and dull it is. Close's clip was intriguing, but not really a showcase for what she does best in the film. Honestly the only ones that were good aside from The Favourite ladies (Colman's was tops, even though it should have been "HOW DARE YOU! Close your eyes!") were Dafoe, Grant, King, and McCarthy.

I was REALLY hoping they would use the hand job scene for Emma Stone.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

In the moment I thought it was an odd choice to have a lip-syncing clip for Rami, but after reviewing I don't think it was a terrible selection. He brings a lot of truth and intensity to an intimate moment in an artist's creative process. Lip sync is spot on too.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

I love this! I didn't like Olivia an Emma's clips. For Olivia, I would have chosen the one about the bunnies and her miscarriages

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoan

anonny, he’s also the first Arab to win Best Actor I believe, which is huge. His film and his Oscar campaign deserve all the backlash but I think people are being vitriolic now, saying he’s the worst winner when there’s been plenty of worse performances to win and hoping he doesn’t have a career anymore.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGuest

I get why everyone loathed Rami's clip but the Academy followed a pattern here. Other lipsync clips I can recall: Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, Penélope Cruz

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I’m glad they went with King’s “that’s your grandchild!” speech, but it does not encapsulate the performance as a whole.

Nothing in the movie can be distilled into a clip to inform the uninitiated about the quality of the work.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

It should have been the love monologue: "Love is what brought you here. If you trusted love this far, don't panic now. Trust it all the way."

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue - a great point, after all some really great actresses have lip synced. Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose, also lip synced and won the Oscar that year.
Try not to pour so much outrage and hate towards Malek, there are other aspects to his performance.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

LadyEdith -- Where do you see the hate in anyhting I said?

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I haven't seen VICE, so I really liked Bale's clip -- it showed a Dick Cheney that was humanized and principled. In every other clip I've seen, it seems a lot more broad.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

The Oscars producer knew how shitty Malek's "performance" was and acted accordingly. We should all strive for this kind of truth-telling in our daily lives.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBye

They messed up with Elliot by choosing his only bad snippet in saying Jack's fate was only his own fault - though in the film itself, that was the movie's fault since it was too oblivious or uninterested to remember it was mostly evil cartoon manager Rez's fault [and why I keep thinking of an alternate/more daring ending where he actually had him killed & made to look like suicide - hell, if it wasn't going to win either way, might as well have actually made some really big changes to the formula and have the industry literally instead of figuratively kill a Maine this time]

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Dougherty

Peggy Sue, I saw no hate from you, I was referring to general outrage comments by others towards Rami Malek. I think the criticism of Malek is over the top.
Very sorry, my previous comment was poorly phrased. Hope we are good now.

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

LadyEdith -- No worries!

February 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

"Yes, the Best Original Screenplay Oscar was a "war crime" - because veteran icon Paul Schrader lost for writing the best (and most timely) movie of the year. Honestly, the praise heaped on The Favourite has been difficult for me to understand all season, and it even more difficult after watching the clips last night. (That Emma Stone bit captured in the photo above is particularly corny.)"

Well, dear, your problem is your poor taste, The Favourite had the best screenplay of 2018 by far and it is the most rewarded one through the season. It also had the best acting of 2018 by far, that Colman win was the best part of the entire night. Regina King is lucky that Stone and Weisz split the votes. And it also had the second best direction of 2018, Roma won here.

First Reformed was the second best screenplay in the category, but it had just one fully developed character.

I agree with everybody, the three ladies form The Favourite had the best clips. Ad I agree with many people that the critics towards Malek is pathetic and speak more about the people that does it... Open YouTube and you will see that the video with Malek's speech has most views even than the performances of Queen and Shallow, it has a HUGE number of comments and all of them are positive, people LOVE his performance, it is the most celebrated win of night alongside Colman. So you must live in a different dimension.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIvo

I personally would have put Glenn Close near the top. Not just because the clip said "Nathaniel" but because it was an unexpcted choice but still strong.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Malek's clip is hilarious, by far the worst of all.
Mc Carthy had the best.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFabio Dantas Flappers

Guest, unfortunately the crude white people test forpalatable level of ethnicity is if they ask outright "Are you an Arab?" or "You've got something in you...Italian? Egyptian". Not taking away from him at all, but I can see how voter bias against foreigners wasn't as harsh as some.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Ivo, I am not your dear. I am well aware that the masses love The Favourite. It is very much the type of period spectacle that receives 10 Oscar nominations and then fades. First Reformed is the type of movie that turns up on "Best of the Decade" lists for years to come.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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