I can’t do this anymore. I’m starting to think it’s no coincidence that Oscars season and flu season have so much overlap — a kick 'em while they’re already down situation. From the outright racism and sexism in the Academy, to the blatant disregard and literal rewarding of the behavior of predators like Woody Allen, to the fact that the only 2019 releases I enjoyed were “Motherless Brooklyn” and “Little Women,” I’m just done with the Academy Awards. What I did like watching this year were music videos — so I’m hosting an Oscars just for that, right now in this article.
Best Picture: “I’m Gay - Eugene Lee Yang” (music by ODESZA)
Eugene Lee Yang is best known for his status as one of the Try Guys, a comedy group of four men that got their start as a BuzzFeed series, then went independent and became its own production company and YouTube channel in 2018. Their videos are typically lighthearted, but in June 2019, “I’m Gay - Eugene Lee Yang” was released on the official Try Guys YouTube channel. Yang wrote, directed, choreographed and starred in the music video, which depicts his journey as a gay Asian man through complex cinematography and dance. The video deviates from the standard coming out video, which typically features the content creator talking directly to camera, but the result is no less intimate.
Everything about the video trembles with emotion, and although the music by ODESZA is largely instrumental with no narrative lyrics, the story is clear and painful. Viewers are taken through Yang’s interpretation of the LGBTQ+ experience in stages that align with the colors of the rainbow, the colors of pride. Visually, the dance scenes transition as though in one take, which makes for a dizzying, disorienting experience that gets at the heart of the video’s theme. Perhaps the most beautiful shot comes with the scene before the credits, the Purple scene. Yang stands in an elaborate purple two-piece that resembles a frilled gown, styled with a matching cape and heavy makeup. He walks through a crowd of people fighting with each other, hitting him and grabbing at him until he finally stares down the camera, first shaking as though he is about to cry, then gradually calming and coming to a standstill.
Best Original Screenplay: “Motivation” by Normani
The narrative arc of this music video is exciting and nostalgic. The opening scene is set in the 2000s and depicts a young girl, identified as Normani, sitting in front of the TV and watching the best video of the year countdown on BET’s “106 & Park.” The number one video is announced as belonging to … Normani! The girl gets up and starts dancing, and soon, the former Fifth Harmony member is all grown up, dancing all around the city. After the introductory scene, the music video includes a bit of text on the screen with the music video’s information, paying homage to the days when music videos were commercials between shows and had all production details in the corner of the screen. The choreography and outfits both pay homage to pop culture icons like Ciara and Beyonce, and the video ends with a return to the young girl watching TV. It’s a take on the “it was all a dream” trope that’s actually fun to watch.
Best Costume Design: “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers
This video brought back the epochal Jonas Brothers after six years of radio silence and interfamilial tensions, so yeah, it’s getting an Oscar. Also, fun fact, it was filmed in the same venue as “The Favourite,” which Olivia Colman earned an Academy Award for. They’re not on the same level, but still. The video doesn’t have a plot outside of rich couples eating and dancing — hey, the Oscars have rewarded less! — but the costumes are very fun to look at. The dresses that Danielle Jonas, Sophie Turner and Priyanka Chopra Jonas are wearing are a modern take on the elegant Victorian styles — big dresses and full skirts are paired with messy hair and gaudy accessories — and it’s just fun to look at! Who doesn’t want to run through the halls of a mansion while layers of sheer tulle billow out behind you?
Best Actor: Harry Styles, portraying a sad fisherman in “Adore You”
I’ve decided Harry Styles should get this award because he pretended to develop a bromance with a fish that was in all likelihood just a human holding a tennis ball. It’s overacted, it’s goofy, and, truly, it’s what “The Shape of Water” could have been. Find yourself developing feelings for a fish? Do the logical thing — don’t! The video is still heartwarming, and Harry’s acting is funny, so there. Best Actor.
Best Actress: Halsey, playing lots of women in “Nightmare”
Halsey portrays a lot of different women in her video for “Nightmare.” The rageful, feminist single released in May 2019 harkens back to Halsey’s earlier reputation for being a punk-emo-scene kid, back when she had bright blue hair, wore only leather and sang Blink-182 acapella in a mall. The “Nightmare” video is of a much higher caliber than that early era, however, with pointed lyrics like “I’ve been polite, but won’t be caught dead / Lettin’ a man tell me what I should do in my bed,” and Halsey delivers them while playing caricatures of women, like a pin-up, a dominatrix and what codes as a butch lesbian. The performances reclaim the stereotypes while showcasing a multitude of female identities, so Halsey wins out in this category.