I think everyone can agree that it’s been a strange and awkward awards season, to say the very least. So many noteworthy films have been snubbed by the industry’s biggest televised award ceremonies: 50% of the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. There were so many films last year that deserved recognition, from Eighth Grade to Suspiria, but one stood out to me amongst the crowd: Paddington 2.
Now, yes, it was my favorite film of 2018, so maybe I’m approaching this with a slight tinge of bias. But there’s a reason that Paddington 2 broke the Rotten Tomatoes record for best-reviewed film, and the fact that it’s gotten basically zero recognition this award season is equivalent to that of a war crime.
Paddington: A Good Boy, and A Good Movie Too
The first Paddington, released in 2014, was a wonderful story of a young Peruvian bear travelling to London and becoming part of a new family. But it barely scratched the surface of what this cast and crew were truly capable of – because the sequel enhances every single aspect of its predecessor. While it may not look like your traditional ‘Best Picture’ nominee, Paddington 2 is a surprisingly well-crafted piece of cinema. The screenplay, written by Paul King (who is also the director) and Simon Farnaby, is especially tight and intricate.
The story finds Paddington looking for a job, so that he can afford the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday (a wonderful pop-up book of London). Without giving too much away, Paddington and his adopted family (The Browns) end up going through many trials and tribulations. Every single main character gets some sort of arc, and the script is packed with setups and payoffs left and right. Not to mention that there’s also an inclusive, anti-Brexit theme flowing throughout as we see Paddington’s London for the melting pot it truly is.
Paul King returned to his director’s chair for the sequel and his direction is vibrant, fresh, and aesthetically pleasing. The impressive cinematography and cozy color palette help amplify the warmth given off by Paddington himself. Speaking of my son, the visual effects done to bring the lovable bear to life are incredible. And it’s not just with Paddington – there are several outstanding sequences throughout the film that were mainly created by Framestore, a British VFX company. Two standout scenes that come to mind involve a life-size pop-up book, and steam trains.
Ben Whishaw completes Paddington by lending his naïve yet loveable, youthful voice to the role. The rest of main cast returns from the first film as well, including Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and Peter Capaldi. New cast members include Brendan Gleeson, Jessica Hynes, Noah Taylor, and many more. They all give excellent performances with great comedic timing. But oh my god, I haven’t even mentioned Hugh Grant yet.
Grant plays Phoenix Buchanan, Paddington 2’s delightful antagonist. A narcissistic and washed-up actor best known for shooting dog food commercials, Buchanan clashes with Paddington when it turns out that they both want the same pop-up book. I’ve always been a fan of Hugh Grant, from Notting Hill to Music and Lyrics, but he’s an absolute scene-stealer here. As Buchanan, Grant gets to chew the scenery with a variety of personas. Also, he gets to do a song and dance number at one point, and that should be more than enough to sell you on this film, if nothing else has already.
Upon release, Paddington 2 was understandably critically acclaimed. On Rotten Tomatoes, there are 222 reviews for the film, and none of them – not a single one – are negative. It holds the site’s record for best-reviewed movie, and that’s not going away any time soon. Paddington’s still the King, baby, now and forever.
With all the critical praise, I went into this awards season filled with hope and optimism – which my cynical self probably got from watching Paddington 2 in the first place. When it came to Oscar nominations, I thought, okay, maybe Best Picture is a long shot even if it really deserves it. But surely, it would be a guaranteed lock for Best Visual Effects? And then the Oscars released their shortlist. Tragically, I was wrong.
But I still held hope. I began wishing a little harder for Best Picture, and I thought that there was no way Hugh Grant wouldn’t get a nod for Best Supporting Actor. I woke up bright and early for when they announced the nominees. But I never saw Paddington 2. All I could see was… Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody? I was heartbroken, trapped in what felt like a nightmare, but was very much a cold and cruel reality. A plot was surely afoot.
As I adjusted to the new, bleak world that I found myself in, Boots Riley posted a thread on twitter explaining why his own film, Sorry to Bother You, wasn’t nominated either. And it’s, at the very least, because they didn’t run an ad campaign. Simple as. I looked at Paddington 2 and realized that they hadn’t ran a campaign either, so maybe I was the fool for going in believing that they would get nominations. However, due to my bias, I still consider this an injustice and will continue to demand reparations from the Academy.
“If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”Paddington
Paddington 2 isn’t just a well-made film for the whole family: It’s the ultimate feel good movie. Pure and good escapism. It’s an aesthetic for when I’m feeling down. And so, it can be disappointing to not see something you love be gratified like you know it deserves to be. But I think that Paddington himself probably wouldn’t mind and would just be happy to know that he made others feel good.
If you haven’t seen it already, I obviously recommend Paddington 2. There’s also a cartoon coming soon on Nickelodeon for children, which I will of course be watching. I should also note now, in advance, that I’ll be personally overseeing the show’s campaign for a Daytime Emmy. Be sure to RSVP.