The 91st Academy Awards show airs this Sunday. This is my 12th year of presenting the Best Picture nominees, suggesting wine pairings with the top contenders.
Due to space constraints, I’ve distilled my list to four of the eight nominees.
Roma. I appreciate artistic movies as a counterpoint to all of the titillating action movies that dominate the landscape these days. But I just don’t get this movie – or the hype surrounding it. It presents a storyline that portrays the youth of its director, Alfonso Cuarón, in 1971 in the Mexican city of Roma, through the life of Cleo, a local family’s maid. The film’s primary focus is the end of innocence, adorned with cinematic imagery, as experienced by young and old alike.
I sometimes find myself in a similar quandary with obscure wines I encounter. Although well-made, they don’t appeal to my personal sensibility of a balanced wine that lives up to the hype and accolades of the self-proclaimed cognoscenti. I’ve sampled orange wines, young Tannat and a number of Central European wines. But appreciate them as alternatives to other expressive fine wines? Not for me.
Bohemian Rhapsody. Another biopic of the behind-the-scenes life of the famous, but with a vitality and insight I haven’t experienced often. This Hollywood version of the band Queen’s ebb and flow of family ties, sexual orientation and conflicting egos was compelling. Freddie Mercury is the natural center of attention but is loyal to his bandmates, until he succumbs to the lure of solo fame and fortune. In the end he is conflicted over his loyalties and sexuality, yet finds comfort in the broader relationship with his bandmates.
I find Zinfandel to have a similar arc over the last three decades. At its height of popularity, it was appreciated alternatively as an in-your-face fruit bomb and a sophisticated, thought-provoking star. At times misunderstood, at other times irrepressible but always enticing and never disappointing. And then it changed its role. It subsumed itself as a blending grape, bolstering the popular red blends coming out of California.
Green Book. What do a white New York racist Goomba and a classically trained, world acclaimed black pianist have in common? Very little, at the outset of this “buddy road trip” movie.
It’s 1962 and Dr. Don Shirley has decided to pursue his own brand of improving race relations in the Deep South. Ever the pragmatist, he hires Tony “Lip” Vallelonga as his driver-bodyguard on a concert tour of wealthy Southern enclaves. Based on a true story, it caroms from situations of expected racism to unexpected friendship building. Each of them is impacted by the other’s morals and foibles.
Is there a wine that finds itself conflicted and the object of derision? In my opinion, Rieslings fit this profile. Although having similar DNA, each bottle is a unique expression of its environment; each is influenced by its surroundings. Rieslings can be simple or sophisticated, obliging to the palate or replete with conflicting aromas and flavors. One may be more acidic than sweet, another completely opposite – and each may change over time, revealing nuances we hadn’t foreseen.
BlacKkKlansman. Only Spike Lee could create a story of overt racism in early 1970s Middle America and present it through such a unique prism of entanglement and violence. A black police officer undertakes an undercover investigation of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, enlisting a white Jewish detective as his “black” foil. Lee uses this movie about racism to shine bright lights on what we already know in 2019: racism continues to be a divisive social issue.
Which wine is emblematic of the twists and turns in life that result in an outcome that reconfirms the worst and best of 21st century America? California Pinot Noir. In the last quarter-century it has gone through numerous transformations, from insipid and backward to bold and fruit-forward to sophisticated and complex, and all the way back again in the hands of those seeking its true expression.
Which film will win the coveted Oscar? Tune in with a glass of your favorite wine and watch the drama unfold.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.