This coming Sunday is a big night for fans of film around the world. The 2017 Academy Awards! I have spent some time over the past couple weeks watching the nominations for Best Picture. And now, for your benefit, I will now post my thoughts on each nominated film.
*Note: I watched these in no particular order. Except for La La Land, I watched that one last to prevent bias as I have already seen it.
Fences is a film adaption of a play about a working-class African-American family in the 1950s. The story follows Troy (played by Denzel Washington) and his wife, Rose (played by Viola Davis), and their family and friends as they navigate their lives day-to-day. Both success and tragedy fill their lives
I was already familiar with the play and was intrigued how it would be adapted to screen. While it does feel like I am watching a play, it is Washington and Davis that breath life into this film. And so, give it the proper respect this content deserves that makes it a contender.
Following the life of an African-American’s journey from adolescence to manhood, Moonlight, frames a “coming-of-age” tale for a contemporary audience.
This was an interesting film to watch, not just for the intriguing storytelling, but also for the content the characters address. Showing the vulnerability of human life at tender moments throughout the main character’s life puts it as one of this year’s top dramas and its nomination.
Lion follows the story of Saroo. As young child, he finds himself wandered onto a train, and transported thousands of miles away from his mother and family. Further events lead him to being adopted by an Australian couple in where he grows up unkown of where he is originally from. It isn’t until as an adult that he discovers a fire within to find where he was from and return there to find his family.
Based on the true life of this man, this film was a compelling story of Saroo’s new self-discovery all while juggling the current life that was built for him. Dev Patel in his portrayal of Saroo, allows the story of struggle, love, and the power of family to bring to life a deeper understanding of bonds we cannot break.
Hell or High Water
A classic western story-arc told in the 21st Century. That was my first thought when watching this film.
Hell or High Water is a film that follows two brothers who do a string of bank robberies and the deputy sheriffs that are always one step behind them as the brothers travel across Texas to rob a string of banks.
Elements of this film and the stereotypes that this film utilizes take me back to the classic westerns that graced film for so many years. I was entertained a lot more than I thought I would be during this film, and I’m glad to see another western-genre film get the recognition it deserves.
Manchester by the Sea
A man run down by unfortunate circumstances has led him to live a less than happy life. Only until he receives a call that his brother has passed and he has been named the guardian of his teenage nephew. Manchester by the Sea, is another example of a drama film presenting humanity’s limitations through the process of grief and reconciliation.
Beyond a stellar cast (including Casey Afleck and Michelle Williams), and the fact that it is a streaming service’s first nomination for best picture, this film is a solid contender.
When I sat down to watch this movie, I was not sure what I was expecting. But I enjoyed my experience while Hacksaw Ridge. This film is about WWII Army Medic Desmond Doss who objected to holding and using a gun. While his comrades did not like his presence, it would end up being Doss that they would turn too in their hour of need during a battle in Okinawa.
An expectation one should have when seeing a film by Mel Gibson is that you are seeing an depiction as close to accuracy as possible (including the violence of battle) to story’s content. Combined with a stellar cast (Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, etc.) and an enriched story content, Hacksaw Ridge is a beautiful story how there is more than one way to prove your worth and protect others.
You cannot go wrong with a cast that includes Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, and Jim Parsons.
Hidden Figures unveils the secret history of the American Space race in the 1960’s. The story follows three African-American women who worked for NASA to help them crunch their numbers. The ups and downs that followed them and the teams at NASA as they attempted to put a man in space.
I was moved by the power of the three main female characters in this movie (Spencer, Henson, & Monae). This film did an excellent job switching between dramatic conversations to humorous quips, and then back again with ease. Hidden Figures holds itself up quite well against the other films in this Oscar Race.
Imagine a series of unidentified objects appear on this planet and no one knows what to do. Well, in Arrival, the United States Military enlists the help of renowned linguist (Amy Adams) and a physicist (Jeremy Renner) to discover the mysterious communication process between our language and that of the aliens aboard the spacecraft.
First and foremost, I have seen quite a few science fiction films in my day. And very few have left unknown of the outcome and kept me on my toes for so long. I am very pleased stating that Arrival is among those films. Without giving anything away, this film is an excellent study in storytelling mixed with visual imagery and a lesson linguistics.
La La Land
Beautiful songs and melodies mixed vibrant colors bring the world of La La Land to life. The film follows two artists, an actress (Emma Stone) and a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling), on their journey to discover their true artistic passions. The story unfolds over the four seasons of a year (and the roller coaster of their relationships).
This is another good study in classic film techniques and omages. Stone and Gosling’s on-screen chemistry is tough to beat as the pair have been in several films together. And, while there are many references to the great films from the golden age of cinema. This film, at times, seems as if it has been pulled from that period and been plopped into ours to remind us of the thorough enjoyment one can have at the movies. While also, creating a genuine film for all.
I don’t want to pick a favorite (let alone a film that will win this weekend). Firstly, because it would be very difficult. Secondly, each film has a different strength over the other. Where in one area a film may be lacking, another will thrive.
I love movies and cannot wait to see what future movies will surprise and impress me.
Happy Oscar Race!