Although I rarely ever watch the actual broadcast, I always make an effort to watch as many of the Academy Awards nominees as possible which can be difficult for the smaller, limited releases and foreign films.
If you haven’t seen these movies yet, there might be spoilers so this is fair warning.
I’m proud to say that this year I watched all of the Best Picture nominees. These are just some random thoughts I have on the films:
- Arrival It had great visuals and an interesting premise that really made you think but I’m sorry to say I didn’t really feel all that invested in the characters aside from Louise (Amy Adams). I really couldn’t have cared less about Jeremy Renner in the movie.
- Fences I know that Fences is originally a play and when you watch the film it feels and looks like someone took a camera and filmed the stage play. It reminded me a lot of the 1966 stage to film adaptation of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor which I suppose isn’t a bad thing.
- Hacksaw Ridge I liked it although there were a few heavy-handed moments that took me right out of the film, like the Jesus allegory towards the end of the film or the slo-mo of Andrew Garfield standing up and running back into the fray which is such an action flick cliche. Plus, Andrew Garfield’s character literally carrying all of his injured comrades off the battlefield, even if it’s based on a true story, reminded me way too much of the Vietnam War sequence in the movie Forrest Gump.
- Hell or High Water If I had to pick a favorite film from the Best Picture category, this would be it. A lot of this year’s films feel pretentious and preachy to me but the story here’s very straightforward and well-told about a man trying to give his sons a better life through some very questionable means.
- Hidden Figures I didn’t really enjoy this movie. I liked Taraji P. Henson and Olivia Spencer in this movie but Janelle Monae was so annoying I wanted to smack her every time she was on screen, the film felt so preachy, and the ending was so disappointing. In the final act of the movie they set up this whole man versus machine scenario where they call in Taraji P. Henson’s math genius character to double check the IBM supercomputer’s math. It felt like they were building up to Taraji delivering a smackdown to the computer and being the savior of the space mission but in the end she just confirmed the computer had given the correct answer. It was a bummer of a note to end on, especially in a film that’s supposed to be about the empowerment of women and people of color. Apparently, machines do it better and faster.
- La La Land I was looking forward to this film so much because of all the hype surrounding it, despite the fact that I don’t really care for musicals, but once I saw it I was like, “oh, that’s it? That’s what all the fuss was about?” It’s a nice film but I don’t think it’s Best Picture worthy.
- Lion I loved the entire first act of the film that centered on the young Saroo. The story and characters were really engaging but once the film shifted to the older Saroo played by Dev Patel it lost me. Adult Saroo’s such a douche to his family and girlfriend that I had a hard time sympathizing with him and the search for his birth family.
- Manchester by the Sea This was such a depressing, slice of life movie and not in a heart wrenching, sob my eyes out kind of way because I love a good tearjerker. No, it’s depressing because of Casey Affleck’s character who’s just really dour, sulky and anti-social for the entirety of the film. I was dry eyed the whole way through but bored out of my mind.
- Moonlight Although I would like it if Hell or High Water won, I think Moonlight has a better chance with voters and that it’s more deserving compared to La La Land which everyone is saying is going to win. It’s a very compelling three-act story about Chiron, a shy and quiet boy who grows up in an abusive home with his drug addict mother and follows him from his teens into adulthood. Janelle Monae is much more likable in this film than in Hidden Figures.
Is anyone else a fan of Honest Trailers? They’re usually good for a laugh. I don’t always agree with them but they happened to post a trailer for the Oscars right after I finished watching this year’s nominees and they sum up some of my own thoughts on the films, especially for La La Land:
I’ve only seen 2 out of 5 Best Actress performances (Natalie Portman/Jackie, Emma Stone/La La Land), so I can’t tell you who I think should win in that category. But I have seen all of the nominees for Best Supporting Actress and I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that Viola Davis should win. I know it’s about quality not quantity and she had the most screen time among the ladies in her category but she also gave the strongest performance and showed the most range.
- Viola Davis (Fences)
- Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
- Nicole Kidman (Lion)
- Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
- Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
For Best Actor, my vote goes to Denzel Washington in Fences. On a side note, I doubt Viggo Mortensen has a shot at the Oscar but Captain Fantastic was a really enjoyable film that hardly anyone seems to have seen.
- Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
- Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
- Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
- Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
- Denzel Washington (Fences)
I’ve only seen 4 out of 5 of the Best Supporting Actor performances (Mahershala Ali/Moonlight, Jeff Bridges/Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges/Manchester by the Sea, Dev Patel/Lion). However, I think Dev Patel being nominated for Best Supporting Actor is a total joke when he was clearly the lead actor in Lion. If anyone from Lion had to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor it should’ve been Sunny Panwar who played the young Saroo.
For Best Director, I think Damien Chazelle should and probably will win for his work on La La Land. Although I don’t think it’s worthy of Best Picture, Damien Chazelle had a very clear style and artistic vision for the film that really came across on the big screen.
- Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
- Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
- Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
- Kennth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
- Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)