Even though La La Land is almost certainly the winner, I will live in an alternative universe where the gem that is Moonlight gets justly rewarded. Read on to see how I place this year’s Best Picture Nominees:
Moonlight is everything a Best Picture winner should be: Emotionally affecting, technically brilliant, well writen and with touching, nuanced performances.
It’s like Boyhood but good, as it chronicles Chiron, a poor, black gay boy growing up in Miami. Three different actors play Chiron at formative periods of his life, pre-teen, teen and young man. Each performer reveals how he changes over time in a journey of self discovery.
Performances are uniformly excellent with powerful supporting performances by Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris.
Director Jenkins relies on visual motif, and the soft, radiant cinematography powerful captures key moments without arbitrary dialogue.
Hell or High Water should win Best Motion Picture for many reasons: its excellent performances, stunning cinematography, and a plot that’s simultaneously funny, entertaining, and affecting. But one of the most compelling cases for it to win Best Picture is the painfully relevant narrative. The little guys (brothers, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster) standing up to the big guys (greedy, apathetic bankers), in a story that thrillingly captures and reinstates the power and wealth disparity of America.
Arrival is both a visual and an auditory thrill of a film with an unfortunate pacing problem. When ambiguous alien pods make a dramatic arrival on earth, expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams, in a subtle yet compelling performance) is called in to translate their intentions. Denis Villeneuve, known for the thrilling Sicario, here produces an intelligent and engaging sci-fi entry. In a favoured change, the Aliens are dealt with using brains, not brawn, and the only weaponry used here is the looming threat of military action by other countries.
The script plays with the fluidity of time in a thought-provoking way, with a tense, albeit mind-aching finale. Ultimately this ambitious climax is too convoluted to be fully effective and this, combined with an indulgently unnecessary length, is where Arrival becomes an excellent film, but not a masterpiece.
4. Manchester by the Sea
A moving and emotionally wrecking film about grief and human connection. Lonergan’s script is undeniably depressing, yet finds unexpected moments of humour within the brooding sadness.
Casey Affleck delivers a performance well deserving of an Oscar, nicely supported by Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams.
5. Hidden Figures
It’s not the sort of high-brow film typical of winning Best Picture, however Hidden Figures is a entertaining, fun and moving.It recounts the true story about the African American women who helped get then first Americans into space.
The three actresses at the centre are all fantastic, including the feisty Taraji P Henson and the sassy Janelle Monáe. Pharrell Williams jazzy music is super catchy, and the script nicely balances the stories of the three leads.
While the play-turned-film Fences, and arthouse gem Moonlight is unlikely to capture the box office, Hidden Figures is an great audience friendly way to provoke reflection on racism in society today.
Denzel Washington’s direction of August Wilson’s play, is a moving portrait of a family trapped in racism, economic tension, and failing relationships. It’s theatrical roots are clear from the significant amount of dialogue and emotional monologues. Viola Davis is, as always, phenomenal (well deserving her Oscars win). Denzel Washington delivers his best Willy Loman as the bitter patriarch trying to keep his family together. Joven Adepo deserved a supporting actor nod for his turn as the teenage son craving his father’s affection.
In Gibson’s true story Hacksaw Ridge, Staunch Christian Desmond Doss (Garfield) enlists to fight in WW2, but refuses to kill.
HR’s beautifully shot with evocative sound effects in battle scenes. There’s many strong Australian performances, but the writing restricts characters into mere stereotypes. Garfield’s goofy determination, although fitting, gets annoying to watch. The film is mostly exhilarating overkill of gore, grit, and smack-in-your-face sentimentality.
However, despite the eye-rolling melodrama, HR’s gripping action and heartwarming heroics satisfies.
8. La La Land
La La Land is an average film about two narcissists who dream of fame, and receiving critical acclaim primarily because of the cinematic nostalgia it evokes.
I admire Chazelle’s vision and daring, and admit that he probably deserves Best Director. The film’s cinematography is admirable in its use of bold colour tones, and some of the music is quite good.
Stone and Gosling have undeniable chemistry, however neither are worthy of the accolades they’ve been receiving (especially considering their insufficient singing and dancing skills).
The premise of Lion sounds interesting: a heartfelt true story about a lost boy reuniting with his family twenty five years after their separation. Throw in an intriguing ‘exotic’ culture, and you’ve got yourself some Oscar bait. However, the many flaws of Lion overshadow its few strengths, resulting in a disjointed film that’s uneven in both tone and quality.
Lion is a good film if you consider the engaging first half, and the emotional finale. As it is, with melodramatic acting, unnecessary characters and an hour of Dev Patel looking sad, Lion is disappointingly mediocre.
So there’s my list! What do you think of the Oscar Winners?