“Arrival”: Director Denis Villeneuve shocked audiences around the globe with his engrossing and intelligent science fiction thriller, “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Regrettably Amy Adams has no chance at winning Best Actress, because she was snubbed in the nominations. Don’t count this alien film out, though. As it is both a gripping science fiction thriller and an introspective examination on the art of communication, “Arrival” could win Adapted Screenplay. “Arrival” could also win Best Production Design due to the unique nature of its spaceships’ interiors and exteriors. The odds of “Arrival” winning Best Picture are minimal, but this is a good thing, because the DVD will be less expensive and easier to get your hands on.
“Fences”: Denzel Washington directs and stars in August Wilson’s acclaimed play about Pittsburgh, family and the struggle for power in “Fences.” Accompanying Denzel is a triumphant performance by Viola Davis and Mykelti Williamson. Considering the weight and earnest bitterness in his performance, Denzel Washington could win his second Oscar for Best Actor. Viola Davis is definitely going to win Best Supporting Actress, as she won the Golden Globe (GG) and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award (SAG). Denzel’s directing is also a standout feature of “Fences.” He added a foundation of pure Christianity to the film without changing a single line of August Wilson’s dialogue. It would be impressive if “Fences” wins Best Picture, but not as impressive as seeing it in theatres.
“Hacksaw Ridge”: “Hacksaw Ridge” is the incredible true story of World War II soldier Desmond Daas, a devout Christian who refused to use firearms. It’s a gripping war story led by Best Actor nominee Andrew Garfield. “Hacksaw Ridge” might only win Sound Editing, but a bigger surprise is this film’s director nomination. Mel Gibson, after being abandoned by the Academy for over a decade, received a Best Director nomination for his outstanding work. Though it is one of the stronger entries for Best Picture, “Hacksaw Ridge” could unfortunately leave the night with nothing. It is a film worth seeing, and it has a powerful message on the importance of remaining steadfast to your morals in a world telling you to fall in line.
“Hell or High Water”: In the heart of Texas, two brothers must save their family’s ranch by doing what they believe is right, robbing banks, in David Mackenzie’s crime drama “Hell or High Water.” Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Best Supporting Actor nominee Jeff Bridges spit life into Taylor Sheridan’s remorseless screenplay. After watching any clip from this film, it is overwhelmingly clear why “Hell or High Water” was nominated and could win Best Original Screenplay. It doesn’t deserve it though because despite the film’s clever back and forth between characters, the story takes awhile to raise its stakes. It’s probably not going to win Best Picture, but I liked seeing it on DVD, and so will others looking for a new modern Western.
“Hidden Figures”: Theodore Melfi directs three tremendous actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, in this movie based on the true story of the woman who strung the math together and put a man in orbit, “Hidden Figures.” Of all the Best Picture nominees, “Hidden Figures” is nominated for the fewest amount of Oscars, only receiving two other nominations. Its chances of winning Best Adapted Screenplay are slim, as it is going up against “Arrival” and “Moonlight.” Octavia Spencer’s chances of winning Best Supporting Actress are the bare minimum, as Viola Davis has this award practically locked. “Hidden Figures” is most likely not going to win anything, and it is not worth seeing in theatres, but you should still check it out when it becomes available at our school library.
“La La Land”: Reviving the original theatrical musical and lifting audience’s spirits around the world, ambitious director Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is this year’s top contender for everything. It will most likely win Best Original Song, “City of Stars,” Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. “La La Land” is also the strongest frontrunner for Best Director, as Damien Chazelle has won the Director’s Guild Award and the GG. “La La Land” will likely win Best Original Screenplay, as it won the only screenplay award in the GG. Emma Stone is also looking to win Best Actress, since she won the SAG and the GG. Ryan Gosling isn’t a lock for Best Actor because he lost the SAG to Denzel Washington. Even if “La La Land” doesn’t win “the top five,” Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay, it has already made history at this year’s Oscars. Nominated for a record-tying 14 nominations, I would be shocked if “La La Land” did not win Best Picture. It’s one of the best films I have seen in theatres, and it’s worth every penny.
“Lion”: Supporting actor nominee Dev Patel plays Saroo, an adopted boy who got lost on the streets of Calcutta at the age of nine, in Garth Davis’ “Lion.” The film is split into two parts, young Saroo finding himself lost and older Saroo searching Google Earth for his family. Of all of the Best Picture nominees, you can expect this film to win nothing. It doesn’t stand a chance against its competitors, but it is worth watching when it comes out on DVD.
“Manchester by the Sea”: Casey Affleck plays an uncle who becomes his teenage nephew’s new guardian in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea.” This movie could win Best Original Screenplay, and Affleck could win Best Actor since he won it at the GG. I have not seen this movie, but I am not looking forward to watching it. All of the clips I have watched contained characters talking over each other, answering none of their questions. I am led to believe this is a touching and sentimental movie, but I have a hard time believing it will stick around once Oscar season is over.
“Moonlight”: Oscar-nominated director Barry Jenkins sheds light on the hardships and relentless reality of growing up as an African American in Miami in his stunning film “Moonlight.” The lead character is played by three different people, each one representing a different stage in their life. Mahershala Ali gives a riveting and heartfelt supporting performance, worthy of his GG and of an upcoming Oscar. He could, however, lose this award to Michael Shannon’s performance in “Nocturnal Animals” (not nominated for Best Picture). Barry Jenkins’ memorable writing is sure to win Best Adapted Screenplay. “Moonlight” could also win Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Next to “La La Land,” “Moonlight” is the film to look out for in this year’s Oscars and later on our library’s shelves.