Ranking this years Best Picture Nominees is tougher than I recall in years past. I genuinely found cinematic value, and personal engagement in all of them.
Of the 9 films nominated this year there are:
- three that are based on true stories – Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, and Lion
- four that feature youth as a central part of the story – Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Lion, and Fences
- four that feature actors of colour in leading roles – Lion, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Fences
- two were based on plays – Fences, and Moonlight
- two films employed non-linear story telling – Manchester by the Sea, and Arrival
- two the have persons-non-gratis central to production – Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson anti-Semite comments and Manchester by the Sea star Casey Affleck sexual harassment allegations
As always I rank the film based on these four criteria:
- was I emotionally engaged and moved
- was I surprised by the story telling
- did it take me to a new world or show me new things
- was it visually cinematic, did it exploit the medium of film
The powerful story and brilliant acting were truly impressive but you could tell it was an adaptation of a play. I highly recommend it as a master class in acting though since both director Denzel Washington and Viola Davis did the Broadway run and they bring a insightful level of depth.
8) Hell or High Water
I really loved this caper film about an aging FBI agent who tries to predict and trap two small time crooks. The motivations for the thefts gave it gravitas and almost made it seem a sequel to The Big Short. Solid story telling done well but not revolutionary or outstanding but it was gritty fun.
7) La La Land
This film should win for best cinematography, maybe best song and I would be fine with Best Actress for Emma Stone but what a bland unengaging story. Neither character was fleshed out other than their artistic aspirations. I sometimes forgot what was happening as it was happening although it was pretty to look at.
6) Hacksaw Ridge
Now we are getting into the films that moved me. Andrew Garfield plays a real life World War 2 conscientious objector whose belief in God prevented him from touching a gun. Too bad Mel Gibson was so over wrought with the violence. He never met a face it didn’t want to shoot through the eye. Otherwise outstanding because it was true.
Although I sometimes felt the film was a little self-congratulatory about it’s own cleverness and wished there were more levels in both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner’s relationship I was captured by the uniqueness of the film and welcomed the wonder it evoked.
4) Manchester by the Sea
The first of the Best Picture Nominees I saw and man, did that kid Lucas Hedges make be cry. The internal struggles in both his character and Casey Affleck have grabbed me by the throat. Really well made melodrama and the time twisting story telling made it more that what it was.
3) Hidden Figures
I was so capture by this piece of history that I had no knowledge of. All the actresses were brilliant and damn if I didn’t get caught up in the story of their lives. I was so happy to hear that it surpassed La La Land in domestic box-office. It’s a quality film about some under represented people who are finally getting their due.
The first third of the film was more original and moving than anything I saw this year, then the next two thirds yank at my hearts strings while the film itself dazzled with it’s imagery and soundtrack. A meditation on a tragic character that builds to a sad slow conclusion that doesn’t give a happy out.
The little kid in this film was spectacular, entirely captivating. The story was almost unbelievable and sure it slowed a bit when the kid grew up to be Dev Patel but when it got into it’s last act I was like a waterfall and like HackSaw Ridge and Hidden Figure when you saw the real people the story was based on it just impacts you about the mankind’s desire to survive and thrive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RNI9o06vqo – DO NOT WATCH TRAILER BEFORE SEEING THE FILM. IT SPOILS THE WHOLE STORY.
I would be happy if any of those last three won. But the odds makers are saying it’s La La Land’s to lose so we shall see if they are right.
HOW WOULD YOU RANK THEM?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO WIN?
David C. Jones