And The Oscar Goes To….

The most Oscar-worthy films of 2017


In stark contrast to previous years, the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards have been excellent. In a list of nominees that is as long as it is talented; these movies span genre, race, age, and culture. Here are my picks for the 89th annual Oscars.


Best Picture

Arrival; Fences; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Hidden Figures; La La Land; Lion; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight.

Who Will Win: La La Land

If You Asked Me… Manchester by the Sea

This an extremely tough choice. When I look at this category five major contenders jump out at me: Fences, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight. These are all five great films, with excellent performances in all.

Hell or High Water is different than most movies in the crime genre. Centered around two brothers robbing Texas banks, the story unfolds as they are chased across the state by a determined sheriff (Jeff Bridges). Despite a wonderful performance from Chris Pine, who broke the preconceived notions I had about his acting range, this movie doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance to be my pick.

Fences started out as a play and was beautifully translated onto the big screen. Centered around a black family in 1950s Pittsburgh, it details the multitude of fences we construct to keep people in and out. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis put on incredible performances, but it is up against some very steep competition.

La La Land is the movie everyone is talking about. A musical telling the intersecting story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), it is reminiscent of old melancholy French musicals. Beautifully scored by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and brilliantly directed by Damien Chazelle, this would be many’s pick for Best Picture but the lack of songs in the middle of the film kept it from being my favorite.

Moonlight is a hidden gem overshadowed by its competitors, particularly La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. It tells the story of a gay black man living in Miami in three different parts, each played by a different actor. Alex Hibbert, Aston Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, who play Chiron in his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood respectively, each bring something different to the role and give us a look into this complex and sad central character. Whether is has flown under the radar because it deals with issues of race and sexuality or simply because it wasn’t as highly advertised when it was produced as other films, this is a must-see.

Manchester by the Sea is a painful yet beautiful look into the life of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck). After he returns to the town he grew up in after the death of his brother, we see the pain and sorrow that lurk behind Affleck’s eyes in every close up. In this film, the audience gets a look at the intense and incredible performance by Affleck, who perfectly captures the sadness that is present throughout the movie. This film takes my pick for the best picture simply because it found beauty and sorrow and focused on it in such a wonderful way. It encourages you find the beauty in sadness and the heartbreak in all characters, an incredible film that may be sad but cannot be overlooked.


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Denzel Washington, Fences.

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

If You Asked Me… Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

This is another category rife with talent, but in the end Casey Affleck runs away with the win. His performance has the audience seeing the true pain and sorrow that he has stowed away and this perfectly embodies the character of the movie he is in. With this role Affleck cements himself alongside his brother, Ben, as one of the best male actors in Hollywood. Denzel Washington also puts on a tough, rugged performance that reminds us that he is much more than the action star he sometimes plays. Lastly, Viggo Mortensen is wonderful in the odd and quirky comedy that is Captain Fantastic. Entirely different from any other movie nominated, Captain Fantastic is unexpected and breaks the mold, Mortensen the catalyst. However, Affleck’s honesty of emotion and his portrayal of living with true tragedy is to compelling to ignore.


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Hupert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie, Emma Stone, La La Land; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins.

Who Will Win: Emma Stone, La La Land

If You Asked Me… Emma Stone, La La Land

Yes, I’m betting against Meryl Streep, but this is truly a one-horse race. Emma Stone carries La La Land. She is energetic, enthusiastic, and determined in this wonderful portrayal of life in Hollywood. For those of us, myself included, who thought Emma Stone couldn’t sing before we watched La La Land were in for a surprise. She is perfectly cast for the character she plays and makes La La Land worth watching if only for her (not that it isn’t worth watching otherwise). Emma Stone is doing her best work right now and this movie is proof of it, and at these Oscars, she’ll be rewarded.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals.

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

If You Asked Me… Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Moonlight is a beautifully sorrowful and entrancing film where Chiron’s world crumbles around him as he tries to find out who he really is. In his childhood, he meets Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, a drug dealer that Chiron looks up to as a father figure. Ali plays his character in the most human form possible, conflicted as he sells drugs to Chiron’s mother yet feeds him like a son. Bridges puts on a excellent performance in Hell or High Water, but Ali is the most deserving of an Oscar.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea.

Who Will Win: Viola Davis, Fences

If You Asked Me… Viola Davis, Fences

In a movie of excellent performances, Viola Davis gives a wonderful portrayal of Rose Maxon, a housewife who is unafraid to stand up for herself against her commandeering husband, played by Denzel Washington. Davis puts another element of conflict into this film and it wouldn’t be half as good without her. Honorable mention must be given to Naomie Harris who adds an element of helplessness to Chiron’s life in Moonlight. Lasty, another mention must be given to Annette Bening from 20th Century Women, the mysterious single mother that this hilarious and unique coming of age film revolves around. Annette Bening was the most notable snub of this year’s nominations.


Best Director

Dennis Villeneuve, Arrival; Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge; Damien Chazelle, La La Land; Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea; Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Who Will Win: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

If You Asked Me… Damien Chazelle, La La Land

This is a very tough decision between two excellent directors who produced two amazing movies. Barry Jenkins embraces using different actors as a character ages allowing three different actors to put their own take on this story. Moonlight weaves sorrow through a complex story that makes the audience want to reach out and help our character. On the other hand, the scale of La La Land is reminiscent of grand old Busby Berkeley musicals, with hundreds of dancers dancing on cars in a highway in the opening number. He revives the genre of movie-musicals with this original story putting a modern spin on a genre that has largely been dormant. Both are excellent but Chazelle’s wonderful direction just edges out Jenkins’ depiction of the Miami teen.