With only one day left before the Oscar ceremony and I have completed watching all of the films nominated for Best Picture. I definitely think that how you feel at any given moment will affect how you view the movie you're watching, so I wish I had been feeling better and able to find my best glasses before I began watching the final three best picture nominees. However, after watching La La Land any movie would be a breeze to get through.
Arrival is one of the few science fiction films to be nominated for Best Picture and the only science fiction nominee this year. However, beyond the arrival of aliens and the other science fiction elements, Arrival at its core is about humanity and human behavior to stress. As Aliens arrive in multiple locations across the world, how do different world governments approach contact? Are they a threat or an opportunity? How do you communicate with someone with no context, no shared language or history? The main character Louise is an expert linguists who is asked by the US Government to help speak with the "heptapods" who have landed in America. As she gets more and more immersed in learning how to communicate with the two heptapods they've named Abbott and Costello, she starts to have dreams and think in their language. It's difficult to convey the desires and the purpose of the aliens but as world governments tty to figure out the true purpose of the heptapods visit they start to feel apprehensive and threaten to attack the aliens. Louise is able to understand just in time and prevent a world conflict.
Arrival is a great movie, it's tense and beautifully shot. I enjoyed the story structure and thought that it was masterfully crafted. I think most of the issues i had with the film were faults of my own attentions pan and not being in the right frame of mind to view the film, but I very much enjoyed and appreciated the work that went into the movie. It seems clear at this point in awards season that the movie won't win more than some technical awards but it was very enjoyable and if you like science fiction films and thrillers I would suggest watching Arrival.
I was very apprehensive to watch Manchester by the Sea given the controversy surrounding Casey Affleck and the buzz that made his Best Actor win seem like a foregone conclusion. However, Manchester by the Sea was also nominated for Best Picture and therefore also bringing the first nomination for a muggle black female producer for Best Picture (Oprah is barely human, she doesn't really count). This film tells the story of a depressed, self-isolating janitor Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) who is brought back to his hometown of Manchester after the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) because he has been made the legal guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). We find out through flashbacks what has driven Lee away from Manchester, the tragic loss of his children, and why he has been made Patrick's legal guardian, his estranged mother was an addict. I believe this is one of those films where two or three scenes elevate a decent movie to Oscar worthy, those scenes really do showcase the talent of the cast and justify its nominations.
I am a big fan of films that use pacing and silence to convey large themes which this movie does really well. Whole thoughts and motivations are shown in silences and sighs, the sadness of the main characters sits like an invisibility cloak throughout the film, with moments where the grief breaks through. If you enjoy movies with slow pacing and quiet drama, you will really enjoy this film. It can be difficult to separate your feelings about the controversy of the big "star" in this movie, I had the same issue, but film is so collaborative and it is worth seeing to celebrate some of the other magnificent performances.
Like Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge suffers from having a controversial figure at its forefront, the film is Mel Gibson's re-entry into Hollywood and return from his spectacular fall from grace. Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss a Seventh Day Adventist who enlisted in the army during WWII despite being a conscious objector and morally opposed to carrying a firearm. The film starts with a young Desmond violently fighting with his brother almost killing him when he hits him in the head with a brick, the feeling really affecting Desmond. The film then moves quickly to an older Desmond still living at home, active in church, and falling in love with a local nurse. His older brother enlists in the army and upsets their abusive father, Desmond later tells his parents and girlfriend that he has also enlisted but plans to be a medic. During Desmond's basic training he is subject to hostility and violence by others in his company for his refusal to handle a rifle or train on Saturdays which goes against his beliefs though he succeeds in all other aspects of training. After his superiors are unsuccessful in getting him released or court-martialed, he marries his girlfriend Dorothy and his unit is assigned to Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is a vital element of the Battle of Okinawa and this is where the film gets really violent. However, without carrying a weapon, Doss saves numerous soldiers, American and Japanese, and gains the respect of the unit that was hostile to him at the start of the film.
Hacksaw Ridge is a movie of sweeping scope it almost seems like two separate films the first half about Desmond and the second about the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. I thought that Andrew Garfield gave a really brilliant performance as he portrays Desmond as both oddly naive and fiercely brave without it feeling disjointed. While I'm not a fan of overly violent films, I can't deny the violence of war and the direction it took to film those battle scenes make Gibson's nomination a no-brainer. If you like historical films, war movies and biopics you will like this film. It's epic in scope and ambitious but meets all of those challenges head on.
So I didn't succeed in viewing the full list of nominations that will be screened last night but I did view all eight Best Picture nominees and a few extra. I feel confident in giving my predictions for most categories, you can fill out your own ballots here and see my full predictions here.
I predict Moonlight will win the Best Picture award, though my personal vote would go to Lion and again, I would not be surprised but terribly terribly disappointed if La La Land took home the top award.
It's been a very fun and emotional ride trying to see as many nominations as possible, in the end I saw the following films nominated for this year's Academy Awards:
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Florence Foster Jenkins
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I am Not Your Negro
I hope to continue to watch as many nominated films next year and I hope that you will join me in the hunt!