Last week the people of The Academy sent their nominations down from the hills of Hollywood. Luckily there is still three weeks till Jimmy Kimel takes the stage to give us the winners.
The category of best film is considered the most pinnacle at the Oscars, the marking of a stellar performance across the board. Sadly the definition of a stellar performance is different for everyone. Over the last few years it’s become apparent, who The Academy favors. From the genre discrimination that has left comedies, horror flick, animated films and foreign films from grabbing a hold of that little gold bald man. To the racial discrimination, that lead to the African-American boycott of last year’s Award ceremony. Looking at this year’s nominations it’s a hard fact to ignore, but luckily with the large amount of cultural issues addressed in this year’s nominations I can find a tiny bit of light in The Academy.
Based off the play “In moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarelle Alvan McGraney, "Moonlight" is Berry Jenkins second film, and was one of the most talked about films this year. Through three parts we watch as Chiron experiences life in his Miami housing project. Bullied for being small and vulnerable, coming home to his addict mother, and finding solace in the man who keeps his mother’s habit going. Every first moment tainted with the reality of his suppressive community. All these moments and feelings highlighted in the way Jenkins, isolates the main character in scenes, limiting his interaction with other characters. Unfortunately, I myself haven’t seen it, but the play of light, and the highlights of raw emotion shown in the trailer, has it at the top of my “Must See before the 26th” list.
"Fences" directed by and starring Denzel Washington is also a play to film adaptation. Originally a single set play written by August Waters about Troy Maxon a baseball player turned factory worker, due to racial segregation. Familiar with the play, but unfamiliar with the film, it’s second on my list to see. Denzel being a favorite of mine, and the social issues of class and race poignant to our day and age, it’s a good pick from The Academy.
Coming in hot after racing across gender and race lines is "Hidden Figures". Theodor Melfi’s sophomore film reveals the incredible untold story of Katherine Johson (Katherine Johnson), Dorothy Vauughan (Dorothy Vaughn) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) the three women who were the brains behind sending John Glen into orbit. This films witty sense of humor and strong female leads, makes it one not worth missing this year.
"Arrival", follows language professor Louis Banks (Amy Adams) as she learns to communicate with the alien race that has parked their slim oval black ships at twelve random parts around the world. Through non-linear storytelling we watch Professor Banks makes leaps and bounds to communicate to these creatures, all while she deals with the painful memory of her daughter’s death. While I enjoyed the storyline and the concept of giant octopus creatures coming to earth, I feel as though the movie rushed through time with too many montages. It’s in these montages that I felt I was left out on what the alien’s purpose was. In Spite of the stale plot Amy Adams did a fantastic job, and between this movie and her role in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, not seeing her nominated for Best Actress broke my heart.
Garth Dacis’ debut feature "Lion" is yet another book adaptation, based off of Luke Davis “A Long Way Home”. We follow Saroo’s story of being adopted after his mother abandoned him on a train at the age of five. With the use of Google maps and memories, he begins his search to find his mother. Sadly this is another film that slipped under my radar, but had made its way to top priority. While the movie is nominated, the people who were a part of it may not even be able to attended the award show. Earlier in the year, Sunny Pawar the lead actor of the film was denied his visa into the states for the premier. Since they faced difficulties before the recently passed laws stopping immigration from Muslim countries, the cast and crew fears it will be an obstacle they will need to overcome again.
Then we have "Hell or High Water". A Texas-set thriller following two brothers Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Brian Foster) who’s desperate need to get money for the family sends them across Texas robbing banks. I initially skipped this one when it came to the Mayan, but rewatching the trailer and noticing how well Chris Pine rocks his mustache, has me thinking twice. Then there is Taylor Sheridan, the writer, responsible for the Best Original Screenplay nomination that the film received. Taylor was the same writer who created "Sons of Anarchy", and the 2016 movie "Sicario". His take on hyper-violent society and the drama attached to crime spikes my interest.
"Manchester by the Sea", is a heart breaking film where we meet Lee Chandler(Casey Affleck), who’s brother has died suddenly leaving him the guardian of his 16 year old son. Through humor and awkward family moment grief is laid out in shots as grey as a winter in New England. Currently there is scandal attached to this award and the Best Actor award Affleck received for his performance, due to the supposed sexual harassment charges filed against him. Affleck was never charged but the women who he assaulted are still out there making sure social media knows of the actions he’s made. A little fun fact to chew over as you watch his performance.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is the one movie on here I have no interest in seeing. Sorry, not sorry. The movie follows Desmond T. Doss, a medic in World War Two who saved 75 men during the brutal battle at Okinawa. We gave him a medal for it, then we gave him a movie, and then The Academy gives Mel Gibson another pat on the back for being a crazy person. This movie is a prime example that the sixty year old white man is the target audience of The Academy.
Then finally I come to "La La Land", the movie that stole the day with 14 nominations. The only problem? The movie was a letdown. The scenes are framed beautifully, and show breath taking angles of Los Angeles. I was even impressed with the use of primary colors to show emotions in the character's wardrobe. The main attraction for me was that it was a musical, but musically it falls flat. Ryan Gosling learned to play the piano for the role, but tragically never learned to sing above a raspy whisper. Emma Stone also sung all of her parts, and her voice was just as underwhelming. Then the main plot line, their relationship, is nothing more than pretty to look at. Sadly this movie’s success stems more in how well it was advertised and the actors attached to it.
With three weeks left and winter still wanting to keep you inside, get up, get out and start watching. All the movies listed above are currently being played at The UA Pavilions under the florescent Denver sign off the 16th Street mall. The AMC theater at the top of the escalators and under the marquee at the Cherry Creek mall. Tucked between Twist & Shout and the Tattered Cover on Colfax at the SIE film center. Then finally at The Esquire landmark theater on Downing.