2016 Oscar Movies

Once again, The Mister and I watched all of the Best Picture nominees and quite a few other nominees. I haven’t forgotten that I owe y’all–and myself–some of the 2015 movies that got snubbed. I will get there. Eventually.

Heck, I’m running late with this post. I’m going to write about my picks only hours before the actual ceremony. As I mulled over this year’s nominees, I realized I probably needed to come up with some criteria for what I think the Best Picture winner should have. For now, I’m going with my gut. So, in reverse order, here are my picks for Best Picture.

9. Arrival. This movie just isn’t my jam. I didn’t think there was anything extraordinary about it. Renner tried to play cute, but I’m not having that. Adams did a lot of heavy breathing. Her special ability is convoluted and contributes to the story being told in a nonlinear fashion. I’ll admit to not liking nonlinear unless it’s done exceptionally well. I want to rate this one higher because it, unlike the next two, has a strong female character, but I can’t.

8. Hell or High Water. I know what they were going for with this movie, but I don’t think they quite pulled it off. It hast he advantage of being timely with the concept of a reverse mortgage and a desperate working class, but it’s so freaking grim. Bridges gave an outstanding performance, racial slurs aside. Pine did a great job. I’m just never going to vote for a testosterone-fueled-let’s-take-matters-into-our-own-hands shoot ’em up.

7. Manchester By the Sea. This one actually gets the 2016 Revenant Award for the movie I found most painful to watch. Ugh. I put it above Arrival and Hell or High Water because it does have some incredible performances. Come to think of it, it’s nonlinear, too. I really don’t like that, do I? Even worse the characters are so reprehensible–especially the teenager who wants to bang every girl he comes across. No thank you. I don’t need that in my life. (And, yes, Michelle Williams is in this but her salary is wasted because she’s hardly in the film at all.)

6. Hacksaw Ridge. This is the oddest little film. The first part is a sweet love story. The middle is a man standing by his convictions despite bullying. The end is Mel Gibson reveling in the gore of war. Andrew Garfield’s accent is. . . interesting, but overall I think he does a great job of bringing Desmond Doss to life. I might rank this one higher if Gibson hadn’t given in to his baser impulses and made the war portion so long and so bloody. Then again, war–especially World War II in the Pacific–is no cakewalk, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of that.

5. Lion. I do love this movie, and I think the actor who played young Saroo should’ve received a nomination because he is so very, very good. This movie runs into the problem many based-on-a-true-story films does: trouble with transitions and spending too much time on some scenes. On the whole, though, it is excellent.

4. Fences. This movie was hard to watch at times, too, but that’s because no one wants to see Denzel Washington playing an a$$hole. Great performances. Viola Davis should be a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actress. Heck, based on this film, they can start preemptively giving her awards so far as I’m concerned. Denzel’s performance is incredible also even if you end up hating him for what he does to his family. This, like Brooklyn, is the kind of film that carries layers of symbolism and complex, richly drawn characters.

3. La La Land and Moonlight. La La Land is so fresh and yet so familiar with its musical format. Emma Stone’s aspiring actress is beyond engaging. The song and dane enchants, and the ending adds a nice layer of what if that makes the movie something more. I’m not as keen on the bait and switch marketing tactics–this isn’t a romantic comedy, not really–but it is a well told story.

2. Moonlight. Pure poetry and artistry. This is the kind of film that will live with you for ever in images like Little taking a bubble bath with water he’s had to heat on the stove or how Kevin’s betrayal causes Chiron to walk into school and beat a guy over the head with a chair. Chiron’s last incarnation, as a drug dealer just as his father figure Juan had been before, shows the walls he’s built around himself–the muscles he’s built, the fear he’s instilled in his subordinates, even the grills he wears over his teeth–and then how, even after his mother’s neglect through drug addiction, the loss of Juan, being sent to juvie, all of those walls he built to survive–he still has the courage to drive from Atlanta to Miami to chase down true love.

1. Hidden Figures. I know there’s not a prayer that Hidden Figures will actually win Best Picture. It’s based on a true story, and Hollywood loves that, but it doesn’t have the same poetry as Moonlight or La La Land. It doesn’t pay homage to male angst like Manchester by the Sea or Hell or High Water. It has a happy ending, and we all know the Oscars usually defer to films that don’t. For my money, though, Hidden Figures was the most solidly entertaining film in a crop of outstanding films. It tells a unique story that we needed to hear with characters who overcome adversity with both grit and poise. The story encompasses the entire human experience: happiness, sadness, adversity, love, friendship. Maybe I’m just too Frank Capra for this world, but Hidden Figures is my pick from 2016.

Movies that were overlooked: I would’ve picked Captain Fantastic and Jackie as best picture nominees over Arrival, Hell or High Water, and Manchester by the Sea. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Of the best actor nominees, my money’s on Viggo Mortenson in Captain Fantastic if not Denzel Washington in Fences. I’m going to guess that Casey Affleck is going to win, but he mainly gets the award for the greatest amount of eff bombs dropped.

I haven’t seen all of the best actress nominees, but I’m thinking Natalie Portman should have this one in the bag. She was phenomenal in Jackie. Meryl be Meryl, but Portman all the way for me. The true shame is that Taraji Henson didn’t even get nominated in this category–her rain-drenched speech about having to walk forever to the bathroom and not being able to afford pearls along should’ve qualified her.

Best supporting actress goes to Viola Davis. End of discussion.

Best supporting actor goes to Mahershala Ali who positively steals every scene that he is in. Lucas Hedges wins the award for character I’d most like to smack. Simon Helberg more than deserved a nod in this category for Florence Foster Jenkins.

And there you go: my opinion for what it’s worth. I supposed we’ll see how it all pans out later tonight! Oh, and no matter what this was an exceptional crop of nominees–much better than last year’s.

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