The 2017 Academy Awards are fast approaching, so it’s time for BuzzHub’s comprehensive coverage of the biggest night in movies to kick into gear. First up is our breakdown of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture, ranking them in our order of preference and telling you what deserves to take home gold on Oscar Sunday!
9. HACKSAW RIDGE
Nominated: Director (Mel Gibson), Actor (Andrew Garfield), Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
Gibson’s WW2 drama shifts awkwardly from nearly-parodic soppy romance to nearly-parodic brutal gore. It’s derivative and dull throughout, with a truly awful supporting performance from Vince Vaughn and profoundly confused morality. Will it win? No, and its nomination is a mystery.
8. HIDDEN FIGURES
Nominated: Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer), Adapted Screenplay
Well-intentioned but lacking in surprising elements, Ted Melfie’s NASA melodrama has a strong ensemble cast but is generally very clichéd. Will it win? The least-deserving race-based drama on the list, it’s unlikely the film’s weak direction will score it the award.
7. HELL OR HIGH WATER
Nominated: Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Editing, Original Screenplay
Retreading much of No Country for Old Men‘s territory, David Mackenzie’s contemporary western is atmospheric but quite unmemorable. Jeff Bridges phones in a performance as a gruff sheriff, but Ben Foster is reliably, watchably intense. Will it win? Under no circumstances. This is a critic’s favourite, but unlikely to have topped many Academy member’s ballots.
Nominated: Actor (Denzel Washington), Actress (Viola Davis), Adapted Screenplay
There’s a stunning sincerity to this August Wilson adaptation, directed (middlingly) and starring (brilliantly) Denzel Washington, alongside Viola Davis. A simple story of simple lives, Fences highlights its own hidden figures with clarity and immediacy. Will it win? If Denzel wins Best Actor, it might come into play, but Fences is too theatrical a production to score cinema’s biggest prize.
Nominated: Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman), Original Score, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
Superbly-performed by Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar, this true story is shocking but believable and very moving. It’s always impressive to see a Best Picture nominee that’s 50% a foreign language film. Will it win? No, but Harvey Weinstein’s ability to gain it a nomination proves he’s still got significant merit in Hollywood.
4. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Nominated: Director (Kenneth Lonergan), Actor (Casey Affleck), Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Original Screenplay
Lonergan’s low-key character study relies heavily on Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams’ excellent performances, but doesn’t achieve the emotional impact of, say, Jim Jarmusch’s overlooked Paterson. Will it win? It began awards season as a big contender, but Manchester has scored very few awards outside of Affleck. Unlikely.
Nominated: Director (Denis Villeneuve), Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
Subverting every cliché of the alien invasion film, Arrival is a masterclass in good editing and sound design, with Amy Adams momentous in the lead role. Will it win? It would be extraordinary if the Academy recognised a sci-fi drama beyond a nomination.
Nominated: Director (Barry Jenkins), Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Cinematography
Jenkins’ transcendent drama is a hauntingly beautiful portrait of one man’s journey to individuality, set in the slums and on the beaches of modern-day Miami. Sunlight and moonlight flood every frame. Moonlight is a profoundly-affecting piece of cinema. Will it win? Our money is on Moonlight. While La La Land has been derided by some cynics, and doesn’t exactly fit the “politically important” mould of 2017 culture, Moonlight is objectively an important, worthy film. Don’t be surprised in the slightest if this scores an upset on the night.
1. LA LA LAND
Nominated: Director (Damien Chazelle), Actor (Ryan Gosling), Actress (Emma Stone), Original Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Original Song (x2), Production Design, Costume Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
It seemed unlikely that Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash would live up to that film’s brilliance, but his dazzling musical love letter to the movies is just as stunning and unforgettable. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the enchanting central couple, who throw themselves into the joyful song-and-dance with admirable energy. Chazelle directs with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, and the film’s narrative structure injects fresh life into the template of the 1950s movie musical. It’s rare to find a film this bursting with happiness. Will it win? La La Land is undoubtedly the frontrunner, beloved by so many. It’s arguably the best film about Hollywood made this century, and will speak personally to large segments of the Academy voting pool. Yet the lack of politics in its premise may prove harmful in a year when everyone wants to make a statement. So, it will probably win, but not certainly.