Consider this the elementary-level synopsis for all of y’all who haven’t seen any of the movies nominated for Oscars. By elementary I mean I’ll give you just enough information to be able to hold a conversation and have a basic understanding. Don’t you wanna feel involved tonight on the Twitter and with your family? Don’t you want to sound well-versed and educated on the best motion pictures on 2016? Of course you do! I’m gonna help you. I’m gonna give you just enough to be able to hold your own in any Oscars conversation. You can drop two subtle tweets and be a part of Award Show Twitter, which is the best Twitter audience there is.
I try to watch every movie nominated for Best Picture. But I start from the top and work my way down based on what’s expected to win a lot of awards. With that being said, I did not see all 9 Best Picture nominations. Here’s what I did see in order of completion:
- La La Land
- Manchester by the Sea
- Hidden Figures
I never got around to Hacksaw Ridge, Arrival, or Hell or High Water. I’ve heard good things and hope to get around to them soon, but not before the publishing of this here manuscript. But everything I know about them gives them little to no chance to win Best Picture. I say that based on the limited information I know about those three plus the fact that the other 6 were all good if not great. And because of that I won’t weigh in on the ones I haven’t seen out of pure fairness towards them. Here’s what I will weigh in on. I will break down each movie briefly with some synopsis and a rating. I’ll try to avoid spoilers the best I can. And then I’ll provide my personal award winners although the actual winners are almost all but guaranteed already. There will also be pictures to appease the aesthetics, so you’re welcome in advance.
Fences – Denzel is the main character so you know you’re getting a decent movie at worst. And decent it was. The movie is about a blue collar father who holds a grudge against not being able to make it as a baseball player because of his skin color. He can’t help but temper his son’s expectations and dreams, causing strife and turmoil at home. The movie takes a turn that you can’t predict from the first half of the movie, but there was no foreshadowing as to how exactly it would unfold. His wife, played by Viola Davis, was incredible and should expect to win an award. Overall score: 6.7/10.
La La Land – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, how bad can it be? The two can also be seen together in Crazy Stupid Love, which is arguably the greatest rom-com in history. I had high high expectations. If you can get past Ryan Gosling singing, albeit not too shabby, you’ll enjoy the movie. Emma Stone plays an aspiring actress and Gosling a struggling Jazz musician, both living in the highly-competitive Los Angeles. Together they seek to find what they’re both truly longing for, but is it the love or the spotlight? And can they have both? BOOM! How about that for a preview?! They say it’s a surefire lock for Best Picture, though I wholeheartedly disagree. Overall score: 7/10.
Manchester by the Sea – You’ve probably heard this movie is incredibly sad. And you have heard correctly if so. It’s sad as fuck, but not so sad that you’ll want to stop watching. It has some weird power to keep you engaged while simultaneously making you empathetic and sympathetic for lead role Casey Affleck. Which brings me to my next point: he was phenomenal. And the movie was phenomenal. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time and EASILY the best of the bunch this year. Casey Affleck plays a depressed handyman who’s left to be the guardian of his nephew. Not only does he not want that responsibility, but this new venture brings back memories of his tragedy-laced past. He was brilliant. This movie is a MUST SEE. Overall score: 9.3/10.
Moonlight – a very good movie taking you through the different stages of life for a young black man on a quest of self-discovery. As a child, a teenager, and grown man, he faces the harsh realities of an absentee mother, rough neighborhood, and lack of self confidence. It’s a really good movie that’s easy to follow and has you pulling for the main character. There’s not all that much dialogue which is kind of weird, but overall it’s very enjoyable and very well done. Second best movie of the bunch in my opinion. Overall score: 8.4/10.
Hidden Figures – First let me say the title is very appropriate. It’s interesting to think about because often the title seems arbitrary or even esoteric sometimes. It’s the story of three black women who work behind the scenes at NASA during a very important operation. Segregation plays a major part and although they’re all more than qualified for their jobs, they can’t earn the respect they’re due. Honestly I was bored for the first half and more of this movie. It’s a cool story and the plot opens up but I was never all that compelled. Happy I watched it because of the Oscars but wouldn’t watch again. Overall score: 4.4/10.
Lion – lots of similarities to Slumdog Millionaire for a number of reasons. Not to say this movie is in that echelon of movies because it’s not, but I really enjoyed Lion. This little Indian kid gets lost on a train that takes him far away from where he lives with no idea how to get home or where home even is. He ends up getting adopted by an Australian family, but wants to find his way back home 25 years later using Google Earth (brand new technology at the time). Dev Patel is phenomenal in this role and the movie was very very good. My only real complaint is that it took too long for the story to come full circle despite knowing where it was heading. Feels like they could have gotten that ball rolling earlier. Overall score: 7.5.
Best Picture – It’s a foregone conclusion that La La Land is taking home the Oscar thought I vehemently disagree. My vote is for Manchester by the Sea, and I can’t believe the lack of respect the academy has given it. I believe it’s 3rd or 4th best odds amongst the selections which is wild. I was engaged start to finish; best movie of the year and one of the best movies in a long time.
Best Director – You get a 2-for-1 special with Best Picture and Best Director. It’s all but guaranteed that the same movie takes both Oscars. So with that said I believe this should go to Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), but I’m well aware that it probably won’t work out that way. Whatever. La La Land was good too.
Best Actor (in a Lead Role) – Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and it’s not even close. Vegas odds happen to show the same prediction which is nice to know that they got at least one right. I didn’t really know who Casey Affleck was prior to this because Ben is the only Affleck I cared about. Casey’s earned his stripes in my eyes. His performance was absolutely incredible.
Best Actress (in a Lead Role) – Out because of the 5 nominees, Emma Stone (La La Land) is the only one I can give an opinion on. So she wins by default (and it sounds like she’s the heavy favorite to take home the hardware).
Best Actor (in a Supporting Role) – Okay bare with me here. 3 out of the 5 nominees I can speak upon. The first is Mahershala Ali (Moonlight); he’s the overwhelming favorite to win. And he was great in Moonlight. But the problem is he was in the movie for a third of the entirety. I can’t get behind that notion, sorry. Dev Patel (Lion) was phenomenal. The issue here is that he was the main character aka the lead role. It sounds to me like they stuck him in this category because they knew he had no chance against Casey Affleck. I’m indifferent on that ploy but it sounds like it’s not going to work anyway. He gets my vote because he was the best out of this crop of nominees, but he’s basically a pro playing down in the minor leagues. Lucas Hedges was awesome in Manchester by the Sea. He was an actor in a supporting role to a tee. He’s a long shot to win but is well deserving.
Best Actress (in a Supporting Role) – This one’s easy. It’s Viola Davis (Fences). There’s one scene in particular (you know it if you’ve seen it) where she displayed real, authentic emotion that’s only possible for talented talented actors and actresses. As great as Denzel is, this movie was only as good as it was because of Viola Davis.
All other Oscar categories are whack so I will not acknowledge them. I hope this was enough for you to use at your Oscars watch party (that’s a thing right?). If you can even put out one obligatory tweet after reading this, I’ll consider it a win. Or if this gets you to stop being lazy and actually watch one of these movies, I’ll accept that outcome as well. Happy Award Show Szn.