For Your Consideration: Best Picture Films of 2016


James Stevenson Jr.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the list of nominees for Best Picture on Jan. 24 and nine films were nominated out of the 10 slots available. A rule implemented by the academy in 2009 makes it possible for anywhere from five to 10 films to be nominated. Below is the list of Best Picture nominees along with a brief review on each film.

“Hidden Figures”: Directed by Theodore Melfi, the movie chronicles the experiences of three black female mathematicians who worked for NASA on the 1960s Space Program.

Taraji P. Henson stars as Katherine Goble Johnson, the mathematician who helped calculate the launch and return of John Glenn. Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monae plays Mary Jackson.

The movie is schmaltzy, calculated and a bit too safe. Nonetheless, it has an inspiring, timely message for women, especially women of color, and what they are capable of in spite of obstacles society may put in their way.

The movie was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Spencer picked up a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

“Hacksaw Ridge”: Director Mel Gibson helms this biopic on the real-life story of Desmond Doss, a World War II soldier in the Pacific. The film depicts Doss’s heroic crusade in which he saved the lives of 75 soldiers, all while refusing to fire a single shot.

Andrew Garfield stars as Doss. In supporting roles are Vince Vaughn and Teresa Palmer who plays Doss’s wife.

Despite Gibson’s natural talent for blocking and shooting tense action sequences, the movie drags in the first half and dulls down in the second as the battle scenes become repetitive. Garfield does his best to make Doss an interesting character, but without a lot of feeling.

The film also received nominations for Best Actor for Garfield and Best Director for Gibson, who now holds the record for the long
est gap between directing nominations — 21 years.

“Fences”: Denzel Washington returns to the director’s chair with his adaption of August Wilson’s play of the same name. The story center
s on a black family’s struggle to survive the 50s. The lives of Troy Maxson and his family life begin to spiral out of control while Troy tries to maintain order and provide for his family.

Washington stars as Troy Maxson and Viola Davis co-stars as his long-suffering wife, Rose Lee Maxson. Stephen Henderson plays the role of Mr. Bono, Troy Maxson’s best friend, and Jovan Adepo plays as his youngest son, Cory.

While the film never succeeds at escaping its roots as a stage play, it is elevated by the stunning performances that Washington gets from his fellow actors.
In addition to Best Picture, the movie received nominations for Best Actor for Washington, Best Supporting Actress for Davis and Best Adapted Screenplay for Wilson (posthumously).

“Hell or High Water”: Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan pens the script for this latest action thriller, directed by David Mackenzie. The movie is about two brothers, Toby Howard and Tanner Howard, who seek revenge from the bank that is trying to take away the home that has sustained many poverty-stricken generations of their family.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster co-star as the brothers. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play the sheriff and deputy who are hot on the brothers’ trail.

The smart and crafty script leads to an explosive climax, taking this tense and hot revisionist western film to new heights in the genre. The movie received three additional nominations: Best Supporting Actor for Jeff Bridges, Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing.

“Moonlight”: Director Barry Jenkins adapts young playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” for the big screen. The story follows the life of Chiron, a young black boy growing up in Liberty City, Florida. There, he is surrounded by drugs and seedy activity while he struggles to cope with the realization that he is gay.

The story is divided into three parts. Alex Herbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes play Chiron in three stages of his life. Naomie Harris plays Chiron’s crack addicted mother. Mahershala Ali plays Juan, the drug dealer who begins to mentor young Chiron. Janelle Monae plays Paula, Juan’s girlfriend.

The film evokes a dreamlike quality with its cinematography, amazing performances and a beautiful score, which all make this film easily one of the best of 2016. Jenkins directs each scene with care and grace. The film slowly pulls the viewer in, all the while exposing him to a world that is rarely seen on the screen.

Moonlight picked up a total of eight nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actress for Naomie Harris, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Manchester By The Sea”: Kenneth Lonergan writes and directs this movie about a man struggling to keep himself together after a tragic event breaks apart his marriage and who is then must relive another tragedy when his brother dies and he has to return to his hometown.

Casey Affleck stars as the main character, Lee Chandler. Michelle Williams plays Lee’s ex-wife Randi and Lucas Hedges plays his nephew Patrick.

The movie is plodding and somber, but the performances, especially from Williams, are still worth watching.

The film received a total of six nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor for Affleck, Best Supporting Actress for Williams, Best Supporting Actor for Hedges, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.

“La La Land”: Director Damien Chazelle, who made a big splash with his last film Whiplash, returns with the musical “La La Land,” a story about a young couple played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who struggle to keep their dreams and optimistic pursuits alive in cynical Los Angeles.

While the story does not always seem original or engaging, the production of the film and musical numbers make it worth seeing. With competent performances and and addictive score, the film manages to keep it’s momentum for the full two hour, eight minute run time.

The film received 14 nominations, making it the most nominated film in history of the Academy Awards. The nominations were Best Actor and Actress for Gosling and Stone, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Director. 

“Lion”: Director Garth Davis brings to life the story of Saroo Brierley, a young Indian man who, after being separated from his mother and brother at a young age, used Google Earth to find them again in his twenties.

Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar star as the older and younger versions of Saroo. Nicole Kidman plays the role of Saroo’s adoptive mother, Sue Brierley, and Rooney Mara plays his girlfriend, Lucy.

Its story of hope is emotional and rewarding, child-actor, Sunny Pawar, delivers a star-making performance. The film is also nominated for Best Supporting actor for Patel, Best Supporting Actress for Kidman and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Arrival”: Director Denis Villeneuve adapts Ted Chang’s short story about an alien invasion that poses a threat to international securit
y. It’s up to linguistics specialist Louise Banks to crack the language barrier between the aliens and humans in order to prevent all out war.

Amy Adams stars as Louise Banks. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker co-star as mathematician Ian Donnelly and US Army Colonel G. T. Weber.

Like all of Villeneuve’s movies, “Arrival” moves at a slow and steady pace but the emotional climax is only somewhat rewarding. Despite the uneven ending, Adams and her co-stars give great performances and do a good job of selling the story. In spite of its flaws, the film boasts great visual effects, great music and cine
matography making it well-worthy of its nominations.
The film was nominated for eight awards: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.