1.) “La La Land”
There’s no in-between with this one. Viewers of this film either loved “La La Land” or hated it. Either way, the kinda, sorta old time musical was a love letter to dreamers in Los Angeles. The music is charming and the acting is sweet, too. Yes, there are moments that may make you roll your eyes about what Los Angeles is all about, but this charming love story in a genre long forgotten makes this worth watching.
2.) “Manchester By The Sea”
Gritty, moving and devastating. Those are the three words that summarize “Manchester by the Sea.’ The controversial Casey Affleck is absolutely magnificent in his performance and carries this gritty film that runs through the gamut of emotions. Though it’s hard to watch at times, primarily due to the brilliant writing and performances, if this film doesn’t get you near tears, then nothing will.
In recent years, there have been several coming of age dramas that have been popular with the Oscar crowd. This one, however, is a vastly different take. Following three distinct periods in main character Chiron’s life, the tale of self-discovery and finding his place in the world is gripping and raw. Characters who traditionally aren’t sympathetic are heroes, showing the strength of human connection and the struggles of figuring out things that may stray from the norm.
Alien movies and the Oscars usually don’t go hand-in-hand. But, led by the always-consistent Amy Adams, this film is the exception to the rule. This is the tale of a military linguist trying to decipher and discover what the aliens want from humans before it’s too late. Up-and-down, and dramatic throughout, “Arrival” leaves viewers thinking about the unknown and if we should fear or figure what it is we don’t know.
In “Fences,” Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are at the top of their game and give the performance of a lifetime. As an almost baseball great who couldn’t quite make it to the big leagues at his peak due to racism, Washington’s Troy Maxson comes to terms with his lost career while trying to raise a family in 1950s Pittsburgh. That sense of missing out effects the rest of his family throughout the film. These are the roles Denzel Washington excels at, and seeing him turn in yet another powerful performance makes this a must watch before the Awards.
The tale of a five-year-old who gets lost on a train in India thousands of miles from home is tough to watch at times. But, this uplifting story about persistence and survival that sees Saroo trying to find his biological family by using technology in his grown up years is worth every minute on-screen. Based on a true story, “Lion” could easily be cliche and hokey, yet it’s done in a fashion that’s well done and extremely moving.
Starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, aka Jackie O., this film takes a look at one of the most important moments in American history. Through the viewpoint of the First Lady, we’re thrown into the post-JFK assassination world, where Jackie is seen at her most vulnerable in the days after her husband’s death. This is an important link to a past that seems to be slipping away and Portman’s grace under fire performance shows how the elegance of a First Lady in the daring face of adversity.
8.) “Hidden Figures”
The story of three female African American math whizzes who helped launch NASA into orbit is inspirational in and of itself. The fact that it takes place during an era of racial strife and when the nation’s confidence had been shaken adds to the importance of a tale few knew of before. The empowerment drama is a sign that even in the face of growing adversity, great things can happen when people work together.
9.) “Florence Foster Jenkins”
If nothing else, this movie shows that wealthy people can’t have it all. Tracing the tale of a New York heiress-come-wannabe opera singer, this comedic tale has its cringeworthy moments, especially since the title character can’t sing. Starring the great Meryl Streep, this hilarious biopic proves that wealth can buy many things, but talent is not one of them. Streep and Hugh Grant give commanding performances throughout the film, making it a top contender for an Award at the Oscars.
10.) “Hacksaw Ridge”
Directed by Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge” is a wartime tale of Desmond Doss, who saved 75 men in Okinawa without having any weapons. For anyone who is opposed to war, the story of this objector will inspire in the face of violence, proving that staying true to your principles can help you endure even if you’re opposed to what’s going on.