The 2017 Oscars

With Ryan Gosling and Denis Villeneuve vying for best actor and director nods at this year’s Oscars, this year’s CanCon may be small but it is mighty.

Theatre and film critic David C Jones set out to see each of the nine 2017 nominated best picture films, including Gosling’s turn in La La Land and Villeneuve’s Arrival.

Ranking this year’s best picture nominees is tougher than Jones recalls in past years. He found each with genuine cinematic value, and a personal engagement in all of them. As with previous years, Jones based his ranking on three criteria:

  1. Was he emotionally engaged and moved?
  2. Was he surprised by the story telling?
  3. Did it take him to a new world or show him new things?

While we will have to wait for the envelopes on February 26 for the winners, here is how David thinks these nine stack-up against each other. Do you agree? What is favourite?

9Fences

Fences

Powerful story and brilliant acting were truly impressive but you could tell it was an adaptation of a play. I highly recommend it as a master class in acting since both director Denzel Washington and Viola Davis did the Broadway run.

8Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

I really loved this caper film as an aging FBI agent tries to trap two small time crooks. The motivations for the thefts gave it gravitas and almost made it seem a sequel to The Big Short. Solid story telling done well but not revolutionary or outstanding but it was gritty fun.

7La La Land

La La Land

This film should win for best cinematography, maybe best song and I would be fine with best actress for Emma Stone, but what a bland un-involving story. Neither character was fleshed out other than their artistic aspirations. I sometimes forgot what was happening as it was happening.

6Hacksaw Ridge

Hawksaw Ridge

Now we are getting into the films that moved me. Andrew Garfield plays a real life World War II conscientious objector whose belief in God prevented him from touching a gun.  Too bad Mel Gibson was so overwrought with the violence. He never met a face he didn’t want to shoot through the eye.

5Arrival

Arrival

I sometimes felt the film was a little self-congratulatory about it’s own cleverness and wished there were more levels in Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner’s relationship. I was captured by the uniqueness of the film and welcomed the wonder it evoked.

4Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

The first of the best picture nominees I saw and man, did Lucas Hedges make me cry. The internal struggles in both his character and Casey Affleck grabbed me by the throat. A really well made melodrama and the time trippy story telling made it more than what it was.

3Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

I was so absorbed by this piece of history of which I had no knowledge. All the actresses were brilliant and damn if I didn’t get caught up in the story of their lives. I was so happy to hear that it surpassed La La Land in domestic box-office. It’s a quality film about under- represented people who are finally getting their due.

2Moonlight

Moonlight

The first third of Moonlight was more original and moving than anything I saw this year. The next two thirds yanked at my hearts strings while the film itself dazzled with its imagery and soundtrack. A meditation on a tragic character that builds to a sad slow conclusion and refuses a happy out.

1Lion

Lion

The young boy in this film, Sunny Pawar, was spectacular and entirely captivating. The story was almost unbelievable and while it slowed a bit as he grew up, by the time it got to its last act I was a waterfall. Like HackSaw Ridge and Hidden Figure when you see the real people the story was based on it impacts you to mankind’s desire to survive and thrive.