9 Movies in 4 Days: A Look at This Year’s Best Picture Nominees 

Nine movies in four days. That’s around 17 hours of movies spread over three days, and two hours on a fourth because of a projector malfunction. Harrison Taylor, author of SnowFlakeWithoutaCause and I were going for the perfect 19ish hours in three days, but the movie gods said no. We had one goal: watch all nine nominees and rank them. A task that’s easier said than done. Very quickly our different tastes took over. I recommend taking the time to watch these films, although I will admit our approach may not be for everyone.

Here is my ranking for the 2017 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees, from least to top favorite:

9. La La Land

lalaland

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Probably seen as this year’s most popular nominee, I had high hopes for this musical and ended up being very disappointed. Nothing in this musical ever really seemed to jump out and grab me, it was two hours of gray. There were even moments when I found myself clenching my jaw at what seemed like missed cues between Stone and Gosling. The movie, I felt, tried too hard to live up to the hype that it had built for itself and simply ended up falling short for me. (6.5/10)

8. Hell or High Water

hohw

Directed by: David Mackenzie

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham

David Mackenzie’s take on the classic western follows two brothers, played by Pine and Foster, trying to stick it to the man by robbing banks while trying to outrun a Texas Ranger being forced into retirement, Bridges, and his sidekick, Birmingham. This movie, I felt, showed a whole new side of Pine, showing he was capable of more than just “boyhood fantasy” characters like Prince Charming and Captain Kirk. The movie had a strong “what goes around comes around message” which was advocated by  Birmingham, the only non-white main character. He tells the story of his ancestors’ lands being taken by Americans and warns of the Americans’ lands now being taken by the banks they have created. With plenty of gun slinging, drinking, and car chases to replace the horses,  if you’re a fan of this genre, this movie will not disappoint. (7/10)

7. Arrival

arrival

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

This is a movie that has so many layers you can’t get it all in one sitting. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed my second screening of this film more than the first.  The second time I found myself focused more on the story and the characters than trying to figure out where Villeneuve was going with this movie. Once you make it past the potential alien invasion, the message of unity between the major countries of the world during a time of crisis is one that is very relevant today. Definitely worth a watch keeping in mind you may have to watch it again to truly appreciate it.  (8/10) 

6. Hidden Figures

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Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons,  Kristen Dunst

Following the story of three colored women working at NASA during the 1960’s Hidden Figures was the only family friendly Oscar nominee, and it played to its audience beautifully. I absolutely adored this film. Its message is not only about race but also gender inequality during the 1960’s, and from the very start was clear. The movie’s message was delivered in a way that wasn’t too watered down for children, which I appreciated. I thought the chemistry between the three main characters, played by Henson, Spencer, and Monae was very relatable and really pulled the whole film together. This film should definitely be on your list for your next family night in.  (8/10)

5. Manchester by the Sea

mbts

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges

Casey Affleck plays a man who has lost almost everything and is literally just waiting for the last shoe to drop, and don’t get me wrong it definitely does. Affleck ends up returning to his hometown to take care of his nephew, played by Hedges, after the death of his brother. The drama filled movie is filled with its own mysteries, all of which are answered in time and ends rather abruptly. It left me wanting more. That being said I do feel like there was more to the movie than I was able to get in one sitting and will definitely have to try to catch it again soon.(8.5/10)

4. Moonlight

moonlight

Directed by: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes

Following the life of Chiron, an African American man living in Miami, in three stages each titled after the name he goes by at the time, boyhood (Little), teenage years (Chiron), and adulthood (Black) Moonlight takes on two important issues: homosexuality and drugs. Chiron throughout the film struggles with the thought of being gay and in love with his childhood best friend while also fighting the influence of drugs in his life. Chiron sees both the positive and negative effects of the drug industry during his life, ultimately giving in and becoming a drug dealer in Georgia after a brief stint in juvie. Moonlight, although not my favorite of the nine nominees, is my pick for taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture. (8.5/10)

3. Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw-ridge

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey

Mel Gibson’s tribute to the conscientious objector who fought in the Pacific front of World War II was perfectly described by Harrison Taylor as “the most violent film about anti-violence you will ever see.” Garfield’s portrayal of Desmond Doss was breathtaking. There was never a moment I could take my eyes off the screen. There was a very blatant Christian undertone to the movie, but one that I feel was necessary to tell the story of a man who felt so strongly about his belief in the Sixth Commandment “thou shalt not kill” that he refused to carry a weapon into battle. All in all, this is a really solid film. In fact, including the film festival viewing, I have seen this film three times in theaters, and have found something new to enjoy every time. (9/10)

2. Lion

lion

Directed by: Garth Davis

Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mar, David Wenham, introducing Sunny Pawar

Lion was the biggest pull at your heartstrings movie of the nominees. Based on the novel, A Long Way Home it follows the story of Saroo in two parts, at the age of five when he was separated from his older brother during what his brother calls a “night job” and ending up 1,600 km away and left to fend for himself in a large Indian city. Saroo is finally rescued and is sent to an orphanage where he is adopted by an Australian couple, Wenham and Kidman. 20 years later we find Saroo as he remembers his real family and begins his mission. He needs to know what happened to them. There’s a moment where Saroo, played wonderfully by Patel, explains the guilt he feels when imagining the life he lived compared to his family in India. He had forgotten about them, while they had spent everyday searching, never knowing what had become of him. This movie had me in tears and ultimately made me want to call my mother just to, you know, check in (which when I did, she didn’t answer, a far less heartwarming ending than the movie). (9/10)

1. Fences

fences

Directed by: Denzel Washington

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis

Based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, Fences tells the story of Troy, an African American man played by Washington, trying to raise his family in Pittsburgh in 1956. The style of this movie chosen by Washington lent to it feeling almost like a play that had simply been filmed. With very few scenery changes, most of the movie takes place in the family home or backyard, which helps keeps the main focus of the movie on the characters. Good characterization in any story is key. Fences did the best job, putting it at the top of my list. Each character had their demon(s), and each actor was able to bring them to light throughout the movie. This movie was an emotional rollercoaster that I would happily ride again and again. (9.5/10)

Be sure to check where these nominees fall in my partner in crime, Harrison Taylor’s rankings.

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One thought on “9 Movies in 4 Days: A Look at This Year’s Best Picture Nominees 

  1. While I haven’t seen all the nominated films, I certainly agree with you that “Hell or High Water” is one of the year’s best. Actually, it’s one of the best in recent years. What a great take on a modern-day western; the guy in black hat may just be the guy in the white hat — and vice-versa.

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