Popcorn Picks Review: Oscars 2017

Photo credit/ Elizabeth Carlson

Bethany Wade, Asst. Photography Editor

For all of you who have not had a chance to see all nine Academy Award Best Picture nominees, here is a short review of each Best Picture nominee.

Arrival

Photo credit/ Paramount Pictures

 

This sci-fi drama took most by surprise in its sophisticated answer to the question, “What would happen if aliens were real?” When a mysterious ship lands on Earth, Dr. Louise Banks and a team of linguistic specialists are sent to try and communicate with the extraterrestrials.

The cinematography is stunning, each shot stark in contrast, even though the majority of the film’s color scheme is more muted colors.

Amy Adams does a fantastic job as Dr. Louise Banks, having to translate the foreign monsters that have come down to Earth. Unfortunately, she is the only strong actor in the film, with the rest of the performances being OK.

Rating: Three and a half kernels out of five.

Fences

Photo credit/ Paramount Pictures

 

The film adaptation of August Wilson’s play still has a theatre feel to it in its choice of simple sets and costumes. The acting shines even brighter because of the change of format.

Troy Maxson is a Pittsburgh based sanitation worker who dreamt of playing major league baseball, but made mistakes costing him his dream. Being stuck in the same place takes its toll on his sanity and his relationship with his wife Rose and his son Cory.

Viola Davis and Denzel Washington play these roles as if they were these characters all their lives. It’s unfair to give them all the credit though, as they both have Tony Awards for their portrayal of these characters in the Broadway revival.

As great as the acting is in this film, the rest of the film feels mediocre, because this play does not translate to screen well. It has a smaller set in real life, so some of it feels unnatural as it takes place in a house most of the time.

Rating: Three and a half kernels out of five

Hacksaw Ridge

Photo credit/ Summit Entertainment

 

Bringing the skill he showed audiences while directing “Braveheart” and “Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson returns to Hollywood and the Academy in style with this WWII film.

The story of Desmond T. Doss is brought to life as the soldier who refused to shoot a
single bullet, and ended up saving 75 lives in the battle of Okiwana.

As bloody as the film is, nothing feels overdone or fake. The violence and emotion of the death in this film helps strengthen the pacifist lifestyle of Desmond T. Doss. Andrew Garfield shows a strong amount of courage and bravery for being willing to face such challenges in the face of war.

For something that comes across as a stereotypical war film, “Ridge” turns it on its head and offers a fresh take.

Rating: Four kernels out of five

Hell or High Water

Photo credit/ CBS Films

 

In a modern day western, two brothers get wrapped up in a bank robbing spree trying to save their mother’s ranch from foreclosure while being chased down by the cops. For such a simple story, this movie packs in the drama in its 102-minute runtime.

Both Chris Pine and Ben Foster give great performances as the brothers, but the real star of the film is Jeff Bridges as the Texas ranger tracking the brothers down.

Because of the simplicity of the story, the film drags on at multiple points. Maybe with a little more depth, this film would have stood out more.

Rating: Three and a half kernels out of five.

Hidden Figures

Photo credit/ 20th Century Fox

 

This bio-pic on the African-American women in NASA during the 1960s could not have come out at a more perfect time. The themes in the film reflect the ongoing discussion of race in today’s society, which puts a lot of pressure on this film.

However, none of the lead actresses fall to this pressure. Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson carry each of their characters with grace and a sense of power. The supporting cast leaves their own mark as well, with Glen Powell giving a stand-out performance as John Glenn.

The film is one of the few nominated for Best Picture this year that really is uplifting and inspirational. Nice change from the usual dramas the Academy honors.

Rating: Four and a half kernels out of five.

La La Land (full review here)

Photo credit/ Summit Entertainment

 

The “City of Stars” has “never shined so brightly.” In a love letter to Los Angeles, Damien Chazelle recreates the magic of musicals from the 1950s with a modern love story.

Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling steal the show as Mia and Sebastian, with their whirlwind romance perfectly designed for the big screen.

The scale of every scene is grand, colorful and explosive, and it will be a while until a movie like this comes around again.

Rating: Four and a half kernels out of five.

Lion

Photo credit/ The Weinstein Company

 

Another feel-good movie, “Lion” shows the journey of Saroo so well, it’s as if Dev Patel was the one who lived this tale instead of Saroo Brierly.

A young Saroo accidentally takes a train ride across India, separating himself from his birth family and working his way into an Australian family. Twenty-five years later, Saroo works to find out the identity of his birth family using only his memories and determination.

The script is beautifully written by Lucas Davies, showing the heart and soul of this journey and the two families Saroo grew up with. Emotionally driven, the story shows the truth behind the definition of family.

Rating: Four kernels out of five.

Manchester by the Sea

Photo credit/ Roadside Attractions

 

In possibly the most emotional movie of the nominees, Casey Affleck stars as the grief and trauma stricken Lee Chandler, forced to return to his hometown after the death of his brother.

The movie almost takes place in five parts, each representing the five stages of grief, to help the audience see the point of view of Chandler. By doing so, director and screenplay writer Kenneth Lonergan brings a new layer of emotion to the film.

Michelle Williams is, unfortunately, a problem with this film. She is overacting to the point where her tears seem forced in some situations. Her performance ended up hurting the film and feeling much weaker in comparison to her co-stars Affleck and Lucas Hedges.

Rating: Three and a half kernels out of five.

Moonlight

Photo credit/ A24

 

The idea of telling one man’s story in three different periods of his life is unique. By showing the journey of Chiron from boy, to young adult, to man gives a great lesson in the importance of character development.

Even the production details of the film play into this, such as the costume design for Chiron, the set design and even the music.

The score for Moonlight might be the strongest character, because it adds so much emotion to the scene that it feels human. Each part has a different score that builds on the previous one, just as Chiron’s previous experiences build on his current life style.

Rating: Four kernels out of five.

To continue down the road to the Oscars, follow @BethanyWadeTWW on Twitter for live tweets and commentary during the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 26th.

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