So I wasn't able to see all 9 films nominated for best picture, but I did manager to catch two more, to get my total to 7. I'll review "Arrival" and "Hacksaw Ridge" and then make my pick for best picture.
This one is a thinker, to be sure. But let's start with the acting. Amy Adams takes the lead here as a linguist enlisted by the US government to talk to a pod of aliens who have landed in Montana, and in a number of other places around the world. She tries to work together with international linguists and one skeptical mathematician (Jeremy Renner) to find out why the aliens are on Earth and what they want. This might be the best I've seen Adams, who has become somewhat of a one note for me lately. Here she tackles a plot that is on a fine line between clever and second rate sci fi (and it falls on the side of very clever, BTW) and she handles it with a depth I've not seen from her. Jeremy Renner is serviceable, although the point of his character is pretty much lost until the end, and then it's a little bit of a "Well he had to be there because the script said so" moment. This is far deeper than some run of the mill sci fi flick, and it's going to appeal to a far larger audience. Possibly the most cerebral of all the films nominated for Best Picture, this one will spark heated debates about time and the future.
I have no problem saying this is my favorite of the movies nominated for Best Picture, and it
shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who reads my reviews with any regularity. The TRUE STORY (check!) of a Wold War II hero (CHECK!) told in a no holds bar manner (think "Saving Private Ryan" BIG CHECK!) and staring Andrew Garfield as a Conscientious Objector who was the only American soldier sent to the front lines without a gun...and he managed to save 75 soldiers' lives serving as a medic during the battle of Okinawa.) Desmond Doss, our hero, is the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. RING A DING DING. So yes, I loved the movie, warts and all (this not for the faint of heart.) War buffs, history buffs are all going to love this and if you're an Andrew Garfield fan, this is a MUST WATCH. He's my pick for Best Actor. The depth of emotion and strength of character it took to make this film work is on his shoulders. Watch for a surprisingly good performance by Vince Vaughn.
So...who's going to win Best Picture, Sarah?
Well, I know I'd like to see Hacksaw Ridge or Hidden Figures win, but reality is that the Oscar voters are made up of Hollywood insiders and Hollywood has all but wet its pants over "La La Land." I guess I'm okay with any of the other 8 films winning, so long as "Manchester by the Sea" gets shut out.
As for the other race I care about...Best Actor...again, I would LOVE to see Andrew Garfield get the nod, but again, it's going to go to someone less deserving. Denzel Washington is the crowd favorite, but the sick, sad fact of the matter is that Casey Affleck is probably going to win for his cardboard stiff work in "Manchester." I heard someone on the radio say it took a lot of restraint to do what he did in that film. I disagree. I think it took a lot of lack of talent to be that blank faced for a full 2 hours and 17 minutes.
Best Director...again, we have a couple Hollywood heavy hitters. Mel Gibson should win for "Hacksaw" but he's persona non grata in the Liberal LA LA Land, so I think the real race is between Denzel Washington for Fences and Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester although Barry Jenkins may surprise everyone for Moonlight. The voters may split and give Damien Chazelle the Oscar for La La Land and then toss Lonergan the writing award for Manchester.
So my picks, if you're betting:
Best Picture: La La Land
Best Actor: Casey Affleck (gag)
Best Director: Damien Chazelle