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2017 Oscars Best Picture roundup

TNS
The best films of 2016 will be honored this Sunday, Feb 26, at the 89th Academy Awards. Nine films are nominated for the award show's most prestigious prize: Best Picture.

JOSHUA ROUSE, Film Critic

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Arrival”

When 12 mysterious alien ships land on Earth, the leaders of the world are thrown into a panic. Militaries are deployed and scientists are recruited to find out just what it is the aliens want. Decorated linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and expert mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are two of the scientists recruited by Colonel Weber (Forrest Whittaker) to decipher the aliens’ coded language.

With tensions running high and the world’s patience running out, Louise and Ian must work together to deal with the extra-terrestrial visitors. Based on Ted Chiang’s 1997 novella “Story of Your Life”, “Arrival” is an engaging, brainy sci-fi from director Denis Villeneuve.

Northern Iowan Review:

5 out of 5 Paws

“Arrival” marks another intensely thrilling and masterfully made film in the career of director Denis Villeneuve. It is an excellent mix of drama, sci-fi, political commentary and that signature Villeneuve thrill that is a must-see for any fan of cinema. -— Joshua Rouse

“Fences”

Based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, “Fences” tells the story of the disgruntled Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) who lives in 1950’s Pittsburgh with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo) and who works as a garbage man.

When his son comes home with the news that he is being scouted for the NFL, Troy pushes back against the boy’s hopes in fear that the color barrier that shattered his own dreams of professional sports in his youth is still firmly in place. This drives a rift between father and son, as Troy battles his own demons of the past and struggles to find happiness and contentment in the present.

Review:

“Fences” earned a Certified Fresh rating of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with the Critics Consensus stating: “From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged — and still just as powerful.”

“Hacksaw Ridge”

The devoutly religious Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) enters the violent warzones of Okinawa while serving in the US Army as they try to gain a foothold in Japan during the bloodiest battle of World War II. Upon beginning basic training, however, Doss proclaims his belief in nonviolence, stating that he should still be able to serve as an Army Medic without ever having to touch a gun.

Now at odds with his fellow soldiers, Doss is thrust into combat without a weapon, relying on the strength of his faith and saving power of his God to be that one ray of hope in the bullet-ridden carnage that becomes known as the Battle of Okinawa.

Review:

“Hacksaw Ridge” earned a Certified Fresh rating of 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with the Critics Consensus stating: “Hacksaw Ridge uses a real-life pacifist’s legacy to lay the groundwork for a gripping wartime tribute to faith, valor and the courage of remaining true to one’s convictions.”

“Hell or High Water”

From director David Mackenzie and Taylor Sheridan (writer of 2015’s “Sicario”) comes an original western crime drama about two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), who go on a bank robbing spree across Texas.

Hounded by retiree Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), fate pushes the four men toward a showdown of morals and justice.

Northern Iowan Review:

5 out of 5 Paws

“Hell or High Water” doesn’t break any ground in the crime drama genre, but the writing, acting and filming are done with such a high level of quality that it’s a shame more movies can’t be this sincere or satisfying.  — Joshua Rouse

“Hidden Figures”

Mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spenser) are three of the first African-American women to be part of the NASA Space Task Group. The STG is assigned the mission of launching the first American man into space, during the desperate Space Race against the Soviet Union.

Faced with discrimination both for the color of their skin and their gender, the three women stick to their guns and show the world that with a little hard work, brains and unbreakable resolve, anything is possible.

Northern Iowan Review:

5 out of 5 Paws

“Hidden Figures” is a rare cinematic achievement in that it is one of a select group of films in recent memory that truly feels important. Not only is the film an entertaining and exciting story of the indomitable human spirit, but it also serves as an all-too necessary history lesson that reminds us of the need for tolerance and the downfalls of discrimination. — Clinton Olsasky

“La La Land”

Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista, whose head is full of dreams of becoming an actress, held back by her rejections at numerous auditions. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who wants to open his own jazz club, but is stuck doing one-off gigs and struggling for money.

On a chance meeting, these two kindred spirits develop a deep relationship that brings a new high into both of their lives. But with mounting successes and failures in both Mia and Sebastian’s separate lives, the couple must choose between following their own dreams or staying together no matter the cost.

Northern Iowan Review:

5 out of 5 Paws

“La La Land” is another fantastic musical experience by Damien Chazelle. Its realistic love story, show-stopping dance numbers and raw human emotion is not something you find in cinema every day. — Joshua Rouse

“Lion”

When Saroo (Dev Patel) was a boy, he got lost on a train that took him hundreds of miles from his home in India until he wound up in the loving arms of an adoptive Australian family.

Now 25 years later, Saroo leaves his foster parents, using Google Earth and a handful of memories as his guide on his journey to reconnect with his long-lost family and return to his first home.

Review:

“Lion” received a Certified Fresh score of 85 percent from Rotten Tomatoes, with the Critics Consensus stating: “Lion’s undeniably uplifting story and talented cast make it a moving journey that transcends the typical clichés of its genre.”

“Manchester by the Sea”

When his older brother passes away, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) reluctantly returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to look after the one thing his brother left in his care: Lee’s nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

With the deceased family member being their only connection, Patrick and Lee struggle to find common ground in a world without their beloved father and brother in this gripping and heartfelt drama.

Review:

“Manchester by the Sea” earned a Certified Fresh rating of 96 percent from Rotten Tomatoes with the Critics Consensus stating: “Manchester by the Sea delivers affecting drama populated by full-bodied characters, marking another strong step forward for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan.”

“Moonlight”

Based off the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight” is a drama told in three parts, all concerning the tragic story of Chiron. In the film, Chiron is continually influenced by the people he meets and affected by the consequences of his actions throughout his life. Played by three different actors at different stages of his life, Chiron grows up before the viewers’ eyes in this heartfelt piece about both the heartbreak and joys that come with life.

Review:

“Moonlight” received a Certified Fresh rating of 98 percent from Rotten Tomatoes, with the Critics Consensus stating: “Moonlight uses one man’s story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.”

Best Picture Prediction:

While there are many excellent films in the running for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I predict that Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” will take home the night’s most prestigious award.

The film’s humanly heartfelt love story, as well as the electric chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, truly makes for an engaging modern day romance with all the musical charm and showtunes that harken back to a golden age of Hollywood filmmaking. It brings both the classic and the contemporary together in a tasteful blend that pays homage to a bygone era while still breathing new life into the world of cinema today.

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2017 Oscars Best Picture roundup