Having wrapped up a two week movie binge, Mrs. JOM and I have now seen eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. The bonus wrinkle is that most of the Best Actor, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor/Actress nominations come from those same nine films. So, what did we like?
Arrival: Amy Adams earns a Best Actress nod and is excellent in a tedious sci-fi drama. Superficially, the plot is that extra-terrestials have landed and Ms. Adams is a linguistic expert attempting to communicate with them to learn their intentions. This is a transparent Hollywood metaphor for the election of Trump by his mysterious supporters from flyover country (the ETs land in Montana. Too subtle!)
Hell or High Water: Set in the stark midlands of Texas, this follows two brothers engaged in a bank robbing spree and the crusty Texas ranger (Jeff Bridges, Best Supporting Actor) out to catch them. They should have stuck with the original title, "No Country For Young Men Behind On The Mortgage". The movie was Eerily White one year after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy but is obviously meant as outreach to the flyover victims of Big Banking. Hollywood feels the Bern!
Fences: If you like Denzel Washington you'll like this, but... it is a movie adapted from a play, but little attempt was made to change it to a movie form. This left me pondering the many differences between those two styles pf presentation. For example, people talk about the "intimacy" of the theatre but in fact, the audience is quite separated from the performer, so loud word and big movements work fine - one might even say, they are theatrical. On screen, the same presentation intonations and gestures would seem overdone and melodramatic. Whatever. I passed the time comparing "Fences" to "A Few Good Men", a play that became a movie but seems totally like a movie.
Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress nominee, was extraordinary. Denzel (Best Actor) was fine, but I have seem him better.
Moonlight: Missed this one.
Manchester By The Sea: More working class outreach by Hollywood in another all-white movie, but... Casey Affleck (Best Actor) was incredible and the rest of the cast was brilliant. Michelle Williams (Best Supporting Actress) and Lucas Hedges (Best Supporting Actor) deserve their nods. Tremendous (and tremendously sad) film well worth a watch.
Hidden Figures: Two Rockets UP! La La Land is the Best Pic favorite but I am rooting for this well-received feel-good film about the early days of the NASA program. The focus is on the (mostly black) woman who man the adding machines and slide rules in support of the (mostly/all) white male engineers trying to get a man into space and back again. Kevin Costner is the NASA honcho, Jim Parsons (better known as Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory) plays it straight as an engineer and several women, including Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress) help John Glenn become a hero. Great archival footage of the early launches and a totally enjoyable film.
Lion: Ok but slow.
Hacksaw Ridge: A story far too heroic and implausible to be sold as fiction. Andrew Garfield is excellent as a Desmond Doss, a religious pacifist and patriot desperate to serve his country as a medic in WWII. The battle scenes at Okinawa verge towards unwatchable (I blame Spielberg and 'Saving Private Ryan') but it does set the stage for the Doss's incredible feats, for which he won a Congressional Medal of Honor.
La La Land: Who doesn't love Emma Stone, who has been great before with Ryan Gosling (Crazy Stupid Love, Gangster Squad). Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, but this one was slow and had an annoying ending.