More than usual, it seems to me, this year’s nominated movies have mostly come out in the last month. A few have just come out in wide distribution, so I haven’t seen all of them. Here’s what I can tell you:
Of the ones I’ve seen,
“La La Land” lives up to its title completely. It put me to sleep. Make no mistake; there are plenty of notable things about this film. The acting and music and sets and special effects are all great. But the story is cliché. Actually I saw it as a parody of a cliché, but that didn’t help. I know I’m being sacrilegious. I can’t but wonder if its appeal is tied to the need for something simple and sweet in this complicated and dark time.
“Moonlight” was equally non engaging. Here, while the theme and plot were attempting to be socially relevant, the pace of the movie was almost surreal. I don’t think that was necessary in order to make any point, unless they were trying to demonstrate how boring the day to day drudge of life was for the characters. You have to have more than social relevance to make a good movie.
“Hell or High Water” was a good action film, well made and acted, but certainly not exceptional in any way. I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed a lot of films this year.
“Manchester By The Sea” was also dragging and non engaging. I couldn’t warm up to the characters, and didn’t feel that it rose above mediocrity in any way. Not a bad movie, but certainly not notable.
“Arrival” was, in my view, the best film of the year, but I’d be the first to understand why others wouldn’t think so. I thought it was all round good, but did drag in some places, partly in an over-enthusiastic attempt to create suspense. It was novel, though, and surprisingly fresh. It was definitely an intellectual mystery.
“Hacksaw Ridge” The film is well made with an engaging story, although is a little slow at the beginning. It tackles some interesting moral issues, though sometimes very awkwardly. Having the main character advocate the idea of non-violence while surrounded by Mel Gibson’s typical graphic violence and gore creates a contradiction. Perhaps that’s the idea, and it does end up as a bit disturbing.
As for best foreign film, I’m really surprised to see “Land of Mine” on the list. It is a Danish film about German POWs being forced to dig up land mines after the end of WW2. I saw it at TIFF 2015, so it’s taken a while to come through the works. Great film, and though I haven’t seen the other foreign films, I highly recommend this one if you can find a copy with subtitles.
I guess that the best film I saw this year was “Captain Fantastic”, which is not nominated. Anyone who knows me can easily see why. It revolved around themes and issues that I’m very involved in, and had a very strong social commentary that made you think. Add to that great performances and settings. You may not agree with the ideas in this movie, but it will cause you to reflect on them, and I think that’s central in a good film. It’s surprisingly come up sporadically in many of the pre Oscar award shows, so obviously it is getting some critical acclaim. “Power to the people. Stick it to the man.”