by Mica Wilhite
The 2017 Academy Awards are this Sunday night. So, this week I am recapping each of the nine Best Picture nominees in order of what my secret agent inside the Academy, Sam, said were the least likely to most likely winners.
“Arrival” was adeptly adapted from Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella “Story of Your Life.” Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is an expert linguist who approaches “language like a mathematician.” When aliens visit Earth, Louise is recruited to enable communication with them. Through her intuition and bravery, she learns their circular language and, in a way, her own as well.
“Hell or High Water” stars Jeff Bridges as Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and is a favorite of Texas moviegoers to be sure. The intricate plot is slowly revealed as Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his brother execute a plan to rob the bank that had been robbing their family for years and Howard personifies “the things we do for our kids.”
“Lion” is likely the most unknown film on the list but is certainly the most heart-warming. Based on a true story, Saroo (Dev Patel) was lost from his family as a little boy but found his mother twenty-five years later. The film showcases a pivotal but understated performance by Nicole Kidman.
“Hacksaw Ridge” signifies Mel Gibson’s successful return to the director’s chair as he graphically, yet artfully, relates the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, who was a conscientious objector in World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions as a combat medic during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.
“Manchester by the Sea” is the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a subdued handyman who experiences how “you can’t get past the past until you bury it.” After his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies during the winter, Lee learns Joe planned for him to be his nephew Patrick’s, guardian. The family cannot bury Joe until the ground thaws in the spring and Lee and Patrick cannot move forward until they do.
“Hidden Figures” is based on the inspiring true story of a trio of African American women who overcame sexism and racism at NASA to become key contributors to Project Mercury. Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is the focus of the story as she was able to “invent the math” NASA needed to send John Glenn into orbit and safely return him to Earth.
“Fences” is 133 minutes of expertly crafted dialogue that is delivered at an authentic pace with performances by actors who fully inhabit their characters. Troy (Denzel Washington) is the protagonist and his marriage to Rose (Viola Davis) and his paternal role with their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) are the relations that give the story its traction and profound meaning.
“Moonlight” is the coming of age story about a young African American man, Chiron, struggling through life as the gay son of an drug addict. Based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, it is one of the best examples of what the art of motion pictures can accomplish over theater.
“La La Land” is the favorite nominee for Best Picture by rekindling a nostalgic cinematic musical experience by telling the story of two struggling artists and dreamers. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, previously known for “Whiplash,” it the popular favorite to win.
The 89th Annual Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and will air on ABC Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 7:30pm Central Time. I encourage you to watch and find out along with me how good of a job Sam did as my Academy secret agent.
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