Jared Skinner, Features Writer
Trailing one of the most contentious years in recent American history, the 2017 Oscars are considered the most politicized in its history as film’s biggest award show. This year also sees the Academy struggling to recover from the crippling accusations of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite moniker that plagued the ceremony. Of the 683 new members of the Academy chosen this year. 46 percent women and 41 percent being people of color. This truly is a historical year for the Oscars as four of the nine Best Picture nominees are about the lives and experiences of people of color, while each of the four main actor categories contain at least one black person. Many praise these actions as long-awaited steps towards diversity. Others have cried that it is an overreaction and the nominees became less about talent and more about politics. However, amidst the turbulence of contemporary politics and the standard superficiality of a celebrity award show, there have been a number of very good movies that came out this year. This high-quality output makes every category a uniquely difficult call. That being said, let’s dive into a preview of a few of the major ones.
Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, Moonlight
This is a toss-up between Moonlight and La La Land. On one hand you have a gorgeous and harrowing journey of self discovery with a matchless level of diversity and on the other you have a stunningly original musical that is a loving homage to Hollywood. And while both will receive their fair share of awards (they have a combination of over 20 award nominations), and they both approach perfection from a film standpoint, I think this prize will go to Moonlight.
Casey Affleck (Manchester By the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortenson (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)
Perhaps the most certain in this grouping of categories, this Oscar is going to Affleck. And he’ll win it for a movie you probably haven’t seen. If this is you, do yourself a favor and give this one a watch and marvel at Affleck’s brooding and deeply moving performance in this masterful exploration of grief and family dynamics.
Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Almost everyone nominated here is deserving but I think this one will fall to Stone. Her chemistry with Gosling in La La Land combined with her charming singing and dancing helped make this one the box office smash and instant classic that it is.
Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea), Denis Villenueve (Arrival)
No matter how hard I wish this went to my favorite director Denis Villenueve, this is another coin flip between Chazelle and Jenkins’ respected works. It could go to the former for his gorgeous tracking shots and captivatingly gorgeous original musical numbers or the latter for his gut-wrenching and masterfully told tale of self discovery. I think whoever does not win Best Picture will win this category, so for the sake of continuity let’s say that Chazelle will win this Oscar.
No matter who takes home a gold statuette or what your political leanings are, 2016 was a magnificent year for cinema. Numerous works provided moments of thought-provoking brilliance and raised important questions about many facets of humanity. I encourage you to see as many of these films as possible. The attention they’ve garnered is almost uniformly suitably earned.