If I Were an Academy Member
By Kim Hollis
February 26, 2017
A beautiful, dreamlike tale of a young man from his youth all the way through adulthood, Moonlight is a story of identity, acceptance and individuality. Based on a play, the story is told in three acts that reveal main character Chiron’s character. He understands at a very early age that he is gay, and struggles both with his classmates who bully him and a mother who can’t deal with him due to her own drug issues. The performances throughout the film, particularly Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, are as good as you’ll see in any film from 2016.
6) Hidden Figures
A story that deserves to be told, Hidden Figures is a crowd-pleaser about the African-American women mathematicians at NASA who were critical in the expansion of the United States space program. This film shines as an uplifting tale in the midst of a bunch of best picture nominees that are full of sadness. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Butler and Janelle Monae all shine in their roles. The only “knock” against Hidden Figures compared to the competition is that it’s a fairly straightforward story in the midst of films that present their ideas in a more complex fashion.
Dev Patel is the standout in this film about a little boy who is separated from his brother at a train station. After navigating the dangerous streets of Calcutta, where children are endangered and frequently disappear without a trace, he is eventually taken into an orphanage and adopted by a Tasmanian family. Lion becomes the story of Saroo’s search for his family in India. The “mystery” involves a lot of internet searching, and that could have been boring or overdone, but director Garth Davis presents the story in a compelling fashion.
Denzel Washington absolutely owns the screen here, and that is saying something considering that Viola Davis deserves every single accolade she receives. Fences is really an acting showcase, presenting several slices of life of the Maxson family. The most impressive thing about Washington’s performance is the way he is able to turn Troy Maxson into an engaging centerpiece despite the fact that the character is despicable throughout the story.
9) Hacksaw Ridge
The first portion of Hacksaw Ridge is really fine, if perhaps a little cliched and straightforward. Unfortunately, Mel Gibson’s film ultimately undermines the very story it is trying to tell. Yes, Desmond Doss is an extraordinary conscientious objector who nonetheless volunteered in service of his country. Alas, Gibson doesn’t seem to value Japanese lives as he tells this story, with their deaths unfolding like a first person shooter videogame. I found it to be a shockingly jingoistic film considering the message it was ostensibly telling.