2017 is nearly upon us and that means that awards season is on the horizon. With the 89th Academy Awards due on 26th February, all eyes are on the movies that may or not tickle Oscar’s fancies in two months time. Here are our top tips for the films to look out for...
La La Land
It’s been 14 years since a musical last won a Best Picture gong (that one was Chicago), but word is strong about director Damien Chazelle’s rainbow-coloured follow-up to the critically acclaimed Whiplash. La La Land headlines Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as two strangers who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles, and it’s being talked about as prime Oscar-bait. The movie has been lavished with praise by critics, which obviously doesn’t hurt its chances, and both Gosling and Stone have been praised for their vocal turns. Could it be La La Land’s turn next Feb?
Denis Villeneuve’s thoughtful, poetic alien invasion drama was one of 2016’s most unexpected treats. A quieter alternative to the bombast and fireworks of your Independence Days and Transformer movies, Arrival was defined by a standout performance by Amy Adams as the linguist hired by the US army to help translate the language of a couple of recently landed aliens. Devastatingly emotional, with a killer twist, the movie should see Villeneuve nominated for Best Director and if Adams is overlooked for Best Actress, we’ll eat our hats.
Manchester by the Sea
Few movies in 2016 have been as critically praised as this powerful drama about a man (Casey Affleck) who finds himself having to look after his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies. Originally planned to star Matt Damon, Casey Affleck joined the project when a scheduling conflict meant Damon had to pull out, and it’s said the role could be the one that allows him to finally step out of his older brother Ben's shadow. Could a Best Actor gong be in the offing?
If Hacksaw Ridge wins big in February, it will provide a sizeable upset for the Academy Awards. Writer/director Mel Gibson has been persona non grata in Hollywood since his very public meltdown a decade or so ago, but the response to this, his first movie as director since 2006’s Apocalypto, has been universally positive. This true-life tale tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an American combat medic who, as a Christian, refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind, later becoming the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour. Could Mel Gibson be looking at a Best Director statuette? Stranger things have happened...
The Academy likes it when actors turn director. From Kevin Costner to Robert Redford to Clint Eastwood, the Oscars has a track record in rewarding ambitious actors who have decided to make the move behind the camera. Fences marks Denzel Washington’s third movie as director after 2002’s Antwone Fisher and 2007's The Great Debaters. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, Fences focuses on a former baseball player (Washington), now working as a waste collector, who struggles to provide for his family and come to terms with the events of his life. The movie has already hoovered up a catalogue of awards and could do well on Oscar night. Will Denzel be nommed for Best Actor and Director? If he did, it would certainly make Oscar history...
The Academy loves prestige pictures about important moments in America’s past. So this moving drama about First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the assassination of her husband, President John F Kennedy should tick all their boxes. Natalie Portman (who in the past nabbed an Oscar for Black Swan) is a shoo-in for a Best Actress nod, and it’s certain to win some Academy approval for its design and costumes. Plus, it's directed by esteemed Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain, himself responsible for a string of acclaimed hits over the last few years including political drama No and upcoming biopic Neruda.
The 2017 Academy Awards takes place on 26 February. Be there.