Stars and Stripes staff on the best picture nominees

The spotlight is once again on Hollywood, the city of stars, and there’s much to love about the Academy’s favorite movies in 2016. Nine movies made the best picture cut this year, and the field is remarkably more diverse. The nominees include a science-fiction film, a neo-Western, a musical, a war movie about a conscientious objector and a true story about the African-American women who sent men to the moon. Refreshingly, the nominated actors cover a range of races and nationalities. The diverse array of this year’s fine movies provides something for just about everyone.

The Academy Awards will air Feb. 27 on AFN-Movie.

Stars and Stripes staffers share their thoughts on the nine best-picture nominees:

“Arrival”

Science-fiction movies rarely get any sort of attention from Academy voters when it comes to the coveted Best Picture nomination – and for good reason. For every thought-provoking “Gattaca” or “Blade Runner,” the genre is choked with bombastic popcorn flicks that care about critical praise about as much as your favorite local diner cares about a Michelin star.

“Arrival” is – by my count — the 13th science-fiction film to be nominated for best picture in the Academy’s 87 years of voting. Does it deserve to win? Hard to say. It has been a fantastic year for films and the field is chock full of quality contenders. “Arrival’s” nomination is well-earned, however.

Much like 2013’s “Gravity,” the story of “Arrival” is a deeply personal one, told against a backdrop of science-fiction tropes. Unlike that film, however, “Arrival” isn’t quite as dependent on realistic trappings to tell its tale.

The plot of how linguist Louise Banks learns to communicate with an alien species that suddenly reveals itself to humanity is very much a science-fiction tale. The aliens are appropriately weird, their spaceships are identifiably not-human and the ending simply wouldn’t work with a more grounded approach.

But those elements are just the foundation for the core theme of how a person deals with the certainty of loss. How that theme unfolds could not be as effectively told without the science-fiction setting. “Arrival’s” two facades – the fantastic and the deeply humanistic – are perfectly married. Without them working in harmony, the movie wouldn’t have been as special as it is.

As it stands, “Arrival” is one of 2016’s best pictures, and the academy did right by recognizing it as such. Amy Adams excelled as Louise, putting forth a depressed but driven character that is immediately relatable. This movie was very much a showcase of Adams’ talents as an actor, and she surpassed even my already-lofty opinions of her talents.

Will “Arrival” win? History says no. Science fiction has yet to grab the big award. But if it manages to pull out the surprise win, it would be a richly-deserved victory for this triumph of a movie.

“Arrival” is nominated for eight Academy Awards: best picture, best directing (Denis Villeneuve), adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, sound mixing, sound editing and production design.

Michael S. Darnell, web editor

“Fences”

“Fences” takes a Broadway play to the big screen. Since it’s based on a theater format, the film mostly takes place on the fenced property of Troy Maxson (played by Denzel Washington).

Troy is an undereducated garbageman doing all he can to be a provider, a father, a husband and a manly role model to his sons.  Notice that I never said he was good at any of these roles. Jovial yet stern, Troy has love for his family but has a unique way of showing it.

Forced to raise himself during his teenage years, Troy struggles to enlighten his sons on how tough life can be, and what’s expected of them as men. As a father who demands respect from his boys, he struggles to teach them how to be responsible. He doesn’t always give the correct advice, but he tries the best he can based on what he’s experienced.

His wife Rose (played by Viola Davis) is a housewife who loves Troy for who he is, shortcomings and all. Through thick or thin, Rose is there. Although, there are times when Troy’s best friend Bono (played by Stephen Henderson) has to constantly remind Troy how important Rose is and how she should be the only woman in his life.

With very strong dialogue between the characters and a powerful understanding of the struggles each one goes through, “Fences” provides a unique perspective on life and how the ones we bond with influence who we are. We witness many levels of pain. Pain that’s needed to live, grow and love.

“Fences” is nominated for four Academy Awards: best picture, lead actor (Washington), supporting actress (Davis) and adapted screenplay.

[Source:-Star Strips]

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