By: Daniel Reynolds
As we approach the very end of 2016, all of the films in serious contention for the Best Picture Oscar have been released, in a limited capacity or otherwise. While I haven’t seen a few entries in this month’s top ten — owing to disinterest or a lack of access — the narratives for all of their nominations are really starting to take shape.
There’s still time for things to be shaken up though, and we’ll have to wait until January 24th for an official word on which movies are in and which are out. That gives us just over three weeks — and one final rankings column — to figure things out. I’ve done my part here in the third installment of the Picture Perfect Power Rankings. You can be confident in that knowledge, at least.
Out of the Top 10 from Last Month:
Sully — As it turns out, this one will be set to retire at the end of the year. Sorry, Clint. You had a good run.
This one continues to hit a bunch of key Oscar checkboxes. Strong central performance? Check. Based on a significant real-life figure? Check. Set in the time in which many Academy members came of age? Check. The non-traditional score and what sounds like less than common structuring of the film may take it down a notch or two to some, but I figure on Jackie hanging around.
What It Needs: To fend off… Mel Gibson???
9) Hell or High Water
Legit shocked to see this one jump into the conversation, not because David Mackenzie’s bank-robbing ode to the south doesn’t deserve it but because, well, it was sort of dumped out in late-August to be forgotten. That it is here now speaks well of its quality — and the presence of Jeff Bridges (in a very fine performance) doesn’t hurt either.
What It Needs: Just forget the release date and watch this one.
As the other more, let’s say, dramatic films of the year have rolled into theatres, it is unsurprising to see Loving gradually slide down the rankings. Jeff Nichols’ latest is soft-spoken and well-intentioned, its based on a true story of real meaning, but its power is not particularly pronounced.
What It Needs: For people to still care about it come 2017.
I’ve run out of words for this one. Is it good? Is it bad? No idea. It seems like a lock for a nomination and that’s really all there is left to say about it. Sorry to sound like such a hardcase here. I’ll have to see it for myself to figure out its proper placement. What fun.
What It Needs: Nothing. Just keep existing.
Much like the priests of Martin Scorsese’s latest, I was probably a little overzealous with my assessment from last month. Depending on who you ask, Silence is either one of Marty’s greatest achievements, or a knotty, complicated movie with few answers to the questions it asks. Not sure what kind of appetite there is for Silence, but still: the talent involved is hard to ignore.
What It Needs: For everyone to just keep on loving and respecting Scorsese’s name.
I’ve been reserved on Arrival because of its alien content. For a couple months there I was unconvinced the Academy would look its way. But this overlooks the strong dose of humanity — and mother/daughter dynamics — that courses through it. And it doesn’t hurt that it is the clear box office winner among the probable nominees.
What It Needs: [wave off gesture] Eh, don’t worry about these so called “extraterrestrials.”
This is a throwback movie, no doubt about it. If Fences had come out in, say, 1956, it would have won in a walk. The irony of course: no way would a movie as complex and black as this one get made in the “golden age” of Hollywood. I’ll admit that Fences isn’t quite for me — it’s not particularly cinematic — but strong acting and writing go a long way, and few are stronger than Denzel, Viola, and August Wilson.
What It Needs: For all the old people in the Academy to turn out to vote.
3) Manchester by the Sea
On the surface, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, filled as it is with New England accents and the angst of working class white people, looks familiar. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a film that is somehow as funny and sad as this one. For that alone (never mind the acting that animates it, and the innovative structure, and so on and so on), it maintains it’s hold here.
What It Needs: Mostly for people to look past the surface (and, uh, the distressing Casey Affleck news).
In one sense, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea are essentially tied. Both are impeccably made, both are rich in detail and character, and both deserve recognition. Moonlight, though, is the more significant film, something we haven’t seen before at all. And while it doesn’t have the same star power of the latter film, as of this writing I think it may have the better shot.
What It Needs: Again, for people to just give it a chance.
1) La La Land
Having now seen this one I can say two things. First, despite the modest young pedigree of Damien Chazelle and some talented actors in Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, La La Land unfortunately does fall into the “overrated” category for the year. (I hate that term, but it fits here.) And second: it is 100 percent going to win Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards. I wish I could bet money on this.
What It Needs: Nothing. It’s got the mojo going.