Oscars: Read THR's Reviews of All 9 Best Picture Nominees

10:09 AM 1/24/2017

by THR Staff

What The Hollywood Reporter's film critics had to say about 'La La Land,' 'Moonlight,' 'Manchester by the Sea' and more.

From left: 'La La Land,' 'Moonlight' and 'Manchester by the Sea'
From left: 'La La Land,' 'Moonlight' and 'Manchester by the Sea'
Courtesy of Lionsgate; A24; Roadside Attractions

Nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning, and La La Land leads the pack with a record-tying 14 mentions.

Other top nominees were Arrival and Moonlight, with eight apiece.

Haven't seen all the movies yet? Not to worry. The Hollywood Reporter has rounded up all of our reviews from the nine films nominated for best picture this year. Read what our critics had to say about each movie below, and watch all the trailer here.

  • Arrival

    Paramount Pictures

    If the gatekeepers of classic screen sci-fi are at all anxious about the stamp that director Denis Villeneuve might put on his upcoming Blade Runner project — a sequel coming 35 years after the iconic original — then the class, intelligence and cool visual style of Arrival should provide reassurance. How refreshing to watch an alien contact movie in which no cities are destroyed or monuments toppled, and no adversarial squabbling distracts the human team from the challenges of their complex interspecies encounter. Anchored by an internalized performance from Amy Adams rich in emotional depth, this is a grownup sci-fi drama that sustains fear and tension while striking affecting chords on love and loss. Read the rest of David Rooney's review here.

  • Fences

    David Lee/Paramount Pictures

    Fences is as faithful, impeccably acted and honestly felt a film adaptation of August Wilson's celebrated play as the late author could have possibly wished for. But whether a pristine representation of all the dramatic beats and emotional surges of a stage production actually makes for a riveting film in and of itself is another matter. Having both won Tony Awards for the excellent 2010 Broadway revival of Wilson's 1986 Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis know their parts here backward and forward, and they, along with the rest of the fine cast, bat a thousand, hitting both the humorous and serious notes. But with this comes a sense that all the conflicts, jokes and meanings are being smacked right on the nose in vivid close-ups, with nothing left to suggestion, implication and interpretation. Read the rest of Todd McCarthy's review here.

     

  • Hacksaw Ridge

    Mark Rogers/Summit Entertainment

    Ten years have passed along with much uncomfortable tabloid scrutiny since Mel Gibson's last film as director, Apocalypto. Back in the saddle with Hacksaw Ridge, he once again proves himself a muscular storyteller who knows exactly how to raise a pulse, heighten emotion and build intensity to explosive peaks. Themes of courage, patriotism, faith and unwavering adherence to personal beliefs have been a constant through Gibson's directing projects, as has a fascination with bloodshed and gore. Those qualities serve this powerful true story of heroism without violence extremely well, overcoming its occasional cliched battle-movie tropes to provide stirring drama. Read the rest of David Rooney's review here.

  • Hell or High Water

    Lorey Sebastian
    Brit director David Mackenzie follows his searing 2013 prison drama, Starred Up, with a deep dive into archetypal Americana in Hell or High Water, a modern Western thriller that combines many of the same strengths as that earlier film. Those notably include unsettling violence and textural grit coupled with compassionate insight in a story that observes the behavioral codes of damaged men in a broken world. Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan's script is sharper in its character-driven crime spree and chase mechanics than in its too-pointed social contextualization within a milieu bled dry by bankers. But sweaty performances, tight direction and evocative visuals keep the drama compelling. Read the rest of David Rooney's review here.

  • Hidden Figures

    Courtesy of Hopper Stone

    As shiny and bright as the Chevy Bel Air that Octavia Spencer’s character drives — and knows how to repair — Hidden Figures is a spunky, upbeat spin on a moment of risk-taking hope for Cold War America. It’s also an eye-opening reminder of the absurdity, cruelty and pervasiveness of racial segregation a mere half-century ago, even in such rarefied precincts of higher intelligence as NASA’s Langley research center. Set during the hectic months leading to astronaut John Glenn’s 1962 orbit of Earth, the film revolves around three key but largely unsung members of the NASA team that made his flight possible. In what can feel like a frustratingly two-dimensional history lesson, albeit one whose resonance is undeniable, it helps that they’re played by a trio of actresses with charm to spare. Read the rest of Sheri Linden's review here.

     

  • La La Land

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    If you're going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle's daring and beautiful La La Land, itwill probably be at first sight. There's never been anything quite like the opening sequence: Traffic is at a standstill on the high, curving ramp that connects the 105 freeway to the 110 leading to downtown Los Angeles. Most of the cars are occupied only by single drivers, who are all listening to different music. But after a moment, instead of just sitting there simmering, somebody gets out and starts singing and dancing. Soon someone else does the same. Then another, and yet another, until a bad mood has been replaced by a joyous one as the road becomes the scene for a giant musical production number set to an exuberant big-band beat. Read the rest of Todd McCarthy's review here.

     

  • Lion

    Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

    A tremendously moving performance from Dev Patel is the resilient soul of Lion, the incredible true story of Saroo Brierley and his tenacious quest to find the family from whom he was separated 25 years earlier. But the role is made even more affecting by its through line from the equally indelible work of Sunny Pawar, the remarkable young actor who plays him at age five in the film's wrenching opening chapter. Garth Davis, who comes from a background in commercials and co-directed the lauded drama series Top of the Lake with Jane Campion, has chosen wisely for his first feature project. Read the rest of David Rooney's review here.

     

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Claire Folger

    A wrenching family tragedy is dramatized with the depth of a high-quality American stage piece in Manchester by the Sea. Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature film since his debut 16 years ago with his Sundance entry You Can Count on Me is deeply rooted in its New England setting and characters, led by the traumatized, working-class Joe played by Casey Affleck in what is by far his most impressive and deeply felt screen performance to date. Read the rest of Todd McCarthy's review here.

     

  • Moonlight

    David Bornfriend

    Barry Jenkins' Moonlight pulls you into its introspective protagonist's world from the start and transfixes throughout as it observes, with uncommon poignancy and emotional perceptiveness, his roughly two-decade path to find a definitive answer to the question, "Who am I?" While the fundamental nature of that central question gives this exquisite character study universality, the film also brings infinite nuance and laser-like specificity to its portrait of African-American gay male experience, which resonates powerfully in the era of Black Lives Matter. Read the rest of David Rooney's review here.

     

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