Held captive by the reboot and the sequel, Hollywood’s movie conundrum only deepened after the summer season. Following the depressing reception received by summer blockbusters such as Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Jason Bourne, anticipation shifted towards the upcoming fall films. Typically, the summer’s action-packed, star-studded movies tend to rely on box office totals as their standard of success while ignoring the critics’ scathing reviews. Due to scripted superhero antics and star actors electing to join a sequel’s ensemble cast, originality continues to decline within the film industry’s largest and most influential production companies.
As the superhero franchises and biopic features continue their box-office barrage, independent or “indie” films provide a paradigm for originality within Hollywood. Approaching the fall film season, the focus shifts to the acting, directing, and production that impresses the Academy. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the upcoming 2017 Oscar hopefuls.
Following the life of an African-American man from boyhood to adulthood, Moonlight approaches the struggle of self-discovery and survival throughout an impoverished Miami neighborhood. Director Barry Jenkins provides a different take on the idyllic, coming of age story. Much like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Jenkins chronicles a young boy’s progression from innocent child to responsible young adult. Not only does Moonlight project to be in the race for Best Picture, but also for Best Director and Supporting Actor in the form of Mahershala Ali’s performance.
After a near decade hiatus, Mel Gibson revitalizes his directorial career with Hacksaw Ridge. Following the story of Desmond T. Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Gibson’s film diverts from the typical portrayal of war. Focusing on Doss’ heroic actions, Gibson excludes a look into a war’s strategy and instead elects to chronicle Doss’ refusal to kill. Hacksaw Ridge is likely to receive consideration for directing, sound editing, with a possible nod in the Best Picture category. Despite Gibson having only four films to his directorial name, each film has earned modest critical reception; Hacksaw Ridge should be no different.
Denis Villeneuve returns with his highly anticipated alien thriller: Arrival. Succeeding his 2015 film, Sicario, Villeneuve presents a high-stakes bureaucratic battle between man and alien. Unlike most extraterrestrial endeavors, Arrival focuses on linguist, Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, and her attempt to translate and subsequently communicate with the unwanted intruders. Arrival simultaneously deals with questions regarding humanity’s place in the galaxy and not how the aliens arrived, but why they did. Villeneuve’s directing consistently draws attention, as do his films’ cinematography and sound editing. Armed with a dauntless supporting cast and a promising young screenwriter, Arrival could be a dark-horse candidate for multiple categories come February.
Manchester By The Sea
Director Kenneth Lonergan delivers Manchester by the Sea, a film that tells the story of a family broken by drunkenness and death. Casey Affleck stars as a teenage nephew navigating the treacherous waters of young adulthood following his father’s death. Opposite Affleck, Kyle Chandler encapsulates the tumultuous responsibility of uncle and newly appointed father figure. Evoking emotion and demanding sympathy, Manchester by the Sea, dissects the shattered relationship caused by death while filling the room with palpable sentiment. Pegged as the frontrunner for both Lead Actor and Best Picture, Manchester by the Sea, provides much of the anticipation for the fall film season.
La La Land
As the title suggests, La La Land watches the romantic hopes of young actress and an upstart jazz musician flutter in and out of reality. In his first feature film since the surprising Whiplash, Damien Chazelle presents the ever present dichotomy between one’s yearning for love and equally commanding desire for personal success. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land presents a young romance threatened by the aspiring success that fame carries. Both Gosling and Stone fare to be in contention for Best Actor and Best Actress. As was the case with Whiplash, Chazelle’s screenplay and directing expects to receive consideration from the Academy, as well.
Amidst the turmoil and political unrest throughout America today, Hollywood continues to acknowledge the injustice through biopics such as The Birth of a Nation and fictional adaptations like Fences. Directing and starring in an adaptation of a play, Denzel Washington conveys the struggle of leading a family during the social unrest of the 1950’s. A proponent and collective voice in the film industry, Washington excels in multiple roles involving race relations and discrimination. Channeling his former characters from films such as Remember the Titans and Philadelphia, Washington’s performance will likely reflect and imitate common social setbacks and struggles. Paired alongside Viola Davis, Washington’s performance as father and husband of a pressured African-American family projects to gather critical interest in both categories of directing and acting.
Falling perfectly into the category of “indie” film, Paterson observes a disheveled city bus driver who doubles as a self-internalizing poet. Adam Driver conveys the simple-minded poet, Paterson, as he traverses his daily routine from bus route to dog-walking. Conversely, Laura’s ever-changing world compliments his defined actions. Following their shared love and lives, Paterson appreciates the ins and outs of everyday life. When compared to the blockbusters of the summer, offbeat comedies and dramas such as Paterson seem to pale in comparison. Yet, a sparkling performance from Adam Driver may propel him into consideration for Best Actor and possibly Best Screenplay as well.