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Academy Award hard hitters: the best of best this 2017 Oscar season

Get your popcorn ready everyone! The 2017 nominees for this year’s Academy Awards have just been released. Like usual, there were plenty of surprises, shocking snubs and underdogs this year that you might have missed, so here’s a helpful guide on navigating this awards season and what films you should check out before the show on Feb. 26!
“La La Land:” With 14 total nominations in just about every major category, this year’s Academy Awards might as well have been named the La La Land show, but it makes sense considering this movie has been getting insane buzz for over a year at this point. Staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this throwback to the musicals of yesteryear like “Singin’ in the Rain” follows the up and downs of a couple’s relationship in Los Angeles as they struggle to achieve their dreams in the big city. While its success might be attributed to its obsession with Hollywood and nostalgia for “better days,” it certainly didn’t hurt its chances at potential awards, as it is expected to sweep up just about every category it is nominated in, from best actress for Emma Stone, best director for Damien Chazelle of “Whiplash” fame and especially anything relating to music and set design (sorry “Moana”). “La La Land” probably won’t hit VOD or DVD for a few more months, but you can still catch it in theatres for the time being, and believe me, you DEFINITELY won’t be disappointed.
“Arrival:” While I personally found this one to be a little lacking, it still managed to impress the Academy and many others, scoring eight nominations, but, strangely, Amy Adams was snubbed in her impressive role. Following the titular arrival of multiple alien spacecraft on Earth, “Arrival” tells the story of a linguist, played by Adams, who must team up with the best and brightest of America and the rest of the world to decipher the intentions of these otherworldly beings before the panicking populace of the world declares war on them. Picking up nominations in the best picture, director, and adapted screenplay categories, I honestly don’t imagine “Arrival” winning too many Oscars, beyond anything in the sound category for its stellar alien sounds, and potentially for its screenplay. Then again, it still has a pretty decent following with critics and the average moviegoer which might help, so who knows? “Arrival” comes out on VOD and DVD on Feb. 14, but it is having another run in theaters this week with some additional footage to celebrate its nominations.
“Moonlight:” Unlike “La La Land” and “Arrival,” “Moonlight” came out of the blue during various film festivals last year, but has received unanimous acclaim by essentially everyone, being the highest rated film to get a nomination since “Boyhood” (both which have a 99 out of 100 score on Metacritic and a 8.9 out of ten on Rotten Tomatoes), coming up with eight well deserved nominations including best supporting actor and actress, as well as best director for Barry Jenkins. “Moonlight” chronicles the journey of Chiron, a shy African American man struggling with many facets of his identity in Miami, Florida, jumping from his early years, to his socially awkward teenage years, and finally closing with his adult life. While by far the “artsiest” of this year’s big movies, it is easily one of the best films out there right now, and is really the only thing stopping “La La Land” from an easy best picture and director win. “Moonlight” can still be found in some theaters, but if you can wait a little while longer, it will hit iTunes and Amazon Video on Feb. 7 and later on DVD the 28.
“Manchester by the Sea:” Much like fellow best picture nominee “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” kind of popped up out of nowhere, but wowed critics with its deep story and phenomenal acting, racking up six nominations including best lead and supporting actor, as well as a best picture nod. “Manchester by the Sea” follows a down on his luck janitor, played by Casey Affleck, who, after the sudden death of his brother, is forced to return to his hometown to make peace with his past and care for his newly orphaned nephew. While “Manchester” has been doing well for itself, awards wise, it has garnered controversy over Casey Affleck’s return to fame after various accusations of sexual harassment from some of the actor’s former coworkers in 2010, but so far that hasn’t seemed to have impacted his or “Manchester’s” chances too badly. “Manchester by the Sea” hits Amazon Prime’s streaming service on February 7 and DVD later on Feb. 21.
Other Movies To Pay Attention To: While the above films are the ones most likely to come out with big wins, that doesn’t take away in the slightest from these other releases which will come out with a few awards under their belts as well.
“Fences,” Denzel Washington’s film adaptation of the play that he participated in for many years hit a few bumps in the transition from Broadway to film that kept it from being quite as good as the play, but even then, that’s still pretty good. Absolutely expect a win from Viola Davis here for her role as Rose, as she truly knocked it out of the park. “Fences” won’t hit VOD or DVD until March 14th, but if you’re lucky, you might still be able to catch it in theaters.
“Hacksaw Ridge” getting nominations in many categories is a bit surprising considering the (justified) Mel Gibson hate by most people, but regardless of his character, the man can still make some damn good movies, as “Hacksaw Ridge” shows. Considering the amount of heavy hitters, I doubt that this will quite be Gibson’s comeback year, but expect at least a win somewhere in the technical side of things. “Hacksaw Ridge” comes out on VOD and DVD on Feb. 21.
“Hell or High Water” was a pretty great movie, but with the titanic amounts of buzz from the likes of “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” pretty great just can’t quite cut it in terms of winning best picture. However, it will definitely at least get best adapted screenplay for its surprisingly good script. “Hell or High Water” is available now on VOD and DVD.

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