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The Oscar Contenders


With the Oscar nominees in and the countdown to the annual Academy Awards having begun, we’ve rounded up the Best Picture “must sees” leading the pack. This year’s 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air in Hong Kong on 27 February and, as always, promises to be filled with the glitz and glamour with which it is associated. And the nominees are…

This took seven awards at the Golden Globes in January and is in the lead with 14 nominations. Up for Best Picture, La La Land’s sweet optimism charts Hollywood’s longstanding love affair with itself in a romantic musical that harks back to a bygone era. Full of beautiful panned shots of the LA skyline, this is the story of two aspiring artists in Los Angeles (Birdman, The Artist, All About Eve ring any Oscar-winning bells?), and stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as leads.


A not to be missed cerebral sci-fi flick that is not just for those who love Close Encounters, Gravity and Interstellar. Denis Villeneuve’s tale of alien contact is both epic in scope and intimate in nature. Arrival has Amy Adams (inexplicably snubbed by The Academy without a nomination for her lead role) as a linguistic professor who has to race against time to communicate with extra-terrestrials who have arrived in gigantic spaceships in 12 locations around the world.


Another major contender, this one tied with Arrival for eight nominations. It is a bold, unique, poetically filmed coming-of-age movie that ticks all the right boxes: it’s about identity, love, family and friendship. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a sensitive film about a gay, black kid growing up in the Miami projects, and it reverberates with compassion, veracity and beauty. One of 10 black nominations, it makes #OscarsSoWhite so last year.

Heralded as a masterpiece for its beautiful acting by Casey Affleck (Ben’s younger bro) and Michelle Williams, this superb film by Kenneth Lonergan has earned six nominations. Dealing with tough but universal issues of grief and forgiveness, the film is about a janitor who, after the death of his older brother, is shocked to find out that he has been made sole guardian of his teenage nephew. Heart-breaking and heart-warming in turns, it’s high on the bookie’s lists.


Six nominations were given to this dramatic adaptation of a true story. The Weinstein film is based on the true story about five-year-old Saroo from a poor family in India, who fell asleep on a train and woke up thousands of miles from home. The film has a stellar cast with Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and Dev Patel and tracks Saroo’s obsessive search for his birth mother after he was adopted by an Aussie couple and went to live in Tasmania. It has generated major Awards buzz as is an enthralling and enchanting movie about the strength of motherly love.


This is a gritty, gruesome, no-holds-barred World War II movie with Mel Gibson directing what he hoped would be his supposed comeback. And that’s exactly what it is. Sweeping in its grandeur, conventional but uncomproming in its depiction of battle, Hacksaw has tied with Lion for six nominations. A bruising and brutal film, it is the story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist objector and an outcast, who found redemption through superhuman suffering.

Originally performed on Broadway, Denzel Washington’s stars and directs in his big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play. A powerful but often painful story about a black Pittsburgh garbage collector who dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues began admitting black players, it questions how events and the environment shape us and make us who we are. Impeccable acting by Washington in the lead with Viola Davis as his wife.


Four Oscar nods for this hard-to-categorize film directed by David Mackenzie and starring Jeff Bridges. Is it a heavyweight neo-Western? A Trump-era indie that packs a punch? Or an action-thriller with a cynical side? Quite possibly, it is all those. A heist drama set in Texas just after the 2008 financial crisis, it boasts excellent acting by Bridges, a super smart script and tight direction.


This is an empowering, emotionally satisfying film: it is the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA and who, incredibly, were the brains behind the historic launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, this remarkable movie about crucial contributions from America’s Afro-American community crossing gender and race lines puts an end to the #OscarsSoWhite drought.

Photo caption (from left to right):
1. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in LA LA LAND. Photo credit: Dale Robinette
2. From top to bottom: Mahershala Ali ("Juan," top) and Alex R. Hibbert ("Little," bottom) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's MOONLIGHT. 
3. From left to right: Michelle Williams ("Randi Chandler," left) and Casey Affleck ("Lee Chandler," right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.
4. Dev Patel Nicole Kidman and David Wenham star in LION Photo Credit: Mark Rogers
5. Andrew Garfield ("Desmond Doss") stars in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's HACKSAW RIDGE.
6. From left to right: Jeff Bridges ("Marcus Hamilton," left) and Gil Birmingham ("Alberto Parker," right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's HELL OR HIGH WATER.

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