Winter is a time for college students to relax and enjoy a much-needed break in between semesters. But for the film world, it is a time of last-minute releases and awards campaigning that can be tiresome and seemingly drag on forever.
The so called “Oscar bait” films always make an appearance around Christmas time, but this year, these films really shined and made a name for themselves.
The best films of the winter aren’t the big blockbusters that I’m sure most people have seen. Here are the top three films that should be grabbing your attention after all three scored Oscar nominations.
1. La La Land
Director and writer Damien Chazelle’s second masterpiece is the sure leader in the Best Picture race, and every other race this awards season for that matter.
“La La Land” is the best film of the winter and the best film of 2016. It combines the beauty and spectacle of modern day and the golden age of Hollywood in one stunning original musical.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star as a struggling jazz musician and aspiring actress, respectively, who fall in love through a series of chance encounters. Their love story is played out through song, dance and emotional scenes that are incredible.
The music and choreography are easily the best parts of the film. The infectious and catchy tunes will be stuck in your head for days, and you may even find yourself humming along while watching the film. The cinematography is also stunning, as is the directing.
There is nothing to dislike about “La La Land,” which is why it is easily the best film of the year. After sweeping the Golden Globe Awards and winning eight of 12 of its Critics’ Choice Awards nominations, “La La Land” is taking awards season by storm, and the Academy Awards are next on its path to eternal greatness.
2. Hidden Figures
The winter’s second best film is also its most underrated. “Hidden Figures” tells the untold stories of the African-American women calculators employed by NASA during the space program’s early days.
These women were responsible for creating and checking the math that allowed the United States to win the great Space Race. And these women also did all the math by hand, with no recognition for their work and achievements until now. One of history’s greatest secrets is revealed in the delightful story of “Hidden Figures.”
The film focuses on the stories of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and how each woman broke a barrier at NASA. Without these geniuses, John Glenn and Alan Shephard would never have made it to space.
The acting is fantastic in the film, and Monáe is the real standout. She should be in high consideration for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination because she was outstanding. The supporting cast is extremely strong and is led by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali. The film’s strength comes in the clever dialogue and the performances that show you only a character, not an actor.
The final film that deserves some recognition is a play disguised as a film. “Fences” is adapted from the late August Wilson’s play of the same name. Instead of being performed on stage, the script was shot as a film.
The film comes across as a play because it uses the language, dialogue, emotions and long-winded monologues that are characteristics of all great plays. This is a different type of film than most people are used to watching, so don’t think it’s only you if you feel it is a little weird. It takes a little getting used to, but “Fences” is brilliant once you understand what it is trying to accomplish.
Not only is the story excellent, but the execution is phenomenal. The play moves from the stage to the screen effortlessly, which is a beautiful thing to see.
The five adult cast members (Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson) of the 2010 revival of the Broadway version of “Fences” reunite for the film and deliver impactful performances.
Washington is especially powerful as Troy Maxson, an African-American man who has continually been smacked down by life in 1950s Pittsburgh. Washington deserves both directing and acting nominations, and should be highly considered by voters for each.
“Fences” should be celebrated for both its unique style and its compelling narrative.