Best Picture nominees make a statement

Hidden Figures 

By Jiana Ugale

The film “Hidden Figures” is the true and untold story of three African-American women with extraordinary mathematical talent assisting NASA in the 1960s.

The film follows Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who served as the driving forces behind one of the most spectacular operations in history–launching an astronaut into space.

The honest depiction of social issues within this film is what gives it an edge over the rest of the nominees. The movie depicts the frustration and pain of not only being a woman, but being an African American woman. The movie tackles the barriers of racism and sexism, never glazing over the reality of discrimination.

Although it isn’t as harsh as recent movies about discrimination, it nonetheless illustrates the jarring experiences that African-American women endured without being disingenous. It shows how despite the women having to walk 20 minutes just to get to the nearest colored restroom and having to drink from a coffee pot labeled “colored,” they are still able to persevere through their struggles. Although they initally clashed with their white coworkers, they eventually gain their respect, demonstrating that intelligence is not defined by gender and race.

“Hidden Figures” provides an inspiring example of triumph over unjust systems. Throughout the film, similarities between the past and the present are illuminated, reminding the audience that racism and sexism are still very alive.

If you want to watch a film with a strong storyline, incredible acting and the integration of social issues, this film is a must watch.

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By Megan Munson

Director Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” follows the turbulent story of an underprivileged gay person of color. It is not only written and filmed beautifully—it tells a story based on Jenkins’s own life experiences, exposing audiences to an unfamiliar lifestyle.

“Moonlight” tells the transformative story of an African-American boy, Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes), living in the ghettos of Miami, Florida. The film is divided into three parts: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. As a child, he finds it difficult to make friends and grows isolated. He is bullied as a teenager, and the story picks up in adulthood after he’s released from prison, having turned down a dark path after he was jailed in high school for self defense.

Plot-wise, “Moonlight” was reminiscent of 2015’s Best Picture nominee, “Boyhood.” The two are similar in that the plot follows no distinct rise-and-fall format, but rather, runs along the course of the main character’s life. However, while the storyline of “Boyhood” became boring and directionless, “Moonlight” was paced quickly enough to stay interesting.

Visually, the film is stunning. The lighting draws out color from darkness and fills scenes with a variety of moods to match the emotions in the plot. Many of the shots are extremely creative and unique, as is the framing in multiple scenes. Every single shot in this film is visually artful.

“Moonlight” is not only a well-crafted film—it provides a great commentary on social issues that just aren’t seen by the majority of the United States. This film presents excellent food for thought, and has the potential to open the eyes of many to very real societal issues in this country. “Moonlight” is positively moving, and a must-see for anyone who enjoys thought-provoking cinema.

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La La Land

By Megan Munson

The film “La La Land” is one of the most lighthearted Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, containing every aspect of an excellent romantic comedy. Throughout tears as well as laughter, audiences witness the love story of two aspiring artists.

This film follows Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), two young artists with goals of making it big in Hollywood. Sebastian dreams of opening his own jazz club, while Mia aspires to be an actress. They meet by chance, and despite the unlikeliness of falling in love, their romance is the focus of the plot. The movie documents the rises and falls in their relationship as they coincide with their professional successes and setbacks, posing the question of how to balance love with success.

As a musical, “La La Land” certainly doesn’t fall short. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone prove to be talented musicians. There are several musical motifs–pieces that are introduced throughout the story and recovered later, creating a nostalgic effect by the end of the film. The movie also provides a lot of variety in music, as it features elements from a variety of genres. Sebastian’s story provides jazz and classical details, while Mia usually sings softer melodies. The diversity and emotion in music makes for a terrific soundtrack.

Overall, “La La Land” doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. It doesn’t raise any questions about life or society, and it’s not exactly food for thought. Although it isn’t nearly as thought-provoking as the other nominations, “La La Land’s” devastating emotional twists make for a nominee worth singing about.

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By Jiana Ugale

Directed by Denzel Washington, “Fences” is an emotionally gripping and unbelievably raw drama.   Washington also stars as Troy Maxson, an African-American father struggling with race relations in the United States and trying to care for his family during the 1950s. Throughout the film, the audience becomes aware of his harsh Southern childhood, the time he spent in prison and the ways in which he navigates through parenting.

Maxson is an incredibly intriguing and complex character. He is both funny and bitter, making the audience question the root of his demeanor.

It is revealed that Maxson is an ex-Negro League baseball player currently working as a trash collector in Pittsburgh. Maxson is stuck in a stage of self-loathing, always complaining about the unfairness of life and trivializing the dreams and successes of his children. Because of his failure of never making it to the Major League, he discourages his son from playing college football, causing a great strain on their relationship.

The film reminds the audience that in any relationship there must be compromise, that understanding may be absent at times and that no relationship is perfect.

The minimalism of the film makes it very intimate, showing that cinematography does not have to be grand in order to create lasting effects on the audience. The film isn’t full of twists and turns, so it may not be for those who crave action. However, the talent of the cast and the well-written screenplay still make the film engaging.

If you’re looking for a film that makes you think, reflect and feel, this is the movie that will make you do just that.

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