2016 was a politically turbulent year and the movies reflected a similar conflict. Batman fought Superman and Captain America attacked Iron Man. The champions were raunchy “Suicide Squad” and sadistic “Deadpool.” Then, the McDonald’s “Founder” was revealed to be The Hamburglar. Yet, the top grossing film was “Finding Dory,” go figure.
Leigh’s Top 10 for 2016: “Passengers,” “Jungle Book,” “Sully,” “Fantastic Beasts,” “Dr. Strange,” “Jason Bourne,” “Allied,” “The Accountant,” “Girl on the Train,” “Star Trek Beyond.” Ron’s Top 10: “La La Land,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Girl on the Train,” “Jungle Book,” “Deadpool,” “Hell or High Water,” “Dr. Strange,” “The Accountant,” “Rogue One.”
Reel People Oscar predictions:
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling trips the light fantastic in “La La Land,” while Casey Affleck mumbles to his shoes as a brooding and broken man in “Manchester by the Sea.” Meanwhile, Andrew Garfield carries his heart of gold to “Hacksaw Ridge.”
And, the winner will be… Denzel Washington (“Fences”) as a proud and not so loving father, this wounded bully is tired of being kicked around. It’s grueling to watch such tragic lives led by this larger than life ex–ballplayer with minimal redeeming qualities.
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) attempts to revive Camelot, but not many saw this fiscal flop. Meryl Streep is noteworthy as “Florence Foster Jenkins,” the world’s worst singer. Isabelle Huppert is “Elle,” a woman assaulted, but refuses to be a victim.
And, the winner will be…Emma Stone (“La La Land”). Although we’re not big fans, Stone delivers her finest performance ever as a “wannabe” star struggling through Hollywood’s gauntlet and forced to make hard choices between career and a meaningful relationship.
Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges is hilarious as a Texas Ranger in pursuit in “Hell or High Water.” Lucas Hedges must endure his unpredictable uncle in “Manchester by the Sea.” Dev Patel is obsessed with finding the home he was lost from 25 years before.
And the winner will be… Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). Ali plays against stereotype as the neighborhood drug dealer seen in most movies. His character, Juan, provides guidance to a neglected and bullied gay child needing sanctuary from his negligent mother.
Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams uses her notable strength of character to offset Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea.” Naomi Harris is an addicted and abusive mother in “Moonlight.” Octavia Spencer calculates the right stuff for NASA in “Hidden Figures.”
And the winner will be…Voila Davis (“Fences”). As the devoted wife of a larger than life ex-ballplayer, Davis provides an understated performance in support of her leading man. When the spotlight moves to her character, her words and actions cut to your very soul.
Director: Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) tells what it’s like growing up gay in the hood. Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”) explores death’s devastating impact on the human spirit, while Mel Gibson honors the first man to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
And the winner will be… Damien Chazell (“La La Land”). Inspired by “Singing in the Rain” (1952) and “Swing Time” (1936), Chazell captures that old time style of love and romance set in a more cynical town that worships everything and values nothing.
Best Picture: Hollywood has nominated nine pictures, of which most explore various aspects of grief, sorrow and misery, while only a few offer some degree of hope or triumph. Leading candidates are “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight” and “Fences.”
And the winner will be…”La La Land,” which is spectacularly staged and crafted from the opening freeway flash mob scene to the final surreal dream sequence. This story of an aspiring actress and would be jazz pianist is a remarkably beautiful film for idealists and hopeless romantics. It has too many faults to mention, but is sweet, whimsical and stylish, much needed in such a year of cynicism, contempt and doubt.