February 25, 2017

Reviewing the nominees: Arrival, Manchester by the Sea & Lion

A critical look at this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture 

For week two of my Oscar nomination tour, I watched three very different films: Arrival, Manchester by the Sea, and Lion.

Let’s dive in.

Arrival

2/5 Stars

Although I really enjoyed watching this film, it didn’t exceed my high hopes for an out-of-character Oscar nomination. I wanted more from Arrival than the typical overly-indulgent emotions stemming from an inexplicable and unexplained scientific phenomenon that characterizes big sci-fi movies.

And I was disappointed.

I can confidently say that Arrival is one of the best science-fiction movies that I’ve seen. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are excellent as the leads, the film is shot in a lush landscape and the non-linear plot brings in the perfect element of mystery.

However, the movie relies too heavily on the audience being able to relate to a character who’s inexplicably able to communicate with aliens. And of course there’s a plot twist, but I saw it a mile away.

Arrival begins as large, rock-like alien ships descend onto Earth. They hover above the ground, leaving no environmental impact and are placed randomly around the globe. Adams’ character is tasked with finding a way to communicate with the aliens, who remain in the ship behind a foggy glass wall.

The plot develops in a realistic way — if in fact these ships landed on our planet — and creates an engrossing film. However, it didn’t surpass my expectations of a good science-fiction film. 

Will I watch it again? Yes. Will it win Best Picture? I doubt it.

 

Manchester by the Sea

5/5 Stars

This is the first Oscar nominated film of the year that made me cry. Much like Fences, it’s raw, honest and gut-grippingly emotional to watch.

Manchester by the Sea follows Lee Chandler as he returns to small-town Manchester-by-the-sea following his brother’s sudden death and is promptly given custody of his teenage nephew Patrick. 

The film is a comedy … until it isn’t. Through a series of flashbacks surrounding Lee and his brother, the heaviness of the plot is continually brought to the front. However, the dark centre of the story is surrounded by a number of quirky characters, bringing the film back down to earth. 

This contrast may give some viewers whiplash, but for me, I felt it made the film more true to life.

Manchester by the Sea is honest and unforgiving. The characters break down and are built back up before your eyes, and it’s beautiful to watch. It’s a serious contender for the Oscar win.

Lion

4/5 Stars

Based on a true story, Lion is another incredibly emotional Oscar nominee. However, I think it lacks the legs to compete with the fictitious films that, ironically, come off as more true to life.

Lion is about a young Indian Boy, Saroo, who finds himself locked in an empty train car and travels far from his village and family, both of which he doesn’t know the correct names of. He finally gets off the train thousands of miles away from his home and is eventually adopted by a Tasmanian couple. As an adult, Saroo searches on Google Maps to find his village and, more importantly, his biological family.

This is an incredible true story, however it comes off as nearly fantastical on film. The acting is strong and doesn’t take away from the story, yet it seems too far-fetched to truly relay strong emotions of honesty and sadness, like the other films do. In other words, the plot is so grand that it distracts from the human emotions behind the film. 

Lion is a heart warming and enjoyable film, but it doesn’t let the emotions speak for themselves, unlike other strong contenders in this category.

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