The Everygirl Reviews: Oscar Noms You Need to See

Oscar parties are looming and the anxiety of only having seen 1% of the nominated movies is all too real. With so many influential and groundbreaking titles up for an award this year — good job, Academy, definitely a step in the right direction after the #OscarsSoWhite disaster last year — it can be difficult to decide which to see before the show on February 26th. Here, our editors break down our favorite picks and weigh our thoughts against the critical reviews to bring you the definitive list of titles to watch before your viewing party. Now you can relax and enjoy the show — awkward speeches, bizarre intros, fabulous fashion, and all.

“Fences”

Nominations Received:
Best Picture
Best Actor in a Leading Role — Denzel Washington
Best Supporting Actress — Viola Davis
Best Adapted Screenplay — August Wilson

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
AV Club: B-
NY Times: “Mr. Washington, reprising the role in this fine film adaptation, which he also directed, is a pretty good talker in his own right. His voice is a mighty instrument, and if you closed your eyes and just listened to ‘Fences’ you would hear a verbal performance of unmatched force and nuance.” — A. O. Scott

What Our Editors Thought: 
Fences, originally a play written by the late August Wilson, takes place in Pittsburgh, PA, addressing the aftermath of slavery and current oppression in the 1950’s. It centers around Troy (Denzel Washington), his son Cory (Jovan Adepo), and his wife, Rose (Viola Davis). While I’m a self-proclaimed lover of rom-coms, there’s no denying the power that this kind of film holds.

Honestly, the actor performances are so moving that it’s hard to talk about anything else. Though I’ve read August Wilson’s play, I’ve never seen the full show up on its feet, which I admit probably made this an easier transition for me than those who had seen the live performance. My take? You could watch the movie on mute and still clearly follow every note of this emotional journey. The movie’s message is painful and hard to watch at times, but ultimately I felt an outpouring of compassion for the characters. — Caitlin Timson

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Actor in a Leading Role — Denzel Washington
Best Supporting Actress — Viola Davis

“Hidden Figures”

Nominations Received:
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress — Octavia Spencer
Best Adapted Screenplay — Allison Shroeder, Theodore Melfi

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
AV Club: C+
NY Times: “He [Director Theodore Melfi] trusts his own skill, the intrinsic interest of the material and — above all — the talent and dedication of the cast. From one scene to the next, you may know more or less what is coming, but it is never less than delightful to watch these actors at work.” — A. O. Scott

What Our Editors Thought: 
Hidden Figures was by far the best movie I saw all year. I laughed, cried, and left the theater thinking that I could do anything I set my mind to. #Girlpower to the fullest. Each of the women had individual struggles that were vastly different, but you were cheering them on equally while they spoke their mind and sacrificed nothing in life. They were mothers, managers, wives, and engineers. Were they perfect at all their tasks every single day? Of course not, but that was one of the best things about this real portrayal. It’s a pertinent reminder that women CAN and WILL do anything.

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about “Hidden Figures.” That being said there was one thought running through my mind the entire time: “RACISM AND SEGREGATION FUCKING SUCKS.” It’s disgusting to think that it wasn’t that long ago that it happened so freely. I wanted to reach through the screen and smack so many of the characters. — Allyson Fulcher

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress — Octavia Spencer
In addition to what it was already nominated for (best picture, woot!), I’m shocked none of the women were nominated for Actress in a Leading Role and only one was nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role.

“Jackie”

Nominations Received:
Best Actress in a Leading Role — Natalie Portman
Best Original Score — Micachu
Best Costume Design — Madeline Fontaine

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
AV Club: A-
NY Times: “Intensely affecting and insistently protean, the film ‘Jackie’ is a reminder that for a time she was bigger than any star, bigger than Marilyn or Liz. She was the Widow — an embodiment of grief, symbol of strength, tower of dignity and, crucially, architect of brilliant political theater. ” — Manohla Dargis

What Our Editors Thought: 
The entire concept of “Jackie” is brilliant. Everyone knows that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But we never stop to think his wife was right next to him when it happened and sat with her dead husband’s head wide open in her lap as they fled the scene and drove back to Air Force One in Dallas… yes. You see all of that in the film. I had never stopped to think how she had to explain to their two children that they wouldn’t see their father again. And she had to uproot their life and move just days afterward, all while worrying about how her husband would be remembered by the people, if at all… Natalie Portman’s emotional performance is outstanding.

Most people recall Jackie O. for her fashion sense (which is wonderfully highlighted in the film and is actually the focus of what is arguably the best scene in the movie — when a distraught Jackie indulges in her misery with the help of whiskey and cigarettes and dresses up in her clothes while meandering around their residence listening to JFK’s favorite song). But here we see her as a person, as a wife, as a mother, as a human who went through something truly horrific. The story was definitely one that deserved to be told.

Lastly — despite Portman’s amazing acting, I couldn’t stop staring at the gorgeous set decoration of their residences at the White House. Absolutely beautiful — I can’t believe this didn’t get a nomination.

However, the pace was slow… unnecessarily so. But what really bothered me was the score, which coincidentally received an Oscar nomination. I found it bizarrely reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller, and as such, unfitting for this story. The movie was extremely sad, and I wish the director had used softer, somber music to back the emotional scenes. — Alaina Kaczmarski

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Actress in a Leading Role — Natalie Portman
Best Film Editing — Sebastián Sepúlveda
Best Costume Design — Madeline Fontaine
Best Production Design — Jean Rabasse,  Véronique Melery

“La La Land”

Nominations Received:
Best Picture
Best Actor in a Leading Role — Ryan Gosling
Best Actress in a Leading Role — Emma Stone
Best Director — Damien Chazelle
Best Original Music Score —Justin Hurwitz
Best Original Screenplay — Damien Chazelle
Best Cinematography — Linus Sandgren
Best Costume Design — Mary Zophers
Best Film Editing — Tom Cross
Best Sound Editing — Mildred Iatrou Morgan, Ai-Ling Lee
Best Production Design — David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Best Sound Mixing — Steven Morrow, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
AV Club: A-
NY Times: “For all its echoes and allusions, ‘La La Land’ is too lively and too earnest for mere pastiche. It doesn’t so much look back longingly at past masters like Vincente Minnelli, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Donen and Jacques Demy (to name a few) as tap into their mojo, insisting on their modernity and its own classicism in the same gesture.” — A. O. Scott

What Our Editors Thought: 
When La La Land won an unprecedented number of Golden Globes, I was scratching my head. I saw the movie a week prior and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t leave the theater with any kind of zest for life that my favorite movies typically spark within me. Albeit great acting by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (their on-screen chemistry has only gotten better), the storyline felt quaint. Hollywood’s star-crossed lovers, their journey to fame and their trying relationship with LA. I could only sympathize with them for so long, until their harrowing journey of endless rejection turned into one of insane success, and their relationship surmounted to collateral damage. I appreciated the closing scene, a reflection on what could have been, as a tribute to all artists and the relationships they try to establish and put first before themselves and their craft.

In terms of being a musical, I found it surprisingly refreshing and admit to adding several of the tunes to my Spotify playlist. I find myself humming them mindlessly. See this fierce contender and decide for yourself if it’s worth the hype. — Grace Basala

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Actor in a Leading Role — Ryan Gosling
Best Actress in a Leading Role — Emma Stone
Best Director — Damien Chazelle
Best Original Music Score —Justin Hurwitz
Best Cinematography — Linus Sandgren

“Lion”

Nominations Received:
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor — Dev Patel
Best Supporting Actress — Nicole Kidman
Best Original Music Score — Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann
Best Adapted Screenplay — Luke Davies
Best Cinematography — Greig Fraser

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
AV Club: B-
NY Times: “If you have ever been a child, raised a child, lost a child or met a child — or a mother — this movie will wreck you. As a purely emotional experience it succeeds without feeling too manipulative or maudlin. I mean, it is manipulative and maudlin, but in a way that seems fair and transparent. Still, it isn’t quite satisfying.” — A. O. Scott

What Our Editors Thought: 
This memoir-turned-film warms your heart and then shatters it repeatedly over the course of two hours. The story opens on a young Saroo Brierley (the adorable Sunny Pawar) a boy who finds himself far from home and unsure of how to get back. For every beacon of light Saroo encounters, a sad twist of fate is soon to follow. The dismal situations Saroo finds himself in have heavy implications and at times were uncomfortable to watch. Fast forward twenty years, Saroo (Dev Patel) grapples with his past and lost life as he lives with his foster parents in Australia.

Patel’s emotionally charged performance is convincing, commendable, and moving. The acting is superb, the story will bring you to tears and the ending is nothing short of perfection. Ugly crying guaranteed to ensue throughout and especially during the closing scenes. You won’t be able to wipe away your tears fast enough before the lights come on again. Before the screen goes black, it says, “Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year…” Saroo’s story is not an isolated case, which made the movie a powerful, socially conscious film that evokes a sense of urgency as the credits play. A must see. Bring tissues. — Grace Basala

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor — Dev Patel
Best Supporting Actress — Nicole Kidman
Best Original Music Score — Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann
Best Adapted Screenplay — Luke Davies
Best Cinematography — Greig Fraser

“Loving”

Nominations Received:
Best Actress in a Leading Role — Ruth Negga

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
AV Club: B-
NY Times: “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’s ‘Loving,’ which revisits the era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed.” — Manohla Dargis 

What Our Editors Thought: 
In a modern political climate ripe with racial tension, it’s incredibly refreshing and uplifting to see a heartwarming film like “Loving” earn the praise it deserves. As the film’s highlights were in its emotional candor and not in its action, “Loving”‘s raw intensity is in the unspoken: Mildred’s (Ruth Negga) fears for the children she’s raising far from home, Richard’s (Joel Edgerton) pain as he navigates the knowledge that he can’t provide for his family in the traditional sense, and each of their loved ones’ doubts that the union is actually worth the immense struggle. Filled with beautifully reenacted factual tidbits and an incredible cast of characters, “Loving” is a heartwarming tribute to true love and its importance in history.

My only big complaint? That Joel Edgerton didn’t pick up a nom as well. Ruth Negga’s performance, while remarkable and moving in its own right, was beautifully complemented by that of the man playing the man she loves. I also wish we could’ve received a bit more backstory on Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll), the courageous young lawyer who took the Lovings’ case all the way to the Supreme Court. — Abigail Yonker

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Ruth Negga
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Joel Edgerton

“Moonlight”

Nominations Received:
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor — Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress — Naomie Harris
Best Director — Barry Jenkins
Best Original Music Score — Nicholas Britell
Best Adapted Screenplay — Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
Best Cinematography — James Laxton
Best Film Editing — Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
AV Club: A
NY Times: “Based on the play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney, ‘Moonlight’ is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces.” — A. O. Scott

What Our Editors Thought: 
This is the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in a very long while (my movie queue normally features titles like “How To Be Single” and my old standby “Clueless”). I haven’t seen all the movies on this list — I’ll get there — so I can’t say it’s the best movie up for Best Picture. But if it was up to me, this movie would win ALL THE AWARDS. “Moonlight” is breathtaking and beautifully rendered — the colors are vivid in a way I’ve never seen, overlaid with a silence that practically breathes. It’s an incredibly, unbearably personal experience to witness. Immersed in Chiron’s life, we see him work through what it means to be a man, to be black, to be gay — in a Miami we rarely, if ever, have seen on our screens.

The directing (from the incredible Barry Jenkins. Barry Jenkins for all the wins) is at once bold and demure — we’re there with young Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) and Juan (Mahershala Ali) amidst the waves, bobbing above and below the surface, playing in a stolen moment. We stand back as teenage Chiron (Ashton Sanders), urgent and ferocious, exacts revenge on his antagonizer. We’re sitting next to a nearly grown Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) in a sticky booth, nervous and anxious and hesitantly playful as he eats the meal his long-ago friend prepared for him. These are charged moments — unmistakably human and impossible to look away from.

“Moonlight” is lush, sensual, desperate, unnerving, beautiful, melancholy, and magnificent. Go, go, go watch this movie. — Kelly Etz

Noms We Would Have Given: 
All of them. ALL OF THEM, OKAY?

“Nocturnal Animals”

Nominations Received:
Best Supporting Actor — Michael Shannon

What the Critics Said: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
AV Club: B
NY Times: “There’s much to admire in “Nocturnal Animals,” including Mr. [Tom] Ford’s ambition, but too often it feels like the work of an observant student. He’s adept at creating different realisms and textures for each story line, variations that add layers of meaning.” — Manohla Dargis 

What Our Editors Thought: 
Similar to Tom Ford’s directorial debut “A Single Man,” Nocturnal Animals was beautifully done — a (strange) and dark artistic vision. The acting was phenomenal. Amy Adams plays a gallery owner who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), and a story within a story unfolds from there. Ford’s attention to detail, the direction, and cinematography were absolutely stunning.

“Nocturnal Animals” is one of those “love it or hate it” types of films. It was beautifully done, but I’d call this a film for movie buffs. I tend to be drawn towards strange films, but found it a little hard to get through at times. It’s a dark story with revenge as a main theme — plus a little gritty and intense  — so if that’s not your thing this one may not be for you. — Danielle Moss

Noms We Would Have Given: 
Best Director — Tom Ford
Best Cinematography — Seamus McGarvey

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