My ranking is based on the grades I gave the movies immediately after seeing them. In case of ties, I ordered them by my considered judgment today. Note this is not my prediction of which movie will win, but which I would vote for, had I a vote.
The envelope please. The winner of "The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures" goes to...
- Lion: Boy in India gets lost, raised in Australia, yearns for home. Boy, man, India, Australia, both families, all real & moving. A+
Congratulations to the runners-up.
- Fences: Denzel Washington in a Willy Loman role, raising questions about what it means to be a husband, father, man. Oscar-worthy. A+
- La La Land: Hollywood can still make feel-good musicals, an art form worth saving. Not Astaire/Rogers, but good. Emma Stone++. A-
- Moonlight: Growing up gay in broken home in Miami. World apart for me. Strong story. Great acting. Left me mad. What can be done? A-
- Hidden Figures: Racism, sexism at NASA in '60s. Uplifting, patriotic. Hits all the bases. Laugh, cry, cheer. A little too pretty. A-
- Hell or High Water: Western. Crime story. Buddy movie (x2). And Jeff Bridges as a curmudgeonly Texas Ranger. What's not to like? B+
- Manchester by the Sea: Handyman knocked down by life. Long flat narrative arc of quiet desperation. Authentic slice of reality. B-
- Arrival: Talking to aliens is hard. So is talking to each other. But Amy Adams has a gift. Non-linear thinking is key, somehow. ?? B-
- Hacksaw Ridge: Every war movie cliché in the genre, including slow-motion combat porn. But Desmond Doss was a real-life hero. B-
I haven't seen all of the acting performances nominated for Oscars, but I've seen most. My picks:
- Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Fences)
- Best Actress: Natalie Portman (Jackie)
- Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
- Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)