I concentrate on finding the best books, so I let “the Academy” sort through the year’s best movies for me. Then I go into a frenzy trying to see as many as possible before the awards show.

This year – for the first time – I saw ALL of the Best Picture nominees BEFORE the Academy Awards. My movie quest was super fun and kept me returning to theaters many times during the past few weeks and more recently to the local Redboxes. I finished my ninth movie yesterday, just in time.

As it turned out – thanks Academy – I enjoyed most all of these movies. Below are my brief reflections and recommendations with no spoilers…I want you all to enjoy these movies as much as I did! At the end, I’ll give my votes to win the major awards.

Disclaimer: I am not a movie critic or a movie expert; I am just a normal person who saw all nine of these movies, and these are just my opinions!

MUST SEE: “La La Land”

A musical about pursuing dreams and love in Hollywood

This delightful front-runner for best picture  was the first of the nine movies I saw. (I don’t consider myself a “musical” watcher or lover.) The first scene seemed fuzzy to me (visually – maybe it was the smog??), but then I became completely enthralled watching these two characters maneuver a relationship while pursuing their separate dreams. I left the theater completely entertained and happy even though I then had to pick my kids up from school in dark glasses on a cloudy day from crying (because wow – that smile!!). I LOVED LA LA LAND!!!!


MUST SEE: “Hidden Figures”

Historical account of how three African-American women helped the space race

This is an interesting and historical movie that I think all Americans should see. Overall it is mostly factual (I checked) and showcases some heroes not previously given the credit they deserve. I also did an informal poll to find out if John Glenn really was that dreamy and charismatic…survey said YES. Though this movie showcased some of the most troubling history of our country with racism and segregation, it also gave the feeling that we were at least moving forward as a country. Almost everyone I know liked this film, including all kinds of people who don’t agree on much else these days. If this feel-good crowd pleasing movie wins, I am OK with that right now!

Because this is a book blog I have to mention the movie is based on this book: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

I also found this Young Readers edition of the book: Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition

These are the two movies I think everyone should see even if you don’t see any others. Now on to the other ones I loved!


I LOVED: “Hell Or High Water”

Two brothers rob banks, while being pursued by “The Dude”

Jeff Bridges as the cop and both of these brothers are such complicated and interesting characters. I found myself rooting for both sides at the same time. The final scene was brilliant…and also complicated. I saw it one way and my husband saw it another way; I rewound it to watch again and ended up taking it the same way he did. (We don’t generally like the same movies but we both liked this one!) This is an entertaining movie that is also brilliant!


I LOVED: “Fences

A man and his family’s struggles in post-WWII America

This movie was one of my favorites. With that said, I don’t know if it’s for everyone. Adapted from a play, it still feels like a play. It is heavy on dialogue and light on props and scenery. I could actually feel myself sitting in a little theater watching this. Of course the acting was superior, from Denzel Washington as an ex-ball player who didn’t fulfil his dreams and says he wants more for his kids and that of his wife played by Viola Davis. The film is not quite as difficult to watch as the trailer led me to believe, but still painful to see how someone may mean well but doesn’t implement it quite right. This was the last film I watched, and I’m still sorting it out.


I LIKED: “Lion

A young Indian boy gets lost and looks for his family years later.

This was a horrifying and stressful story to watch about a child who gets lost among the poverty and mayhem of Calcutta and later uses technology of Google earth to find his birth family’s home. I can’t say much more about this movie without giving it away, but I would recommend this film to most people. Warning – Tearjerker!!

This movie is based on this book: A Long Way Home: A Memoir



I LIKED: “Moonlight”

A black boy comes of age in difficult conditions

This is a difficult-to-watch film but beautiful too. Some of the scenes still play back in my mind. The three actors playing the main character at three periods in a life were all great. I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the other films, but I did like it a lot. Some of my letdown may be because I had such high expectations based on the epic trailer/preview. Still, I can appreciate how this is a contender for best picture and for some of the acting awards. I loved Mahershala Ali in this film. I wrote more on this film in a previous post.



A sad story about how people live on after tragedy

I knew exactly what happened in this movie before I saw it…because someone told me so I wouldn’t have to put myself through it. Well then it goes and gets itself nominated, so I had to see it! And I’m glad I did, mostly for the acting. It really is amazing what demons people can act out. I actually at first thought Casey Affleck’s character was bad acting because even though I knew what his issues were (which I won’t tell you here) I didn’t really get it until I saw it myself and realized that is how someone probably would behave in this situation. It is well known this is not a happy film, but I found the ending believable.


I ENJOYED: “Arrival”

Aliens arrive on Earth, and we try to figure out what they want

Hmmm…I enjoyed this movie, but it doesn’t rank among my favorites, and I’m not motivated to say much about it for some reason. The beginning where aliens have landed on our planet somehow seemed very real to me, and I enjoyed the language/translation aspect of plot. I think most people would enjoy it.




A violent WWII story about a soldier who wouldn’t carry a gun due to religious beliefs

I loved this story – which I now know because of the film – but didn’t like the film so much. The movie is very gory – and I’m assuming a realistic portrayal of Americans taking Okinawa. If you like war movies you will probably like it. Otherwise just read up on this hero named Desmond Doss.


My picks to win

I can’t say which movie SHOULD win the awards; I am no expert on movies and certainly not a member of the Academy. All I can do is imagine who/what I would vote for. With that said, here are my votes:

Best Picture: Hidden Figures. But If La La Land wins I’m OK with it. Obviously if Fences or Hell or High Water wins (longshots I’m sure) I’m also OK with it.

Note I did not see all of the other movies that have nominees for the following categories, so I’m just considering those that were in the Best Picture category.

Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land? It’s not really fair for me to vote for this category because I only saw one of the nominated performances.

Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences or Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures. I just can’t decide. Naomie Harris in Moonlight was also amazing! So was Michelle Williams actually but she didn’t have the screen time of the first two.

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, the sensitive drug dealer in Moonlight

Regardless of what picture wins I truly enjoyed my quest to see all the films and plan to do the same next year!

What were your favorite movies and performances?


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