At this stage of the race for Best Actor, Casey Affleck has emerged as the man to beat, thanks to his critically lauded performance as an uncle who reluctantly become the guardian of his nephew (played by talented newcomer Lucas Hedges) after his brother's untimely death. Tackling family dynamics, grief and the ties that bind, this audience favourite from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, could take home a handful of Academy Awards, including a screenplay prize for Lonergan and a supporting-actress win for Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), who plays Affleck's estranged wife.
What superlative hasn't already been used in hailing this critically praised meditation on Black manhood, domestic dysfunction and coming of age amidst fear, violence and grappling with one's sexuality? If the critics are to be believed (and they can't all be wrong), writer-director Barry Jenkins, adapting Tarell McCraney's lyrical stage play, has produced a film that's as stirringly told as it is beautifully shot, with strong turns from a predominantly male cast led by Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Andre Holland and Mahershala Ali.
Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) and debutante leading lady Ruth Negga give career-defining performances as Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, an interracial couple who have to fight for their right to marry in 1950s Virginia, in this bruising film that strikes parallels with the modern-day fight for gay rights. Above all, a story like Loving offers the compelling reminder that the course of true love never does run smooth.
August Wilson's timeless Pulitzer-winning novel about fervent hopes and dashed dreams roars to life in this long-awaited big-screen adaptation that reunites Denzel Washington (as overbearing patriarch Troy) and Viola Davis (his long-suffering wife Rose), who both won Tony Awards for their portrayals four years ago. Buoyed by their powerful performances, Washington's sure-footed direction and glowing praise from reviewers, their names are bound to appear on next February's Oscar ballot.
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It's been described as the kind of feel-good movie musical that Hollywood doesn't make any more. How lucky for actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling that they got the nod from passionate director Damien Chazelle to lead the cast in this razzle-dazzle ode to vintage Hollywood filmmaking, complete with vibrant costume design, repear-worthy musical numbers and a story that, according to bowled-over critics, rousingly entertains and inspires.