Based on the 1966 Japanese novel of the same name, Silence follows two Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan with two missions. The first is to find Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a priest who is believed to have committed apostasy. Second, to continue Ferreira’s work developing small Christian communities, which at the time were persecuted in Japan. Silence is a longtime passion project of director Martin Scorsese; it has been in development for 25 years—and it shows. Every shot, character, and line of dialogue is purposeful, and they come together to create a film that is both stunning and thought-provoking. The amazing power Silence has is in its ability to make the viewer question their own faith, and beyond that, the meaning that faith has in one’s life. This is embodied in the two missionaries, Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), whose idea about God, and what God means to this Japanese community, shift and change through the course of the film.
It was shocking to see Silence only receive one Academy Award nomination, especially considering Scorsese’s history as an Academy favorite. His movies have received eighty nominations and 20 wins throughout his career.
– Declan Embury
From emotional real-world dramas, to inspirational and uplifting biopics and self-congratulatory musicals, this year’s Oscars seem to represent every genre; save for morally-questionable psychological thrillers. Enter Tom Ford’s second theatrical release, Nocturnal Animals.
The film is anchored by a trio of strong performances from Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Michael Shannon (who received the film’s sole nomination in the Supporting Actor category), the film weaves together three separate narratives over two time periods, focusing on the relationship between Susan Morrow (Adams) and her ex-husband of twenty years (Jake Gyllenhaal). Ford’s direction is focused: The tone of the film never wavers from the nightmarish and torturous grit necessary for the plot, and is immaculately crafted through the film’s stunning imagery, cinematography, and score.
Having accumulated various BAFTA and Golden Globes nominations, as well as the Grand Jury Prize in Venice, the film was well on its way to Oscar recognition. Perhaps Academy voters were turned off by its graphic violence or ambiguous ending, but the film’s complete shutout from most major categories comes as a shock.
– Niklas Kaemmerer
Sully appeared to possess the qualities of an award-winning film. Directed by household name Clint Eastwood and starring the beloved Tom Hanks, Sully’s retelling of the true story of US Airways Flight 1549 seemed to be a successful equation for awards season. When Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger miraculously landed his failing aircraft on the Hudson River, the story caught the attention of millions. The two names at the forefront of Sully’s promotional efforts—Eastwood and Hanks—have received plenty of Oscar love in the past. Hanks has received the title of Best Actor five times in his career and Clint Eastwood has won twelve Academy Awards in multiple categories.
2016 took a substantial step in the direction of discussing a broader array of stories in film. The feminism and antiracism of Hidden Figures, the exploration of cultural identity Lion and queer love story of Moonlight all address the reality of a diverse American society. Perhaps, what limited Sully’s Oscar success was its choice to depict an outdated version of the ‘all-American hero,’ rather than more socially topical characters. Hanks and Eastwood are nonetheless two talented men that succeeded in creating a captivating visualization of a historical airline incident.
– Morgan Davis
Don’t Think Twice
It is hard to consider Mike Birbiglia’s small, independent film as a conventional snub. The film is not a star-studded, big budget affair, and it wasn’t even nominated for any Golden Globes. Perhaps the counterpoint to the Academy Award favourite La La Land, Don’t Think Twice explores the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry. The film follows an improv troupe, the Commune, after one of their own is hired for a Saturday Night Live-esque show. Whereas La La Land follows the glamorous Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as they chase their creative dreams, Don’t Think Twice’s characters confront the hard truth that they may never “make it.” Oscars are typically awarded to broader, more obvious studio films, but Don’t Think Twice is no less powerful. Each scene is physically excruciating, highlighting the non-comedy specific jealousy, ambition, and resentment. With a 99 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Don’t Think Twice has been lauded by critics—and yet, Hollywood is hesitant to acknowledge its efforts. Rarely does the Academy award comedy, but funny films are no less poignant than their dramatic counterparts—and a great movie should be both.
– Ariella Garmaise