From The Straits Times archives: Reviews of 7 Oscar-nominated films

Musical love story La La Land earned 14 Oscar nominations.
Musical love story La La Land earned 14 Oscar nominations.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

The Oscar nominations were announced in Los Angeles on Tuesday (Jan 24), with musical love story La La Land earning 14 nominations.

The film, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is now the most nominated musical, beating Mary Poppins (1964), which received 13 nominations.

The 89th Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on Feb 26.

Here are reviews of seven of the nominees.

1. Arrival (PG13, now showing)

4 stars

Eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director

Arrival has been saddled with the unfortunate "brainy science fiction" tag, a lazy label that just means "science fiction", but is applied because there is a need to separate movies about aliens that do not involve ray guns and Death Stars from those that do.

Like all good science fiction, Arrival is about one big idea taken to a satisfying conclusion.

2. Hacksaw Ridge (M18, now showing)

3.5 stars

Six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor

Hacksaw Ridge is the bloodiest tribute to pacifism put on film yet.

It tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a patriot who aches to take part in World War II, but without compromising his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs - he will walk into battle unarmed.

3. Hell Or High Water (M18, available on iTunes)

3.5 stars

Four nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor

Hell Or High Water blends crime action, suspense and social commentary with lashings of local colour - think the Coen brothers' Western noir Blood Simple (1984), but with a dash of The Big Short (2015), when the focus is on troubled home owners.

4. La La Land (PG13, now showing)

5 stars

14 nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress

This movie conforms to every genre trope of the classic Hollywood musical but re-imagines them in fresh ways - and it is probably going to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

5. Kubo And The Two Strings (PG, available on iTunes)

4 stars

Nominated for Best Animated Feature

In this gorgeously illustrated and touchingly told story, a kid has to fulfil his destiny by searching for the power that will grant him victory in a battle against evil spirits.

This is the cinematic equivalent of slow food. It is exquisitely handcrafted, not just in its animation, but also in character development and plot.

6. Moana (PG, now showing)

3.5 stars

Nominated for Best Animated Feature

This Disney princess has no prince and the film is all the better because of it.

Even though Walt Disney Animation Studios has been turning fairytale tropes on their heads for a while now, the titular Moana here is its strongest and most independent female role model yet.

7. Zootopia (PG, available on iTunes and cable TV)

3.5 stars

Nominated for Best Animated Feature

Among the things that the film gives a fresh spin to is the well-worn genre of odd-couple buddy cop movie.

There is plenty of inventiveness and attention to detail here, from the exuberant script to the lively voice work and the bright and enticing animation.