Yes, the Oscars are upon us, and with the nominations out there in the world, preparing us for one last hurrah, we've decided to rank the just-announced Best Picture contenders for your prioritized viewing pleasure. They may not be our favorite movies of the year, but every nominee is worth your time -- as long as you finished last year's Best Picture nominees. Here's the rundown.
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer Director: Mel Gibson (Braveheart) Additional nominations: Garfield for Best Actor; Gibson for Best Director; Best Sound Editing; Best Sound Mixing Our take: Gibson's war movie is as '90s-era prestige picture as they come, the nostalgic heart of Forrest Gump combined with the no-frills violence of Saving Private Ryan's D-Day sequence. Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a real-life WWII medic who refused to carry a gun as a conscientious objector and went on to save 75 lives in combat, with a modest do-gooder attitude that channels Jimmy Stewart. Gibson sends the whole thing over the top with blood-splattering action sequences. Will it win? In a parallel universe where Gibson isn't a rabid dog with a record of cringe-worthy obscenities, maybe. Hollywood bumping the actor-turned-filmmaker into the Best Director category will earn blowback from critics, and on the night of, it'll likely keep him off the podium for political and artistic reasons.
8. Hidden Figures
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner Director: Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) Additional nominations: Spencer for Best Supporting Actress; Best Adapted Screenplay Our take: Making the feel-good movie of the year is not rocket science. Hidden Figures took a true story (the life of Katherine G. Johnson, the African-American mathematician who crunched numbers on NASA's Project Mercury), added the perfect cast, and tied it up with a schmaltzy wow-we-really-pulled-off-the-mission bow. The movie has problems, but who'd complain about them? Will it win?Hidden Figures could be the only antidote to our current political climate.
7. Hell or High Water
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham Director: David Mackenzie (Starred Up) Additional nominations: Bridges for Best Supporting Actor; Best Original Screenplay Our take: A tense Texas crime thriller with the added horsepower of financial crisis. Overblown by the Oscar buzz. Doesn't Jeff Bridges play a sheriff in every movie? And Ben Foster an unhinged, gun-toting criminal type who acts before he thinks? We enjoyed touching down in the world of Hell or High Water, but we've been there before. Will it win? Naw, partner.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo Director: Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters) Additional nominations: Washington for Best Actor; Davis for Best Supporting Actress; Best Adapted Screenplay Our take: Washington and Davis starred in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's acclaimed play, and they bring all their worn gravitas to the screen as a couple warring over American values. Washington's clean-cut direction provides the actors with a metronome. Fences is crackling moviemaking. Will it win? It's not likely, when stacked next to visual heavy-hitters, which typically lure voters in the end.
Cast: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman Director: Garth Davis (Top of the Lake) Additional nominations: Kidman for Best Supporting Actress; Patel for Best Supporting Actor; Best Cinematography; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Original Score Our take: The story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family at the age of 5 and, 30 years later, used Google Maps to find his mother in a small Indian town, could be a frothy, inspirational drama with a Hallmark card message. Davis imbues the dramatization with terror, rage, and grace. Lion is the kind of Oscar bait that actually hooks. Will it win? Murmurs from Hollywood insiders suggest we shouldn't underestimate Lion as an undervalued contender. With support from Harvey Weinstein, the Don King of Oscar prizefighters, this gem could surprise.
4. La La Land
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) Additional nominations: Stone for Best Actress; Gosling for Best Actor; Chazelle for Best Director, Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Production Design; Best Costume Design; Best Sound Editing; Best Sound Mixing; Best Original Score Our take: La La Land is a musical for people who hate musicals, a tricky, atypical romance gussied up with the occasional song-and-dance showstopper. The opening, a choreographed number staged atop a Los Angeles traffic jam, will make you swoon, while the ending should spark a night's worth of debate. Will it win? Bet on it. A front-runner from the first piano lick, La La Land speaks to Hollywood inhabitants and beams through 2017 gloom with optimism: "Here's to the dreamers who dream."
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg Director: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) Additional nominations: Villenueve for Best Director; Best Cinematography; Best Adapted Screenplay Our take: Hey, a science-fiction blockbuster about an alien encounter that doesn't involve doomsday devices, intergalactic war, or extraneous explosions. Villeneuve channels his inner Roland Emmerich to conjure a global event that forces Adams' scientist character to burrow deep into her personal journey. Will it win? The last sci-fi movie to win Best Picture was... nothing. It's never happened. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King earned the fantasy genre a win, but not even Star Wars could squeeze past Annie Hall.
2. Manchester by the Sea
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges Director: Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) Additional nominations: Affleck for Best Actor; Williams for Best Supporting Actress; Hedges for Best Supporting Actor; Lonergan for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay Our take: Lonergan's rumination on grief and invigoration is like a five-season series crammed into a movie-length runtime. Snug fit, but it works -- Manchester by the Sea lives up to the sweeping "you'll laugh, you'll cry" description of a bygone Hollywood era. Will it win? The movie certainly has a shot. Lonergan rode waves of critical praise out of January 2016's Sundance Film Festival all the way to this year's award season. That means something.
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali Director: Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) Additional nominations: Harris for Best Supporting Actress; Ali for Best Supporting Actor; Jenkins for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Original Score Our take:Moonlight, a coming-of-age story divided into three key moments in a Miami kid's life, examines universal experiences through hyper-specificity and a spectrum of colors. Packed with the best performances of the year, it is an Oscar Best Picture nominee that lives up to the hype. Will it win? Moonlight is La La Land's biggest competition. At the Golden Globes, Jenkins' film took home Best Picture -- Drama, while the technicolor musical ran away with Best Picture -- Comedy/Musical. Moonlight's real disadvantage: La La Land is the ultimate upper.