Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J. K. Simmons. USA 2017. 128 mins.
A tribute to the Hollywood musical but with a story embedded in present-day Los Angeles life. Mia (Stone), aspiring actress working in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers studio backlot, falls for jazz pianist Sebastian (Gosling). Both give effortless performances with stunning song-and-dance routines and remarkable piano playing from Gosling. The transition from musical numbers to powerful narrative is seamless, and bravura one-take shots will draw comparisons to the cinematography of Birdman.
Director: Pablo Larraín.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, John Hurt, Greta Gerwig. USA/Chile/France 2016. 100 mins.
Blessed with stunning reviews from the 2016 Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, Jackie is an intimate and quietly harrowing study of the week following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as seen through the eyes of his widow.
Natalie Portman delivers a performance of poise and power as Jacqueline Kennedy, fighting to hold onto her dignity amid the horror of losing her husband and the subsequent turmoil at the White House. Seamlessly making his English-language debut, director Larraín (No) burrows deep into Jackie’s psyche, showing a woman teetering on the brink. The supporting cast is highly impressive, including Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as loyal aide Nancy Tuckerman, and John Hurt as the priest in whom Jackie confides. But this is Portman’s film, and might deservedly win her a second Best Actress Oscar after Black Swan.
Director: Kenneth Lonergan.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges. USA 2016. 137 mins.
Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler star in this critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, Margaret) about a man’s painful home-town return. Casey Affleck gives a career-defining performance as Lee Chandler, a reclusive handyman who returns to his Massachusetts seaside home town after the sudden death of his beloved older brother. Finding he has been appointed legal guardian of his teenage nephew, he is forced to deal with a past that has separated him from his wife (Williams) and the community where he was born and raised.
Manchester By The Sea is heavily tipped for success in the awards season. In only his third feature in 16 years, Lonergan proves himself a master of detail. Heart-wrenching and emotionally powerful, this is brilliant, intense filmmaking of the very highest order.