By publication, we’ll know who won the Oscars. “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” or “Manchester by the Sea.” My money is on “Moonlight,” but I wouldn’t be shocked if the celebrate Hollywood voters (“La La Land”) for the Oscars outnumber the let’s mix it up crowd (“Moonlight”). Hollywood will take every chance to self-congratulate itself on how important it is and “La La Land” is the exemplar of what a can-do attitude will get you in the entertainment capital of the world. For some reason I haven’t seen “Moonlight” yet, but it’s  on the top of my list. 

     I am not going to do a who should win, will win, will whatever. Instead, I am just going to go through some of my favorite movies from the past year and ones I think everyone should get around to seeing. There’s no particular genre or order to them aside from the fact that I thought that they were good movies.

     “13th”- A documentary about the carceral state in the United States of America this great is something that should’ve been made a while ago, but better late than never. Follow technocrats, activists, policy makers and scholars as they track the development of one of our worst sins in history: creating the largest prison population in the world. The United States is roughly five percent of the population in the world and jails some 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This long, sad tale is nothing short of a crime against humanity and a documentary like this should be watched by everyone. This movie may be more important now than any other time in history.

     “La La Land”- I’m not a musical person. Never really have gotten into them. When I went to see “Moonlight,” it was sold out so I had to see “La La Land.” From the beginning, my prejudices about musicals were shattered. The charisma between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is subtle and holds together some of the parts that were weaker. An overall brilliant movie that is different and fun, something Hollywood lacks. The music is also pretty catchy and you’ll probably end up singing “City of Stars.” Not that I did.

     “Arrival”- And everyone thought the sci-fi genre has to be stupid. After years of Michael Bay movies destroying one of the best genres in film, “Arrival” brings viewers into a world of a well-thought out plot which seeks to inspire us, instead of dull the senses. Amy Adams is great, as usual, playing a character lost and lonely, but someone who possesses great empathy for the new beings come to earth. The brilliant music adds to one of the best endings to any movie I’ve seen a long time.

     “Manchester by the Sea”-

This movie is brutal. The deep sense of sadness and the inability for self-forgiveness is so tense throughout the entire movie, you’re never sure if it’ll lift. I left the movie a different person. That’s when you know it’s special. Casey Affleck as the curmudgeon with the Mass accent and dry sense of humor is set to win the Oscar for Best Actor and I’m sure he will. This movie is about loss, grief and death, and yet in the end it has a sense of optimism about the future.

     “The Witch”- I usually hate “horror” movies. That’s because most of them are terrible. This year though, The Witch caught my attention. Its high score on Rotten Tomatoes and its unusual plot had me hooked. From beginning to end, with its grey atmosphere and constant tension, there was no doubt this was a special movie. The acting is superb, the writing (while dense due to the accents) builds momentum, and the eerie colonial New England setting is so relatable there’s no surprise, a New Hampshire human made it.