Ethnically, thematically and financially, this year’s Oscar nominees for best picture are a diverse group. Three films feature African-American leads (including the box-office hit “Hidden Figures”) and one stars a British-Indian actor (Dev Patel, in “Lion”). The genres range from science-fiction to biopic to old-fashioned musical. In terms of budget, the numbers go as high as $40 million for “Hacksaw Ridge” and as low as $5 million for “Moonlight.” Here’s how the nominees stack up:
Who knew there was a market for somber science-fiction? “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams as a translator trying to understand an alien species, earned glowing reviews for its sophisticated storyline and became a $195-million worldwide success.
With this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play about a black family living in post-War Pittsburgh, Denzel Washington directed himself into an acting nomination — and the film earned a best picture nod as well. Wilson is also up for the adapted screenplay Oscar.
Surely few would have expected Mel Gibson to make a movie about a pacifist, but here it is. Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a real World War II solider who never carried a weapon but saved 75 men. It’s up for six Oscars.
“Hell or High Water”
This small-budget crime thriller, starring Jeff Bridges as a Texas Ranger tracking two bank-robbing brothers, has hit the big time at the Oscars. It’s up for four awards, including supporting actor (for Bridges), screenplay and film editing.
This story of three real-life women who broke racial boundaries at NASA during the 1960s feels like this year’s version of “The Help” — and not just because both films feature Octavia Spencer. “Hidden Figures” tackles an unpleasant subject — racism — with grace, wit, heart and humor.
“La La Land”
Here’s the year’s likely winner. An original musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as young lovers in Los Angeles, “La La Land” set a Golden Globe record with seven wins and goes into the Oscars with a whopping 14 nominations.
Barry Jenkins’ film about a gay African-American growing up in a bad Miami neighborhood has been one of the year’s best-reviewed movies. It has earned $21 million at the box office — impressive for an art-house film — but “Moonlight” deserves a much wider audience.
The story of an adopted young man (Dev Patel) searching for his biological family hasn’t been a nationwide hit despite strong reviews. Locally, though, Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre, says the film is in its 10th week there.
“Manchester by the Sea”
Casey Affleck plays a troubled loner in one of the year’s most artful and finely calibrated movies. It’s also the first film produced by a streaming service — Amazon — to receive a best picture nomination.