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The Best of the 2016 Philadelphia Film Festival

Sadly, the 25th annual Philadelphia Film Festival has come and gone. One of my favorite yearly events produced an amazing film lineup throughout its 11-day span of uninterrupted movie-watching, making 2016 the city's most impressive festival to date. I was only able to catch 17 films in total, a slightly lower figure than usual, but I'm thrilled to look back and recognize my "Best of the Fest" selections (here's a look back at the 2015 festival). Keep an eye out for these picks in the upcoming months, because many of them are guaranteed to garner acclaim during this year's Oscar run.

Best Supporting Actress

Honorable Mention: Greta Gerwig (Jackie) and Janelle Monae (Moonlight)

#3. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

#2. Haley Squires (I, Daniel Blake)

And the winner is ...

Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea

Williams has always been a personal favorite of mine. And although her screen time is somewhat limited in this over two-hour drama, she most the most of every opportunity and even manages to deliver that necessary "Oscar scene". 

Best Supporting Actor

Honorable Mention: Aaron Eckhart (Bleed for This), Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen) and Jeremy Renner (Arrival)

#3. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight

#2. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

And the winner is ...

Ashton Sanders - Moonlight

It's difficult to describe, but Moonlight provides such an engrossing story that works so well because of the many fine performances in the film. My favorite of which comes from the second of three chapters in the life of an impoverished teen struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. Ashton Sanders may be a newcomer, but his exceptional work speaks for himself in one of the year's most captivating features.

Best Lead Actress

Honorable Mention: Amy Adams (Arrival), Sarah Paulson (Blue Jay) and Haley Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)

#3. Natalie Portman (Jackie)

#2. Rebecca Hall (Christine)

And the winner is ...

Emma Stone - La La Land

We've known for a while now that Emma Stone is an amazing performer. You don't have to look any further than her phenomenal role in Birdman where she unforgivably lost out on her first Oscar statue. Yet, the world has a funny way of correcting itself and Stone has provided the finest lead actress performance I have seen all year, by a long shot. And not only is her acting on point, but she whisks you away into the magical world of La La Land with her impressive vocal abilities as well.

Best Lead Actor

Honorable Mention: Mark Duplass (Blue Jay) and Miles Teller (Bleed for This)

#3. Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake)

#2. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

And the winner is ...

Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea

Affleck is another actor I've long admired. From his outstanding performance in Gone Baby Gone to his present role in the hard-hitting Oscar contender, Manchester by the Sea, Affleck has long displayed a wide range of talent. This could finally be the work that brings him an Oscar statue thanks to a relentlessly heavy script that he helps bring to life.

Best Director

Honorable Mention: Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake) and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

#3. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

#2. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

And the winner is ...

Damien Chazelle - La La Land

In the finest and most impressive film I've seen this year, director Damien Chazelle delivers an absolute spectacle. With tremendous acting talent, a detailed screenplay, a magnificent score and Chazelle's unique vision, La La Land emerges as a remarkably original and nostalgic homage to Hollywood. His work catches you immediately from the opening scene and never lets up until the films grand finale. Chazelle is surely in line for an Oscar Nomination, but it would be an impressive feat to take the crown with only his second major motion picture.

Best Picture

Honorable Mention: Backpack Full of cashBlue Jay, Christine and I, Daniel Blake

And the winner is ...

Not only is La La Land the best film from the 2016 Philadelphia Film Festival, it's hands down the number one movie I've seen all year. Outside of a brief lull in the second half of the film, La La Land truly has it all. Singing, dancing, an original score, gifted actors and fantastic direction. It's an absolute marvel and a film I will undoubtedly watch again upon its theatrical release. If you haven't heard of La La Land yet, then prepare to hear all about it once December hits and the awards season heats up. 


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