Under the Radar

Oscar Watch: 'Arrival'

Arrival (out now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand) is nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Denis Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Production Design. Aliens land twelve ships around the world and governments attempt to come up with a way to communicate with the crews and discover whether they're friend or foe.

The USA recruits a pair of scientists (Amy Adams is a linguist and Jeremy Renner is a physicist) to lead the communications efforts. There's an effective attempt to explain just how languages are constructed (a point in support of screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who's already won the Writers Guild of America award for this movie) and some good back-and-forth when the scientists' quest for truth conflicts with the military objectives being pursued by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) at the landing site. Amy Adams does her work as she struggles with memories of her dead child.

Director Villeneuve made the excellent Mexican drug cartel thriller Sicario and he's currently making Blade Runner 2049 with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Once you've reconciled yourself to the idea that a Blade Runner sequel was inevitable, Villeneuve is the rare director with both the action skills and grasp of intricate plot to pull it off.

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Any in-depth discussion of Arrival risks giving away the plot. The future of humanity is at stake as the movie digs into how imprecise communication and time can be. You'll be glad you didn't know the ending before you watch it the first time but that ending makes a second (and third) viewing of Arrival even more powerful.

The Blu-ray includes over an hour of special features that dig into the science and sound design, including "Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival," "Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design," "Eternal Recurrence: The Score," "Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process" and "Principles of Time, Memory & Language."

Arrival isn't likely to win Best Picture, since this seems like La La Land's year and Manchester by the Sea is the most likely upset candidate. Wins for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing or Film Editing would be well-deserved. Jóhann Jóhannsson surprisingly didn't get nominated for an outstanding score, maybe because he was nominated the last two years for Sicario and The Theory of Everything.

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