2016 #21 – Queen of Katwe (dir. Mira Nair)

“Mama, can you do big things from such a small place?” – Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe.

Queen of Katwe (2016)
Mira Nair
Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o
Written By: William Wheeler
Running Time: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
Genre(s): Biographical, Coming-of-Age, Drama, Family, Sports

One of the biggest disappointments from last year is how little recognition Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe got. It didn’t do well in box office, Disney barely marketed it, award shows barely touched it. The film appeared and disappeared within the blink of an eye.

Queen of Katwe deserved better from all fronts because as cliche as it can be at times, it is a film made with a lot of heart.

It tells the true story of Phiona Mutesu, one of the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history. The movie depicts Phiona’s struggles as she lives in the slum of Katwe with her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and her other siblings. Phiona seems to have everything going against her: she lives in a society that looks down upon the lower class, she cannot afford to go to school and is illiterate and she even has trouble keeping up with basic necessities such as cleanliness.

But her life changes when she is able to discover her gift thanks to coach Robert Katende (David Oyelowo).

For as predictable as the film can be at times, Queen of Katwe does a great job at getting the audience to care for Phiona Mutesu and her story. It is a story of perseverance, strength and overcoming obstacles to achieve one’s dreams that is told commendably through Mira Nair’s direction. And while some may not be a fan of the film’s uplifting nature, I believe it does a good job at balancing the inspirational aspects of the story with the reality of what life is like in Katwe for Phiona.

Madina Nalwanga and David Oyelowo both give great performances, but it is Lupita Nyong’o that steals the show with her fiery, fierce portrayal of Nakku Harriet. It is a very convincing performance of a mother who is willing to do anything to better the futures of her children.

I will be honest – I don’t know anything about chess. But I do know that I like Queen of Katwe and for someone who could care less about the game itself, the movie did a fantastic job at getting me to care for all of the characters involved. 4/5.

2016 Personal Ballot (updates are in bold)

Best Picture
The Handmaiden
La La Land
Hell or High Water
Sing Street

Best Director
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Park Chan-wook – The Handmaiden
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Jon Favreau – The Jungle Book

Best Actor in a Leading Role
1. Denzel Washington – Fences
2. Joel Edgerton – Loving
3. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
4. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
5. Chris Pine – Hell or High Water

Best Actress in a Leading Role
1. Krisha Fairchild – Krisha
2. Emma Stone – La La Land
3. Sally Field – Hello, My Name Is Doris
4. Kim Min-hee – The Handmaiden
5. Kim Tae-ri – The Handmaiden

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Ashton Sanders – Moonlight
André Holland – Moonlight
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
5. Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Viola Davis – Fences
2. Lupita Nyong’o – Queen of Katwe
3. Janelle Monaé – Hidden Figures
4. Lucy Boynton – Sing Street
5. Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay
1. Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
2. Sing Street – Simon Carmody, John Carney
3. La La Land – Damien Chazelle
4. Hello, My Name Is Doris – Michael Showalter, Laura Terruso

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
The Handmaiden – Park Chan-wook, Chung Seo-kyung
3. Fences – August Wilson
4. Loving – Jeff Nichols
5. Krisha – Trey Edward Shults

Best Film Ensemble
1. Moonlight – Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monaé, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Hell or High Water – Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, Kevin Rankin, Katy Mixon, Margaret Bowman
3. Fences – Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney
4. Hidden Figures – Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monaé, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge
5. The Handmaiden – Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Hae-sook, Moon So-ri

Best Original Score
1. La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
3. The Handmaiden – Cho Young-wuk
4. Loving – David Wingo
5. The Jungle Book – John Debney

Best Original Song
La La Land – “Audition” by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Sing Street – “Drive It Like You Stole It” by Gary Clark
3. La La Land – “City of Stars” by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
4. Sing Street – “To Find You” by Gary Clark
La La Land – “Another Day of Sun” by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Best Production Design
1. The Handmaiden – Ryu Seong-hie
2. Passengers – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena
3. La La Land – David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig, James Hambidge, Anna Pinnock
5. Hidden Figures – Missy Parker, Wynn Thomas

Best Cinematography
1. La La Land – Linus Sandgren
2. Moonlight – James Laxton
3. The Handmaiden – Chung Chung-hoon
4. Hell or High Water – Giles Nuttgens

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
1. Deadpool – Bill Corso
2. Suicide Squad – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, Christopher Nelson
3. Sing Street – Barbara Conway, Sandra Kelly
4. The Handmaiden – Song Jong-hee

Best Costume Design
1. The Handmaiden – Jo Sang-gyeong
2. Sing Street – Tiziana Corvisieri
3. Queen of Katwe – Mobolaji Dawodu
4. La La Land – Mary Zophres
5. Hidden Figures – Renée Ehrlich Kalfus

Best Film Editing
1. Moonlight – Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders
2. La La Land – Tom Cross
3. The Handmaiden – Kim Jae-bum, Kim Sang-bum
4. Hell or High Water – Jake Roberts
5. The Jungle Book – Mark Livolsi

Best Visual Effects
1. The Jungle Book – Andrew R. Jones, Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon, Adam Valdez
Passengers – Pete Dionne, Sebastien Gourdal, Erik Nordby
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Tim Burke, Pablo Grillo, Christian Manz, David Watkins
4. Deadpool – Alex Burdett, Jonathan Rothbart, Ryan Tudhope, Alex Wang
5. Hell or High Water – Jeremy Cox, Scott Hastings, Daniel Holt, Michael Prawitz

2016 Ranked (updates are in bold)

1. Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins)
The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-wook)
La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle)
Hell or High Water (dir. David Mackenzie)
Sing Street (dir. John Carney)
Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols)
7. The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau)
8. Fences (dir. Denzel Washington)
9. Krisha (dir. Trey Edward Shults)
10. Queen of Katwe (dir. Mira Nair)
11. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi)
12. Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller)
13. Finding Dory (dir. Andrew Stanton)
14. Hello, My Name Is Doris (dir. Michael Showalter)
15. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (dir. David Yates)
16. Christine (dir. Antonio Campos)
17. Captain Fantastic (dir. Matt Ross)
18. Passengers (dir. Morten Tyldum)
19. Sausage Party (dir. Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon)
20. The Girl on the Train (dir. Tate Taylor)
21. Suicide Squad (dir. David Ayer)


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