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The nine contenders for the best picture Oscar

Emma Stone says her audition for her starring role in "La La Land" made her feel insignificant
Mark RALSTON (AFP/File)
The contenders for best picture at this year's Oscars offer an array of stories

From a whimsical Hollywood musical to a lyrical, coming-of-age tale about a black man growing up in Miami and a blood-soaked war movie, the contenders for best picture at this year's Oscars offer an array of stories.

Here is a brief summary of the nine films vying for the top prize at Sunday's Oscars ceremony:

- 'La La Land' -

Damien Chazelle's romantic musical "La La Land" is a love letter to old Hollywood that has racked up a record-tying 14 nominations.

The blockbuster stars Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz musician and Emma Stone as an aspiring actress. It tracks the couple's romantic and professional ups and downs against the backdrop of a dreamy, technicolor Los Angeles.

The movie is currently the favorite for the coveted Best Picture award. It is expected to win in several other categories, including best original song, best director and best score. Stone and Gosling are also nominated.

- 'Moonlight' -

Barry Jenkins's poetic drama "Moonlight" is a sweeping tale of human self-discovery that covers three chapters in a young black man's life in Miami.

Based on the play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue," the film racked up eight nominations including for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris in the supporting actor categories, writing, directing and cinematography.

- 'Hidden Figures' -

Theodore Melfi's biographical comedy-drama "Hidden Figures" is the little-known story of three female African-American mathematicians who played a key role in NASA's early space program.

The film, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, is up for three Oscars including best picture and best adapted screenplay.

- 'Lion' -

Garth Davis's moving real-life drama "Lion" tells the extraordinary true story of a boy called Saroo who gets lost at a railway station in India, is adopted by a couple in Tasmania -- and then heads home two decades later to find his long-lost family.

The movie has earned six Oscar nominations, including two for best supporting actors -- Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman -- and for best adapted screenplay and cinematography.

- 'Manchester by the Sea' -

Kenneth Lonergan's visceral family drama "Manchester by the Sea" tells the story of a handyman in Boston who heads back to his hometown to take care of his nephew after the boy's father dies.

There, he is forced to reckon with a past tragedy and try to move forward.

The movie, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is up for six Academy Awards including best actor (Affleck), best original score and best supporting actor (Lucas Hedges).

- 'Hacksaw Ridge' -

Mel Gibson's searing World War II drama "Hacksaw Ridge" marks the filmmaker's return into Hollywood's good graces after a decade in the wilderness over accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobic slurs.

The film, which has received six Oscar nods, tells the true story of Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who enlists and is determined to save lives on the frontline, but refuses to carry a gun on moral grounds.

- 'Hell or High Water' -

British filmmaker David Mackenzie's neo-Western crime thriller "Hell or High Water" tells the story of two brothers who come up with a desperate scheme to save their family's ranch in Texas.

Jeff Bridges plays crotchety Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, who is looking for one last big scalp before retiring and figures out there is more to the bank heists than meets the eye.

The movie earned six nominations including for best supporting actor (Bridges) and best original screenplay.

- 'Fences' -

Denzel Washington's "Fences" tells the story of an African American father trying to raise his family in the 1950s while struggling with his own past failures.

The film, a screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by August Wilson, has earned four Oscar nods including for best supporting actress (Viola Davis) and best actor (Washington).

Both Washington and Davis are reprising their roles from the award-winning play in New York.

- 'Arrival' -

Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve's alien visitation movie "Arrival" tells the story of a linguistics professor -- played by Amy Adams -- chosen to communicate with alien beings.

The sci-fi movie earned eight Oscar nods but surprisingly not one for Adams, who was widely expected to get a sixth nomination for her performance.

"I was very disappointed, because she is the soul of the movie. She was my biggest ally. She gave everything, she gave a tremendous, very complex performance," Villeneuve, 49, told AFP at the Producers Guild Awards in January.

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