In less than a week, the Academy Awards will be gracing the screens of millions of homes in the united states. You were probably invited to an Oscar party, and you may be feeling pretty good about your chances this year. You saw La La Land, Arrival and Hidden Figures, which is more than you saw last year. You may even have rented Hell or High Water or caught Manchester By The Sea on Amazon Prime. That being said, there’s some sinking feeling in the back of your mind that something is going to win or be nominated and you will never have heard of it before. I understand. That’s a whole lot of films to see before the 26th, and there’s films like The Great Wall to see before then. That’s where I come in. I’ve seen as many Oscar movies as possible and am now going to highlight three films that you may hear about, come Oscar Sunday, for your benefit, so that you should be able to seem smart and well-cultured with your colleagues.
20th Century Women
20th Century Women might seem like an odd pick for a lesser-known Oscar movie, as it was only nominated for a single, solitary Oscar. Nominated in the best Orignal Screenplay category, 20th Century Women has absolutely no chance of winning on the 26th. Even though I thought this was far and away the best script of the year, it surely will lose to Manchester By The Sea. Where you might instead hear the name 20th Century Women is in the discussion of notable snubs. It seems that this film wasn’t only overlooked by everyday viewers, but by academy voters as well, as it failed to gain much prominence in any of the main category races. Upon seeing the film, I was certain that Annette Bening would win the statue for Best Actress, and yet here we are without her even being nominated. Mike Mills certainly deserved a nomination for his direction of this incomparable film about a young man in the 1970’s and the way he relates to the women in his life, yet, once again, no such recognition was given. This would be a good movie to mention if someone asks you who you’d rather have in Meryl Streep’s position in the best actress category. At the very least, I’m sure that every member of the cast will have a seat in the audience, so knowing this film will certainly help to elevate your standing at the party.
Nocturnal Animals. This is another film that was only nominated for one award but deserved, so, so much more. One of the most intriguing Art House films of the decade, Nocturnal Animals features some of the most transformative performances in recent memory. Tom Ford’s bizarre and tragically thrilling picture is the vehicle for some absolute Oscar-Caliber performances by Amy Adams (when someone mentions her snub from Arrival, feel free to throw out, “Yeah, and Nocturnal Animals too!”), the eternally neglected Jake Gyllenhaal, and a murderously creepy Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Michael Shannon did get nominated for his performance in this film, and deservedly so, although it is incredibly unlikely that he will be winning this Sunday. The best part about knowing what Nocturnal Animals is, is when someone asks you what it’s about, you can easily say, “There’s really no way to explain it.” Because there really isn’t.
Moonlight. You have to know what Moonlight is. You will be hearing its name a lot throughout the ceremony. Unless you are someone who just happens to know a lot about movies, i.e. a real cinephile, you’ve probably only heard the name Moonlight, but really don’t know anything about it. Moonlight is a film told in three parts that chronicles the life of a black man growing up in Florida, and how he discovers himself and interacts with the people around him. Why should you care about Moonlight? It’s better than La La Land. I will repeat. It’s better than La La Land. I hadn’t seen any of these films when I made my best of last year list but had I done, Moonlight probably would have been at the top of the list. It really is the best film that was made last year. Where La La Land was a tour de force of what cinema can do, Moonlight is the rawest, most “this is what it’s really like” film that I’ve ever seen. It is a masterpiece. A film that alters you. And it’s not entirely impossible that it could beat out La La Land for Best Picture. I still think the scale is tilted towards Damien Chazelle’s film, and it is certainly a beautiful, fantastic movie, but the possibility of Moonlight winning the grand prize is starting to look less and less like a long shot, and more and more like a “big surprise” that is just waiting to happen. If such an actuality does occur, you want to be the one at the party who isn’t jumping off the walls cursing the fact that La La Land didn’t win. Because trust me, if there’s any movie that can pull off the herculean task of beating the musical at the Oscars, it’s this one. Even if it doesn’t walk home with Best Picture under its belt, it was still nominated for 8 awards, which is no small feat. It absolutely will win for Best-Adapted screenplay and there is not a single actor in the supporting role race who can take the award away from Mahershala Ali for his role in this film. If you only have the chance to see one of these three movies, make it Moonlight. It’s really that good.
20th Century Women: A
Nocturnal Animals: A
Images are from 20th Century Women, from Annapurna Pictures, Nocturnal Animals, from Focus Features, and Moonlight, from A24.