Prep for the Oscars
We’re right in the heart of awards season, though Oscar talk might just be a constant reminder to movie lovers that they have a lot of catching up to do before the Academy Awards on March 4. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. You have a couple of months to
The Academy Awards are two months away, but here are six must-see films that are sure to be major contenders on Oscar night.
Why it could go all the way: Steven Spielberg’s 1970s-set Pentagon Papers drama (in theaters nationwide) is a film built for best-picture glory, with Hollywood legends (Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep), history and a sense of timeliness in terms of the uneasy relationship between the White House and the media, then and now.
Look for: Streep leading an all-star cast as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Spielberg getting back into best-director competition (his last nomination was for 2012’s Lincoln), and an exhilarating original score from iconic John Williams.
The Shape of Water
Why folks are swimming to it: Set against a backdrop of Cold War-era paranoia, Guillermo del Toro’s supernatural romance (in theaters nationwide) — which won del Toro a Golden Globe for directing — is a lush and emotional fairy tale centered on a custodian (Sally Hawkins) who can’t talk and a fish-man (Doug Jones) from South America.
Look for: Best actress contender Hawkins bringing charm and heart to what’s essentially a silent-movie role, a splendid supporting turn from Richard Jenkins as her closeted gay neighbor, plus wonderful production design and cool underwater scenes that will undoubtedly get some love in the technical categories.
Why it’s flying high: Writer/director Greta Gerwig’s endearing dramedy (in theaters nationwide) — which snagged the Golden Globe for best comedy — finds universal quirkiness amid a year in the life of free-spirited Sacramento teen Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), who can’t wait to escape her Catholic school, her hometown and her overbearing mom (Laurie Metcalf).
Look for: Ronan (winner of a bestactress Globe) and Metcalf, who are going to be regulars at every awards show since they make a dynamite mother/ daughter duo. But don’t sleep on Tracy Letts, who’s also quietly marvelous as Lady Bird’s dad, or Gerwig’s clever screenplay, which deserves an Oscar nod.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Why it’s got some fire: The winner of four Globes (including best drama), writer/director Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy (in theaters nationwide) deftly melds black humor with tragedy in the tale of one bad mother (Frances McDormand) who holds local authorities accountable when she feels nothing is being done to solve her daughter’s murder. Look for: McDormand’s masterful performance, which is strong enough to sweep the awards season, but also a couple of fantastic — and very different — supporting roles from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell as embattled cops.
Why the “Sunken Place” is connecting: Jordan Peele’s genre-mash-up masterpiece (streaming on iTunes and other digital platforms) about a black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) and a twisted visit with his white girlfriend’s family tackles racism in America through smart satire and horror tropes. More than just being an “of the moment” film, however, it’s also entertaining and satisfying for a broad audience.
Look for: A breakout turn from Kaluuya (an outside contender for best actor), plus a crackling script from Peele (a potential directing contender) that’s bound to snag an original screenplay nomination.
Call Me By Your Name
Why we’re loving this coming of age: A picturesque Italian countryside is the setting for the sexual awakening of a teenage boy (Timothée Chalamet), when he fosters a secret romantic tryst with his father’s graduate assistant (Armie Hammer) during the summer of 1983. (Now showing in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Austin, Seattle and Minneapolis, goes nationwide Jan. 19.)
Look for: Acting chops galore, including an impressive breakthrough from best-actor hopeful Chalamet and a rich performance by Hammer, as well as a memorable monologue courtesy of Michael Stuhlbarg as the coolest dad ever.
Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) lead an all-star cast in “The Post.”
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) confides in her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) in “The Shape of Water.”
Saoirse Ronan stars as the free-spirited title teen character of “Lady Bird.”