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 Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Brian Truitt

The Academy Awards are two months away, but here are six must-see films that are sure to be ma­jor con­tenders on Os­car night.

The Post

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.

Lady Bird

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.

Get Out

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.

NIKO TAVERNISE

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and Kay Gra­ham (Meryl Streep) lead an all-star cast in “The Post.”

KERRY HAYES

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) con­fides in her neigh­bor Giles (Richard Jenk­ins) in “The Shape of Water.”

MERIE WAL­LACE/A24

Saoirse Ro­nan stars as the free-spir­ited ti­tle teen char­ac­ter of “Lady Bird.”

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