The 5 Films You Need to See Before Oscar Night

The Oscars are looming closer, which means the window of opportunity to see all the nominees before Oscar night is getting tighter. I get it—life is busy, and sometimes it’s hard enough to find time to see a couple movies, let alone all nine Best Picture nominees. That’s why I’ve put together a handy list of the bare-minimum films you should probably see in order to be in the know when the Oscars are handed out. Of course, all of the Oscar-nominated films this year are worthwhile, and you should definitely catch up with as many as you can whenever—a good movie is still a good movie even if it doesn’t win an Oscar—but in the name of efficiency, if you see the following five films, you’ll be familiar with a solid number of the eventual winners.

La La Land

Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song (two nominations), Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

If you haven’t seen La La Land by Oscar night, you done messed up. The film earned a record-tying 14 nominations in total, and is by all accounts our frontrunner to win a number of major categories, including Best Picture, Director for Damien Chazelle, and Actress for Emma Stone. Given the swath of nominations, the film is expected to pick up wins in a number of categories, so you’re likely going to hear the word “La La Land” a lot during the ceremony. It has some stiff competition in areas like Cinematography, Production Design, and Costume Design so it almost certainly won’t be a clean sweep, but if you see La La Land before the Oscars, you will undoubtedly have seen the movie that wins the most.

Where Can I Watch It?: La La Land is still playing in theaters across the country.

Moonlight

Nominations: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Film Editing

One of the best-reviewed films of the year, Moonlight is also one of La La Land’s strongest competitors in the major categories. Losses for the main prize at the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild Awards probably means La La Land is safe from a surprise Moonlight win for Best Picture or Best Director, but it’s still one of the best films of the year, and wins for Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali along with Best Adapted Screenplay are likely. And if you’re looking for upsets, the film could potentially pull that off in Best Film Editing or Cinematography.

Where Can I Watch It?: Moonlight is still playing in select theaters and will be available on Digital HD on February 14th and Blu-ray and DVD on February 28th.

Manchester by the Sea

Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

It’s entirely possible that Manchester by the Sea ends up winning zero Oscars, which would be an absolute shame, but the film rounds out the trifecta of this year’s most formidable awards contenders that include La La Land and Moonlight. Filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan’s masterful grief drama is a strong player for Best Actor, where Casey Affleck has been the frontrunner to win for quite some time. A loss to Denzel Washington at the Screen Actors Guild puts Affleck’s Oscar win in doubt now, but it’s undoubtedly one of the year’s tightest races and toughest to predict. If there’s any justice, the film will also win Best Original Screenplay, but if the Academy has La La Land fever then Lonergan’s impeccably written drama may get passed over. Regardless, the film’s longevity in the race and strength as a tremendous piece of cinema make it required viewing.

Where Can I Watch It?: Manchester by the Sea is currently available to purchase on Amazon Video, hits Digital HD on February 14th, and DVD and Blu-ray on February 21st.

Fences

Nominations: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay

Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the August Wilson play Fences may not be the strongest Best Picture player, but it could walk away with two towering acting wins. If Washington takes the Best Actor prize, he’ll be one of only six performers with three acting Oscars. And Viola Davis is the closest thing we have to a lock for this year’s ceremony, potentially winning Best Supporting Actress after losing out to Meryl Streep in the Best Actress race a few years ago. So in terms of total wins, Fences may not be huge, but Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress are nevertheless significant. Catch this dark, wordy drama before Oscar night to see for yourself why Davis has been dominating the awards conversation, and why Washington is in line to make history.

Where Can I Watch It?: Fences is still playing in some theaters and hits Blu-ray and DVD on March 14th.

Arrival

Nominations: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

Tied with Moonlight for the most overall nominations, Arrival marked a major change of pace for the Academy, which is normally averse to sci-fi fare. They ventured big with Mad Max: Fury Road, and this year’s Arrival love could signal a tide change of voters recognizing work outside the straight drama genre (Amy Adams snub aside). The film could be a player in below-the-line categories, offering some stiff competition in Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. And Bradford Young marks the first African-American cinematographer ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography, where Arrival could play the spoiler.

Where Can I Watch It?: Arrival is currently available on Digital HD and hits Blu-ray and DVD on February 14th.

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