By: Sandra Olmsted
When Chris Rook takes the stage on Feb. 28, how many of the nominated films will you have seen and what will be your chances of winning the obligatory “predict the Oscars” game?
Although hundreds of films were in official competition for the Academy’s 18 categories for feature films, seeing the films in play for Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor will fortunately and usually cover most of the other categories, such as Cinematography, Production Design, and the Screenwriting categories. There are also specific nomination categories for Best Animated, Foreign Language, and Documentary feature, and the short film categories to consider.
For those who need to get a jump on seeing the “Big Six” nominees, here’s a breakdown of films nominated in the Picture, Direction, and Lead and Supporting Acting categories. Some of the films will be in limited availability, and some may see a re-release in theaters, but trying to see all the films between the nomination announcement and the ceremony is nearly impossible, and only possible with a good game plan!
It might seem obsessive, but to hit as many films as possible, I make a list and prioritize my viewing in advance of the nomination announcements. Here’s my alphabetical short list of the “Big Six” nominations with notes on the films and availability of each film as of the January 14, when the nominations were announced.
45 Years has nominations and awards in European film festivals, especially for stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, who play Kate and Geoff Mercer, a couple whose marriage is suddenly in difficulties because of Geoff’s secret past and lost love. Rampling is nominated for Best Actress. Opens in St. Louis January 29.
Bridge of Spies Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks — even though is received only five nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance, this retro-spy thriller is worth seeing, but as of today it is only playing in one theater in St. Louis.
Brooklyn A Best Picture nominee, this luminous production lovingly recreates the 1950s, and up and comer Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Best Actress. A mesmerizing look at the modern immigrant experience. Currently playing in one St. Louis theater as of today.
Carol With six nominations for this drama about lesbian lovers in 1950s not only satisfies Hollywood’s desire to pay lip service to the oppression of women, but the performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who channels a darker, stronger Audrey Hepburn. Both are nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. Still showing in four theaters, so it should be around for a while.
Creed Although the buzz was good for writer/director Ryan Coogler and stars Michael B. Jordan and in a nostalgic way Sylvester Stallone, the love for the original Rocky seems to have rubbed off on Stallone, who received a Best Supporting Oscar nod for his role as an aging Rocky. Also, still is multiple theater, but with a single nomination, it will probably be pushed out of theaters sooner to make room for re-releases.
Joy This uplifting and inspiring story about a women whose invention changes her messed up life, should be a must see, and not just for Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Actress nominated role. Because it is playing in 17 theaters currently in St. Louis, it should be around for a while.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a surprise nomination giant with ten nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for George Miller, and lots of technical arts noms editing, sound, visual effects, and production design. Available on Amazon, but would make a worthy re-release candidate.
Room A powerful drama, but the touch of melodrama may work against it in the Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay categories. Brie Larson is nominated for Best Actress, and Lenny Abrahamson for Best Director. Still in one St. Louis theater.
Spotlight The Catholic Church’s cover up of child sex abuse gets All the President’s Men treatment. Garnered numerous awards and noms for acting, scripts, and direction, and is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom McCarthy), and Best Supporting for Rachel McAdams and Mark Rufalo. The film is one theater today, yet with six nominations, it should be around a little while.
Steve Jobs Even though the script’s interesting structure may get a writing nod, but the film is a yawn. Still, Michael Fassbender garnered a Best Actor nod and Kate Winslet a Best Supporting Actress one. Not available at this time.
The Big Short Stellar cast and a topical story about the greedy men behind the economic problems of the mid 2000s had Oscar pinned all over it, and it got five nominations: Best Picture, Best Director for Adam McKay, and Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale. Still playing in fifteen St. Louis theaters.
The Danish Girl This drama about living transgendered in the 1920s received two nominations: Eddie Redmayne is for Best Actor, and Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress. Currently playing in only two St. Louis theaters, so hurry to see it.
The Hateful Eight Writer/director Quentin Tarantino and his all-star cast had pre Oscar buzz in multiple categories, and yet only received three nominations, and only one of the “Big Six,” Jennifer Jason Leigh for Best Supporting Actress. Leigh plays a villainess and is almost unrecognizable in the role. Currently showing in 19 St. Louis theaters.
The Martian Three-time Oscar nominated Ridley Scott’s opus to space travel had some buzz, and received seven nominations, including Best Actor for Matt Damon and Best Picture. Available through streaming, but a re-release in theaters isn’t out of the question.
The Revenant Writer/director and Best Director Nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won last year for Birdman, is headed for another Oscar ceremony with Best Actor Nominee Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor Tom Hardy. This Best Picture Nominee’s tale of vengeance is hauntingly bleak and unforgivingly beautiful cinematography. Currently in theaters.
Trumbo Best Actor nominee Bryan Cranston channels Trumbo completely, and it’s a Hollywood story about social justice, which is catnip to Hollywood. Although overlooked for production design elements and the writing, which excellently recreate the era, it is still worth seeing. Surprisingly, it is still in two theaters in St. Louis as of today.
The game of predicting the Oscar winners game is “a foot,” as Ian McKellen might say in Mr. Holmes. The first rule to remember, is that it is game of predicting what the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will vote for, not really what is the best in any of the Oscar categories. The second rule is equally important. Don’t let personal likes and dislikes get in the way of predicting the winners. The third rule is that the fiscally conservative, socially liberal-leaning Hollywood loves a cause related to films, either the story or the production itself.
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