12 Movies to Watch Before the 2016 Oscars

Steve Jobs

Want to be informed about the Oscars this year but don’t know what exactly to watch? Look no further! This list is constructed by a close analysis of both the Screen Actor Guild Awards (SAGs), Critics Choice Awards, and Golden Globes, to which this is an assessment of what films are likely to be recognized once the Oscar nominations are announced on January 14th at 5:30 am PTS. This, of course, doesn’t mean all of these films will be nominated, since the Oscars have a tendency of snubbing films in favor of others. Yet, when studying the precursor awards, this list contains the likely list of usual suspects for the 2016 Oscars.

Spotlight

Spotlight movie

This film is one of two frontrunners vying for the Best Picture prize on Oscars night. This is not without reason. Spotlight is perhaps the best constructed journalism film since 1976’s All the President’s Men. The film is a well crafted, intellectually written true-story account of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight team” that uncovered the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. This film is a true contender this year in all major categories. The film is densely layered and takes its time unveiling the long, drawn out process the “Spotlight” team endured to not only uncover the corruption, but the efforts to confirm it when the evidence was carefully hidden from the public. Regardless of whether this film wins Best Picture or not, this will at least likely win in the Screenplay category this year.

Carol

Rooney Mara Cate Blanchett Carol

Writer/director Todd Haynes has always had a flair for narratives about sexual liberation amidst a society that demands otherwise. Carol is the story of two women from different backgrounds who engage in a romantic affair within 1950s New York. The film is sensational and its acting is astounding. This is Spotlight’s biggest competition and the second frontrunner for Best Picture this year, and quite frankly, both deserve it. Yet what is especially noteworthy is the extraordinary acting from Cate Blanchett, who could be looking at her third Oscar win this year, and also from Rooney Mara who will be a force to be reckoned with in the supporting actress category.

The Revenant

DiCaprio The Revenant

This is writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stunning follow-up after his Birdman Oscar win last year. While this film is poised to be nominated in every major category, what is especially noteworthy is the genuine chance Leonardo DiCaprio has at winning his first Oscar for this film, with what critics and audiences alike are both describing as the most transformative performance of his career to date.

Room

Room

Arguably, this is the most original film up for some serious awards this year. Room is the story of a mother (Brie Larson) who is a loving parent towards her five-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay), but keeps him and herself confined to a room and has created a universe within this room for them both. It is not until her son begins to question the outside world that she begins to concoct an escape from their room, which forever changes their lives and world. Room is one of this year’s surprise films with its astonishing premise and its harrowing storyline. Most notable with Room is the acting from Brie Larson, which is getting much attention and will make her a true contender at this year’s Oscars, but also with the extraordinary performance from Jacob Tremblay, who has set a new standard with child actors.

Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

The primary reason for seeing this film is the leading role from Saoirse Ronan, who is the center of conversation for many pundits, many of whom believe she will be this year’s Best Actress winner. While it is still too early to make such an assessment, what can be acknowledged is that Brooklyn rests entirely on Ronan’s shoulders, who stars as an Irish immigrant traveling to 1950s America, enduring the hardships of a new life while additionally striving to find love.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

The movie may have been very controversial about its portrayal of the famous Apple company founder, yet this film has two components to it that make it a must-see before the Oscars. First, Aaron Sorkin’s witty, fast-paced script is something that must be acknowledged and will undoubtedly be a fierce contender in the adapted screenplay category this year. Additionally, Michael Fassbender’s portrayal as the Apple founder could potentially be the one performance this year that could upset Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest chance of winning the Oscar. Fassbender’s performance was the very essence of a complex performance by portraying Jobs as stunningly efficient and precise with his product line, but cold and vindictive towards those around him. If any film has the chance of pulling off an upset this year, it’s this one.

The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl

Regarding The Danish Girl, it is Eddie Redmayne who has given the film much of its clout for his, yet again, transformative performance as one of the pioneers of the transgendered community. Of all the hype The Danish Girl has gotten, the film’s acting is the sole accolade that deserves the recognition. Redmayne undoubtedly will be nominated in the Best Actor category, which sets him up to replicate Oscar history if he were to win back-to-back Oscars, which hasn’t been done since Tom Hanks achieved it back in 1994. Also getting much hype is Alicia Vikander, who has stunned critics and audiences and could easily pull an upset this year.

Trumbo

Trumbo

Again, the Best Actor category has some stiff competition this year. Trumbo offers Bryan Cranston into the mix as true-life screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted during the 1950s by the Un-American Activities Committee when he refused to testify. Yet Trumbo still penned screenplays under an assumed name, even winning two Academy Awards in the process, thus exposing the government’s hypocrisy. While Trumbo is being accused as another film that Hollywood is using to pat themselves on the back, what continues to stand out from the film is Bryan Cranston with his leading performance that will undoubtedly get him his first Oscar nomination.

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation

The film is not an easy watch since it is not willing to shield the viewer away from the horrid carnage of war and especially for fully embracing the uneasy film premise, which is that of a child soldier within an unnamed African country. The film is daring for its content, which propels it as a contender within this year’s canon of films. Yet most notable is the supporting performance from Idris Elba, as the commanding leader of the child army, which has given him much Oscar push with many thinking he will be a winner on Oscar night.

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

Regarding the supporting actor category, if there is anyone who has the capacity to pull an upset, it is Mark Rylance for his scene-stealing performance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies, a KGB intelligence officer who, because of his arrest, the Soviet Union is willing to initiate a prisoner swap with the United States. Rylance is the reason why this film has gotten recognition, which is something that won’t go unnoticed with the Academy Awards.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max

This is the surprise film of the year, as indicated by the Golden Globes, which recognized the film as a nominee in the Best Drama Film category, which gives the film very good odds going into the Oscar nominations. Traditionally films such as this go unnoticed by the Academy, and that likely could happen, but the film should at least be acknowledged leading into the nominations.

The Martian

The Martian

It became evident that the The Martian was a contender this Oscar season when its producers were so desperate to be nominated at this year’s Golden Globes that they mis-categorized the film and had it nominated within the comedy/musical category when it was clearly neither genres. The Martian will have no choice but to be nominated on its own clout if it wants to see itself as an Oscar nominee, which it likely will be. Also likely is that Ridley Scott will see himself with his first Best Director nomination since 2001 for Black Hawk Down. Scott’s nomination has been the “obvious” one since the summer, but as past Oscar nominations have indicated before, there are never any guarantees.

*Note this list does not contain animated films, but it is encouraged to see both Inside Out and Anomalisa regarding animated films since it is likely these will be the two facing off at this year’s Oscars.

Daniel Sirignano, Features Editor

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