24 Nominated Movies You Can Catch Up With Online Before the Oscars
The 89th annual Oscars take place this Sunday, and while a lot of the major nominees—notably Hidden Figures, Fences, Lion, and Best Picture frontrunner La La Land—have yet to hit home video, others are available for easy, convenient rental if your Oscar ballot needs a bit of work before the big day. All the films below are available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Hulu or some combination thereof; a few (noted) are also on Netflix.
Denis Villeneuve’s hopeful sci-fi drama Arrival is nominated for eight awards, though surprisingly one of those nominations doesn’t belong to star Amy Adams (five noms and counting, with zero wins). Villeneuve addressed the snub, noting that when he saw she wasn’t nominated, “it was such a disappointment, because she’s the soul, she was my muse.” Producer Shawn Levy elaborated, arguing that “[c]ertainly, if you acknowledge Arrival to the extent that the Academy did, and if we all take it as an inarguable fact that Amy Adams’s performance is in every frame of the film, and is pervasive throughout the soul and heart of the film, then I choose to live in the positive and simply conclude that the acknowledgement to the movie is an acknowledgement of her performance.” Arrival is up for Best Picture, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Production Design.
Viggo Mortensen, who really couldn’t give a shit about any of this, picked up a surprise Best Actor nom for playing an eccentric father trying to raise his children off the grid following the death of their mother in Captain Fantastic. Captain Fantastic is the sophomore feature of writer/director Matt Ross, whom you probably know better for his acting work. It’s Gavin fucking Belson, y’all.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Can we just give the Best Actress category a sixth slot, give it to Meryl Streep for whatever movie Meryl Streep was in that year, and call it a day? Yeah? Streep is good in Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins, as she always is, but the movie itself is soul-trippingly terrible. Streep plays the eponymous Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreams of becoming an opera star, only she can’t sing. So the whole movie is people taking advantage of this poor, naive woman for her money, lying to her face and laughing at her behind her back. And it’s supposed to be a feel-good comedy? Fuck off. Florence Foster Jenkins depressed me more than any other movie I saw last year, and I saw Manchester by the Sea AND Collateral Beauty.
Mel Gibson gets out of Hollywood jail—despite what you or I or anyone else has to say about it—with the six-time nominee Hacksaw Ridge, which tells the story of a World War II soldier (Andrew Garfield) who became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. Our own review labelled Hacksaw Ridge, well, hacky, noting that it’s “so overloaded with tropes it nearly reads as parody.” In addition, “Gibson’s ghoulish interest in carnage and violence manifests into a nightmarish and torturously long sequence filled with disembowelments, explosions, cries of pain, and not one but two showers of blood.” Gibson’s gonna Gibson, y’all. In addition to nominations for Best Actor (Garfield) and Best Director (Gibson), Hacksaw is up up for the Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing categories.
Sadly, the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, up for Best Production Design, is only available via streaming to purchase, not to rent. If you’re so inclined, watch and rend your hair about “No Dames” not being nominated for Best Song. We won’t get Channing Tatum in a sailor outfit Gene Kelly’ing it up on Oscar night, and I for one am upset.
Hell or High Water
Scottish director David Mackenzie, who made waves in the indie scene with 2013’s prison drama Starred Up, had his first big crossover hit with the Texas-set crime drama Hell or High Water. Jeff Bridges secures his seventh career Oscar nom for playing a grizzled Texas Ranger on the hunt for a pair of bank robber brothers, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan is up for his screenplay; other nominations are Best Picture and Best Editing.
Natalie Portman picks up her third Oscar nom for playing First Lady Jackie Kennedy, determined to preserve her late husband’s legacy in the days after his assassination, in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. It’s very arthouse Eliza-from-Hamilton. Mica Levi (Under the Skin) picked up a well-deserved nod for Best Original Score, as did Madeline Fontaine for Best Costume Design. (Levi is only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Original Score.)
The Jungle Book, Star Trek Beyond, and Allied
Venturing into techie categories, we get to these three films, nominated in one category each: The Jungle Book (Best Visual Effects), Star Trek Beyond (Best Makeup and Hair) and Allied (Best Costume Design). World War II spy drama Allied is boring, derivative dross, so you shouldn’t feel the need to catch up on that one before Oscar night, but The Jungle Book and Star Trek Beyond are both fun. (And both co-star Idris Elba. COINCIDENCE?!?!?) I’ll be particularly rooting for The Jungle Book to pull off a win in its category, because it looks absolutely amazing; though a VFX-heavy film where most of its characters are mo-capped, there are shots that honest-to-God looked like everything in them is real. It’s available on Netflix, so track down the largest TV you have access to and get down.
Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, and Zootopia
Three of this year’s Best Animated Feature nominees are available via streaming, among them Golden Globes winner Zootopia (also on Netflix). (The two more “arty” entries into the category, Danish The Red Turtle and French My Life as a Zucchini, are not on home video yet.) As a bonus, Best Animated Short nominee Piper, which played with the not-nominated Finding Dory, is available for purchase for a cool two bucks. Moana also picked up a nom for Best Original Song; if it manages to beat out La La Land, nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda will become the youngest person to ever EGOT.
Life, Animated, Fire at Sea, OJ: Made in America, 13th
Four of this year’s five Best Feature Documentary nominees are available online, with one of them—Ava DuVernay’s 13th, about the constitutional amendment that outlawed slavery and the broken prison system it led to, an easy get on Netflix. Life, Animated is about an autistic man who as a boy used Disney films to communicate with the outside world; Fire at Sea is about the refugee crisis, specifically as it impacts the small Italian island of Lampedusa; and OJ: Made in America is an exhaustive, eight-hour deep dive into the OJ Simpson murder trial. (You can buy the whole series or individual episodes on iTunes and Amazon; it’s also available on Hulu.)
Yorgos Lanthimos’ weird-ass movie about a weird-ass hotel where people go to find love lest they be turned into animals got a surprise Oscar nom for its weird-ass script. Good for it; we need more weird-ass represented at the Oscars. Olivia Colman got that Best Supporting Actress nom in my heart.
Loving’s critical reception has been more mixed than some (though not all) of the other films you’ll find on this list. Though most critics liked it, others found director Jeff Nichols’ decision to eschew the cinema-ready drama surrounding its central court case—Loving v Virginia, which in 1967 struck down anti-miscegenation laws—to be a bit… well… dull. But just about everyone agreed that Ruth Negga, playing Mildred Loving, gave a powerhouse performance, so it’s no surprise that she picked up a Best Actress nom here.
A Man Called Ove and Tanna
Of this year’s five Best Foreign Language Film nominees, only two—Swedish offering A Man Called Ove, about a misanthrope who strikes up a friendship with his new neighbors, and Australia’s Tanna, about lovers from rival tribes on a remote Pacific island—are available to stream.
Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck is considered the frontrunner in the Best Actor race for his portrayal of a grieving brother in Kenneth Longergan’s Manchester by the Sea, though Fences’ Denzel Washington, who won the SAG Award earlier this month, may pull off an upset. Michelle Williams also got a Best Supporting Actress nod for a powerhouse—if small, in terms of screen time—performance, but there’s no way in hell anyone’s beating Viola Davis in Fences and that’s how it should be. Other noms are Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, that nomination going to young breakout star Lucas Hedges.
If any movie’s going to beat La La Land in the Best Picture race, it’ll probably be Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, which met near-universal critical acclaim for its depiction of a gay black man growing up in Miami. Hidden Figures also has a shot, albeit a more distant one—both films co-star Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe, the former of whom is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor for his Moonlight performance. Other noms are Best Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), Directing, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay.
Michael Shannon picked up his second Oscar nom for Nocturnal Animals, director/fashion designer Tom Ford’s follow-up to 2009’s A Single Man. Nocturnal Animals picked up the Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Golden Globes… but for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who will not hear his name called among the nominees on Oscar night.