With the 2021 Oscars poised to be presented on April 25, it’s time to get serious about viewing those critically acclaimed films you keep putting off. We watched almost every Oscar-nominated movie to help you narrow down which cinematic masterpieces you should check out before the big day (not because we had too much free time, really!). From Nomadland to Minari to Sound of Metal, each of these films are outstanding nominees you don’t want to miss.
Madison Ward, Arts and Culture Assistant Editor
1. “Promising Young Woman” (Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture)
A dark and powerful dramatic comedy, “Promising Young Woman” follows one woman’s journey to seek justice for a college tragedy. With moments rife with beauty, despair and revenge, the film takes viewers on an emotional, bumpy roller-coaster you won’t want to get off of. Carey Mulligan’s spectacular performance filled with raw passion is powerful and convincing, and her nomination for Best Actress is well deserved.
2. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Nominated for two Oscars including Best Actress in a Supporting Role)
A hilarious comedy that intersects the absurd with reality, Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova not only travel across the United States pranking unsuspecting gullibles (*Borat Voice* – 'Very nice!'), but also make political statements criticizing America’s mishandling of the pandemic and shame government figures for their compromising encounters (sorry not sorry, Rudy). I couldn’t stop laughing out loud during this movie, and am only slightly ashamed to admit I’ve watched it three times since its release. As a bonus, at the end you’ll find out who REALLY started COVID-19.
3. “Another Round” (Nominated for two Oscars including Best Director)
An outstanding foreign comedy-drama film, “Another Round” follows four teachers who try to improve their lives by drinking a constant level of alcohol throughout the day. Not without heartbreak, the incredible performances by Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe kept me enticed yet disturbed, and I couldn’t turn away.
4. “My Octopus Teacher” (Nominated for one Oscar, Best Documentary Feature)
This brilliant, wholesome documentary follows a diver’s life-changing journey filming an octopus that lives in a South American kelp forest. If you want to see the beauty of marine life, watch an incredible connection between man and nature or maybe just need a good cry, don’t miss “My Octopus Teacher.”
5. “Nomadland” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
To put it bluntly, this movie lives rent-free in my head. “Nomadland” took my breath away, and if there’s one Oscar-nominated movie you should see, it’s this.
Ryan Phillips, Arts and Culture Staff Writer
1. “The Father” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
One of the most memorable films nominated this year is Florian Zeller’s heartbreaking portrait of aging. Adapted from Zeller’s play, “The Father” makes the most of its cinematic form with stellar editing and production design. The innovatively constructed film is anchored by two captivating performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman.
2. “Nomadland” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
The apparent frontrunner for Best Picture lives up to its reputation, taking a moving, lyrical approach to portraying a unique lifestyle. Chloé Zhao uses the film’s Western landscapes to powerful effect, perfectly balancing the combination between human and natural forces in the story. “Nomadland” is a gorgeous, intimate experience.
3. “Minari” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
Lee Isaac Chung’s newest feature is an emotional, realistic meditation on family. Chung’s approach allows the story to resonate on a universal level despite its specific premise. From Steven Yeun and Yuh-Jung Youn’s heartbreaking performances to Emile Mosseri’s excellent score, “Minari” is unforgettable.
4. “Collective” (Nominated for two Oscars including Best International Feature Film)
Alexander Nanau’s urgent documentary, which I reviewed two weeks ago, analyzes the consequences and injustices of a national tragedy in gripping ways. Nanau shows us events with raw footage without editorializing or removing us from the film’s world. This approach adds to its engaging qualities and makes it one of the best films nominated.
5. “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
Shaka King’s electrifying and still-relevant chronicle of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party is written, acted and directed with consistent energy. The pacing is excellent from start to finish, bolstered by outstanding performances from Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. The film is brilliantly executed and its importance in the current era is impossible to deny.
Guillermo Molero, City/State Senior Writer (and resident film snob)
1. “Nomadland” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
Hey, don’t blame me. I reviewed it last week, so I’ll keep it simple — its understated yet emotional tone and excellence in every aspect of filmmaking make it a shoo-in for Best Picture.
2. “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture)
Here’s another movie I reviewed last week and simply couldn’t leave out here. Powerhouse performances from a stellar ensemble, spearheaded by Daniel Kaluuya, provide a look into the life of Fred Hampton that is deeply emotional, inspiring and chock-full of energy.
3. “Time” (Nominated for one Oscar, Best Documentary Feature)
“Time” tells the touching story of Fox Rich, a Black woman who had spent 20 years lobbying for the release of her husband from prison. It provides deep insights into the role race plays in the criminal justice system, and also tells a beautifully human story of love and perseverance.
4. “Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Nominated for one Oscar, Best International Feature Film)
Told through the lens of a Bosnian translator and her family, “Quo Vadis, Aida?” is a devastating look into the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Jasna Djuricic’s revelatory performance as the titular character, struggling through the hardships imposed on her and her loved ones by conflict, brings grief to life in a spine-chilling fashion. I cried after watching this. A lot.
5. “Sound of Metal” (Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture)
This movie deserves a lot more hype than it’s getting right now. Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci are terrific as a drummer coping with losing his hearing and the mentor who helps him do so. The innovative, unique use of sound in its storytelling contributes to it being a technical triumph as well as an emotional one.
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