“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.” — Steven Spielberg
The world of film awards: where drama thrives internationally and comedy requires a dark side. Despite questions of safety and a two-month delay, the 93rd Academy Awards are happening, just without the extra events where celebrities come to chat and celebrate film. As mentioned in the letter from the Academy President, “This year, those attending the awards in person will be nominees, their guest, and presenters — with an audience of millions watching and cheering from all around the world.” So, if you haven’t already — and happen to have over 42 hours free to watch them before Sunday, April 25th — sit back, strap in, and enjoy the most celebrated nominations from this years’ Academy Awards.
One of the best movies on Amazon Prime and a breakout starring role for Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal is an intensely dramatic film of a man torn between two lives as he loses his hearing. After hearing the distressing news that his condition will only worsen, from the support of those closest to him, he tries not to go back into his ways of heavy drug use and the rock star lifestyle he has come to know. Nominated for leading role Riz Ahmed, supporting role Paul Raci, Best Film Editing, Sound, and Original Screenplay, this film takes its place among the ranks of Best Picture.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Music, Drama
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci
Director: Darius Marder
Runtime: 120 minutes
Based on a play by August Wilson comes a fictionalized story of the very real “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey, as she and her band show us the faces of music, oppression, and soul. A challenging and heart-wrenching plot is just one of the many things that make this film a must-see for everyone, showing the audience that Ma Rainey could not be controlled by the domineering studio figureheads, even in a time of extreme racial tension. Nominated for the incredible acting in leading role performances by the late and great Chadwick Boseman (his last role), and the powerfully emotional Viola Davis, along with best costume design, makeup and hairstyling, and production design, this treasure was arguably robbed of a few other nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Music, History, Drama
Stars: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman
Director: George C. Wolfe
Runtime: 94 minutes
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A stunning and imaginative piece about aging and reality, The Father is gripping, comedic, and surreal in nature. An 80-year-old man becomes more defiant by the day, rejecting help from his daughter and anyone who offers, striving to be alone in his flat as his mind succumbs to dementia. Masterfully acted, Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman are both nominated for their performances on screen, with additional nominations for editing, production design, and best-adapted screenplay, making this film a no-brainer for a best picture nom.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss
Director: Florian Zeller
Runtime: 97 minutes
Nominated for an astonishing 10 Oscar categories, Mank is a film feat of historic proportions. Herman J. (Mank) Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is given a deadline to finish the screenplay for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane but struggles to meet it while confronting old Hollywood politics, corruption, and debilitating alcoholism. Filmed in a style reminiscent of the classic Welles films, this film goes above and beyond its goals, destined to be one of David Fincher’s best films to date. Nominated for best actor in a leading role, best actress in a supporting role, best directing, best original score, production design, sound, costume design, cinematography, and makeup and hairstyling, some say this film is a shoo-in for best picture, which it was also nominated for.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama, History
Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins
Director: David Fincher
Runtime: 131 minutes
Loosely autobiographical, writer and director Lee Isaac Chung tells the story of a Korean family trying to make a life for themselves in the unfamiliar and odd Arkansas countryside. A beautiful and disastrous tale, Minari reminds us of what it means to be a family, including all of the ups and downs that come with it. We would like to write a full review of Minari here, but the competition is tight, so we’ll move on. Nominated for best actor in a leading role, best actress in a supporting role, best directing, best original screenplay, and best original score, this film seems to be a poetic underdog for the best picture rankings it is currently placed in.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Runtime: 115 minutes
From writer/director Aaron Sorkin comes The Trial of the Chicago 7, a cautionary, historical tale of power, resistance, and conspiracy. This film tells the story of the Chicago 7, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters that were charged with inciting riots and conspiracy — as well as a swarm of extra accusations — and who went to trial and made history. Loaded with an appealing cast of characters, this film is nominated for best actor in a supporting role, best film editing, best cinematography, best original song in “Hear My Voice,” best original screenplay, and best picture.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Runtime: 129 minutes
Another historical drama up for nomination is Judas and the Black Messiah, highlighting violence, deceit, and civil unrest in late ’60s America. Forced by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to go undercover as a black panther, William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) must infiltrate and destroy from the inside but faces a moral debacle within himself and for the rights of his newfound kin. Nominated twice for best actor in a supporting role, best cinematography, best original screenplay, and best original song in “Fight For You,” this film is also nominated for best picture, bringing to light issues that still persist in today’s world.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons
Director: Shaka King
Runtime: 126 minutes
A film based on true events follows 4 icons in their prime, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke, as they meet in Miami one historic night. As these figures come together in the mid-’60s, they discuss what their success and responsibility mean as they carry the weight of the world during the civil rights movement. In Regina King’s directorial breakout, we learn more about the struggle of civil rights in its time and how it has changed today. Nominated for best actor in a supporting role, best adapted screenplay, and best original song “Speak Now,” this film is a powerhouse of performance and information to take with you.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge
Director: Regina King
Runtime: 114 minutes
From upcoming film genius Chloé Zhao comes Nomadland, a beautiful and wary tale of humanism and the American experience. When Fern (Frances McDormand) loses her home — and her husband not too long after — she takes to the road, living wherever she ends up at night and meeting some interesting humans along the way. Nominated for best actress in a leading role, best adapted screenplay, cinematography, and Zhao’s editing and direction, this film is a top choice for best picture this year.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May
Director: Chloé Zhao
Runtime: 107 minutes
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A bold and fresh film that explores the fears and social expectations of women, Promising Young Woman is a black comedy that suddenly turns into a terrifying reality. Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) is a smart and witty individual with a traumatizing past and a vendetta against the type of men who were responsible, causing her to lead a double life at night and exact revenge for all women who have been thrown to the side to spare the reputation of their traumatizer. Nominated for best actress in a leading role, best writing and direction from Emerald Fennell, film editing, and, of course, best picture of the year.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Crime, Comedy, Thriller
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie
Director: Emerald Fennell
Runtime: 113 minutes
In a shockingly ridiculous social experiment of a movie, Sacha Baron Cohen takes his classic Borat character back to the screen in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Borat is released from prison in his home country of Kazakhstan under one condition: Return to America and redeem Kazakhstan by giving the vice president a great gift. Loose plot aside, this film goes to new lengths of shock with the help of Tutar (Maria Bakalova), Borat’s daughter and “gift” to the vice president. Nominated for best adapted screenplay and best actress in a supporting role, Bakalova is instrumental to the hilarity of this raunchy sequel, acting at times alone opposite normal people unaware of the movie’s production.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Tom Hanks
Director: Jason Woliner
Runtime: 95 minutes
An Old West tale of humanity and compassion, News of the World is a feel-good movie that you will especially enjoy if you’re a Tom Hanks fan. Not too long after the Civil War, an Army Captain encounters a lost child in the wilderness. Alone and taken from her family, Captain Jefferson takes on the responsibility of getting her home across the dangerous and divided Texas wild. Nominated for best cinematography, production design, sound, and best original score by James Newton Howard, this movie is also a spectacle to behold that is beautifully told in a visual format.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Western/Adventure, Drama, Action
Stars: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Tom Astor
Director: Paul Greengrass
Runtime: 118 minutes
A genuine, comical, and original film from nominated director Thomas Vinterberg comes Another Round, an alcohol-fueled confirmation of life that will teach everyone something. Four high school teachers decide to test a theory akin to Hemingway’s lifestyle: Maintain a certain blood-alcohol level while you work. This is all done in hopes that their overall lives will be improved until they get a little too excited. Nominated for the best international feature film as well, this film is a cautionary tale to those who may enjoy the effects of alcohol a bit too much.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Runtime: 117 minutes
A lighthearted comedy of romance and the lack thereof, Emma is a fun adaptation of Jane Austen’s popular novel. Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a young and mischievous woman in 1800s England, who has no intentions toward love or marriage but insists on intervening in her close friends’ love lives. Nominated for timely and beautiful costume design and makeup and hairstyling, this film is good to check out if you’re needing a much lighter tone while catching up on Oscar-nominated films.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Runtime: 124 minutes
Nominated for best international feature film and best documentary feature, Collective investigates a tragic accident that reveals much more that is institutionally wrong. After a nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania in 2015, journalists discovered health care fraud that led to excess deaths of surviving patients multiple weeks after the incident. Something that rings true to many countries where the authorities have abandoned them, the quote “Everything underneath is rotten” can summarize the unrest felt by those impacted.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Liviu Iolu, Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag
Director: Alexander Nanau
Runtime: 109 minutes
A charming, life-affirming adventure from Disney/Pixar studios, Soul is a movie similar in quality and theme to Coco, where music has the power to bring everything together. A New York jazz musician and middle school music teacher finally gets the deal he’s been waiting for, when he suddenly finds himself in a world called “The Great Before, where souls are born and raised before going to Earth. Nominated for best animated feature film, Soul goes beyond that to gain nominations for best sound, and for Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste’s original score.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Director(s): Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Runtime: 100 minutes
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This reality-bending visual spectacle is one of the 10 best Christopher Nolan films, gaining worthy nominations in visual effects and production design. Our protagonist (John David Washington) is fighting against terrorism and inevitable war, and in an attempt to prevent the end of the world as we know it, he has been provided with a secret word that could solve the puzzle: Tenet. This epic, mind-blowing piece of film is everything you would expect from a Nolan film, except without the clarity in the final act, which may cause you to watch it again.
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki
Director: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 150 minutes
A stirring story of music and government influence, The United States vs. Billie Holiday shows the audience the impact of her lyrics on a segregated nation. When Billie Holiday (Andra Day) refuses to be censored by the club owners and producers, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics conspires to ruin her career and censor her “controversial lyrics” — such as in her song Strange Fruit about lynching — via defamation. This film is based on true events, detailing the endless attacks on Billie Holiday from the FBN leading up to her death in 1959. Nominated for best actress in a leading role, Andra Day makes this role her own. She even sang 100% of the music in the film, making her an incredibly accurate representation of the great Lady Day.
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Stars: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund
Director: Lee Daniels
Runtime: 130 minutes
Tragic and heartbreaking, Pieces of a Woman is a deeply personal drama about loss, grief, and what it can do to a family. When Martha suffers a devastating loss from an attempted home birth, all other parts of her life suffer as she endures misery and what it means to live with a painful past. Nominated for best actress in a leading role, Vanessa Kirby brings the audience to tears with her performance, embodying the role of a deeply injured would-be mother. For those who have suffered something remotely similar, this may be a tough one to watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Runtime: 126 minutes
A boldly reimagined tale from a Disney classic, Mulan takes the story to new levels of enchantment as one of the best movies on Disney+. When China is attacked by a ruthless army of invaders, they enlist one man from every family to resist the attack. To protect her aging and unfit father, Mulan (Yifei Liu) takes his place and disguises herself as a man to fight. Without the usual musical numbers or whimsical comic relief from talking animals, this film is made out to be much more dramatic and delivers in a fantastical way. Nominated for best visual effects and costume design, this tale of feminine strength and bravery is revived for this generation as a graceful spectacle.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Stars: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Gong Li
Director: Niki Caro
Runtime: 115 minutes
A film ultimately about family, whether you want one or not, Hillbilly Elegy recounts events of a certain law student’s past that made him who he is today. Bev (Amy Adams) is a reluctant mother from a young age who can’t come to terms with responsibility. Constantly heckled by her own mother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the family experiences fight after fight, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. On this list today for Glenn Close’s incredible performance and the makeup and hairstyling, she is the true light that brings this film to its completion.
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Stars: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso
Director: Ron Howard
Runtime: 116 minutes
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