How to Prioritize Your Oscar Week Movie-Cramming

Well, that snuck up fast — the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony is this Sunday, and while it seems, on one hand, long overdue (like it or not, we’ve been talk about the Oscar race since frigging September), it also seems like we were just raging about the nominations yesterday. And then we had to finish returning Christmas gifts, and writing thank-you cards, and then there was a Super Bowl, and then Valentine’s Day, and, well here we are. Six days away. But you’ve totally seen all the big nominees and are ready for the big night, right?

Didn’t think so. And thus, Flavorwire is here to help. We’ve ranked the 15 nominees for the evening’s six biggest awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress) — not in order of quantity of nominations, which as we all know is pretty touch-and-go when it comes to the little gold statue, but in order of the urgency with which you should regard them in advance of Sunday night’s festivities.

  1. Boyhood

This is the way Oscar season works: Boyhood has been perceived as the frontrunner for so long now, it no longer holds that position — frankly, just because people are tired of it. Yay, awards season logic! Anyway, even if it doesn’t win Best Picture (and it still might pull that out), Patricia Arquette is pretty much a lock for Best Supporting Actress. Oh, and it’s also very good, so if you haven’t see it yet, y’know, it’s worth seeing. (And you can watch it right now.)

  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence)

Like it or hate it (and most people seem to either like it or hate it), you’ve gotta have an opinion on Birdman. Grantland’s Mark Harris has got this one pegged as the new Best Picture favorite, using some pretty persuasive logic — namely, that two of the last three Best Pic winners (Argo and The Artist, namely) have been movies about movies, which is putting a nice, fine point on an evening that’s all about self-congratulation. And it’s also a valentine to actors, who make up the Academy’s biggest voting bloc, so it seems like the chances are, indeed, pretty good. Frankly, this should probably be the top pick, but it won’t be available for rental until tomorrow, and every day and dollar counts, right? (In the meantime, you can buy it here.)

  1. The Theory of Everything

It pains me deeply to say it, since God knows we’re talking about a grotesquely boilerplate and utterly forgettable movie that’s so generic it might as well be titled Tortured Genius Biopic, but there’s a decent chance (based on wins at the Golden Globes, SAGs, and BAFTAs) that Eddie Redmayne’s gonna win Best Actor. So you should probably see it for that reason — and if Michael Keaton (the strongest competitor) takes it, then at least you’ll have plenty of Oscar-party conversation fodder about the kind of middlebrow pap they just love to nominate. (Out for rental tomorrow, available for purchase now.)

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"

  1. Whiplash

J.K. Simmons has got Best Supporting Actor locked down, which is enough to pull this one to the top of your list. But the film has four other nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and it’s got a legit shot at the latter of those as well. (You’ll have to seek this one out in the theater.)

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

With a whopping nine nominations — tied with Birdman for the most nods — Budapest is far and away Wes Anderson’s biggest Oscar success to date. And it may walk away with some of the technical wins (it’s up for costumes, production design, makeup and hair, that kinda thing), but Anderson will probably go home empty-handed in the major categories, where the nomination will be seen as the reward. The exception: Best Original Screenplay, which is traditionally the category where slightly offbeat picks (recent winners include Her, Django Unchained, and Eternal Sunshine) are given their consolation prize. But I’m also placing it this low on the list because I’m assuming that, as a Flavorwire reader, you’ve probably already seen it. (If you haven’t, buy it here.)

  1. Selma

Look, whatever hope us Selma boosters had that its ridiculous shortage of nominations might coalesce into an Argo-style underdog wave has long since dissipated. Selma will win Best Song (thanks?) and will not win Best Picture. But a big part of your Oscar expert-ness is about knowing what the Academy screwed up, and Selma is their biggest screw-up this year: a seemingly awards-friendly historical epic, done with intelligence and sensitivity, shipwrecked by a bullshit smear campaign and some nonsense about screeners. If you haven’t seen it yet, you still should, and remember it if they hand that Best Actor statue to Eddie Redmayne. (Still in theaters.)

  1. The Imitation Game / Foxcatcher

The notoriously awards-savvy Weinstein Company pretty much put all their eggs in the Imitation Game basket this year, and the stench of that singular desperation is all over their shameful “Honor the Man, Honor the Film” campaign for The Imitation Game, which is getting little to no consideration in any of the eight categories it’s competing in. It’s an OK movie (better than the similarly themed and executed Theory of Everything, for whatever that’s worth), but not a serious player Sunday. Foxcatcher, a better film, is pretty much in the same boat, and its weird exclusion from Best Picture (in spite of nods for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and, oddest of all, Best Director) doesn’t indicate a lot of deeply held support. (Both still in theaters.)

Marion Cotillard in "Two Days, One Night"  8. Two Days, One Night

OK, so there’s not a chance in hell that Marion Cotillard will win the Best Actress prize for her stunning work in the Dardenne Brothers’ tricky and powerful drama. But I’d so much rather you see this than Still Alice, which will take that prize, and I have to look out for you a little bit here, right? (Still in theaters.)

  1. American Sniper

Seeing as how it’s grossed something like three times the total of all the other Best Picture nominees combined, there’s a pretty decent chance that you already have seen American Sniper. But if you haven’t, don’t worry; it’s probably not going to win anything Sunday night. And besides, as we’ve learned this awards season, you don’t actually have to see Sniper to have an opinion on it. (Still in theaters)

  1. Gone Girl / Wild

Neither Rosamund Pike nor Reese Witherspoon is likely to win Best Actress over Julianne Moore (and ditto Wild’s Laura Dern over Patricia Arquette). But both are far more enjoyable sits than Still Alice, and if you’ve made it this deep into the list, why not treat yo’self? (Rent or buy Gone Girl here; Wild is still in theaters.)

  1. Still Alice

After four previous nominations (for Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair, Far From Heaven, and The Hours), it’s certainly well past time for Julianne Moore, one of our finest actors, to win an Academy Award. But does it have to be for such a blergh-worthy Movie of the Week? Look, she’s almost definitely gonna win; there’s no need to subject yourself to this dreck. (But should you choose, it’s still in theaters.)

  1. The Judge / Into the Woods

And scraping the bottom of our list are the evening’s two most befuddling nominations, handed almost as a courtesy to a pair of living legends and frequent nominees who are not particularly noteworthy in very bad films. There is absolutely no way either Robert Duvall or Meryl Streep is going to win for their supporting roles; do not waste your time. Life is too short. Go outside. Have a nice dinner. Catch up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s very good this season. Write a letter to your mother, she misses you. Oh, wait, there are also nominees for Best Animated Film, Best Foreign Film, and Best Documentary Feature. Good lord, where to begin…