How to Prioritize Your Oscar Week Movie-Cramming

The 17 nominees for the eight biggest Oscar categories, in order of viewing urgency.

Holy crap, the Oscars are like a week and a half away. Do they always sneak up this quickly? Well, yes, they kind of do — that is to say, compared with the six-month-long Bataan death march that is “awards season,” yes, the five to six weeks between the announcement of the Academy Award nominations and the ceremony at which they’re handed out does seem quick. And with so many titles in the major categories, doing your due diligence can seem mighty overwhelming. But no worries — as always, your Flavorwire is here to guide you. You see, not all Oscar nominees are created equal; some are easier to view, some are so unlikely to win that they don’t warrant the expenditure of your limited time, and some, let’s face it, aren’t very good. So to help you be as informed as possible at your Oscar party we’ve prioritized your viewing for the next nine days; start at the top, work your way down, and send us a thank-you email later.


Moonlight

Though it could still pull it out in the clutch, Moonlight is now seeming less like the odds-on Best Picture favorite it once was, as the Academy’s oft-proven preference for Hollywood valentines has made La La Land the front runner. So why is Moonlight at the top of this list? Three reasons: 1) it will still at least win Best Supporting Actor (and is a strong contender for Best Adapted Screenplay), 2) it’s a better movie than La La Land (not to slag La La Land, it’s getting quite enough of that), and 3) La La Land is still exclusively in theaters, while Moonlight is available for digital purchase (it hits disc and VOD the Tuesday after the ceremony).

La La Land

The odds-on fave for Best Picture and Best Actress, and presumably a slew of technical and music prizes as well, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you should probably get around to it. Everyone has an opinion! Don’t wanna miss out on The Discourse! But it hit theaters in December — something of a rarity in the Best Picture race, which has gone the last four years to an October or early November release — so it is unsurprisingly still playing there exclusively. So sorry, you’ll have to carve out some extra time for travel to your local cinema (as well as the half-hour of trailers they keep insisting on running first).

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Fences

One of the indisputably sure things of next Sunday’s ceremony is this: Viola Davis will win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. That is a certainty. There’s also a very good chance that August Wilson will win a posthumous Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; it’s pretty much a 50/50 shot that Denzel Washington will win Best Actor. Fences is a very good film you’ll hear a lot about that night, in other words, and it becomes available for digital purchase the Friday before the ceremony, so mark this down for late-week viewing.

Manchester by the Sea

That even-Steven Best Actor race is between Denzel and Casey Affleck, whose taciturn work as the perpetually grieving center of Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester was the early awards-season favorite before troubling allegations of sexual misconduct began making Affleck seem like a less appealing recipient. He could still win this one, though – don’t forget, they gave Roman Polanski an Oscar in 2003 – and Lonergan is a pretty strong contender for Best Original screenplay as well. What’s more, this one is currently available for digital purchase, and out on disc and for rental this Tuesday.

Arrival

Let’s not sugar-coat it: Arrival probably isn’t going to win Best Picture, or Best Director, or Best Adapted Screenplay, and it definitely won’t win Best Actress, since Amy Adams SOMEHOW WASN’T EVEN NOMINATED. But it could very well win one or more of the technical awards no one really understands, and with eight nominations total, it’s certainly got Oscar’s seal of approval. Plus, y’know, it’s very, very good. And it’s currently available both digitally and on disc.

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Hell or High Water

See above – though up for four prizes (including Best Picture), David Mackenzie’s economic anxiety-ridden neo-Western will probably go home empty-handed. But it’s still well worth a peek, and since it’s a late-summer release, it’s easy to get your hands on either a disc or a digital download.

Hidden Figures

As you can tell, we’re now in the worth-seeing-but-not-essential bracket. Hidden Figures is one of the real success stories of this year’s nominations, since it originally wasn’t even going to open in time to qualify for them; a couple of months out, Fox shifted its limited release date, and lucky for them, since it ended up with three nominations (including Best Picture). It probably won’t win any of them, but that’s okay; since it’s already grossed $133 million domestic — the most financially successful of all the Best Picture nominees — chances are pretty good that you’ve already seen it anyway.

Loving
Jeff Nichols’s dramatization of the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage got the shaft in this year’s nominations, only landing a single nod for co-star Ruth Negga, who probably won’t win (though she should). But it’s out on disc and for digital rental and purchase, so it’s easy to see, and it’s really wonderful, so you can tell people at your Oscar party about how badly it was robbed.

Elle

At this point, the Best Actress race is a bit of a toss-up. Emma Stone seems to be the popular favorite for La La Land, but the critical fave is Isabelle Huppert, a mainstay of international cinema landing her first Oscar nomination for her turn in Paul Verhoeven’s arthouse rape-revenge flick. But it’s not available for home viewing until next month, so you’ll have to seek this one out in theaters – and it’s not exactly in wide release.

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Jackie

Then again, maybe Oscar voters will bypass both Stone and Huppert and hand Best Actress to previous winner Natalie Portman – this is, after all, the kind of showy performance that tends to do well there, and a portrayal of a real figure to boot (something the Academy is a bit of a soft touch for). And this snapshot biopic from director Pablo Larraín is far from your typical “Oscar bait.” Jackie isn’t out on disc until March, but it’s available for digital purchase starting Tuesday.

Hacksaw Ridge; Lion

Two Best Picture nominees, but both ones where the nomination (and their other nods, in acting, writing, and directing) is seen as the reward. Hacksaw Ridge is available for digital purchase now and hits disc and rental Tuesday; Lion is still in theaters.

20th Century Women

I know, I know, 20th Century Women is only up for one award (for Best Original Screenplay) and it probably won’t win it. It’s also still only available in theaters. I don’t care. This is one last opportunity to encourage you to see this tremendous motion picture — a movie, like Loving, that was probably Too Good For Oscar — so I’m gonna take it.

Captain Fantastic; The Lobster; Nocturnal Animals; Florence Foster Jenkins

One nomination each – for Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, respectively — for the first three, and two – for Best Actress and Best Costume Design — for the fourth. Each film is a long-shot at best in those categories; all four films are varying degrees of ok-to-pretty-good. In other words, don’t worry about these unless you’ve seen all the rest.

We’ll have more Oscar coverage in the week to come, up to and including live-tweets and rapid responses on the night itself. I CAN HARDLY WAIT, CAN YOU?

Get your hands on four of these titles (Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, and Hell or High Water) by following us on Twitter and retweeting this article here. Blu-ray four-packs will be awarded to three lucky winners, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. U.S. entries only.