By: Jaimee Jakobczak
With Oscar season creeping ever nearer and the buzz around the nominated films growing by the day, you might find yourself wondering what films are worth catching before the big night. We feel you. Since we know how hard it would be to fit them all into your busy schedules before February 26th, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of 9 standout films across the board that we think you’d be remiss to ignore.
LA LA LAND
No Oscar film list would be complete this year without a forefront mention of the Hollywood breakout musical “La La Land,” the story of a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress. The films stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who took home Best Actress at the SAG awards last weekend) excel in their respective roles with the undeniable chemistry we have grown to love and expect from them. Even if musicals aren’t your thing, it’s hard to ignore the films incredible Golden Globes sweep and an impressive 14 AA nods, so this one is definitely at the top of our leader board.
For our political buffs (and who isn’t one these days?), we recommend “Jackie,” the dramatic retelling of the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, as seen through the eyes of his late wife. Natalie Portman stands out as The First Lady, so much so that she also took home a SAG award last weekend for Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actress in a Leading Role. It’s clear to see why within minutes of her screen time-they simply could not have cast this role better. Take a trip back in time with this intimate and mesmerizing portrayal of one of the most traumatic events in American history.
“Hacksaw Ridge” has been making waves as potentially being director, Mel Gibson’s readmission into the Hollywood limelight. It tells the remarkable true story of combat medic, Demond T. Doss, who bravely saved 75 men during the War of Okinawa in WWII. Doss, a fierce objector to combat, was the only American soldier who fought on the front lines without a weapon. It truly is a remarkable story and Gibson shows no fear in bringing the truth and horrors of war to our attention.
Sci-Fi fans, if you’re into close encounters with inter-dimensional beings, “Arrival” is your go-to this Oscar season. The film follows a linguistics professor who is tasked with the gargantuan challenge of leading a team of investigators as they face a potential global war outbreak when 12 spaceships land on Earth. Amy Adams sets a somber and calculated pace in the leading role that’ll have you wondering if this top-notch team can pull off the task ahead before it’s too late.
“Moana” is our pick for a feel-good adventure. From its vibrant CG-animation set in ancient Polynesia, to its endearing upbeat soundtrack, it’s hard not to fall in love with this film even if you are older than its intended audience. “Moana” tells the story of a charismatic teenager who sets out to fulfill an unfinished quest for her ancestors and along the way, faces tremendous challenges that she must dig deep within herself to find the strength to defeat.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
If you were a fan of “Harry Potter,” surely you’ve caught this one already. If you haven’t…what are you waiting for? “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” acts as an independent precursor to “Harry Potter” and follows writer, Newt Scamander, through his adventures in the secret wizarding community in New York City, well before Harry ever learns of his own connections to the magical world.
It’s directed by and stars Denzel Washington, so surely I don’t need to say anymore? “Fences” is the story of a 1950’s sanitation worker in Pittsburgh who struggles to care for his family and come to terms with his life after learning his lifelong dream of being a professional baseball player is no longer possible. The film has already seen its fair share of accolades and any fans of Washington are sure not to be disappointed with this dramatic and emotional tale. And if this hasn’t enticed you enough, it also stars Viola Davis.
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a crowd pleaser from start to finish and it’s based on an all too common true story; a wealthy New York heiress, played by the dazzling Meryl Streep, has aspirations of becoming a famous opera singer. There’s only one problem…Jenkins can’t sing, at all. While it’s easy to poke fun at Jenkins, you’ll find yourself just as envious of her lifestyle as you are sympathetic of her character in this highly entertaining comedy.
No Oscar guide would be complete without at least a mention of Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this film has been VERY well received, scooping up awards from international film festivals, The Golden Globes, and The SAG Awards. It stars Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, and Janelle Monae, and is a poignant depiction of the struggles of a boy searching for his identity, throughout three chapters of his life. As Ali so eloquently said during his acceptance speech at The SAG Awards, it teaches us to learn the texture of a person, and not let minutiae get in the way of how we see and accept people…something the world definitely needs to start doing more of!
Edited by: Rebecca Besnos
Jaimee Jakobczak is a budding Canadian writer whose work has been published in The Huffington Post and various online media publications. She holds a diploma in Audio Production and Engineering from Metalworks Institute and spent several years working as a studio recording engineer and live technician. Not one to be tied down to one avenue, her passion for politics, health, and pop culture have driven her to pursue a career in writing and she is currently putting the finishing touches on her first fictional novel.