The Oscars are My Super Bowl: A List of Movies to Watch to Get Ready


Photo found on Twitter @trialofchicago7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is up for 6 Academy Awards.

Here’s a confession: I love the Oscars. Now, there’s nothing inherently shameful about loving the Academy Awards, but given their controversial and disappointing history, as a film fan, I should know better. Yet there’s something so irresistible about obsessively watching the major contenders as they get released and constantly updating prediction sheets accordingly. For cinephiles, the Oscars are our Super Bowl. We may not always like the teams that are playing, but we tune in regardless. 

This April, my beloved Oscars are getting an update. In response to the current disarray of our world, the ceremony has been pushed back and formerly binding rules regarding theatrical releases have been relaxed. Besides protecting avid moviegoers like myself, these changes are allowing a whole new audience to acquaint themselves with the joy of following the Oscars. Many of us have adopted a more “living room” lifestyle and now we have more and more of the year’s biggest Oscar contenders at our disposal. So, if you’ve always thought about giving the Oscars a chance, or have a sudden spark of interest, here’s a guide to the first round of releases:

The Front-Runners:

A month after each year’s Oscar ceremony, the new film season starts and a batch of front-runners begins to form. Over time the number of must-sees dwindles down and currently, some of the critic’s major front-runners such as Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland and Regina King’s One Night in Miami have yet to be seen outside of film festivals. However, don’t let that deter you.

Two of the year’s most discussed films are ready for your viewing pleasure on Netflix. Historical fiction has been a favored genre of the Academy for some time and The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a courtroom drama recounting the real-life story of the Vietnam War’s famed activist opponents. Directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film is a surefire Oscar favorite. What helps Chicago 7 stand out is how truly engaging it is, especially if you aren’t familiar with the case, as opposed to last year’s Ford V Ferrari, which was not fully realized and made for a lackluster and boring film.

Netflix also released another Oscar hopeful in David Fincher’s Mank. Similarly a historical drama but this time focusing on Hollywood’s favorite topic: Hollywood. The biopic about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz is more niche compared to Chicago 7 but makes up for it in the style department. It’s shot in black and white but manages to feel lavish, and its love letter to cinema is coupled with the right amount of commentary on Hollywood politics to not scorn any Academy members. Both Mank and Chicago 7 are classic Oscar picks, and a perfect place to start the Oscar viewing journey. 

Fizzled Out: 

While some of the mighty Oscar favorites manage to hold on until the very end, the once mighty often end up falling. Francis Lee’s period drama, Ammonite, is one of this year’s unlucky let downs. Ammonite was supposed to be a touching and emotional romance between Kate Winslet’s paleontologist, Mary Anning, and Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte Murchison. Ammonite felt like an attempt to replicate the beauty of Portrait of A Lady on Fire, but with unfortunate results. Chemistry between the leads is virtually nonexistent, though not entirely their fault as the minimal script hardly gives them much to work with. The muted tones of the film’s atmosphere don’t do it any favors, simply adding to what is already uninspired.

In the same boat is Hillbilly Elegy, Netflix’s mega hyped tale on poverty that turned out to be a vapid mess. Supposedly a vehicle for stars Amy Adams and Glenn Close to finally win their deserved Oscars, the film fell flat on its face. Of course Ammonite and Hillbilly Elegy have their moments, but when attempting to see the year’s best and brightest, there are plenty of other places to look. 

The Underdogs: 

Some of my favorite types of movies usually fall short of Oscar glory. I love feel good films, but it’s a genre that is almost always snubbed come Oscar time. Comedies are similarly overlooked, making it seem like there’s some unwritten quota of sadness a film must contain in order to be “worthy” of an Oscar. (Which is probably true.) The Prom, the crown jewel of this year’s feel good genre, is a musical comedy about acceptance, love, and owning who you are. It’s radiant and joyous and a perfect antidote for the pain of today. It may not be an award shoo-in but if your quest can afford the detour, it’s more than worth the stop.

In the same vein is The Personal History of David Copperfield, an irreverent and colorful adaptation of Dickens’ novel. This zany take on the classic rags to riches story is hardly original, but feels distinct and inventive, an all around delight. Though both films aren’t traditional Academy material, they’re plenty worthy of a watch. The only thing better than getting to tell people that you finished your Oscar list, is getting to tell them that they missed out on a totally snubbed film. Or, who knows, one of these splendid underdogs could make it to top, and I promise you’ll be proud. 

Oscar season is undoubtedly one of my favorite times of the year and while I’m working through my list (I still haven’t seen Tenet…), I hope I’ve inspired you to make your own list (Oscar Nominees have been announced.), or at least watch the Awards show on Sunday, April 25th and have a better idea of the unbridled world that is the Oscars.