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This year’s 12 must-see Oscar movies

Cinemas are shut, popcorn consumption is dangerously low but the Oscar noms are in. We have the skinny on what, where and when you can watch this year's best in show.

With cinemas closed for the best part of a year, and many of the big movie franchises delaying their release, the Oscars could have been a bit ‘so whatish’ this year. But it turns out, it’s one of the most exciting and diverse in the award’s 93-year history. 

There’s just one problem, you probably haven’t seen Hollywood’s class of 2020. Yes, some have been streamed, but in many cases the UK release has been put on ice. So, here’s my rundown of the ones to watch, where they’ll be shown and when you’ll be able to crack open the popcorn. 

Promising Young Woman

Oscar noms: Five – (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (Emerald Fennell), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Film Editing.

What you need to know: You’ll recognise Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown, but her talent goes beyond acting, adding writer, producer and director to her glittering CV. Her first feature film, Promising Young Woman, throws all those skills into one creative melting pot and the result in a gold rush of Oscar nods. Five to be exact, including a Best Actress nomination for Carey Mulligan. Promising Young Woman is a darkly comic thriller about a woman avenging her friend after a sexual assault. It shares some DNA with Killing Eve(unsurprising given that Fennell wrote S2) but in this case it’s clichéd romcoms that are gonna get it.

Where to watch it? Er, nowhere right now. It’s scheduled for UK cinema release in May 2021.

Sound of Metal

Oscar noms: Six – Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

What you need to know: It’s not often Hollywood gets excited about heavy metal or deaf people, but then this has been no ordinary year and Sound of Metal is no ordinary film. Riz Ahmed plays drummer Ruben who grapples with his immediate and intermittent hearing loss. Fearing he will lose everything, his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) introduces him to a deaf Vietnam War vet who teaches him a new way of life. Ahmed took six months of drum lessons before filming and learned American sign language for the role. He’s also the first muslim actor to get an Oscar nomination.

Where to watch it? Amazon Prime Video from 12 Apr 2021.

The Father

The Father Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman

Oscar noms: Six – Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman); Best Adapted Screenplay; Production Design and Film Editing.

What you need to know: This could be the role that snags Sir Anthony Hopkins a second gold statue for Best Actor – putting him into an illustrious gentleman’s club of cinematic greats. The film adaptation of Florian Zeller’s searing stage play, about a man suffering from dementia, who refuses the assistance of his daughter (Olivia Colman) as he ages and begins to doubt his mind and reality. Keep a box of tissues nearby and expect intense heartbreak. 

Where to watch it? Out in UK cinemas from 11 Jun 2021

Mank

Mank starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman

Oscar noms: 10 – Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Sound, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Score and Makeup & Hairstyling.

What you need to know: Movies made about movies tend to make the Academy go weak at the knees, so Mank was playing to an over-invested crowd. This black-and-white time capsule tells the story of Herman J Mankiewicz, the booze-soaked writer of Citizen Kane, whose collaboration with Orson Welles would make one of the finest pieces of filmmaking. It’s stylish, plenty of casual name-dropping, and steeped in Hollywood lore. 

Where to watch it? Netflix from 11 April 2021.

Hillbilly Elegy

Oscar noms: Two – Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close) and Makeup & Hairstyling.

What you need to know: Glenn Close has been nominated eight times for an Oscar and never won. Quite frankly, it’s a crime against cinema. But here she is again, nominated for her role in Hillbilly Elegy – a film universally panned by critics. Based on JD Vance’s memoir, the film goes nuts with platitudes and prosthetics as it explores the tumultuous family dynamics among Mamaw (Close), her addict daughter (Amy Adams) and her grandson (portrayed by Owen Asztalos and Gabriel Basso at different ages). Close has also picked up a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress for the same role. If she wins both, it’ll be a first. 

Where to watch it? Available to watch on Netflix now.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Oscar noms: Two – Best Supporting Actress (Maria Bakalova) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

What you need to know: Borat’s back, baby – and the Kazakh journo’s out to offer his daughter to Vice President Mike Pence as a gift from his native country. Sacha Baron Cohen is without doubt a comedy genius. Will his sequel bag him an Oscar? It’s a long shot. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is a fish out of water. But a shock win would be vairy naaaice.

Where to watch it: Available on Amazon Prime now.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee.  Cr. David Lee/NETFLIX
Chadwick Boseman as Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Credit: NETFLIX

Oscar noms: Five – Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman) Best Actress (Viola Davis), Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling.

What you need to know: Chadwick Boseman makes his final screen appearance opposite Viola Davis about a fraught recording session with ‘the Mother of Blues’ set in 1920s Chicago. The pair create fire in this film – the passion and energy they bring burns a hole in your TV screen. They’re that good. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – an adaptation of August Wilson’s Broadway and West End hit play – is Boseman’s last. He died of cancer last year, aged 43, but what a performance to leave behind. 

Where to watch it: Available on Netflix.

Nomadland

Oscar noms: Six – Best Picture, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (Chloe Zhao), Cinematography and Film Editing.

What you need to know: Nomadland is hotly tipped to walk off with a clutch of Oscars on the night. Not only is Chloé Zhao the first woman of colour to be nominated for Best Director, she’s the most nominated woman in Oscar history. Adapted from Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book, Nomadland follows a widow named Fern (Frances McDormand) who hits the road in a van after losing her job, only to find comfort and meaning in the people she meets (most played by non-professional actors).  

Where to watch it: Premieres on Disney+ on 30 April, followed by UK cinema release in May.

Minari

Minari film

Oscar noms: Six – Best Picture, Dest Director and Best Original Screenplay (Lee Isaac Chung), Best Actor Actor (Steven Yeun), Best Supporting Actress (Youn Yuh-Jung) and Original Score.

What you need to know: Moving, modest and one of the most-talked about movies in the Oscar mix. Yes it’s got subtitles, but if the trailer can make me cry, I’ve got high hopes for the full 1hr 56mins. This is Lee Isaac Chung’s autobiographical tale of a South Korean family moving to an Arkansas farm pursuing the American dream. There are many challenges, not least the arrival of their sly, potty-mouthed grandma. 

Where to watch it: Available to watch at home from 2 Apr

Trial Of The Chicago 7

Oscar noms: Five – Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen); Best Original Screenplay, Cinematography and Film Editing.

What you need to know: Aaron Sorkin’s counter culture docudrama about 1960s America is a knockout with Sacha Baron Cohen (minus the mankini), Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance leading a starry cast. The film is a dramatisation of one of most notorious conspiracy trials in US history when the then Nixon Government charged a group of anti-Vietnam war activists with conspiring to incite a riot n Chicago. Fingers crossed for a Baron-Cohen win just for the acceptance speech. 

Where to watch it? On Netflix now.

Judas and The Black Messiah

Oscar noms: Six – Best Picture, two Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Original Song.

What you need to know: Based on a true story, Judas And The Black Messiah follows the gripping story of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) who was betrayed by FBI infiltrator William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) and assassinated at the age of 21. It’s the first Best Picture nominee in history with all black producers (Shaka King, Charles D King, and Ryan Coogler) but rather confusingly Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield were both nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. 

Where to watch it: Available to rent at BFI Player, Amazon Prime, Sky Store, Google Play and BT TV.

Pieces of a Woman

PIECES OF A WOMAN (L to R) Shia LeBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha

Oscar noms: One – Best Actress (Vanessa Kirby).

What you need to know: A tough watch, but getting people to face uncomfortable subject matter seems to be director Kornel Mundruczo’s calling card. This is a brutal portrait of loss, featuring a 24-minute scene of a home birth ending in tragedy. The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby scores a nomination for her extraordinary lead performance. You’ll be an emotional wreck by the end of it. 

Oscar noms: Available on Netflix now.

The 93rd Academy Awards take place on Sun 25 Apr 2021.

Words: Rachel Jane

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