9 movies to watch instead of the best picture nominees
Some great films to watch online, each one inspired by an Oscars contender.
1. A family-centric indie horror for fans of Get Out
I assume you’ve Get Out by now. The only acceptable reasons to not have seen Get Out are that you just awoke from a coma and/or are a feral child. In either case, welcome to 2018. We love Get Out here. The most barebones description of that movie is: Man goes to house, family has a scary secret, everything goes insane. The Guest is like the inverse of that. Family welcomes man into house, man has a scary secret, everything goes insane. Indie scream queen Maika Monroe stars as the teenage daughter who takes a liking to her family’s mysterious house guest (played with steely emptiness by Dan Stevens). This movie works best if you know as little as possible, so forgive me for not sparing too many plot details. I promise it’s good. — Olivia Craighead
2. A coming-of-age romance like Call Me By Your Name
There’s really not much left to be said about Call Me By Your Name, last year’s best-loved and brightest-hued queer love story. But it is worth noting that long before a Kid Cudi superfan fucked a peach in Italy, a different lanky teen cruised for sex on a bench by a bathroom in a park. His name was Steven Carter, and he’s the protagonist of Get Real, an overlooked late-’90s gem about a closeted teen writer who strikes up a relationship with an even-more-closeted high school stud. Like Call Me By Your Name, Get Real is hinged on a bittersweet tone, a convincing performance by its leading actor, and a rare story that shows us a young person dealing with grown-up heartache in a way that’s neither patronizing nor cloying. — Patrick D. McDermott
3. Another docudrama about Englishmen getting in over their heads for the Dunkirk stans
Dunkirk rules. It’s a stunning, white-knuckled masterpiece where Harry Styles yells at a French person for several minutes. Now imagine if you took the pallid, British trauma from the beaches of France and plopped it into the jungle of South America. The Lost City of Z, is another based-on-a-true story film about Englishmen getting in over their heads. The James Gray film focuses on the exploits of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, in a role that solidifies his leading man chops) as he explores the Amazon in hopes of finding an ancient city. You might be thinking, “Sounds pretty imperialist,” and you’d be right to think that! I certainly did, but the film manages to subvert a lot of The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire nonsense. If you have two-and-a-half hours to spare – perhaps during that middle part of the Oscars that seemingly all sound mixing awards – The Lost City of Z is a great way to spend them. — Olivia
4. A newsroom slow burn like The Post, but scarier
The Post is a by-the-books historical drama acted out by experts. It’s not one of my personal favorites of the year, but a sturdy entry to the newsroom canon nonetheless. If that is your kind of thing, may I also recommend Zodiac, David Fincher’s Oscar-snubbed slow burn about a bunch of still-unsolved California murders from the late ’60s and ’70s. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an editorial cartoonist whose knack for weird visual puzzles spurs a years-long obsession with uncovering the identity of the infamous Zodiac Killer. A warning, though: it may be a touch too freaky for someone like your Meryl-loving mother — a recent rewatch had me hiding behind a pillow, even though I pretty much remembered every scene. — Patrick
5. More complicated parent-child plot lines and suburban-urban scenery for Lady Bird enthusiasts
Saorise Ronan’s performance as a young woman feeling stuck in her decidedly un-glamorous hometown got so much attention this year that it felt like there was no room for Haley Lu Richardson. The soon-to-be star’s performance in Columbus will break your heart and then put it back together. This tender debut from director Kogonada stars Richardson and John Cho as two people who don’t really know how to take the next step in their lives. Columbus, Indiana – a small town known for its modernist architecture – brings them together. Her mom is a recovering meth addict, he’s in town because his father fell into a coma just before delivering an architecture lecture. You know how Lady Bird only has one complicated parent-child plotline? Well Columbus has two. Bonus: Parker motherfuckin’ Posey is in it!!! — Olivia
Rent Columbus on Amazon.
6. A movie that, like Three Billboards, proves hell hath no fury like a single mom scorned
Full disclosure: I really disliked Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Instead of expending energy telling you all the reasons why, I’ll just tell you to instead watch Erin Brockovich, a far superior flick that stars a never-better Julia Roberts as the titular legal assistant who winds up playing a key role in exposing a corrupt corporation’s dangerous practices. Like Frances McDormand’s character in Three Billboards, Brockovich is a short-tempered single mom who swears a lot. Roberts won the Oscar for her performance, and it’s likely McDormand will too. But while Billboards seems to exist in some off-putting pseudo-reality where small towns have gift shops, Erin Brockovich’s story is literally true. One ending feels unearned and tonally confusing, the other one, the better one, will probably make you cry. — Patrick
7. A period piece about a hard-to-love creative genius, like Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread is a great movie — steamy, tense, secretly hilarious. At first it was tricky to think of a companion film, but then I remembered the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line — another Oscars-y movie about a volatile creative genius and the beautiful woman who loves him. In Phantom Thread, Vicky Krieps cunningly poisons Daniel Day-Lewis with mushrooms she picked in the forest. In Walk The Line, Reese Witherspoon says “Baby baby baby baby baby.” Legends, the both of them. — Patrick
8. A super-stylized homage to mid-20th century cinema, like The Shape of Water
On the surface, it would appear that I’m using this blurb as a way to proselytize my belief that Hail, Caesar! is one of the best movies in recent memory. And sure, maybe that’s how this started, but as I thought more on the similarities between this underrated Coen brothers flick and Guillermo Del Toro’s movie about boning a fish, I realized that I might actually have something. Stick with me. If what you liked about The Shape of Water was the love story, I can’t help you. But, if what you loved about The Shape of Water was the super-stylized homage to mid-20th century cinema with a little bit of Red Scare thrown in for good measure, have I got a picture for you. Ostensibly Hail, Caesar! is about Josh Brolin as a studio head figuring out who kidnapped his leading man (George Clooney). In actuality, it’s a love letter to the movies wrapped in a send-up of Hollywood culture and tied together with top-notch performances from one of those casts that is so big that the poster is just a list of names. Also, Channing Tatum tap dances. Literally what else could you want? — Olivia
9. We actually never got around to watching Darkest Hour
...but we want to recommend another movie about the absence of light: 2003's Darkness Falls, a too-loud and hilariously straight-faced PG-13 horror movie about a killer Tooth Fairy demon who snatches-up kids in the dark. It's technically a Darkest 86 minutes, but give us a break.
Thumbnail image via Sundance Institute