Now that the “official” film-awards season seems to start the minute the previous year’s best picture Oscar acceptance speech ends, voters (and awards watchers) can’t afford to wait until the fall to start seriously evaluating the year’s offerings. While most eyes are on the Emmys and the July 16 nomination announcement, prognosticators are assessing the field at the halfway mark, noting that the Feb. 28, 2016, ceremony is a mere 34 weeks away. Of course, November and December will still be packed with awards-attracting releases, so why not take advantage of being able to watch these five films now:
Dir.: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
With the second-best opening weekend in Pixar’s history, the animated Inside Out takes place inside the head of an 11-year-old girl and is one of the best-reviewed films of the year. The film is so well-liked among critics that some awards watchers are predicting a best picture nomination, which has only happened three times before: 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, which was before an animated category existed; 2009’s Up; and 2010’s Toy Story 3.
Love & Mercy
Dir.: Bill Pohlad
Paul Dano and John Cusack split the role of Beach Boy Brian Wilson—in his youth and his darker older days, respectively—in Roadside Attractions’ musical biopic. Critics have praised the film’s nontraditional format, which takes place in two distinct eras in Wilson’s life, and both Dano and Cusack are getting raves for their performances.
Me & Earl & the Dying Girl
Dir.: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Fox Searchlight picked up this 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner after a heated bidding war for the film, which has had critical praise aplenty. As the studio that has won best picture for two years running (2013’s 12 Years a Slave and 2014’s Birdman), Searchlight is likely to make sure this tearjerker has momentum well past the fall.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Dir.: Liz Garbus
Using archival performance footage and audio interviews, this documentary presents a portrait of the legendary jazz singer-activist Nina Simone, whose incredible talent prevailed despite a stormy life of loneliness and anger. It’s also is the first original documentary that Netflix has produced and distributed (last year’s Oscar-nommed Virunga was a distribution deal), which means it’s likely to get a significant awards push for the film and Garbus, who earned an Oscar nom for 1998’s The Farm: Angola, USA.
Woman in Gold
Dir: Simon Curtis
The Weinstein Co. has already started aggressively campaigning for this specialty hit about an Austrian woman (Helen Mirren) who fights to retrieve a valuable Gustav Klimt painting that the Nazis stole from her family. Last month, TWC boosted the number of theaters the film was in, touting it as an “encore engagement” and used Mirren’s Tony win for The Audience as a reason to start talking Oscar No. 2 for the actress. The DVD comes out July 7, but the film can still be seen on the big screen around Los Angeles and New York. Mirren also plays as supporting role as powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in the upcoming Trumbo, about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
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