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My Favorite Oscar-worthy Films Ahead of Award Season, by Megan Harrison

I’ve been watching the Oscars (and every other entertainment award show) for as long as I can remember.

The Oscars, the Emmys, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes: I always looked forward to having multiple ceremonies on the calendar every year.

My family and I would sit in front of the TV with printed-out Oscar ballots, each of us voting on our predicted winners for each category. My record is probably around 50-50 at this point, but some years I would get nearly every category correct.

This skyrocketed my love for movies. I eagerly watched every new film I could get my hands on, both in the theater and at home. I became fascinated with each moving part and how they were made. From directing to sound design, I loved all of it.

Despite my typical success rate on the winning films, there were always movies or actors I rooted for that either narrowly missed the win or didn’t get the nomination at all. I campaign for these the hardest; while the Oscars do get a lot right, there are so many amazing films snubbed in the press. This is why when award show predictions and nominations come out, I always feel inclined to investigate the catalog and decide what might make the cut.

As we are in between award seasons, I wanted to share some of my personal favorite blockbuster films that I recommend to anyone searching for their own next award-worthy best picture. Whether or not they received official award status, it doesn’t change the fact that these films are 100% worth the watch. Some of them won the awards, and some of them didn’t even make the nominations list, but they are all movies I hold close to my heart just the same.

(These are all spoiler free, so no worries there — you’ll just need to watch them to answer your remaining questions.)

Parasite (2019), directed by Bong Joon-ho

Parasite is a movie I watched for the first time after it swept the Oscars in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic gave me a lot of time to watch new movies and television shows, and this one sparked a lot of curiosity for me.

The plot follows the Kim family struggling in South Korea as they scheme to work for the extremely wealthy Park family. This thriller film brings up a lot of important themes, such as class discrimination, wealth, and the meaning of justice while also being beautifully shot and written. Some of my favorite parts of the film were the parallels between camerawork, characters and dialogue. You can easily get a sense of the characters’ emotions in the film, and the director’s creative decisions feel thorough and intentional.

This movie leaves you thinking in the best way possible. It toes the line of multiple genres effortlessly, and each of the creative teams’ four Oscar awards were incredibly well-deserved.

La La Land (2016), directed by Damien Chazelle

La La Land is undoubtedly one of my favorite musicals of all time. The film follows Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a jazz musician, as they try to make names for themselves in the current Los Angeles entertainment world.

I remember seeing the trailer in theaters for the first time: I was immediately intrigued at the lack of dialogue and blending of wide, saturated shots of Los Angeles. Plus, my excitement grew upon seeing Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling on screen. When I finally watched the film in theaters months later, it brought me to tears.

Every element of the film joins together to create a love letter to the city, to film, to the entertainment world and to the feeling of change. I watched in awe as they weaved music with montages cut together across the L.A. skyline. This movie is the only film that I, personally, own on DVD; the lettering on the case deservedly is highlighted in gold.

Nope (2022), directed by Jordan Peele

One thing about me: I love Jordan Peele films. I’ve been a fan ever since his first release of Get Out, but Nope is the movie I always advocate for whenever discussing his work. This film follows OJ and Emerald Haywood (played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, who I adore), siblings who’ve taken over their father’s horse ranch in the California desert. Unusual events begin unfolding, and it’s up to the two siblings to decide what comes next.

I recommend this film to anyone who seeks comedy and action (and a little bit of horror). Peele always includes elements from multiple genres, and his background in comedy helps to liven his tense and complex plots.

One of my favorite aspects of this film, other than the comedy, is the sound editing. Music and sound play a large role in the plot as the characters rely on slowed, reverb music to alert them to abnormalities. Sounds blend together at different points of action, and the mixing of each scene is beautifully done.

This film is one that I believe got snubbed as there wasn’t a single Oscar nomination for the entire movie or its creative team. Films with a foot in the horror genre are typically not recognized by the Academy as cinematic achievement, but this film has everything it takes to earn worldwide praise and acknowledgement at a high level — especially with the praise that Peele’s “Get Out” saw. Nope brings together a film lover’s favorite things and it definitely deserves a place on your watchlist.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016), directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

While not as commonly recognized as the other films, The Edge of Seventeen is a film everyone (specifically, every teenager) should watch in their lifetime. The movie follows Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld, a 17-year-old navigating high school awkwardness as she discovers her popular older brother is dating her best friend. It sounds like a generic coming-of-age movie, but this one has a little more to it, I promise.

Something that rings so true about this film is that everything in life has a million different perspectives. While I see myself in Nadine through her coming-of-age struggles, I know that every viewer will have their own characters they can relate to. The beauty of this film is how it takes universal experiences and breaks them down into a unique story that each watcher can analyze from their own perspective.

I also love this film because Woody Harrelson (one of my favorite actors) is in it, but even if he wasn’t there, I would love the story all the same. Whether you’re looking to laugh or cry, this film is one that brings people together in the best way. I highly recommend watching it with your close friends or your family.

I can guarantee that these are all films worth watching. I hope this list inspires your next choice, or maybe even helps you find your film niche. Most importantly, I hope it inspires you to share the movies you love with those around you; nothing brings people together like film.

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