Five Movies To Look Out for This Awards Season

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Published December 27, 2021
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The Academy Awards are set for March 27, 2022. Photo courtesy of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Nearing the beginning of awards season, from The Golden Globes in January to the Academy Awards in March, some of the best films of the year are being released. But in a crowded media market, it’s often hard to find what’s building buzz.

As a solution, here are the five buzziest films leading up to awards season and where to watch them:

1. “Licorice Pizza” (In Theaters Now)

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza. Photo courtesy of MGM.

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim star in “Licorice Pizza.”
Photo courtesy of MGM

First up is the newest film from famed “Boogie Nights” and “There Will Be Blood” filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza.” The film follows Alana Kane, played by Alana Haim, and Gary Valentine, played by Cooper Hoffman, growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of a first love in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

The film has earned praise for the performances from Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Haim and the supporting performance from Bradley Cooper as well as the script and direction from Anderson.

It’s off to a good start, having won best picture at the National Board of Review and the Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

Probable Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Alana Haim), Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper)

2. “Belfast” (In Theaters Now)

Jude Hill in Belfast. Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

“Belfast,” starring Jude Hill, is a semi-autobiographical story.
Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” is a semi-autobiographical story of a young boy growing up in the Belfast region of Northern Ireland in the 1960s.

This is one of the early crowd-pleasers of the season and has picked up quite a bit of steam already, having won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. This is an important best picture precursor, as the past nine winners have been nominated.

Probable Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Kenneth Branagh), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Caitriona Balfe), Best Supporting Actor (Ciaran Hinds/Jamie Dornan), Best Cinematography, Best Editing

3. “Dune” (On VOD Now)

Timothée Chalamet stars in "Dune," a film quickly becoming one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the year. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Timothée Chalamet stars in “Dune,” a film quickly becoming one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the year.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” was released in theaters and on HBO Max in October, quickly becoming one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the year. Based on Frank Herbert’s classic novel, the film follows Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, as his family is thrust into a war over the desert planet of Arrakis.

Every year, there’s a big-budget film that earns a plethora of technical nominations, such as cinematography, editing, sound, costumes, etc. This year, that film is probably “Dune.” Opening to critical acclaim and earning a modest amount of money at the box office, even with the same-date HBO Max release, this is one of the biggest hits of the year and has the technical prowess to back it up.

Probable Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Denis Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects

4. “West Side Story” (In Theaters Now)

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Rachel Zegler stars in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Normally, remakes of classic films pale in comparison with the original film, but Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” has bucked that trend, earning rave reviews and an impressive “A” CinemaScore from audiences polled on opening weekend.

With the technical prowess of Spielberg and performances from Ariana DeBose, Rachel Zegler and Rita Moreno earning rave reviews, this late-breaking contender stands to make a big impression.

Probable Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Actress (Rachel Zegler), Best Supporting Actor (Mike Faist), Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose/Rita Moreno), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Sound

5. “The Power of the Dog” (On Netflix Now)

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank in “The Power of the Dog.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Every year, there are a handful of best picture nominees that are slower, contemplative dramas many audience members label as “boring.” This year, that seems to be Jane Campion’s western “The Power of the Dog.”

With critical raves and a steady amount of best director awards already given to Campion by critics groups, as well as a 62% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, this certainly fits the bill of slow critical hits that audiences don’t love.

Probable Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Jane Campion), Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Kirsten Dunst), Best Supporting Actor (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing

Covering a variety of genres, these picks are sure to showcase some of the best cinema of the year.

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