James Franco, 127 hours, Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Julianne Moore, The Kids are Alright

Fox Searchlight; Paranoid Pictures; Focus Features

Complain all you like about the Oscars, but the nominations at least do one thing right, and that's to cast a spotlight on movies that might otherwise have been ignored.

Even then, you probably still ignore them. Sure, when the nominations were announced, maybe you thought, "Oh, I'll have to go see it now!" But we all know that, in all likelihood, you haven't gotten around to it yet.

Should you bother? Yes, and here's the five Oscar movies you should be checking out—including Johnny Depp's favorite film of last year:

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone

Roadside Attractions

5. Winter's Bone (multiple categories)

Why you haven't seen it: More people probably saw the Wayne's World sketch mocking the movie's title than actually watched the movie. It came and went in theaters earlier in the year, probably because many moviegoers are allergic to tragic dramas about poor families. Which this kind of is, but not really.

Should you? Yes. Though it does depict rural poverty, Winter's Bone is primarily a crime drama that more folks would rush out to see if it were set in South Central L.A. or Brooklyn. In place of the mafia, we have backwoods Ozark clans, every bit as cliquish, corrupt, brutal, yet strangely loyal. Also, star Jennifer Lawrence is going to be Mystique in X-Men: First Class.

Another Year, Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen

Focus Features

4. Another Year (Best Original Screenplay)

Why you haven't seen it: Because it might as well have been entitled Another Mike Leigh Movie. With few exceptions, the English director makes basically the same film over and over, that being a heavily workshopped look at the lives of lower middle-class English people, heavy on character but light on plot. Think we're being harsh? Quick, off the top of your head, name the respective lead actors of High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, All or Nothing, and Career Girls. Bonus points if you can actually describe the differences between the movies' plots.

Should you? Definitely maybe. It's as story-irrelevant as most of Leigh's stuff, but Jim Broadbent is a more appealing star than most of his usual collaborators, and Lesley Manville's portrayal of a sad alcoholic who constantly hits on her best friend's son is never less than compelling.

The Kids Are All Right, Annette Bening, Julianne Moore

Focus Features

3. The Kids Are All Right (multiple categories)

Why you haven't seen it: It's a drama about a lesbian couple and their adopted kids. What's the hook?

Should you? Not really. There isn't much of a hook, to be honest. Mark Ruffalo shows up as the kids' biological dad, and Julianne Moore briefly goes bisexual for him. That's all. In years to come, we'll wonder why depicting lesbian couples as normal was ever a big deal.

James Franco, Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, 127 HOURS

Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight

2. 127 Hours (multiple categories)

Why you haven't seen it: Knowing that it's about James Franco having to cut his own arm off, you got squeamish.

Should you? If that's your only issue, then yes; the movie doesn't linger on the gore. However, if you've been avoiding it because you hated Slumdog Millionaire, and expect more of the same directorial style from Danny Boyle...you were absolutely correct.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Paranoid Pictures

1. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Best Documentary)

Why you haven't seen it: Conversations about whether or not "Mr. Brainwash" is actually "Banksy"—and if "Banksy" even exists at all—sound more like the stuff of silly English kiddie TV shows than subject matter for a serious documentary.

Should you? Yes, if only because Johnny Depp recently said it was his favorite movie of the year. But it's also a fascinating case study of narcissism, and a gateway to appreciating outsider street art. Plus, plenty of laughs at the expense of an obnoxious Frenchman.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share