How to cram for the Academy Awards

Aaron Credeur, Staff Writer

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We all know that feeling the night before an exam when you realize you probably shouldn’t have spent all day binge-watching that cheesy new Netflix series. It’s nothing to be ashamed of: many of us could use a lesson in responsibility and time management.

And with the Academy Awards fast approaching, it’s time to harness your cramming skills in order to watch all the nominees and decide for which ones you’ll be rooting.

If, however, you find yourself short on time, here are some suggestions on the most important films to watch so you can be in the know on Feb. 28.

The clear front-runner for the coveted Best Picture award is “The Revenant.” It’s an epic and grisly story of vengeance and survival, with breathtaking cinematography that pulls you into a savage wilderness.

It is directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who also sat at the helm of last year’s big winner, “Birdman.”

If this isn’t reason enough to check out “The Revenant,” then also keep in mind that finally, after many past upsets, Leonardo DiCaprio will almost certainly pick up his first Oscar win for Best Actor for his performance as Hugh Glass in the film. If he doesn’t win this year, he might as well stop trying.

Although Iñárritu certainly deserves recognition for this marvelous feat of directing and working in harsh conditions, perhaps a more likely winner is George Miller for his action-packed yet thought-provoking reboot of “Mad Max.”

Applauded for its unexpected — and perhaps unintentional — social commentary, “Mad Max: Fury Road” sports ingeniously choreographed action sequences that cement George Miller as much more than a simple cinematic fictioneer. Also, be prepared to see “Mad Max” take the stage for a plethora of technical awards from Best Production Design to Best Film Editing.

Every year, it seems as though one movie quietly accomplishes more than the others, astounding and delighting audiences. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, it fails to be a major contender at the Oscars. Last year, it was “Whiplash.” This year, it’s “Room.” The movie tells a gripping story that is at once incredibly intense and beautiful, making your heart pound one minute and bringing you to tears the next.

It’s a remarkable film, and you can expect Brie Larson to take home the gold for Best Actress. Regardless of its relatively small showing at the Academy Awards, this film definitely should not be left off any watch list.

If you have extra time after watching these picks, then “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” are certainly worth checking out.

They both tell relevant and important true stories in well-crafted ways: the first about the Boston Globe team of reporters who uncovered the molestation scandal plaguing the Catholic Church, the other about the housing market crash of 2007-2008.

The solid newsroom drama and convincing characters of “Spotlight” and the quirky and smart humor mixed with emotional depth of “The Big Short” solidify each as frontrunners for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay, respectively, as well as strong contenders for Best Picture.

Other nominees for Best Picture include “The Martian,” “Bridge of Spies” and “Brooklyn.” Although they stand less of a chance of winning the biggest award of the night, they are all certainly worth watching.

“The Martian” follows a lone astronaut stranded in space as he learns to improvise for survival. Steven Spielberg returns to the director’s chair for “Bridge of Spies,” the Cold War-era story of the lawyer tasked with the insurmountable responsibility of negotiating a prisoner swap. Finally, in “Brooklyn,” a young Irish woman struggles with the changes accompanying her immigration to 1950s New York.

Of course, there are many other must-sees from the past year, including “Creed,” to see Sylvester Stallone reprise his role as Rocky Balboa in a surprisingly emotional performance that will most likely win him an Oscar; “Inside Out,” another heartwarming and original Pixar film; and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” because it’s “Star Wars,” duh.

However, only a select few will win big come Oscar night, and by focusing your attention on the frontrunners, you’ll be able to look nice and smug when your favorites take home the gold. Besides, if you haven’t seen “Star Wars” yet, you have bigger things to worry about.

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