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I Watched Almost All the Oscar-Nominated Movies So You Don't Have To

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Academy Awards The Academy Awards (prayitno/flickr)

For the past three years, I’ve made a hearty attempt to see every movie nominated for an Oscar. Not just the best-picture nominees. Every. Single. Movie.

Last year, 55 movies were nominated, and I watched 49 of them. This year, there are 58 nominees, and I expect to have seen 52 (that’s a solid 90%) by the time the Academy Awards air Sunday night. (What time is it on, you ask? Sunday, March 2 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC. And this year, for the first time, you can watch it online—legally!—IF you have a cable subscription, which, I don’t know, kind of misses the point of needing to watch something online.)

Here are the questions I usually get about being an "Oscar-completist":

Why do you do that?

A fair question with several answers. I like watching movies. I like the movie theater experience. I like having so many opportunities to watch movies with friends. But I also enjoy seeing movies alone, and I love list-based goals that involve making a spreadsheet.  

What’s the best picture?

I’d be happiest if either 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club won best picture, but those are just personal favorites and there are plenty of reasons other movies could be the “best.”

Do you always win your Oscar pool?

I’ve never won my Oscar pool.

Are there really THAT MANY movies nominated for Oscars?

Yes, but that’s counting the 15 shorts—animated, live action, and documentary—and you can usually watch three to five of those in one sitting.

What’s the worst movie nominated for an Oscar?

Every movie is special! But the movies I least enjoyed watching were The Wolf of Wall Street, All is Lost, Prisoners and The Croods. The movies I put at the end of the list to watch because I knew it would be a chore to watch them were The Hobbit and The Lone Ranger.

What movies surprised you?

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Amazon Instant)
I hadn’t heard anything about this movie and almost skipped it until I realized it was free to watch on Amazon Instant for Prime members. This Dutch film nominated for best foreign film features a heartbreaking story set to lovely bluegrass music and, as Keith Phipps says in The Dissolve, “touches on what it means for Europeans infatuated with American culture to live through the last decade, and for a man with no faith to sing songs of devotion.”

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall 
This is the only Oscar-nominated movie that made me ugly cry, and it’s only 40 minutes long. Nominated for best short documentary, the film tells the story of a man living his last days in a maximum security prison. You feel for Jack Hall and his family as they come to terms with his impending death. But what really made me weep was the gentleness and love displayed by the hospice volunteers, also prisoners, who care for him.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant)
I expected to hate this film because I have never enjoyed watching other Jackass productions, and while I can’t say I loved it, I actually teared up at the end. Count me surprised.

The Square (Netflix Instant)
This feature documentary helped me understand the complex situation in Egypt better than any news article I’ve read. The documentary feature category this year is strong, and The Act of Killing and 20 Feet From Stardom both deserve the attention they're getting. Just make sure you watch The Square, too. 

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