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Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in "Joker." [Handout photo by Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.]

The Academy Awards, more colloquially known as the Oscars, are soon to be upon us, and they bring with them the imminent failure of countless New Year’s resolutions. How many times have you promised yourself that this is the year you’ll watch every single movie nominated for Best Picture? Odds are, you’ve only had time to see a few. Maintaining a work-life balance is difficult enough in college, and even with student discounts at most nationwide theater chains, seeing movies in theaters can add up to a lot. 

This year the selection of films features quite a few history-makers among its ranks. It may seem just as daunting a selection as ever with nine films in the running for the grand prize, but worry not. If you’ve decided that this is the year you’re going to finally watch every film in the category, I’m here to help you out with everything you need to know about the 2020 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. 

“1917” (2019) dir. Sam Mendes

Starring Dean Charles Chapman and George MacKay, set during World War I, “1917”tells the story of Blake and Schofield, two British soldiers assigned a high-stakes mission: to deliver urgent orders to stop an attack on German lines. If they fail, 1,600 men will walk into a trap and be slaughtered. Shot innovatively to appear as if it was filmed entirely in one take, Mendes’ war movie brings viewers intimately into the action. It defies convention and focuses not on the glory of war, but the horrors left in the aftermath and the innocent lives it destroys. 

“Ford v Ferrari” (2019) dir. James Mangold

The 2019 sports drama starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon (cast after original plans fell through to have Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise star) tells the story of a team of American engineers tasked with building the Ford GT40 with the intention of beating the legendary Ferrari in a race. The film, based on true events, is the first auto racing-related film to be nominated for Best Picture. 

“Joker” (2019) dir. Todd Phillips

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”is a gritty reimagining of the infamous Batman villain’s origin story. The story centers on the washed-up Arthur Fleck, following his failures as a stand-up comedian and his subsequent descent into madness. The film, characteristically dark like most DC Comics films, is a brutally honest look into mental illness and how society chooses to treat it. Most talked about is Phoenix’s stunning performance, which many credit with helping the film become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. It is also the film with the most Oscar nominations this year, with 11. 

“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” (2019) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Set against the backdrop of late 1960s Hollywood, legendary director Tarantino’s latest film stars equally legendary actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as an actor and his stunt double, respectively. The film, in a bit of a different vein than most of Tarantino’s work, follows the actors’ daily lives as their story slowly intertwines with the true events of the famous Manson family murders. Margot Robbie also stars as real-life actress Sharon Tate.

“Parasite” (2019) dir. Bong Joon-ho

“Parasite,”whose director also wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay, tells the story of two families, the poorer of whom plots to infiltrate and feed off the wealthier family through employment. Joon-ho was also nominated for Best Director for his direction of the film. Raved about as one of the best films of the year, it is the first South Korean film in Oscar history to be nominated for Best International Film and Best Picture. 

“The Irishman” (2019) dir. Martin Scorcese

The longest of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, “The Irishman”clocks in at a whopping 209 minutes. The Netflix film, starring powerhouse actors Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is based on the 2004 Charles Brandt nonfiction work “I Heard You Paint Houses.”It follows truck-driver-turned-hitman Frank Sheeran as he becomes involved with mobsters. The film, originally announced as Scorcese’s next work in September of 2014, had a limited theatrical release before streaming on Netflix. It trails “Joker”for the lead with 10 Oscar nominations. 

“Little Women” (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig

The most recent film adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel of the same name, “Little Women”reunites director Gerwig with powerhouse acting duo Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, both of whom starred in Gerwig’s 2017 Oscar-nominated film “Lady Bird.”Ronan, playing whip-smart heroine Jo March, leads a star-studded cast. Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen star as the other three March sisters; Laura Dern plays the loving and patient Marmee; the ever-iconic Meryl Streep stars as distasteful Aunt March; and Chalamet rounds out the cast as the boyishly charming Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence. Although the film received a Best Picture nod, many expressed outrage at Gerwig’s snub for Best Director, especially since few female-directed films broke into the Academy’s ranks this year. 

“Jojo Rabbit” (2019) dir. Taika Waititi

Although Taika Waititi is best known for his offbeat sense of humor, having directed films such as “What We Do In The Shadows”and the highly acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe flick “Thor: Ragnarok,”his latest venture is perhaps his most daring. “Jojo Rabbit” is a satirical dramedy centering on Hitler Youth member Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, who begins to question everything he knows after he discovers his mother harboring a Jewish girl in their home. The film, which earned 11-year-old Roman Griffin Davis a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, also stars Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother and Waititi himself as none other than Adolf Hitler, who manifests in the film as an idealized version of himself to serve as Jojo’s twisted imaginary friend. 

“Marriage Story” (2019) dir. Noah Baumbach

The second of two Best Picture nominated films for both Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”is a Netflix film that takes a close look at one couple’s divorce. Johansson and Adam Driver star opposite each other as Nicole and Charlie Barber, an actress and stage director respectively, whose marital troubles push them to their limits. Both lead actors earned Oscar nominations for their performances, and Dern earned one as well for Best Supporting Actress. 

Whether you manage to binge all nine films before the Academy Awards air on Feb. 9 or simply choose to indulge in the few that look most interesting to you, this year’s awards show definitely isn’t to be missed. 

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