When it comes to the nine films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, we can all agree on one thing: Some of them are not all that great. Now, we may not agree on which films are bad, per se. I had a religious experience while watching The Tree of Life, but lots of people — even some of my fellow monocle-wearing film nerds — hated it. There are those who find The Artist quite charming, and there are those who find The Artist merely charming. Just about everyone agrees that Hugo is half a loving ode to cinema and half the slowest kids’ movie ever made. My mother said she loved Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which means I have to take a week off from making fun of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. But why not spend the weekend catching up on a whole new set of Oscar nominees? These are films that explore new regions of cinema artistry. Films that haven’t been media-blitzed to death. The most important movies to see this weekend are:
1. The Oscar-Nominated Shorts
The whole notion of the “short film” has come to seem a bit old-fashioned in our YouTube era. Which, when you think about it, is a bit silly. Where is it written that a film needs to be at least 80 minutes long in order to qualify as a “real” movie? That’s like saying that all paintings need to be as big as a medium-sized Jackson Pollock, or that no TV show really counts until it reaches seven seasons. Why not go check out the nominees for Best Documentary Short, Best Live-Action Short, and Best Animated Short, which are currently playing together at select locations throughout these United States? (The easy bet for a good time is Best Animated Short, but don’t miss the Documentary selection just because documentaries seem boring: God Is the Bigger Elvis is the true story of a young Hollywood actress, an Elvis costar, who became a nun.) And don’t forget the best thing about short films: Even if they’re bad, they’ll be over soon. Check out theater listings here.
2. The Secret World of Arrietty
You wouldn’t know it from the curious title, but the animated Arrietty is based on the beloved children’s series The Borrowers. Just writing the words “The Borrowers” cast me back into a nostalgic reverie for my lost youth, and I’m not even sure I actually read The Borrowers when I was a kid. Anyhow, this candy-colored film comes from Studio Ghibli, the studio created by Hayao Miyazaki, a.k.a. the Japanese Walt Disney, a.k.a. Walt Disney if Walt Disney could draw anything.
There’s a feeling that the heat is already off of Chronicle. The found-footage superpowered film topped the box office in its first weekend, but it fell off last weekend in the wake, because Americans were more excited to see the four new releases. Chronicle is the rare action movie that sticks with you after you see it — and a superpowered story that simultaneously honors the superhero myth while blazing a whole new trail.
4. A Separation
“Toot toot!” says the Separation Express. “Next stop: Milwaukee!” The Iranian judicial thriller/family drama/true-life dystopia/black comedy/awesome movie isn’t playing everywhere, but it is playing in quite a few places. This weekend, if you’re a citizen of Frontenac, Miss., you’ve got no excuse. (Check out the theaters playing A Separation here.)
5. The Innkeepers
Ti West’s low-budget horror thriller has 100 percent more Kelly McGillis than any movies currently nominated for Best Picture. It’s playing in a few theaters. It’s also On Demand. Did I mention Kelly McGillis?
NEXT PAGE: The weekly DVD pick! (Because there aren’t enough good movies in theaters, sad trombone.)