The Must-See Oscar Contenders By Category

By Kirby Tifverman

With the annual Academy Awards quickly approaching on March 4, it’s cram time for many Oscars fanatics. Chances are that you aren’t an Academy member, so you don’t receive at-home screeners of all the nominated films. It can be difficult to squeeze them all in before show day, especially if some films aren’t playing in theaters near you.

In that case, consider this blog post as your cheat sheet for Oscars 2018 viewing and voting. Even those with a busy schedule can make time to catch at least a few of these films. You’ll save time, and friends and family will be amazed at your award-season knowledge.

For the truly diligent Oscars fan, the full list of Oscar nominees by category can be found here.  For the film critic in all of us, try listening to Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast to gear up for the big day. The hosts debate award season minutia all year long.

Without further ado, here are the must-see Oscar contenders by category:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water


Unlike in years past, the 2018 Academy Awards Best Picture winner is anyone’s guess. We were lucky to have so many conversation-altering, important films debut in the past year. Each of the nine nominees has a fighting chance, so it’s hard to narrow this category down to a sure winner.  However, if pressed to pick, I would guess that The Shape of Water will take home this year’s top prize. For those interested, this New York Times article  explains the how and why behind this choice.

Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour


Oldman took home top honors from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards for Darkest Hour. He’s the undisputed favorite to win the Oscar, and he gives a stellar performance as Winston Churchill in the film.

Actress in a Leading Role: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Academy Award winner Frances McDormand is primed to win Best Actress at this year’s show. She has already won a Golden Globe for her performance and, most recently, a BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for the role. . Although some have criticized the film for being problematic, no one can question McDormand’s strong portrayal of heroine, Mildred Hayes.

Music (Original Song): “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman


Although The Greatest Showman didn’t pick up any acting noms this year, its infectious anthem “This is Me” has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. And for good reason — it’s catchy, empowering and goosebump inducing. I dare you to watch this behind-the -scenes clip without tearing up (or at least tapping your foot along to the beat).

Costume Design: Beauty and the Beast


To be fair, I have no reason to believe that Beauty and the Beast will actually win this category. But I sincerely hope it does. This dress is the reason why.

Animated Feature Film: Coco


As a rule, I never bet against Pixar when it comes to the Oscars. With eight previous wins, Coco is the animated feature film to beat this year.

And, that’s a wrap. What are your Oscars predictions for this year?

Valentine's Films Across Genres

By Alex Cherry 

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and we all know what the typical movie pick is — that gushy, funny and sensual romance movie, often deemed the “chick flick.” This Valentine’s Day, Fifty Shades Freed is a perfect example of this, along with the classics Valentine’s Day, The Notebook and Sex and the City. If you’re like me, you’re tired of this moniker and this type of film; you’re looking for a more interesting, unique romance that transcends the “chick flick” genre.

Here’s a list of 10 films that fall outside of the typical Valentine’s day movies and provide an interesting story, along with a compelling romance, just in time for the holiday.



 Image via Pixar

Image via Pixar

WALL-E spends his days picking up trash and tidying the planet as the last robot left on Earth. He’s cute, he’s inquisitive, but he’s lonely. When he meets EVE, a probe sent to Earth to scan for remaining life, WALL-E falls instantly and irrevocably in love. He follows EVE into space, embarking on an exciting and dangerous mission to save the future of the human race. The story is full of adventure, beautiful imagery and a moving, adorable romance at its very heart. WALL-E and EVE, though robots, are believably and totally in love, and they’re the characters who give us the largest hope for humanity, even though they’re, perhaps, the least human of all.

Howl’s Moving Castle


Hayao Miyazaki’s films are always masterpiece coming-of-age romances, but none of them are quite as moving, or as beautiful, as Howl’s Moving Castle. It is the story of a young hat maker, Sophie, who gets pulled into a world of fantasy and magic. When a wicked witch turns her into an old woman, she becomes the housekeeper for a strange and mysterious wizard named Howl. Though he’s full of dark secrets, he and Sophie have a connection like no other, and the dangerous and daring adventures they embark on all center around the blossoming of their incredible romance.



Two passengers, played by the equally gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (what more could you want in a romance?!), awaken 90 years early on a journey through space when their ship is damaged in transit. Pratt and Lawrence, as Jim and Aurora, having only each other to interact with other than the robots of the ship, began to fall for each other — but the true test of their romance occurs when they have to save the lives of the other passengers as the ship falls into danger. Full of futuristic thrill, the story explores the consequences of mortality and awakens fears of the future, while centering around a classic romance of love and loss.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tells the story of Clementine, who undergoes surgery to erase memories of her ex, Joel, from her mind. Joel finds out what Clementine is doing and decides to endure the same procedure. The romance ensues when they begin dating again, and it’s an unforgettable, visually-stunning journey. The film explores loss and heartache, but also the joy and happiness that can be felt in the absence of painful memories. Above all, this film is a profound romance and a look into the risks and rewards of love.




Deadpool was released on Valentine’s Day, and for good reason. While its prime features are hilarity and over-the-top action/violence, at the heart of the story is a funny, moving and extremely unique romance between Deadpool and his girlfriend, Vanessa. When Wade gets diagnosed with cancer and leaves without warning to become a superhero, Vanessa, his loving and supportive girlfriend, is left out in the cold. But when the villain kidnaps Vanessa to get revenge on Wade, he must save her and ultimately reveal the reasons he left in order to keep her safe. The movie is hilarious, action-packed and their chemistry is undeniable, making it the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day.

Wonder Woman


Wonder Woman is by far my favorite superhero movie, and perhaps one of my favorite romances told on screen. When Diana Prince, an Amazon warrior, decides to leave the protection of her island in order to fight for the safety of mankind, she must trust pilot Steve Trevor to show her the way around the world. They immediately hit it off, and embark on a journey of love and loss, complementing one another in their journey to understand the world they live in and their place in it. Sure to rip your heart out, Wonder Woman is full of fantastic action and moral complexity, as well as a romance that tugs on the heartstrings and truly makes you believe in love.




Yep, I went there. Say what you will about Twilight, but it tells an incredible romance. When Bella meets Edward, she’s immediately enraptured by him, though she doesn’t know his dark secret — he’s a vampire, and he thirsts for her blood. Luckily, their connection goes beyond the physical, and Edward vows to protect Bella with everything in him. As they confront numerous challenges, their love only grows. This film explores the depths we would go to protect the ones we love and the true inability of love to be stopped by any force imaginable. It’s a beautiful romance told across five total films, and it provides the dark tension of the thriller genre along the way.

Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In is not a story for the faint of heart. It’s about a bullied 12-year-old boy who strikes up a friendship with a girl neighbor, Eli — but she’s no ordinary kid. She is, in fact, a vampire, and the one responsible for a string of murders in the area. The two remain close through a series of dark trials, and even grow to fall in love, as much as two children can. Oskar is drawn to violence and Eli is predisposed to it, and somehow, they are able to stay together, despite it all. Though gruesome and terribly dark, the film explores the victory of love even when it feels impossible, as the romantic optimism of Oskar and Eli combats the inherent gloom of bloodshed and death.


The Princess Bride

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The Princess Bride is a classic story of love, danger, adventure and comedy, depending upon the classic fairytale mode of storytelling to deliver a timeless romance. Wesley is a farm boy who the Princess, Buttercup, falls in love with. He goes away, but when she’s captured by thieves, he returns to save her under the guise of a masked pirate. He saves her, and in turn reveals himself to her, as along the way they face villains and setbacks galore. There are sword fights, battles of wits, stormy seas and hilariously terrible villains, sure to thrill and warm the heart.

The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water tells the story of Elisa, a woman who works in a government lab as a cleaning lady. When the lab acquires a mysterious asset, an amphibious creature feared and hated by its captors, Elisa discovers a connection like no other. This creature is the first being to ever truly understand her, and upon the growth of their budding relationship and the dangers the creature faces, Elisa decides to save him from captivity and release him to freedom. It’s a dark, harrowing tale of a profound love that is truly unlike any other, and it’s sure to mystify and enthrall time and again.