MOVIE REVIEW: Award season primer - what, when and how to watch

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With less than two months to go until 2019, the prestige movie season is taking shape. As usual, North Idaho will likely be the last place to screen late-season Oscar contenders, leaving a few big titles like “Stan & Ollie” and “On the Basis of Sex” for January.

Nevertheless, the majority of the season’s buzziest movies will be here before New Year’s Eve. Here’s how and when you can see the major Best Picture and acting contenders, including a few already available at home.


Spike Lee made his best movie in years with “BlacKkKlansman,” and it looks to be the “early” film of 2018 to be most in contention for Oscars like Picture, Screenplay and Director. It’s newly available on home video platforms this week.

Though you’ve likely already seen it, there will also be a push to get Marvel’s “Black Panther” into the Best Picture race. It deserves a spot, but the movie was in theaters during last year’s Oscar telecast, so it will be an uphill battle.

Other less likely possibilities include “Eighth Grade,” “Leave No Trace,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “First Reformed,” all terrific movies available now to watch at home. Ethan Hawke could make the Best Actor race for “First Reformed,” while the other three could be Screenplay contenders.

If documentaries are your thing, several awards contenders are already available now, including “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” “Whitney,” “Three Identical Strangers,” “Notorious RBG” and “Minding the Gap,” which you can stream on Hulu. All good stuff, plus you can go see the acclaimed climbing doc, “Free Solo” in theaters in Spokane right now.

The animation category could go anywhere this year, but likely nominees “The Incredibles 2” and “Isle of Dogs” are available now at home. “The Grinch” opens in theaters this weekend, and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” opens over Thanksgiving.


Win or lose, the Oscar telecast will be headlined by Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born,” and Cooper himself might be up for several awards as the star, director, producer and screenwriter on the film. Lady Gaga will be nominated. She’ll sing, and she’ll win for something, make no mistake.

Though it stumbled at the box office (no failed liftoff puns here), “First Man” has strong enough reviews to at least stay in the Best Picture conversation for now. Hurry before it leaves theaters though, as it definitely offers a big screen experience.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” didn’t earn particularly high marks from critics, but star Rami Malek should still be in the Best Actor conversation at year’s end. Also, you can still see “The Hate U Give,” which deserves a shot in Picture and for its young lead actress.


Next week, the highly acclaimed crime drama “Widows” arrives in wide release. Director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and star Viola Davis will be the biggest award magnets there.

“Green Book” made big news at a few different film festivals this fall, and stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali will be notable in the Acting races, in addition to the film being a Best Picture contender. It’s scheduled to be open wide by the end of this month.

The bizarre period film “The Favourite” from “The Lobster” director Yorgos Lanthimos is being advertised for Thanksgiving, but it will only be in limited release until closer to Christmas. Same goes for the Melissa McCarthy drama, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The Hugh Jackman political drama, “The Front Runner” is technically out now, but it will take a few weeks to expand to Spokane.

As for potential Best Picture nominees opening wide in December, only the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” (Christmas Day), Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” (Dec. 14) and the musical “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 19) are guaranteed. Those haven’t been screened for critics yet, so who knows about their actual chances yet.


The following contenders will open in bigger cities in December, but it’s unclear how slowly they’ll roll out to the rest of the country. Expect a few of these in January: “If Beale Street Could Talk” from “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, Julia Roberts drama “Ben is Back,” biopic “Stan & Ollie,” annual Nicole Kidman contender “Destroyer,” and Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic “On the Basis of Sex.”


For all its attempts in recent years, Netflix hasn’t yet broken into the Best Picture race with an original film. Expect that to change this year with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which is expected to be a frontrunner at the Oscars in several categories. Everyone who sees it seems to love it. Though it will get a limited theatrical release, Netflix streaming subscribers can watch the movie at home beginning Dec. 14.

And while it likely won’t make the Best Picture race, Netflix also has the latest Coen Brothers movie. The Western anthology film, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” will be available on the streaming service next Friday, Nov. 16.

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Tyler Wilson can be reached at

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