Oscars cheat sheet
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2014 Oscars Cheat Sheet

This Sunday America’s dancing queen Ellen DeGeneres will host the 86th Academy Awards. You’ve probably watched a few of the nominated films, but who has time to see all of them? To help you keep up with your film aficionado friends, here’s the Oscar Cheat Sheet: your indispensable guide to talking about Oscar nominated films without actually watching them.

Best Rise from Nowhere: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Barkhad Adbi had never acted before he was cast as the leader of a band of Somali pirates in Captain Phillips. But you would never have guessed it if you watch the film: his steely performance is the perfect counter-balance to Tom Hanks’ calculated hero.

Best Successor to Meryl Streep: Amy Adams

Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Academy Award 18 times; three of those times she’s actually taken home a little golden statuette. She’s an ever-consistent actress at the top of her game. Amy Adams appears to be following in her footsteps, with five nominations to her name, three of them in the last four years (The Fighter, The Master, and American Hustle). Of course, she can’t be the “new Meryl Streep” just yet, because Streep has been nominated once again for August: Osage County.

Best Piece of Filmmaking You Shouldn’t See: The Wolf of Wall Street

Filled with immense talent and directed by Martin Scorsese at the top of his craft, The Wolf of Wall Street is a vile film of bloated excess that you shouldn’t watch, or at least that’s what Brett McCracken thinks.

Best Case for 3D: Gravity

I know most people like 3D, but I’m a total skeptic. Despite that, I was completely blown away by the 3D in Gravity, a film I think is totally worth the extra $5 and a trip to the big screens.

Best Movie to Take Your Mom to: Saving Mr. Banks

It’s about the creation of Mary Poppins and stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. Need I say more?

Best Animal in a Film: The tabby cat in Inside Llewyn Davis

Bonus points if you can pull off this talking point with a straight face: “I love how Llewyn’s journey mirrors the legendary Odyssey, but also the journey of the scrotumless tabby cat, Ulysses.”

Best Film About the Future: Her
Best Film About the Past: 12 Years a Slave
Best Film About an AIDS Infected Man Who Smuggles Illegal Drugs Into America to Save the Lives of Others With the Help of a Transgendered Woman: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Bet: Gravity for Visual Effects

This one’s a lock. Save for the faces of its lead actors, the film was entirely digitally created, including incredibly detailed shots of the earth from space. Nothing like it has ever been attempted or achieved with such grace.

Best Reason to Watch the Oscars: The Best Original Song performances

This year the list of performers in the Best Original Song category could all be summer festival headliners: U2, Pharrell Williams, and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Oh, and Idina Menzel of Glee.

Best Reason to Let Yourself Go: Christian Bale, American Hustle

The character Christian Bale plays in American Hustle has a huge beer belly and a terrible combover, yet he somehow has a decked out Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence fighting for his love. You lucky bastard.

Best Reason to Watch Cartoons Again: Ernest & Celestine

For the most part, the “Best Animated Feature” category is usually pretty predictable. What did Pixar and Dreamworks make this year? There are your nominations. But recently the Academy has been highlighting some more unusual animations. A few years ago it was the sexy Cuban love story of Chico & Rita, this year it is the charming French film Ernest & Celestine. Just try to watch this trailer and not be endeared.

Of course, if you really want to know what all the films are about, you can just watch these kids reenacting the Best Picture nominations:

Flickr photo (cc) by Kurt Komoda