With the announcement of the Golden Globe nominees earlier this month it is officially awards season once again. Right now there are a dozen or so films playing indie cinemas and a small amount of chain theaters that are slowly gaining word of mouth through recognition by various film critics associations and film publications. You’ve probably seen the trailers or posters for them all at one point or another, but let’s face: It’s difficult for most people to make time to see everything that will contend for awards in the coming months.

The Golden Globes and Academy Awards are film’s two biggest events, but for the majority of moviegoers they celebrate films they largely haven’t seen or even had the opportunity to see. This isn’t because interest does not exist, but an overabundance of material to watch and a finite amount of time to do so. Just watching Manchester By The Sea, La La Land, and Moonlight—the three biggest contenders for Best Picture so far—requires a minimum commitment of six and a half hours. This does not include the time it takes to travel to a theater, find parking, get snacks, watch trailers, and drive home. Add an extra 30 minutes on either end of each film and you’re looking at a nine hour commitment. That is a pretty big ask during a time busy with holidays, travel, and work.

We know time is short for everyone, and we also know you don’t want to waste your time on films that no one is going to want to discuss at work (or, more likely, on social media). If you’re willing to commit to watching five films between now and the Golden Globes on January 8 we can prepare you for anything awards season throws your way. You will be able to impress your friends and discover the joy of following A24 on Twitter. You’ll also see five really great films, and that is probably the best part of all.

Moonlight

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What is it? Told in three parts, this film chronicles the life of a young black man struggling to find his place in the world while surrounded by the rough streets of Miami.
Why should I see it? Barry Jenkins is the breakout star of 2016 and Moonlight is his art. You’ve never seen a movie quite like this before, nor have you seen the type of journey it has to share. It’s deeply personal, yet something about its coming-of-age narrative feels undeniably universal. The struggle to simply be yourself has rarely looked this good.
Where can I see it? Moonlight has been playing in theaters since October, but you can still catch it in cinemas across the nation. At the time of posting Moonlight has won more Best Picture recognition than any other film on this list, so it seems safe to say it will be fairly easy to access for the foreseeable future.

Read our review.


Manchester By The Sea

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What is it? An uncle (Casey Affleck) is forced to look after his nephew after his brother’s death. In doing so he returns to his hometown and confronts demons from his past.
Why should I see it? Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature in 18 years is a beautiful tale of grief set in a picturesque New England fishing town. Casey Affleck’s performance is the stuff of legends. His nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards is a given, and a win does not seem out of reach.
Where can I see it? Manchester is in theaters now and slowly rolling out to more and more theaters every week. It’s currently playing on a little under 1,000 screens with a lot of positive word of mouth, so further expansion seems likely.

Read our review.


La La Land

La La Land
What is it? A musical love letter to Los Angeles about two hopeless dreamers who find the inspiration they need in one another only to drift apart when the things they seek are finally within reach.
Why should I see it? Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash follow-up is a celebration of movies Hollywood doesn’t make anymore that isn’t afraid to let its leads be the big time movie stars they already are. Gosling and Stone have fallen for one another on screen before and it seems certain they will do so again, but here you root for them once more. This is pure escapism when we need it most.
Where can I see it? La La Land is in limited release now, but it will be reaching more screens in the weeks to come. Check your local listings.

Read our review.


Toni Erdmann

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What is it? A reluctant woman is forced to spend time with her estranged father when he comes for a surprise visit.
Why should I see it? With Elle being snubbed on the Academy Awards short list, Toni Erdmann seems like a lock for Best Foreign Film. It’s also very funny.
Where can I see it? Toni is in limited release right now. You’ll need to find an indie theater to see this on the big screen, and it seems unlikely the film will reach VOD or physical release before the Oscars in February.

Review coming soon!


Zootopia

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What is it? A rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox work together to uncover a conspiracy in a city of anthropomorphic creatures you won’t soon forget.
Why should I see it? Best Animated Feature (or so we hope). Also, Disney has rarely been this good in the last decade.
Where can I see it? Zootopia is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and can be rented through VOD services. It is also currently streaming on Netflix.

Read our review.