There’s this little shindig happening on Sunday — maybe you’ve heard of it — called the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. It’s just a ceremony centered on the most coveted statuette in Hollywood; no big deal.
In a year where every category is fiercely competitive, there is perhaps no race more contentious than Best Picture. David Fincher’s “The Social Network” and Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” are currently neck and neck among critics’ predictions lists, but the other eight contenders all pose a threat as well. If you happened to enjoy this year’s nominees, we thought you might appreciate some suggestions of which movies to explore next.
Get pumped for the big show by checking out these solid alternatives after the jump!
If you’ve seen any of the Oscar promo ads for this movie, you’ve heard Goblin’s haunting score for “Suspiria.” It’s no secret that the 1977 ballet-themed classic thriller, directed by horror legend Dario Argento, greatly influenced Darren Aronofsky’s giallo-esque film, and it’s well worth a watch. You’ll find yourself pointing out the many parallels between both movies, from use of color, suspense and psychological intrigue to music cues and thematic elements.
The David O. Russell-directed biopic centers on the tumultuous relationship between struggling boxer Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). The slice-of-life family drama reminds us of Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull,” about famous middleweight fighter Jake LaMotta. Robert De Niro won a much-deserved Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta, and Joe Pesci is pitch-perfect as Jake’s brother and manager. Both films serve as commentary on conquering one’s inner demons and feature especially noteworthy fight choreography and camerawork.
Christopher Nolan’s epically cerebral action flick has been hailed by many critics as his masterpiece, but the idea for “Inception” first took root while he was developing another film – 2000’s “Memento.” The story – told backwards – was a groundbreaking exercise in screenwriting and directing at the time, and employs many of the same techniques that Nolan brought to this year’s blockbuster. Think “Inception” with a much smaller budget, but twice the twists and turns.
“The Kids Are All Right”
On the surface, Lisa Cholodenko’s tale is about a lesbian couple (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) raising their son and daughter, but the underlying theme concerning the plight of an unconventional family evokes elements of “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Wes Anderson’s 2001 comedy is certainly far zanier, but it contains uniquely poignant moments and similarly memorable characters.
“The King’s Speech”
The tone of Tom Hooper’s historical drama is utterly opposite from that of 1993’s “Dave,” but the thematic elements are strikingly similar: two men unprepared to be leaders, struggling to create the best versions of themselves in order to govern a country. Plus, if you sat through the somber storyline of “The King’s Speech,” “Dave” offers a wonderful comedic alternative, and a fantastic turn by Kevin Kline.
Danny Boyle’s frenetic take on the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s 127 hours trapped beneath a boulder in Robbers Roost, Utah reminds us of 2007’s “Into the Wild,” which depicts Christopher McCandless’ expedition into the wilderness of Alaska. Both films are adapted from books, shot in gorgeous natural settings, and delve deep into the psyche of ordinary men trapped in extraordinary situations.
“The Social Network”
This isn’t the first time David Fincher has tackled a story concerning the American dream: his 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s celebrated “Fight Club” is a biting commentary on consumerism, however metaphorical, and the best friend betrayal factor between Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and The Narrator (Edward Norton) is eerily similar to the Zuckerberg-Saverin-Winklevoss-Parker fiasco in “The Social Network” — minus the Durden-Narrator twist at the end, at least. Well, as far as we know. Perhaps that explains how Zuck became a billionaire overnight?
“Toy Story 3”
If you’ve checked out the third take on the zany lives of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Jesse, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and the rest of the gang, it’s pretty safe to guess you’ve seen “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” And while it’s true that Pixar can do no wrong, the studio’s release eclipsed another fantastic animated kid’s movie released in 2010 – DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon.” The heartwarming story (featuring the voices of Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson and Kristen Wiig) is gorgeously animated, boasts incredible action sequences and a bond between main characters reminiscent of Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant.”
The 1969 John Wayne version of “True Grit” seems the likely choice, but the Coen Brothers have admitted they didn’t watch the original in preparation for their 2010 Jeff Bridges-helmed remake based on the book by Charles Portis. Our pick, instead, is a trio of Sergio Leone films starring Clint Eastwood: “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” These classic spaghetti Westerns (known simply as the “Dollars Trilogy”) employ similar use of score, cinematography and character development — not to mention some seriously catchy one-liners.
Drug lords, hitmen, hidden dead bodies, family drama, power struggles — “Winter’s Bone” has it all. So does “The Godfather.” Sure, Debra Granik’s quiet tale about one girl’s struggles to fight the mob-like ties of the backwoods methamphetamine trade isn’t remotely as grand as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece, but all the ingredients are there. We can practically hear Jennifer Lawrence utter, “Leave the gun, take the dead squirrel.”