Polarizing “The Favourite” not for everyone, but it's among this critic's favorites

While the Academy Awards are generally abjectly awful, one of the best side effects of the Oscar nominations is that they generally drive more attention toward some underseen films. 

Oscar completists view the nominee sheet as a checklist, and I’m always all for more people going to see movies that have any artistic merit. 

That said, this year is pretty bad on that front. Many nominees have already had a degree of box-office success, and a lot of great films that deserved the bump were snubbed.

So rather than making sure you’ve seen all seven Best Picture nominees, here are my recommendations for the films you should seek out before the Oscars air on Sunday, Feb. 24.

“Roma”
OK, Alfonso Cuaron’s interweaving tale is in black and white. And it’s subtitled. And it’s emotionally challenging. I get that it’s not necessarily the escapist fare you’re looking for on Netflix & chill night, but it is one of the best films from one of the best living directors. And it’s streaming, so no excuses here.

“The Favourite”
Big caveat here (since a friend jokingly threatened to hit me after seeing this): This bawdy period piece is not for everyone, but I love, love, love this movie. It’s got three fantastic nominated acting peformances (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz), and nothing would make me happier than seeing a comedy win Best Picture.

“Cold War”
Poland’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film joins “Roma” and “Shoplifters” (see that, too) to make the top three in this category stronger than the top three Best Picture nominees. Pawel Pawlikowski also got a Best Director nod for this love story, which uses the Cold War as a metaphor.

“BlacKkKlansman”
Spike Lee’s latest was plenty successful, but in case you missed it, don’t. Based on a wild true story, it’s one of the best films of Lee’s career. There are layers and layers of racial commentary that resonate today, but it’s all housed in a wildly entertaining throwback.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Yeah, I’m complaining about the Oscars and underseen movies, and here I am recommending an actual blockbuster. I didn’t get a chance to properly review this in the year-end rush. It’s just about perfect, and could have gotten an Original Screenplay nod, as well.

“If Beale Street Could Talk”
Barry Jenkins’ love story, set in ’70s Harlem, didn’t garner as much buzz as I’d expected for his follow-up to “Moonlight,” and was largely snubbed by the Academy. But “Beale Street” was named Best Picture by the Columbus Film Critics Association (COFCA), and, frankly, we’re always better than the Academy.

“First Reformed”
OK, you can technically watch this because of the nomination for Paul Schrader’s screenplay, but I really want you to watch it so you can be as angry and baffled as I am by Ethan Hawke’s snub in the Best Actor category, one of the worst omissions in recent memory.