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Oscars Oversights: Non-nominated movies worth a watch

With award season in full swing, all eyes are on the recently announced Oscar nominees. Yes, “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” and “Manchester by the Sea” deserve four stars, two thumbs up and all of their billboard acclaim. But there’s only so many nods to go around, and 2016 was crammed with stellar performances you may have overlooked. So before we dive deep into Oscar mode, let’s take a look at five films that are still worth a watch.

  1. “Loving” – Once an Oscar front-runner, the inspiring true story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving fell under the radar amid award-season contenders. Deservedly, Ruth Negga’s delicate portrayal garnered a Best Actress nod, but lead actor Joel Edgerton and the film itself were snubbed. The Loving’s nine-year battle to live together in their hometown led to the 1967 Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, and the landmark ruling to nullify laws against interracial marriage. “Loving” is quiet in its beauty – a gentle reminder of the goodness in life and the change we can impact. (Now on DVD)

  2. “Other People” – A recipe of cancer and comedy can be difficult to swallow, but director Chris Kelly offers the ideal blend in this poignant dramedy about a family uniting in the wake of their mother’s diagnosis. Molly Shannon gives the role of her career as Joanne Mulcahey, a mother of three battling a rare cancer that brings her 29-year-old gay son David (Jesse Plemons) back home. Shannon’s stunning balance of hilarity and heartbreak shudders the senses and makes you pause. Am I laughing or crying? You begin to lose track. She tears you open as she succumbs to the disease, trying to remain strong for others in subtle goodbyes and glassy smiles. She’s much more than Mary Katherine Gallagher and Sally O’Malley of “SNL” days. She’s a grade-A actress – what awards are made for. (Now streaming on Netflix)

  3. Blue Jay” – More than 20 years have passed since Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson) spent their high school days recording their romance on cassette tapes. The former sweethearts would play house and record what they assumed would be their married-life dialogue – coming home from work to “Hi, honey” and fuzzy talk over dinner. Those days were long faded until the two unexpectedly meet at their hometown grocery store. The fumblingly cute encounter leads to a 24-hour journey to the past where both reflect on dreams they once had, realize the severity of decades gone, and reveal unspoken truths bubbling under their years apart. “Blue Jay” is a lesson in growing up and learning that things once were, will never be. Like a childhood song that sticks in your throat upon opening chords, it tenderly forces the passing of time and encourages a hopeful look ahead. (Now streaming on Netflix)

  4. Miss Sloane” – Two words: Jessica Chastain. She can do no wrong, and “Miss Sloane” is no exception. In this political D.C. drama, the two-time Oscar nominee plays Elizabeth Sloane, a cutthroat lobbyist who takes on the Goliath gun industry. She’s steely on the surface, cool and collected in front of a crowd, but unraveling behind closed doors. Taking pills to stay awake, hiring escorts to unwind and crossing lines into corruption to win – she’s far from perfect. But that’s why we love her. She’s unabashed, raw, human. Sure, “Miss Sloane” sometimes yields into clichéd over dramatics, but it’s all part of the roller coaster that keeps you guessing. Just go for the ride. (On DVD in March)

  5. “Don’t Think Twice” – Writer/director Mike Birbiglia takes you inside the niche improv scene in the best comedy of the year. “Don’t Think Twice” follows a New York City improv troupe with high hopes to make it in the mainstream. But when one member (Keegan-Michael Key) lands a highly coveted slot on a hit TV show (think “Saturday Night Live”), the rest of the group struggles to stay positive amid his rising fame. It’s not long before members try to get in on the action, asking to book writing gigs on the show and becoming too busy to perform. The troupe whittles down one by one as success divides them. But it’s not a harsh separation, and that’s what makes it so impactful. We all clash with envy and are awakened to change we can’t control, but the ability to acknowledge and move beyond in kind is how friendships last. (Now on DVD)

And if you make it through this list and are still jonesing for a flick fix, here are five more under-the-radar flicks to check out:

  • “The Meddler”
  • “Hello, My Name is Doris”
  • “The Dressmaker”
  • “Maggie’s Plan”
  • “Demolition”
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