Ten movies to see before Oscars night

Glenn Whipp
Los Angeles Times (TNS)

All those great movies you've been hearing about since the fall film festivals? They're finally arriving. Here's a top 10 list of films you'll need to see if you want to be up on the Oscars this year.

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks in "Arrival," directed by Denis Villeneuve. The movie opens Thursday at Regal West Manchester Stadium 13, Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13 and R/C Hanover Movies.

"Arrival" Denis Villeneuve's spooky sci-fi spectacle already has its share of fans in the academy, as Paramount has been busy courting their favor at private screenings. Oscar voters have been more open to genre films of late, and this one stars five-time nominee Amy Adams. (Friday)
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" Double-Oscar-winner Ang Lee's adaptation of this story of an Iraq war hero reconciling the hoopla of his homecoming with the trauma he suffered overseas entered the New York Film Festival as one of the season's most anticipated films. It left as one of the year's most debated, with many complaining that the technology Lee used to shoot the film made it look artificial. (Friday)
"Manchester by the Sea" Casey Affleck became the early front-runner for the lead Oscar actor when this movie screened at Sundance, and little has changed since then. Affleck's portrayal of a working-class man barely living with unspeakable grief will break your heart. And Michelle Williams makes the most of a brief supporting role. (Nov. 18)
"Lion" Harvey Weinstein's strongest shot at a best picture nomination lies with this moving story of an Indian man (Dev Patel) trying to find the family he lost as a boy. The film left many in tears when the movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. (Nov. 25)
"Jackie" Natalie Portman's turn as Jackie Kennedy in the days immediately after her husband's assassination floored critics at Venice and Toronto. And the movie, directed by Pablo Larrain, is mesmerizing too, a fascinating portrait of grief and image-making. (Dec. 2)

Ryan Gosling as Sebastian in "La La Land," directed by Damien Chazelle. The movie opens Thursday at Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13.

"La La Land" Damien Chazelle's irresistible musical follows the romance between a struggling actress and a jazz purist. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make an appealing pair, and Chazelle has peppered the movie with nods to vintage Hollywood and Jacques Demy musicals. A delight for anyone who believes in the magic of movies. (Dec. 9)
"Silence" For the last 25 years, Martin Scorsese has been nurturing this movie about two Portuguese Jesuits on a mission to spread Christianity in Japan. That's a serious build of anticipation. Five of Scorsese's last six films have been nominated for best picture, though voters have been cooler toward his spiritually minded movies. (Dec. 23)
"20th Century Women" Mike Mills' follow-up to "Beginners" is an eager-to-please coming-of-age story about a teen growing up in a house full of women. Even critics not completely taken with the plot-free movie extol the work of Annette Bening and Greta Gerwig, both strongly in the mix for acting honors. (Dec. 25)
"Fences" Denzel Washington and Viola Davis have already won Tony Awards for the 2010 Broadway revival of this August Wilson domestic drama. Now Washington is bringing it to the screen as director-star. Given the material and the actors, it wouldn't be surprising to see an Oscar encore for the pair. (Dec. 25)
"Hidden Figures" This crowd-pleaser follows the three black female mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who helped NASA launch astronaut John Glenn into space in 1962. Fox screened several scenes at the Toronto festival, and the enthusiastic reception confirmed what the studio already knew — this movie could be a hit with both audiences and the academy. (Dec. 25)

Emma Stone as Mia in  "La La Land," directed by Damien Chazelle. The movie opens Thursday at Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13.