Film Geek Primer 2017: Where to catch Oscar nominees in-flight

Although the glitz and glamour of Hollywood award season seems oddly trivial in light of the surreal drama unfolding on the political stage these days, as the old show biz adage goes: “The show must go on!” And with Best Picture front-runner La La Land recently racking up a toe-tapping 14 Academy Award nominations; a truly diverse slate of nominees from multi-cultural Best Picture nods like Lion, Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight capturing multiple nominations across the board; and a record six African American actors nominated in major acting categories, the The Oscars 2017 telecast, which airs live on ABC on 26 February is sure to be one hell of a show.

Several of this year’s higher profile nominees are currently playing on inflight entertainment (IFE) screens and/or streaming to passengers’ mobile devices across the globe, so even frenzied frequent flyers still have plenty of time to catch up on this year’s bumper crop of Oscar nominated films before the big night. And so, without further ado I give you RGN’s second annual Film Geek Primer on where you can catch this year’s buzziest Academy Award-nominated films the next time you fly.

Best Picture Nominees:

Unlike last year where four of the eight films nominated for Best Picture (Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and Room) were already playing on airlines at nomination time, this year there are only two. Or actually three, if you include Arrival which is currently available as a digital download on Amazon Video.

Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios & Roadside Attractions)

Quite possibly the saddest movie you’ll see all year, or any other year for that matter, Manchester recently scored six Academy Award nominations – including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress – but probably has the best shot at taking home some serious hardware in the Best Actor category for Casey Affleck’s devastatingly great lead performance. The first Amazon-produced film to receive a Best Picture nomination, Manchester is gritty, independent filmmaking at its finest but it is also seriously depressing, so, pack some Kleenex and maybe a Xanax or two in your carry on.

Hell or High Water (Lionsgate & CBS Films)

Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), this twisty, neo-noir-western already feels like a classic along the lines of previous Best Picture winners like No Country for Old Men, The Departed and Unforgiven. Widely available to rent and purchase on the home market Water is also playing on most major airlines worldwide, including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Lufthansa, EVA Air and American Airlines.

Arrival (Paramount)

Although Arrival’s star, five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, was shockingly absent from the Best Actress roster this year, the film did garner a whopping eight nominations overall, which is a pretty awesome showing for a brooding, introspective, sci-fi drama about trying to communicate with aliens, so, I’ll totally take it. Although not available on most carrier’s IFE systems until March, as I mentioned above, Arrival is available to purchase right now on Amazon Video and is well worth watching, so, definitely check it out next time you fly.

Best Animated Feature Nominees:

Zootopia (Disney)

Clearly the animated film to beat this award season, Zootopia’s deft handling of real world problems like institutional racism and gender bias in the workplace struck a real chord with audiences and voting members of Hollywood’s so-called “liberal elite” alike, so, an upset in this category is unlikely. Which is awesome, because the powerful messages in this film have only become more timely and relevant since its release this past summer. Now playing on select Japan Airlines flights, Zootopia is also available via streaming on Netflix on select Virgin America, Delta and American flights worldwide.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

Aside from a Best Animated Feature nod, Kubo’s stunningly-beautiful 3D stop-motion animation earned the film a richly deserved Best Visual Effects nomination from the Academy as well. Currently playing on select Delta, American and Alaska Airlines flights worldwide, Kubo is also available via streaming on Amazon Video.

Other High-Profile Nominees:

Aside from Bridge’s killer supporting turn in Water, there are a handful of other films featuring acting nominees playing inflight right now, but my favorite has to be Captain Fantastic, which earned Viggo Mortensen his second Best Actor nod in a decade and is now playing on Lufthansa.

Also well worth watching before Oscar night is Midnight Special writer-director Jeff Nichols’ Loving which earned Ruth Negga her first Best Actress nod and Florence Foster Jenkins, which garnered Meryl Streep her 20th. Yep, you read that right, Streep broke her own record this year with her nomination for Jenkins, and if you watch the film it’s easy to see why. She’s amazing! Loving is now playing on select United and American flights and Jenkins is now playing on Virgin Atlantic, American and ANA flights worldwide.

And though Best Visual Effects nominees Doctor Strange and Deepwater Horizon are playing on most major carriers right now, perhaps the coolest news to report is that African American writer-director Ava DuVernay – whose now infamous snub in the Best Director category for Selma helped launch the #OscarSoWhite movement two years ago – earned her first Oscar nod this year in the Best Documentary Feature category for her searing Netflix documentary 13th. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean Oscar won’t be “so white” again next year, this year’s truly diverse field of nominees is definitely a big, encouraging step in the right direction.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, if your carrier supports Netflix streaming over broadband connectivity (hello JetBlue), you can watch 13th in-flight or you can also download it to your device before you fly and watch it offline that way as well. But be prepared to have your soul crushed a little by DuVernay’s deeply disturbing exploration of racial inequality in America’s criminal justice system. 13th makes Manchester by the Sea look like La La Land. So, consider yourself warned.

To read full reviews of other Oscar nominated films from 2016, please check out our IFE Film Reviews of Hidden Figures, which scored nods for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer), Best Achievement in Production Design nominee Hail, Caesar!Best Original Screenplay nominee The Lobster and the egregiously overlooked Sully, which, despite the Oscar-winning one-two punch of director Clint Eastwood and star Tom Hanks, took home only one nomination for Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

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