Oscars Preview: 30 Movies to Watch Before the Nominations Come Out!

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Image courtesy of Focus Features

Nocturnal Animals

What it’s About:

Susan Morrow receives a parcel in the mail containing the manuscript of a novel written by her ex-husband Edward Sheffield. He has just finished his work, which is dedicated to Susan, and is planning to visit Los Angeles. He invites Susan, with whom he is estranged, to dinner during his trip. Though Susan is remarried, she becomes engrossed in the world of the book, in which the protagonist embarks on a revenge mission after his wife and daughter are kidnapped, raped, and murdered. The more violence and misfortune that the characters in the novel endure, the more Susan ruminates on her marriage with Edward. Is this the culmination of his creative work, or a way of exacting revenge up on Susan?

Major Players:

Tom Ford (yes, the fashion designer) directed, wrote, and co-produced the film, based on a novel by Austin Wright. Five-time nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan, while one-time nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays Edward. The supporting cast is made up of Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the fictional gang leader in the novel, Michael Shannon as the fictional detective chasing the gang, and Isla Fisher as the fictional wife character.

What the Critics are Saying:

With a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, Nocturnal Animals proves popular, but not as critically acclaimed as others on this list. Critics have made note of the artistically sophisticated aesthetic of the film, perhaps due to Ford’s experience as a fashion designer. But some have criticized that there is too much aesthetic and not enough substance. As Stephanie Zacharek of Time writes, “You could just dub it a ‘stylish exercise’ and call it a day.” Still, most critics find the melodrama enjoyable, including The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who calls the film “a terrifically absorbing thriller with that vodka-kick of pure malice.”

Possible Nominations:

Best Adapted Screenplay (Ford), Leading Actor (Gyllenhaal), Supporting Actor (Shannon or Taylor-Johnson), Cinematography (Seamus McGarvey)