A Guide to Sounding Smart at Your Oscars Viewing Party

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Fashion magazine

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Brush up on the nominees and their films ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Whether you’re a film buff or not, we can all agree that awards season is a lot to keep up with. For starters, there are just so. many. awards shows. It all starts with the Golden Globes, which lead to the SAGs, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, all the Guild Awards, culminating, finally, with the Academy Awards. With each awards show comes the analysis of all the snubs, surprises, and shoo-ins. There are think pieces about box office success versus critical acclaim. There are controversies about the lack of diversity. There are Twitter Moments and memes aplenty.

There’s a lot to parse in the months-long lead-up to the Oscars, but some key pieces of news do tend to break through all the noise. This year, for instance, even if you haven’t been paying close attention, chances are you know the following: 1) South Korean film Parasite has a solid shot at becoming the first non-English-language film to take home the biggest prize of the night, Best Picture. 2) Brad Pitt’s got a knack for memorable acceptance speeches. 3) Once again, there are very few women and female-led films up for awards outside of the acting categories. 4) JLo got snubbed.

Now, that’s not enough to keep up with all the chatter at the Oscars viewing party you’re bound to attend this weekend. So here’s a pro tip. Come awards season, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The New York Times each begin rolling out their annual video series focused on the year’s biggest awards contenders. From roundtables with stars to directors breaking down crucial scenes from their critically acclaimed films, the videos offer a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most talked about films of the year. Give some of these a watch ahead of Sunday. It may not be enough to win you the Oscars pool but at least you’ll be clued in enough to drop little anecdotes or factoids here and there over the course of the evening.

The Hollywood Reporter Roundtables
One of the most keenly anticipated series of awards season, the THR Roundtables invite the year’s most buzzed about actors, directors, writers and producers to sit around a table with their peers and chat about their craft, their inspirations and their struggles. This year, the Actresses Roundtable features Jennifer Lopez, Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Renée Zellweger talking about everything from imposter syndrome to being typecast to working with female directors to how #MeToo has improved life for women in Hollywood. Watch their conversation so you can say stuff like “Did you know that Noah Baumbach [who directed Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story] doesn’t let his actors change even a single word of the script?” at the party later.

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Variety Actors on Actors
Taking a leaf from Interview’s playbook, in which celebrities and artists interview each other, Variety’s video series sets two actors down in a room for a one-on-one free-wheeling conversation. This year, tune in to watch Jennifer Lopez chatting with Robert Pattinson about taking chances as an artist, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson debating the merits of superhero films vs auteur-driven “cinema,” and Brad Pitt and Adam Sandler mainly trading compliments for an hour. Fun fact: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino only told Brad Pitt right before they started shooting that the end of the film would involve his character tripping on acid.

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The New York Times’ Anatomy of a Scene
In Anatomy of a Scene, film directors narrate a scene from one of their movies, breaking down what influenced them to construct the scene the way they did. Greta Gerwig, who wrote and directed Little Women, dissects the scene in which Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet’s characters, Jo and Laurie, dance wildly with each other on the porch outside of a formal party. “I wanted everything to feel very shimmery and very beautiful,” says Gerwig of the scene. “And we shot with a certain filter to give it that certain feeling and it has this warmth.” The series also sees Bong Joon Ho talking about Parasite, Marielle Heller narrating a scene from A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and Jay Roach offering a peek into the making of Bombshell.

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And if you’re a fan of dropping little-known facts into casual conversation, BBC has a roundup of 17 “quirky facts” about this year’s Oscars that warrants a quick read. For instance, if Cynthia Erivo wins Best Actress for her role as Harriet Tubman in Harriet, she would become the youngest person ever to score an EGOT. (She has previously won a Tony, Grammy and Daytime Emmy for her work in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple.) Another fun fact: this is the first time that a real-life couple will compete for the Best Picture prize. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, who recently welcomed their first child together, both have films up for the award this year: Little Women and Marriage Story, respectively.