Jan. 20, 2014 at 1:10 PM ET
More than 50 movies have been nominated for Academy Awards this year, and unless you live in a mall multiplex, you're unlikely to see them all. Self-described Oscar obsessive and Fandango chief correspondent Dave Karger chose four films that he recommends any movie fan see before Oscar night, March 2.
"This is the movie with all the momentum," Karger says, pointing out the film has achieved the rare feat of nabbing nominations in all four of the main acting categories. In addition to those four — for Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale — the film is up for best picture, directing, costume design, original screenplay, film editing and production design. And it's an engaging, part-fictional, part-truth con-man-laced romp through the 1970s ABSCAM scandal.
Leonardo DiCaprio mispronounced it as "Phyllo-Mania" at the Golden Globes, but no, this smaller film isn't about a passionate love for flaky Mediterranean dough. Judi Dench plays Philomena Lee, a real British woman who undergoes a search for the son was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before, with Steve Coogan as the journalist who helps her. "It's so moving, it's so funny, it's so touching," enthuses Karger. He encourages moviegoers to see the film without reading any spoilers beforehand. "Philomena" is up for best picture, best actress for Dench, best adapted screenplay and best score.
'Dallas Buyers Club'
"Dallas Buyers Club," starring Matthew McConaughey as Texan Ron Woodruff, who fought AIDS by smuggling unapproved drugs into the country to treat it, "surprised a lot of people with six nominations," Karger notes. Many heard about the film only through tabloid headlines showing McConaughey dropping between 35 and 50 pounds for the role, but Karger notes it's more than just a curiosity due to the body transformation. "It's just a really powerful movie," he said. "Dallas Buyers Club" is up for six Oscars, including best picture, best actor for McConaughey, supporting actor for Jared Leto, original screenplay, makeup and hairstyling, and film editing.
'20 Feet from Stardom'
Now here's a film you may never have heard of before the Oscar nominations dropped — and possibly even since then. "20 Feet from Stardom" is up for best documentary feature, and it follows the lives and careers of numerous backup singers, who stand on the stage and perform just feet away from giant stars like Sting and Mick Jagger, yet are basically unknown. "If you're a music lover, this movie will enchant you and change the way you listen to music forever," Karger says.