How to Win the Oscar Pool 

The most enjoyable assignment you'll ever endure

So many movies, so little time. But no worries, you can still catch the best of the best in the next four weeks.

So many movies, so little time. But no worries, you can still catch the best of the best in the next four weeks.

Sit up straight and pay attention. We have some work to do in our monthlong plan to make you the shrewdest of cinephiles, while ensuring you win the office Oscar pool when the statuettes are handed out on Sunday, Feb. 22.

The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were unveiled Jan. 15 and quite frankly, we couldn't have been happier. We were keeping our fingers crossed for some Academy love for lesser-known films and performances, particularly Leviathan; Wild Tales; Song of the Sea; Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night; and Bradley Cooper in American Sniper—each scored a nod. We were especially impressed when the Academy made room for The Grand Budapest Hotel, with nine nominations, including a first-ever directing mention for Wes Anderson.

Let's be frank, though. You may not have seen most of the nominees, which means you have some serious movie-watching to do in the next four weeks. But no worries. We are providing you with a study guide and syllabus, and this is the most enjoyable assignment you'll ever endure.

Week 1 Sunday, Jan. 25-Saturday, Jan. 31:

This is the week to see American Sniper, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Whiplash and Wild. They're all still playing at Boise-area theaters but if you have to choose only two, my best advice is to see Birdman and Whiplash. There's a good chance Michael Keaton (Birdman) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) will be picking up Oscars.

Week 2 Sunday, Feb. 1-Saturday, Feb. 7:

This is the week to access your Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go or Netflix accounts and watch Boyhood (Amazon and Netflix), which Boise Weekly raved about last summer. It's still the odds-on fave to win Best Picture, in addition to Best Director (Richard Linklater) and Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette) awards. You'll also want to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (Amazon, HBO Go, Netflix), which is certain to win technical Oscars.

We also want you to get out of the house, so head to The Flicks this week to see its once-a-year showcase of Oscar-nominated shorts: densely-packed bundles of short animated and live-action films. It's one of the highlights of the movie-going year, and you're guaranteed to see an Oscar winner.

Week 3 Sunday, Feb. 8-Saturday, Feb. 14:

Round up the kids for a double-feature of sublime animation: The Boxtrolls (Amazon) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Amazon, Netflix). One of these two is bound to win Best Animated Feature, especially since the Academy failed to nominate The Lego Movie in this category, the year's most glaring omission.

Two Days, One Night opens Friday, Feb. 6 at The Flicks, and it features a fabulous performance from Marion Cotillard. If she hadn't won an Oscar in 2007 (La Vie en Rose) and Julianne Moore already had one of her own, I would say that Cotillard's performance was a sure bet, but, this year, it's Ms Moore's to lose for Still Alice.

Week 4 Sunday, Feb. 15-Saturday, Feb. 21:

Make certain to snag a ticket for Still Alice, which opens Friday, Feb. 20 at The Flicks. Julianne Moore's performance is outstanding and is why she's a sure bet for Best Actress. You'll also want to see Leviathan (also opening Feb. 20 at The Flicks), which should be a frontrunner for the Best Foreign Language Film.

You'll also want to see The Theory of Everything, available in Video On Demand through several platforms (including Cable One in Boise, Dish and DirecTV) beginning Tuesday, Feb. 17. It stars Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, the only real threat to Keaton's chance for a Best Actor award.

Sunday, Feb. 22, 5 p.m. MST:

Sit back and bask in the glow of being an Oscar know-it-all.

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