Your Cheat Sheet to All of the Oscar-Nominated Movies

by John Boone 2:02 PM PST, January 15, 2015

The Oscar nominations have been announced and these are officially the best movies of the year. Apparently. We guess. The Academy nominated them for Best Picture, so they must be.

In case you don’t have time to watch all eight movies between now and Oscar night, Feb. 22, we’ve drafted up this cheat sheet, so you’ll at least be able to pretend that you’ve seen them:

American Sniper

Photo: Warner Bros.

Who's In It: Phil from The Hangover, Bradley Cooper; that girl from that movie, I think she dated Jude Law? Sienna Miller; plus, it was directed by Clint Eastwood (if you don’t know who he is, ask your dad).
What's It About: The most lethal American sniper in U.S. military history, based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Cooper for Best Actor, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: We didn’t expect it to get as many nominations as it did, so who knows? But it’s a movie made (mostly) for straight, white dudes and the Academy is made up of (mostly) straight, white dudes, so...

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Who's In It: Michael Keaton, remember him? The guy from Batman? And Batman Returns? The good one with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman? Also, Emma Stone, who you know from Easy A and not The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
What's It About: Michael Keaton trying to reboot his career after starring in a superhero movie (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Keaton for Best Actor, Norton for Best Supporting Actor, Stone for Best Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Directing, Sound Editing and Mixing, Original Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: Birdman should take comfort in the age old saying, “First is the worst, second in the best.” Keaton will likely come in second place in the Best Actor race. Second in directing. Second in Best Picture, unless it can beat...


Photo: IFC Films

Who's In It: Academy Award Nominee and Star of CSI: Cyber Patricia Arquette; Ethan Hawke, who you know: A) from the Before trilogy, if you’re a Linklater fan B) as the cop who isn’t Denzel Washington in Training Day, if you’ve just seen movies before C) as the dad in The Purge, if you’re under 13.
What's It About: Being a boy and then a man (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Hawke for Best Supporting Actor, Arquette for Best Supporting Actress, Directing, Best Editing, Original Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: We might as well start referring to it as Academy Award Best Picture Winner Boyhood now. The ceremony is just a formality.

NEWS: Here are 7 Oscar nominations we wanted to see (but didn’t)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Who's In It: Anyone who has ever been in a Wes Anderson movie before (Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, etc.).
What's It About: Beautiful sets. Also, the upstairs-downstairs dynamics of a hotel, young love, war, and zany character actors playing zany characters. But mostly just beautiful sets (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Original Score, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Original Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: Grand Budapest Hotel will clean up in the technical categories, where the victories will be rightfully deserved.

The Imitation Game

Photo: The Weinstein Company

Who's In It: The guy who played Khan, Sherlock Holmes, Smaug (as in, The Desolation of), and who will play Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch; “To Me You Are Perfect” Keira Knightly; underrated hottie Matthew Goode.
What's It About: A gay man who cracks an uncrackable code used by the Germans during WWII...and is thanked for his efforts with a criminal conviction for being gay and chemical castration (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Cumberbatch for Best Actor, Knightly for Best Supporting Actress, Directing, Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: Imitation Game’s best shot is in the Adapted Screenplay category, but it’s a long shot in the Best Picture race.


Photo: Paramount Pictures

Who's In It: OPRAH! Also, Vee from Orange Is the New Black (Lorraine Toussaint, but she’s good in this) and David Oyelowo, who has been in basically every prestigious movie for the past few years (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Lincoln, The Help, etc.)
What's It About: Doing the right thing (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Best Original Song.
Likelihood of Winning: Before nominations were announced, it seemed like Selma had a chance. But when it turned up nearly empty handed — left out of the Best Directing race, nothing in the acting categories, no technical nods — the chances looks far, far slimmer.

WATCH: The Academy president accidentally nominated “Dick Poop”

The Theory of Everything

Photo: Universal Pictures

Who's In It: The guy who fell in love with Amanda Seyfried at first sight in Les Mis, Eddie Redmayne. Also, Felicity Jones, whose lovely face you remember from Like Crazy and not The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
What's It About: As Amy Poehler joked at the Golden Globes, “two things that audiences love: a crippling nerve disease and super complicated math.” And it is. The crippling nerve disease is Stephen Hawking’s ALS and the super complicated math is theoretical physics (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Redmayne for Best Actor, Jones for Best Actress, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: Redmayne may very well take home Best Actor, but the rest of Theory’s awards will probably go to splashier films.


Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Who's In It: Miles Teller, that kid who’s always in movies with Shailene Woodley and J.K. Simmons, who plays the dad in every Jason Reitman movie (but is really buff in this one).
What's It About: A college drummer who is really into jazz music and his music teacher who is really, really, really into jazz music, as well as emotional and sometimes physical abuse (watch the trailer here).
Other Nominations: Simmons for Best Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay.
Likelihood of Winning: It’s an honor just to be nominated.


Other Notable Things You Should Know:

Foxcatcher has Magic Mike (no nomination), Michael Scott from The Office (nominated for Best Actor), and The Hulk (nominated for Best Supporting Actor) and is about crazy billionaires and the wrestlers who murder for them.

Wild stars Elle Woods (nominated for Best Actress) and Dr. Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park (or the mom from The Fault in Our Stars, or Amy from Enlightened #BringBackEnlightened, nominated for Best Supporting Actress) and is about a sad woman who goes on a hike.

Gone Girl — the most royally snubbed contender of the year — stars the actress you complained about when she was cast as Amy but now love (nominated for Best Actress) and is about the lengths a woman goes to in order to prove the point to her husband that cheating is wrong.

Finally, Still Alice stars Julianne Moore and she's absolutely perfect in it.

And that’s all you need to know.

Now, check out the biggest surprises and snubs from this year’s noms: