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Feb 18, 2012 at 07:04pm IST

Cut the clutter: 5 must-see Oscar nominated films

New Delhi: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on January 24 the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. The winners will be revealed in Hollywood on February 26. The list of films, actors, technicians, make-up artists and musicians honoured each year for outstanding work in their field is not just impressive, but also confusing.

We have compiled a list of five great films that you must watch before the actual winners are announced, cutting through the clutter of scores of films nominated.

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The Artist

Cut the clutter: 5 must-see Oscar nominated films

We have compiled a list of five great films that you must watch before the actual winners are announced.

Set during the twilight of Hollywood’s silent era and shot on location in Los Angeles, The Artist tells the story of a charismatic movie star unhappily confronting the new world of talking pictures. Mixing comedy, romance and melodrama, The Artist is itself an example of the form it celebrates: a black-and-white silent film that relies on images, actors and music to weave its singular spell.

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In Hollywood, 1927, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is one of Hollywood’s reigning silent screen idols, instantly recognizable with his slim moustache and signature white tie and tails. Starring in exotic tales of intrigue and derring-do, the actor has turned out hit after hit for Kinograph, the studio run by cigar-chomping mogul Al Zimmer (John Goodman).

His success has brought him an elegant mansion and an equally elegant wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller). Chauffeured to the studio each day by his devoted driver Clifton (James Cromwell), George is greeted by his own smiling image, emblazoned on the posters prominently placed throughout the Kinograph lot. As he happily mugs for rapturous fans and reporters at his latest film premiere, George is a man indistinguishable from his persona -- and a star secure in his future.

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For young dancer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), the future will be what she makes of it. Vivacious and good-humored, with an incandescent smile and a flapper’s ease of movement, Peppy first crosses George’s path at his film premiere and then as an extra on his latest film at Kinograph. As they film a brief dance sequence, the leading man and the newcomer fall into a natural rhythm, the machinery of moviemaking fading into the background. But the day must finally end, sending the matinee idol and the eager hopeful back to their respective places on the Hollywood ladder.

And Hollywood itself will soon fall under sway of a captivating new starlet: talking pictures. George wants no part of the new technology, scorning the talkie as a vulgar fad destined for the dustbin.

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By 1929, Kinograph is preparing to cease all silent film production and George faces a choice: embrace sound, like the rising young star Peppy Miller; or risk a slide into obscurity. The Weinstein Company presents The Artist, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and produced by Thomas Langmann. Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Joel Murray, and Ken Davitan. With Uggie as The Dog.

A Separation

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Set in contemporary Iran, A Separation is a compelling drama about the dissolution of a marriage. Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh. Simin sues for divorce when Nader refuses to leave behind his Alzheimer-suffering father. Her request having failed, Simin returns to her parents' home, but Termeh decides to stay with Nader.

When Nader hires a young woman to assist with his father in his wife's absence, he hopes that his life will return to a normal state. However, when he discovers that the new maid has been lying to him, he realizes that there is more on the line than just his marriage.

Director Asghar Farhadi's Separation stars Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi.

The Iron Lady

'The Iron Lady' stars Streep as Britain's first female prime minister, whose neo-Victorian values and free-market ideology helped transform a battered post-imperial country into an economically dynamic but industrially depleted and increasingly unequal society.

But it's the film's focus on the personal, rather than the political, that has made Thatcher's enemies apprehensive and her allies unhappy. 'The Iron Lady' depicts Thatcher, now 86, as a frail, elderly figure with dementia, holding imaginary conversations with her dead husband Denis (a genial Jim Broadbent) as she looks back on her life as a double outsider -- both a woman and a lowly grocer's daughter in a male-dominated, patrician Conservative Party. Streep's eerily evocative, pitch-perfect performance earned her a 17th Academy Award nomination.

But the intimacy of the movie's portrait has led some Conservatives to accuse it of being disrespectful, distasteful, even faintly idolatrous. One lawmaker has demanded a parliamentary debate, telling the House of Commons he was disturbed by the film. Thatcher rarely appears in public these days, and her inner circle releases little information about her health. But her daughter Carol -- sympathetically portrayed in the film by Olivia Colman -- wrote about her mother's dementia in a 2008 book.

The Tree Of Life

From Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, The Tree Of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950's. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).

Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick's signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

Pina

Pina is a feature-length dance film in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, featuring the unique and inspiring art of the great German choreographer, who died in the summer of 2009.

Pina is a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders. He takes the audience on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: straight onto the stage with the legendary Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch ensemble, he follows the dancers out of the theatre into the city and the surrounding areas of Wuppertal - the place, which for 35 years was the home and centre for Pina Bausch's creativity. Pina has been nominated in the best documentary feature category. (With information from official Oscars website and agencies)

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