After the nominees for the 88th annual Oscar Awards were announced, every dinner conversation probably involved some variation of this:
Oh my god, have you seen Carol?
Yes, but I like Joy much better.
Personally, I prefer Mad Max.
If you’re feeling bad for poor Carol right now and are intrigued by this angry Max fellow, you’re not alone: I, too, haven’t set foot in a movie theater since Inside Out was showing. (Don’t regret one second of it.) But there’s no reason the Cinema Cynthias in our lives need to know that. Below: a handy cheatsheet to cover some of this year’s biggest contenders and how to seamlessly incorporate each one into Oscar night small talk. (And a backup plan if you start to falter: This. Guaranteed to change the subject every time!)
First up, the best picture nods:
The Big Short
One Sentence Recap: Remember that miserable housing crisis in 2007? So that.
Talking Points: Perhaps the only time, like ever, you’ll witness Ryan Gosling looking unattractive. (Except for this slideshow.) Also, Steve Carell’s hair!
Bridge of Spies
Two Sentence Recap: We have a Soviet spy, and they have an American one. Trades ensue.
Talking Points: Did Tom Hanks peak at Big?
Two Sentence Recap: An Irish immigrant moves to America and falls in love with an Italian boy. Also learns how to properly eat spaghetti.
Talking Points: All the adorable accents and lead actress Saoirse Ronan. Everyone’s in love with her. (See below.)
Mad Max: Fury Road
Two Sentence Recap: A scary cult leader goes on a rampage looking for his escaped wives in a dessert apocalypse world. So really relatable.
Talking Points: The creepiest face mask to grace the big screen since Silence Of The Lambs.
Two Sentence Recap: Sort of like Home Alone, only the home part is Mars. And there’s no TV to play Angels With Filthy Souls.
Talking Points: Who handles space abandonment better: Matt Damon or Sandra Bullock?
Two Sentence Recap: When nineteenth century frontiersman Hugh Glass is attacked by a bear and left for dead by his hunting party, he’s rather displeased. Fear his wrath!
Talking Points: Is Leonardo’s beard better than Santa’s?
Two Sentence Recap: It’s a heavy one — a kidnapped woman and her small son devise a way to escape captivity. Your heart will sit in your throat the whole time.
Talking Points: The plot line is loosely based on a true story.
Two Sentence Recap: Scrappy reporters fight to shed light on scandal in the Catholic church. On a lighter note, Matt Flamhaff is in it!
Talking Points: It’s another one inspired by real life. Perhaps another round of drinks?
Now let’s get into the players. The women:
Nominated For: Room
Fun Fact: Her very first gig was a Barbie commercial spoof on Jay Leno: She poured mud all over the dolls, and watched their little head pops off. [Indie Wire]
Nominated For: Carol
Nominated For: Brooklyn
Fun Fact: She’s fully trained in martial arts and tells every talk show host that her name is pronounced “Seer-sha, like inertia.” [MTV]
Nominated For: Joy
Nominated For: 45 Years
Fun Fact: The Ring, a popular video game from the ‘90s, features her voiceover as the character Erda. [IMBD]
Nominated For: The Revenant
Fun Fact: He bought an island off the coast of Belize last year with intent to build an eco-friendly resort. Leo — friend to the camera and the earth! [The Huffington Post]
Nominated For: Trumbo
Fun Fact: Before acting, he worked as a carny. [Life Daily]
Nominated For: Steve Jobs
Fun Fact: His last name is the German word for “cooper,” or someone who repairs barrels. [IMBD]
Nominated For: The Danish Girl
Nominated For: The Martian
Fun Fact: Not only can he break dance, but did it for money in Harvard Square as a teenager. [People]
Okay now you’ve got all the knowledge — go drop it!