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Movie planner: Handicapping the Oscars; 'Hail, Caesar!,' 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' open

OSCARS HANDICAPPING: Directors Guild of America edition

Continuing our assembly of awards show jigsaw pieces, the final Academy Awards picture is getting clearer. The key group weighing in before Oscar voters' final deadline on Feb. 23 is the Directors Guild of America, announcing winners Saturday night in film and television categories.

The only one mattering for our purposes is direction of a feature film, in another case of domino logic.

Four of five DGA nominees — Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Adam McKay (The Big Short) — were also nominated by the academy. DGA finalist Ridley Scott (The Martian) was snubbed by Oscar in favor of Lenny Abrahamson (Room).

Created in 1948, The DGA feature film prize has foreshadowed the best director Oscar winner all but seven times over those 66 years. On Oscar night, the best director choice has guided the eventual best picture winner 73 percent of the time. Odds are good that the DGA's choice Saturday will lock down two important Oscar races.

If the DGA goes with McKay, added to its recent Producers Guild of America prize, that makes The Big Short tough for Oscar poolers to pick against (even critics who aren't crazy about it). Iñárritu and Miller are solidly in the DGA mix, while their movies have different issues in Oscar voting.

Producers guild winners have also claimed the best picture Oscar for eight consecutive years. Since 2010, both organizations expanded their best picture nominations limit, and have used a similar voting system, a "preferential ballot" measuring consensus.

Should McKay and John Randolph's adapted screenplay also pick up a Writers Guild of America honor on Feb. 13, all bets are off.

OPENING FRIDAYHail, Caesar!

The arrival of a new movie from Joel and Ethan Coen is always something to celebrate, unless it turns out being Intolerable Cruelty or The Ladykillers.

Hail, Caesar! (PG-13) doesn't appear so avoidable. In fact, it looks like a collage of the Academy Award-winning brothers' greatest hits: a little Big Lebowski, a dash of Barton Fink, the cockeyed period design of The Hudsucker Proxy and Fargo's fumbling kidnappers.

George Clooney stars as the kidnappee, a dim-witted 1950s movie star named Baird Whitlock, whose disappearance sends the studio's private eye (Josh Brolin) on a search to find him.

Previews emphasize the Coens' screwball tone this time around, and their continuing success in attracting fine actors: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand. A review is available at tampabay.com/movies.

The Choice

It's February, a romantic month, so we're due for a Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation. Something about a newcomer to a cozy village, often located on drowning waters or unsafe roads, whose past secret/present tragedy requires an improbably perfect member of the opposite sex to repair.

The Choice (PG-13) will do.

The new arrival is Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer), moving in next door to the equally beautiful Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker, far from hunting vampires as Abe Lincoln). Gabby and Travis fall in love and everything's perfect, but not for long. Love conquers all. The end.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Another not-previewed release sounding more fun by default is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13), in which last year's Cinderella (Lily James) is this year's Elizabeth Bennet, hesitantly attracting Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) while the flesh-eating undead roam the English countryside.

Jane Austen's tale of class-crossed romance is usually performed straight, so a Downton Abbey and Walking Dead mashup might be interesting. Or not.

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 The Revenant: Twelve Academy Award nominations, including best picture, actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and supporting actor (Tom Hardy).

2 Anomalisa: Stop-motion animated ennui from the creator of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In other words, a strange and beautiful film.

3 Kung Fu Panda 3: The anti-Anomalisa. Not as strange but funnier and differently beautiful.

4 Room: Nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, actress (Brie Larson), director and adapted screenplay.

5 Academy Awards short films: Tampa Theatre presents animated and live-action Oscar nominees in separate showcases.

UPCOMING RELEASES

(dates subject to change)

Feb. 12: Deadpool; How to Be Single; Zoolander 2; Where to Invade Next

Feb. 19: Risen; Race; Viral

Feb. 26: Eddie the Eagle; Gods of Egypt; The Witch; Triple 9

Mar. 4: Zootopia, London Has Fallen, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Movie planner: Handicapping the Oscars; 'Hail, Caesar!,' 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' open 02/03/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 11:20am]
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