Many people, when they think of the folks who get to vote for the Oscars and other film awards, picture ultra-rich Hollywood moguls and influential media voices and such, but that’s not really the way it is. Award deciders are regular people just like you and me. Well, they’re just like you and me in that they’re in Aspen for the holidays, but they’re still regular people.
The point is: They have jobs. So as much as they might like to see every movie that comes along, it’s pretty hard to do. That’s why, smartly enough, Aspen Film’s annual Academy Screenings, which run this Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 26-30, take place this time of year, when a number of voters are here in town.
Think of the five-day program of award-nominated movies as an all-night college cram session so that voters can study up before they cast their Oscar ballots. The movie theaters in their home towns likely showed big-budget films like “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born,” but chances are they didn’t get movies like “Capernaum” and “Roma,” both of which are nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar and both of which, uncoincidentally, will be playing in Aspen as part of the Academy Screenings.
“We really tried to focus on things that have not been out in the marketplace for months and months,” said Susan Wrubel, Aspen Film’s executive director and artistic director, who programmed the Academy Screenings lineup. “I tried to do a balance of great foreign-language, because we have so many exceptional foreign-language films this year, mixed with big, buzzy indie and independent crossover films.”
Wrubel’s selections make for a fascinating combination of eagerly anticipated dramas, like the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” and the Julia Roberts mother-son vehicle “Ben Is Back,” to movies that most folks have never heard of before. In fact, only about three of the 15 movies have played on a big screen in the valley so far, meaning this may be the only chance we’ll get to see them around here.
The Academy Screenings are designed to allow voters to brush up on some of the lesser-known nominees, admittedly, but the real winners in the whole scenario are the rest of us regular people. We may not get to vote for the Oscars, and our Aspen holidays might consist of an 80-hour work week, but we like award-nominated movies, too, and thanks to Aspen Film, we get a bunch of them right after Christmas. It’s almost like a present from a not-so-secret Santa.
The Academy Screenings films will be shown at the Wheeler Opera House (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday) and the Paepcke Auditorium (Friday and Saturday). The full lineup and show times can be found at aspenfilm.org.