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Oscar Best Picture Contenders Reach Voters With Nostalgia

Historical movies have a reputation for tugging at the heartstrings of both Academy voters and fans, just ask anyone who regularly watches “Gone With the Wind” or spends evenings cozied up with Turner Classic Movies. But this year, a series of period-set releases also come with a twinge of nostalgia. This only makes them more endearing.

Call Me by Your Name
Nostalgia Trigger: First Loves; Self-Discovery
Just about everyone has a coming-of-age story, no matter your sexual orientation. Director Luca Guadagnino’s film, which is based on James Ivory’s adaptation of the heart-swelling André Aciman novel, chronicles a love affair between a 17-year-old boy (Timothée Chalamet) and the attractive American student (Armie Hammer) who comes to stay with his family in the Italian countryside during the early 1980s. It could be compared to 1971’s “Summer of ’42,” with its message of sexual awakening and young love is strong enough for a month of throwback Thursdays.

Darkest Hour
Nostalgia Trigger: “Never give in …”
Director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarten’s interpretation of Winston Churchill’s grand stand as prime minister of the U.K. just as the Nazis threaten to invade the country is a warts-and-all look at one of the 20th century’s most famous figures. It’s also an entertaining throwback to great biopic period pieces of the past.

The Disaster Artist
Nostalgia Trigger: Comedies Count; Redefining Hollywood ‘Success’
Cult fave “The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-good 2003 movie, is revisited in a surprisingly emotional tale about pursuing an impossible dream in La La Land. Who can’t relate to Tommy’s struggles, even if he has unique methods. It has all the makings of the ultimate underdog story that also happens to be hilariously funny.

Dunkirk
Nostalgia Trigger: We’ll Meet Again
Headlines and history books can never do true justice to what it actually feels like to be on a battlefield. Writer-director Christopher Nolan’s cinematic retelling of one of the most critical moments of World War II — when everyday civilians helped pull off the Christmas Miracle and helped evacuate the Allied troops from a beach — offers an unflinching portrayal that is old-fashioned and epic in the way a David Lean or Robert Aldrich film was.

The Greatest Showman
Nostalgia Trigger: The Magic of the Big Tent
With the closing of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus this year, the timing seems apropos to shine the spotlight on the man who brought that idea to fruition. Hugh Jackman plays P. T. Barnum, the top-hat sporting showman who dazzled the world with tricks and tightrope acts. With a color theme and twinkling reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!,” or Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth,” director Michael Gracey’s film based on Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon’s script has the ability to pique curiosity and wonder as it lures us in.

I, Tonya
Nostalgia Trigger: I Love the ’90s
A retelling of the tabloid sensation that enticed the American public’s interest in women’s figure skating more than Dorothy Hamill’s haircut ever good, this black comedy from director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers has everything that makes a guilty pleasure not guilty: an anti-heroine from the wrong side of the tracks trying to play a rich girl’s game (Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding), her chain-smoking abusive stage mom (Allison Janney) and, best of all, stupid criminals. Frizzy hair, colored track suits and lots of sequence remind that the 1990s was a decade known for more than Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson and grunge music.

Lady Bird
Nostalgia Trigger: I Love the 2000s
It’s hard to believe the earth has gone around its axis enough that we’re pining away for 2002. That’s actually part of the appeal of “Lady Bird.” Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s autobiographical look back at the not-so-secret life of an American teenager, who wants to be anyone but who she is so badly that she bestows upon herself her own nickname,is set right before social media and just as cell phones and the Internet forever changed the way we see teenage behavior on screen. It makes us long for the days of school plays and college applications. And co-star Laurie Metcalf’s performance as her family’s exhausted and frustrated matriarch maybe, just a little bit, makes us want to call our mother.

Phantom Thread
Nostalgia Trigger: Reunions, Farewells, Costume Dramas
Many eagerly await the latest project from Paul Thomas Anderson — that excitement is compounded by the fact he’s re-teaming with his “There Will Be Blood” lead Daniel Day-Lewis. It might also be Day-Lewis’ last on-screen outing, if his claims of retirement hold. Add to that pedigree the lush, stunning costume work by Mark Bridges in this tale of a 1950s London dressmaker, there’s a lot to make audiences swoon.

The Shape of Water
Nostalgia Trigger: The Power of Guillermo del Toro’s Color Palette
With his and his crew’s ability to find the riches reds and deepest blues in every frame, director del Toro can romanticize pretty much anything, even if it’s this story about a mute outcast janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls for an amphibian-human hybrid who could be the key to U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War. Set in Baltimore in the 1960s and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, the film is an analogy for equality and civil rights as much as it is for misunderstood love and distrust for the new and foreign.

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