Oscar hopefuls hit theaters

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play star-crossed lovers in "La La Land." (Dale Robinette courtesy Lionsgate)

At long last, fall is here and while this arts editor is as excited as the next student for seasonal drinks and darker shades of lipstick, there is another, more exhilarating phenomenon that is simultaneously coming up. No, not cuffing season — Oscar season.

While any film released in the previous calendar year is eligible for award consideration, it is no accident that the top contenders always seek a fall release. That way, the films are fresh in the Academy’s mind when nomination voting commences on Jan. 5, 2017. Instead of scrambling at the last minute to find screeners for the films that dominate the 89th Oscar Sunday on Feb. 26, 2017, people can prepare ahead of time so as to not miss out. Here’s a snapshot of the upcoming releases. Remember, being called “Oscar-bait” isn’t inherently a bad thing — these films just have to try a little harder to wow.

“The Birth of a Nation,” directed by Nate Parker – Oct. 7 

This film currently has more controversy surrounding its release than any other film this season, because of Director and Writer Nate Parker’s involvement in a legal case of which he was later acquitted. Many people have trouble looking at “The Birth of a Nation” without letting the creator’s past influence it, but that is not to say that the film hasn’t impressed audiences so far. Back in January, its run at the Sundance Film Festival was highly successful, leading to a record-breaking bidding war amongst competing distributors. The film depicts Nat Turner, a slave who led an uprising in 1831. Despite the controversy swirling around the film’s director, it’s definitely still in the running.

“Jackie,” directed by Pablo Larrain – Dec. 2 

Larrain’s “Jackie” is marketed as presenting the story that “was never told.” Considering that Jackie Kennedy has been portrayed no less than 19 times since 1977 on TV and film, that’s a hefty goal to take on. Larrain’s “Jackie” is the latest attempt to shed new light on this character. If anyone is qualified for the challenge, it’s Natalie Portman. Portman steps into this revered cultural figure’s shoes during a four-day period of her life that chronicles the devastating assassination of her husband and the grief that followed afterward. Considering how almost every Oscar ceremony praises one biopic or another, it’s safe to bet that “Jackie” will be no exception.

“La La Land,” directed by Damien Chazelle – Dec. 9

Following the successful reception of “Whiplash” (2014), Chazelle’s latest film is about the budding relationship between a musician and an aspiring actress who fall in love in the magical land that is Los Angeles. Starring one of the most lauded on-screen couples, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this film will undoubtedly snatch up some well-deserved nominations. Bonus: It’s a musical, and if there’s one thing the Academy loves, it’s a musical that knows how to pull at heartstrings.

“Hidden Figures,” directed by Theodore Melfi – Jan. 13, 2017 (wide release)

The Academy loves its historical dramas. “Hidden Figures” was adapted by Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book of the same name. The film tells the often-dismissed story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), three African-American women who worked at NASA during the Space Race. Their work made it possible for America to reach incredible milestones, and this film is meant to lift the veil and celebrate these women. Melfi’s last film “St. Vincent” (2014) received positive reviews, so people are primed and ready to give “Hidden Figures” the attention it deserves.