OSCAR WATCH: The Neon screened nominees in nearly every category

The 94th annual Academy Award nominations announced Feb. 8 indicate how vital The Neon is to Dayton’s moviegoing fabric.

The downtown venue screened the 2021 nominees in every category except best visual effects. In particular, five of the 10 best picture nominees, “Belfast,” “CODA,” “Drive My Car,” “Licorice Pizza” and “Nightmare Alley,” have been recently showcased.

This weekend, “The Power of the Dog,” director Jane Campion’s compelling Western about a family coping with alcoholism, jealousy, sexuality and toxic masculinity, will begin a limited run. “The Power of the Dog” leads all films with 12 nominations. In addition to screening Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘70s love letter “Licorice Pizza,” The Neon will also provide a return engagement of “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s powerful portrait of tumult in late 1960s Ireland.

“We’ve always been known for playing the indies and the niche films, but we are pretty selective and there’s been less material out there to choose from,” said Jonathan McNeal, Neon manager. “But audiences have come to respect our decision-making process. I have some customers who say they’ll see whatever we show.”

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Assessing this year’s crop of nominees, ranging from the heartwarming family drama “CODA” to the contemplative, epic Japanese drama “Drive My Car” marrying grief with Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” McNeal is pleased with the results, particularly the diversity of contenders.

“In the documentary feature category, you find two films predominately about people of color and injustice (‘Summer of Soul’ and ‘Attica’) as well as ‘Flee,’ about a gay refugee,” he said. “There’s also two best picture nominees, ‘CODA’ and ‘Drive My Car,’ which feature sign language, adding to the (idea) of diversity, which is not just about race and religion sometimes but different abilities. There’s also the best original song nominee, ‘Somehow You Do’ from ‘Four Good Days,’ which starred Glenn Close and Mila Kunis. The Neon worked with families of addicts to bring that film to town. The Neon is about community engagement and working with the community in different ways. ‘Four Good Days’ would have never hit our big screen if we weren’t working with a local organization to spread awareness about addiction.”

Last year’s Neon Oscar Party was an unpublicized affair due to COVID-19, but McNeal is eager to extend a larger invitation to the public this year. However, reservations will only be accepted beginning at noon on Sunday, March 27, the date of the Oscars. Patrons can pick up ballots in a few weeks.

“We’re excited to bring the party back to a bigger capacity,” he said. “Still, we won’t have a sell-out house and current COVID protocols will be in place.”

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In the meanwhile, The Neon will screen the live action and animated short film nominees beginning Feb. 25. Screenings of the nominated documentaries is slated for March. The Neon is located at 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton. For more information, visit neonmovies.com.

In related news, Dayton native Curtiss Cook is featured as Abe in best picture nominee “West Side Story,” a glorious remake whose seven nominations include Steven Spielberg for best directing and Ariana DeBose for best supporting actress.

For a complete list of this year’s Oscar nominees visit oscars.org.

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