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Need a little vacation inspiration? Put down the Instagram and get yourself to a movie theater instead. This year’s Academy Award nominees showcase all kinds of destinations — plus, their plots span war and high-school heartbreak and casual racism and more war — and each are transporting in their own way. There’s plenty to learn about the world from the lenses of these famous directors, who manage to illuminate everything from the beauty of Northern Italy to the crushing stagnancy of Sacramento. Here, we tell you what Oscar-nominated films to watch based on where you want to go.
Perfect If You Need an Italian Escape: Call Me By Your Name
No film induces travel envy more than this coming-of-age romance between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) and directed by Luca Guadagnino. Although the André Aciman book on which the film was based is set in Liguria in the Italian Riviera, the Italian filmmaker moved the setting and primarily filmed in Crema, Italy and two surrounding towns, Montodine and Ripalta. The exact location is never revealed in the film, but the Northern Italy countryside, with its moonlit lakes and rolling bike paths, is an escape no matter the name. Shooting at the 17th-century estate Villa Albergoni gave the film a timeless quality, although it’s meant to take place in 1983. By the time the couple takes a weekend trip to Bergamo in Lombardy together, you’ll want to book your own ticket, stat.
Perfect If You Once Fled Your Hometown: Lady Bird
The location is a main character in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, set in her hometown of Sacramento, described in the film as “the Midwest of California.” The story’s heroine, the self-christened “Lady Bird” (aka Christine) doesn’t appreciate her agricultural-rich surroundings and tells anyone within earshot she belongs on the East Coast and can’t wait to move to New York for college. The semi-autobiographical story — Gerwig left Sactown to attend Barnard College in New York — grabbed five Oscar nominations, proof that returning home can sometimes pay off.
Perfect If You Love Upper-Class London: Phantom Thread
Although Paul Thomas Anderson’s unusual period drama takes place almost exclusively in the five-story Georgian townhouse of one Mr. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), it still beautifully channels 1950s London. Socialites! Royalty! Wearing couture to cocktails! It’s all here. (Anderson also shot in the northeast region of England near Whitby and in the hilly Cotswolds countryside.) If you’re captivated by the film, you’re in luck: The film shoot’s townhouse, located in London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood, is actually for sale for 15 million pounds. A new owner might enjoy that domed skylight and spiral staircase more than Day-Lewis, who has said it was a crowded nightmare to shoot in such close quarters.
Perfect If You’re a New Yorker: The Post
Meryl does Manhattan media. Streep embodies Washington Post owner Katharine Graham in this 1971-set drama about the newspaper’s fight to publish the Pentagon Papers. Steven Spielberg’s latest certainly gets the newsroom right, all cigarettes and windowless offices and typewriters and coffee, lots of coffee. Aviation actually plays a key role in transporting the infamous papers, when a reporter played by Bob Odenkirk tells his boss he’s going to need two first-class seats to get himself and all those government secrets back to New York. Wonder if they used points?
Perfect If You’re Itching for a Road Trip: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Your first instinct after seeing Martin McDonagh’s very dark comedy will be to Google “Is Ebbing, Missouri a real town?” It is not. Though the Frances McDormand film traffics in Midwestern stereotypes (and received plenty of backlash for it), it gets other small-town dynamics right — run-ins at the local pool hall, the way everybody knows everybody else’s business — in between all the abject violence, racism and corruption, of course.
As The St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it: “Tourism commissions throughout the state are serving sides of Pepto-Bismol at their monthly luncheon meetings.” In what is perhaps a small consolation (or another middle finger) to the Show Me State, the film was actually shot in multiple small towns in western North Carolina.
Perfect If You Have Mixed Feelings About the Beach: Dunkirk
Tourism to the northern France town of Dunkirk is apparently on the rise after Christopher Nolan’s film depicted the astonishing rescue evacuation of British and Allied troops off the beach with ferries and fishing ships in 1940. While the persistent gunfight and high-stakes war drama might not encourage you to bask in the sun, it can still serve as an important history lesson.
Perfect If You Think London Is Too Posh Now: Darkest Hour
Hey look, it’s Dunkirk’s step-brother! Also set in World War II, this Joe Wright-directed drama takes you back to May 1940, when British Prime Minster Winston Churchill (an utterly transformed Gary Oldman) was faced with standing up to Hitler Germany or collapsing like a house of cards. A home in Yorkshire stood in for Buckingham Palace, and the crew shot in London — receiving rare permission to film outside Downing Street — and designers recreated the grand War Room in which the film’s major plotting takes place. In one memorable sequence, Churchill even takes a trip on the London Underground to chat with the common man.
Perfect If You’re Seeking Underwater Adventure:The Shape of Water
This woman-meets-merman story may take place in Cold War-era Baltimore, but the real action happens off the gritty streets and under the sea. Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy stars Sally Hawkins as a mute custodian working at a government facility, where she meets an aqua creature-turned-love interest found in the Amazon River in South America. Natives once worshiped him as a god. Now it’s Elisa’s turn. Del Toro worked his movie magic to bring Baltimore to life; the film was actually shot in Toronto. His tricks worked well: The Shape of Water is the most-nominated film of the year, scoring 13 Oscar nods.
Perfect If You Fear Suburbia: Get Out
Jordan Peele’s horror story depicts a traditional meet-the-parents scenario that turns untraditionally ugly. This one’s fun for the whole family! (Not really. Don’t stream it for the kids.) The film is supposed to take place in upstate New York — no more description beyond that — because Peele told The Washington Post he didn’t want to set the film, which exposes suburban racism, in the South.
“It was really important for me to not have the villains in this film reflect the typical red state type who is usually categorized as being racist. It felt like that was too easy,” Peele said. “I wanted this film to explore the false sense of security one can have with the, sort of, New York liberal type.”
Now you, too, can discover that false sense of security one short Metro-North ride away from New York City!
Know before you go.
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