Casey Affleck stars in tonight’s showing of MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, one of the heavily favored Oscar contenders being presented on the Count Basie screen at a pleasingly retro ticket price.  (Amazon Studios)

It happens every year at this time: the kind of awards-season buzz that turns the most casual-viewing couch potato into the most discerning of armchair film critics and festival adjudicators. As the February 26 airdate of the 89th Academy Awards draws closer, film fans scramble to catch up with as many of the nominated features as there are hours in the week — and the Count Basie Theatre is there to meet them, with a special slate of screenings that spotlights some of 2016’s most acclaimed releases, at a price of admission that’s a throwback to some twenty years ago.

The schedule that kicked off on January 31 with the noir western Hell or High Water (four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture) continues tonight, February 15, with a 7 p.m. screening of a “little” movie that’s made a big splash with audiences from here to Sundance: the drama Manchester By The Sea.

Set in the Massachusetts coastal town of that name, the tale of old wounds, second chances and heavy burdens stars Casey Affleck in his Golden Globe winning turn as Lee, an emotionally scarred handyman who’s forced to return to his old hometown when he’s named the guardian of his recently deceased brother’s teenaged son. Coming out of left field to score six major Oscar nominations — for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor (young Lucas Hedges), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife), plus Kenneth Lonergan’s original screenplay and direction — the film is all the more impressive for having catapulted its distributor Amazon Studios into the big leagues of Oscar-lauded contenders.

A presentation of the Count Basie Theatre Cinema Society, tonight’s showing of Manchester by the Sea plays at Monmouth County’s longest continuously operating movie venue for just $5 per ticket (or free of charge, for Cinema Society members). Buy two admissions for $15, and receive a $10 concessions vouchers — and take it here to reserve.

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WhiplashGolden Globe winner J.K. Simmons offers patient mentorship to Miles Teller as the indie hit film WHIPLASH gets a recession-buster screening at the Count Basie Theatre  Tuesday night. 

If the Golden Globes be truly the gateway to Oscar’s soul, then the indie hit film Whiplash has the drumbeat of momentum behind it, having just netted five Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).

It happened a few days after workhorse character player J.K. Simmons took home the Globe trophy for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture — a hard-earned accolade for which he competed with a field that boasted a Hawke, a couple of Hulks, and a Robert Duvall.

Audiences primed to handicap this year’s main event can catch up with the buzzed-about dramatic feature from writer-director Damien Chazelle, when it comes to the big screen of the Count Basie Theatre on Tuesday  for a one-time showing at a price that cannot be refused.

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