By Andrés Muñoz
Oscar season is upon us! It’s a time for ballots, acceptance speeches, little nominees taking on the big studios, and lots of fascinating stories to tell. This year, Netflix continues to be the ultimate awards steamroller with 27 Academy Award nominations, the most out of any studio for the third year in a row.
Ranging from small documentary features all the way to massive feature films starring multiple superstars, I’ve picked five key titles that the streaming service has distributed for you to watch right now. Whether they’ll sweep the nominations on the night of March 27th is yet to be seen, but they are there, ripe for your viewing.
The Hand of God
Paolo Sorrentino’s coming of age story is an evocative trip to 1980s Italy. Inspired by the director’s own experiences, it tells the story of young Fabietto, a teenager who wishes to study philosophy and spends the day listening to music and watching Argentinian superstar Diego Maradona play for his home club Napoli. Tragedy strikes the family, and Fabietto is forced to come to terms with life’s cold and hard realities. One of the scenes that struck me the most was close to the end, where the nature of cinema and what drives filmmakers to create their works is discussed.
Sorrentino’s profoundly personal and stirring tale won the Grand Jury Prize at the 78th Venice International Film Festival and is this year’s Italian representative for the Best International Feature Film.
Tick, Tick… Boom!
Musical theatre fans will be thrilled with this biopic of the late Jonathan Larson, creator of the internationally acclaimed Broadway musical Rent. Starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda, Tick, Tick… Boom! tells us Larson’s worries and doubts about whether he chose the right career. As with Rent, Larson includes samples of multiculturalism, addictions, homophobia, and the sacrifices artists must take to nourish their art. The musical was revamped in 2001 after Larson’s untimely death at age 36.
The film has had critics raving about Andrew Garfield’s performance in the lead role, and it has obtained two nominations: Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Film Editing.
The Power of the Dog
New Zealand director Jane Campion’s western (Or “anti-western”, as Anthony Lane of the New Yorker says) is the night’s top film. It has garnered 12 nominations in total, including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Cinematography, as well as acting nominations for all its four lead characters.
A slow burn, the film explores the trope of Western masculinity while expanding on elements of psychological drama, all to the soundtrack by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. This is Campion’s twelfth feature film and her second to be nominated for the awards, her first being the 1993 masterpiece, The Piano.
Another coming of age story, this Best Documentary Short Subject nominee is set in Maryland School for the Deaf, right before the pandemic. Director Matthew Ogens has produced several sports-related pieces in the past, most notably a Harlem Globetrotters-related episode of 30 for 30, ESPN’s famous sports documentary series, as well as the sports documentary Home + Away.
Audible shows the life of senior athlete Amaree McKenstry-Hall, as he and his team battle to maintain a winning streak while coping with the loss of a dear school friend to suicide. It is a moving piece that, in just 38 minutes, opens you up to the realities young athletes face, but it still maintains a respectful and cinematic gaze from start to finish.
Don’t Look Up
One of the most potent satires I’ve seen in years, Don’t Look Up is director Adam McKay’s take on climate change. A former head writer for Saturday Night Live, his most recent films have taken a turn towards the dramatic and political, with The Big Short criticising the financial crisis and winning Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2015 Academy Awards.
The ensemble cast is spectacular and a sure contender for a SAG Award. I particularly liked Leonardo Dicaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, and Mark Rylance’s performances. The last three were identical to some individuals in the public sphere.
Don’t Look Up’s plot orbits around a giant asteroid speeding towards the earth and two scientists’ attempts to make the world aware there’s a planet killer on the way. These attempts are all downplayed by the apathy and indifference of the politicians, celebrities, and the media. With pointed references to climate change deniers, Trumpism and tech billionaires, it is a funny yet frustrating look at how society simply does not care about the future of our planet. It has been nominated for Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Score, and Film Editing.
These are only five of the ten films Netflix brings to the ceremony. Take a look at the other nominees and let us know which is your favourite in the comments!