This year’s Oscars is going to be historic. Not just because it’s going to be delayed by two months or that it’s most probably going to be done remotely, but because of its nomination roster. There are a lot of firsts.
Steven Yeun became the first Asian-American to be nominated for Best Actor (Minari) and Riz Ahmed (Sound Of Metal) the first Muslim nominated for the same award. Other notable nominations are those of Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) for The Best Director category — it’s the first time that The Academy nominated two women for the award. Exciting, right?
With theatre closures still ongoing, most of the pictures nominated have become more accessible via streaming. However, not all are available in our region, including crowd-favourites Minari and Promising Young Woman. It’s quite sad but take heart because there are other excellent Oscar-nominated films that you can stream right now, no VPN required. Add these to your weekend binge list.
Mank for Best Picture (2020)
Mank’s old-timey black-and-white aesthetic might not be the most appealing to the modern audience, but nevertheless, it’s still worth watching. On its surface, David Fincher’s Mank looks like another typical self-congratulatory movie about Hollywood made by Hollywood. What could you expect from an autobiographical film about a man who co-wrote Citizen Kane, the movie considered to be one of the best films ever made? It turns out, quite a lot. Far from being a celebration of films from bygone eras, this is a critique about movie-making and its unintended real-life consequences that movie writers of the past didn’t take into consideration, or so says Mank. It’s an insightful film that will bring out the inner film critic in you for two hours. Plus, watch out for Amanda Seyfried’s glamourous looks as Marion Davies.
Where to stream: Mank is available for streaming on Netflix.
What to watch next if you love this: The Social Network (2010). It narrates the creation of Facebook while critiquing popular culture.
Emma for Best Costume Design (2020)
Emma is perhaps the best Jane Austen adaptation that captures the author’s wit and dry humour. Others are good in their own right but can sometimes come across as too dramatic or romantic than the original text. Emma stays true to its source material’s spirit by not taking itself too seriously; it’s also not afraid to make fun of its good-hearted yet misguided protagonist. While the plot of a youngster who thinks she knows better than anyone is all-too-familiar and told many times, what’s captivating about this particular adaptation aside from its witty humour is its beautiful costumes that showcased the best of the Regency Era. There’s no shortage of pretty bonnets, whimsical dresses and dainty accessories in this picture — no wonder it nabbed a nomination for Best Costume Design.
Where to stream: Emma is available for rent streaming on YouTube.
What to watch next if you love this: The Favourite (2018). If you love the mix of wit and delicious aesthetic in Emma, then you may also like The Favourite. It’s a tale of two women vying for the Queen’s attention. All we can say is that it’s a simple plot with complicated takeaways.
The White Tiger for Best Adapted Screenplay (2021)
Just because it’s filmed in India and tells the story of a man from a modest background doesn’t mean it tells the same story as Slumdog Millionaire (2008) which won Best Picture in 2009. Balram, the story’s antihero, actually makes it clear from the start that this is going to be different. He makes it clear that there’s not gonna be a million-rupee game show to get him out of poverty and that there are only two ways to do so — crime and politics. We don’t want to spoil anything for you, but what we can tell you is that this is a riveting adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s book about inequality and class clashes in India, and reflects the same systemic problems in other parts of the world, too.
Where to stream: The White Tiger is available for streaming on Netflix.
What to watch next if you love this: Sorry To Bother You (2018). It’s another dark comedy movie about class critique that will leave you enlightened and entertained at the same time.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm for Best Adapted Screenplay (2020)
The first Borat film was divisive, to say the least. But its second instalment, nay, subsequent moviefilm, is a little less so even as it tackles or satirizes controversial topics of our time, most specifically the Me Too movement. Even though it’s Borat’s name that’s on the title, the actual hero is Borat’s daughter, Tutar, played by one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress Maria Bakalova (who, may we add, is from Bulgaria and not Kazakhstan like her character). In this, she plays a girl that is told she can’t be educated or choose who to marry and that her daddy is the smartest in the “whole flat world”. She’s willing to be gifted to the leadership of “McDonald Trump” and Michael Pence with the dream of becoming America’s “next queen”. But before she can be “presented”, she needs to have an obligatory makeover except this particular makeover isn’t as satisfying as the one in Princess Diaries (2001). In fact, her new look induces uncomfortable laughter as she’s transformed into a conventional beauty, but with telltale signs of patchy blonde locks and unevenly lined pouty lips. And the rest of the story is just as hilarious and dashed with biting commentary.
Where to stream: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
What to watch next if you love this: Bridesmaids (2011). If you’re looking for another fun raunchy comedy with women as the leads, you’ll like Bridesmaids. It tells the story of a bridal party and their bachelorette adventures.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 for Best Picture (2020)
This film is for fans of courtroom drama. It isn’t suave like Suits or How To Get Away With Murder, but it’s just as full of intrigue. What’s more is it’s based on real-life events during the 1960s when seven activists protesting against the Vietnam War are charged with inciting riot and violence — so far, so familiar. In an era of modern activism, you can maybe relate to one or two of “the seven’s” style of activism. There are the loud radicals, the dignified behind-the-scenes activists, the optimistic ones and so on, but which one is the most effective? Or is it none of the above? Watch and decide.
Where to stream: The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available for streaming on Netflix.
What to watch next if you love this: Unbelievable (2019). If you want more captivating courtroom drama, watch Unbelievable next. It’s a movie about a young woman who recants a rape accusation but is helped by female detectives to find out the truth.
Which of these Oscar-nominated films will you stream this weekend?
(Cover photo from: @mank)
Next, check out these must-watch Netflix releases this month.