The Oscar watchlist: where to stream the nominations and the winners of the year
Because the show must go on
Chinese filmmaker, Chloé Zhao, director of Nomadland became the first woman of colour to win the Oscar for Best Director. Youn Yuh-jung won Best Supporting Actor (female); she is the first Korean acting-category winner in the history of the Academy Awards, as well as the second woman of Asian descent to win the trophy. Yup, you read that right.
While the prestigious awards have a long way to go in terms of inclusivity (with movements like #OscarsSoWhite rightfully shaking up the industry), the 93rd edition was arguably more diverse than previous events.
In a world where everything seems to be going wrong, these victories remind you that the show must go on, and that sometimes, it’s worth a watch.
Every year, we go on an Oscar nomination diet between January and April, to place bets on who’s going to win big as we frenetically watch the top contenders before our peers can ruin them for us. This year, the Oscars seemed insignificant to all but those involved.
But yesterday, the members of the Academy shouted from the rooftop of the Dolby Theatre. They caught our attention with historical choices. They reminded us that even in the thick of the pandemic, showbiz held on to its oldest maxim: the show must go on.
Even without many worldwide and theatrical releases (only 338 films were released last year, compared with 987 in 2019), we turned to cinema to stay creatively fuelled and comforted during lockdowns. And the OTT platforms that became our comfort blankets, emerged as underdog winners. Major laurels were claimed by Netflix, Prime Video and Apple TV projects. In fact, Netflix originals bagged 36 nominations, and walked home with seven honours. Disney was a close second with five nods.
The Oscars may have sneaked up on us, but the ceremony reminded us that adaptability is the need of the hour. The selection of films may have humble roots, and aren’t backed by major studios, yet these smaller-scaled productions spoke volumes about where we are as a world today. How far we have come in our journey of survival, and how far we still have to go, in our battle against economic and natural crisis, social representation and political upheavals.
This Oscar watchlist is a reminder that perhaps it is in dark times, that the show really must go on — for where else would the light come from?
The Oscar watchlist to remind you that the show must go on
The Trial of Chicago 7
Filmmaker Aaron Sorkin has a penchant for unveiling the ugly truth. In The Trial of Chicago 7, he drags us to the courtroom to witness the infamous 1969 Chicago Seven trial, in which US President Richard Nixon’s government charged eight anti-Vietnam War activists with causing a riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There’s a corrupt judge, undercover officials and a reenactment of police brutality against Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the co-founder of the Black Panther Party.
History buffs call it an authentic crowd-pleaser that doesn’t gloss over the flawed judiciary of the US, and looks like the Sorkin drama has managed to please the Academy as well to earn itself five nominations.
Watch on Netflix
News Of The World
In director Paul Greengrass’s adventure drama, it’s about the survival of the bravest.
Five years after the end of the American Civil War, captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), who has fought three wars in his lifetime, is a self-proclaimed storyteller who travels from one town to another narrating tales of valour and feuds, kings and calamities, until he reaches the plains of Texas. Here he meets Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old orphan raised by the Kiowa tribe as their own. But Johanna is now being returned to her kin, and Kidd decides to accompany her on her journey back home.
Little do they know that nature and humans are conspiring against them and challenge them on every turn of their great escape home. With Hanks at the driver’s seat of this journey, get ready for a heartwarming voyage that has received four Oscar nominations.
Watch on Netflix
Judas and the Black Messiah
With #BlackLivesMatter taking over the American dialogue last year, director Shaka King’s biographical drama, Judas and the Black Messiah only amplified the message in the right direction.
In the late 1960s in Chicago, William O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield), an FBI informant infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party to keep tabs on their popular leader and chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya who also won the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor for this part). O’Neal becomes the head of Hampton’s security team. While the two men work towards the same cause (fighting against racism), their diverse approaches put them at loggerheads with each other, and an eventual betrayal destroys both their lives.
Watch on YouTube Movies
In Zhao’s Nomadland, based on the 2017 non-fiction book by journalist Jessica Bruder, 60-something widow Fern (Frances McDormand) roams across the USA in a little white van, after her husband, Beau, dies and she loses her job in the wake of the 2008 recession.
She takes up seasonal jobs and meets a host of people on the road – all of them are real people playing themselves, and that’s how Zhao blurs the lines between reality and fiction, in an eye-opening way. Although it’s set in 2008, considering the uncertain times we are living in and our own methods of grappling with our new realities, Best Picture-winner, Nomadland, is set to calm some of those frenzied nerves for sure.
Watch on Disney+ Hotstar from April 30
Sound of Metal
Life-altering illnesses and conditions come knocking when you’re least expecting them. No one really expects them, do they? In Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, heavy metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) are living the tour life on the tour bus, galloping from one gig to another.
Ruben’s life comes to a halt when he realises that he is losing his sense of hearing. Rapidly. And within the next few days, he loses the sense entirely. We also learn that he is a recovering heroin addict. Unable to continue touring and with not enough funds for cochlear implants, Ruben checks into an all-deaf community run by Joe (Paul Raci).
Ruben’s experience of acceptance of his reality and coping with it is impactful and punctuated by notes of hope in the face of the worst case scenario. The disability drama was the frontrunner this year with six nominations and registered two wins as well.
Watch on Prime Video
Hollywood is a torch-bearer of self-love in its own weird ways. Year after year, they make cinema about cinema, and the Academy laps it up – think La La Land, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Birdman. Add to that list, David Fincher’s Mank that has managed to bag 10 Oscar nominations and two wins.
The comedy drama retells the behind-the-scenes drama that went into finishing Citizen Kane, in the 1930s. The old Hollywood story is told through the eyes of alcoholic screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who races to complete the Orson Welles (Tom Burke) masterpiece.
For cinephiles who love a good piece history, Mank is a downright winner.
Watch on Netflix
My Octopus Teacher
It’s a deep dive of a rare kind. The kind where diver Craig Foster strikes a life-long friendship with an eight-tentacled octopus in South Africa’s Cape Town coast line, and learns life-lessons of loyalty and redemption.
Foster swims into the den of the octopus and documents her movements for months to earn her trust and forges an eight-year-long emotional bond, that you’ve never seen before. The editors have done a fantastic job of cutting down and stitching together footage from the eight years to showcase a life-affirming story that doesn’t preach about wildlife conservation, but gently nudges us to open our eyes and look around.
By the end of it, this Oscar-winning documentary will introduce you to the most unassuming zen master – a mollusk.
Watch on Netflix
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
In yet another exploration of the black experience, director George C Wolfe’s adaptation of August Wilson’s play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, music and performance arts acts as the catalyst in the debate of colour in Chicago, 1927.The movie showcases the day in the life of blues musicians Ma Rainey (an electrifying Violas Davis) and her band.
The members are set to record Ma’s songs for an album, and are waiting for Ma to show up. As she storms in late to the recording session, Ma is confronted by her white manager and producer Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) over her ideas of music and ethics as a performer.
What begins as a tiff soon evolves into a full-blown meltdown and a dissection of racism in the music and entertainment world that seems to have survived the test of time, unfortunately.
Watch on Netflix
One Night In Miami…
In sync with the times we are living in, Black Lives Matter has been a towering theme in Hollywood the last year. Director Regina King’s One Night In Miami… is yet another masterstroke in cinema that takes us back to 1964 to understand the politics of colour, and bagged two nominations as well.
It’s based on a true incident, although the accuracy of the event is highly debatable, but nevertheless, binge-worthy,
On February 25, 1964, boxer Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) defeated Sonny Liston in the heavyweight boxing championship of the world. The fight was attended by thousands, and in the audience, one could spot pop legend Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr), controversial Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir) and American football player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge).
Apart from the fact that the four men were towering figures in their own fields, their colour connected them. In this semi-fictionalised account of the post-match celebration, the four men hung out to discuss racism, politics, religion and money.
Much after the end credits roll, the movie makes you wonder if we really have evolved as society or are we still stuck in the past.
Watch on Prime Video