By Rob Gonsalves, Special to the Neighb News
This is the first year since 2007 that I’ve gone into the Academy Awards show (ABC, April 25, 8 p.m. ET) having seen all the nominees for Best Picture. (And this year has eight nominees!) Three guesses why, and the first two don’t count. It’s because all the nominees are streaming. 2020 was a streaming kind of year, in case you hadn’t noticed.
In a saner year, maybe one of two of the nominees would’ve played at AMC/the Mall, with a few others getting wider release when the nominations were announced. This year, if you subscribed to the right services and didn’t mind paying somewhat hefty rental fees for a few of the films, you could have — as I did — watched all eight contenders from the comfort of your couch.
Without further ado, here are 2020’s Best Picture nominees, a short assessment of each, and where you can watch them. If you’re picking this issue up on Wednesday you still have at least three days to catch up!
The Father One of my favorites, not because it’s a barrel of laughs but because it puts us ingeniously inside a difficult mindset — a bewildered, aging Englishman (Anthony Hopkins) suffering from dementia and watching the lights of his world blink out one by one. $19.99 rental from Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, or Directv.
Judas and the Black Messiah Smoothly wrought, with a minimum of fanciness. The movie’s hero is Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the “Black Messiah,” but the film is really about Judas, or informer Bill O’Neil (LaKeith Stanfield). Both men’s pain is palpable and relatable. $19.99 rental from Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, Directv.
Mank Unengaging, self-regarding, hey-ma-lookit-me-direct folly; of course, since it’s a movie about movies, it got the most nominations (ten). Who cares? This is the one you can most afford to miss. Streaming at Netflix.
Minari Immensely likable semi-autobiographical slice of life, partly in Korean, about the specifics of one family whose patriarch pursues his dream, which may as well be the American dream. $19.99 rental from Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, Directv.
Nomadland Disappointing. It’s beautifully made, but to me it almost seems like a commercial for the “vandweller” lifestyle, eliding a lot of unpleasant realities (aside from the infamous trots-in-a-bucket scene) and making a hero out of Amazon for throwing the nomads a paycheck or two. Streaming at Hulu. Buy for $14.99 at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, Directv.
Promising Young Woman Enjoyably nasty satire with an undeniably female sensibility, which we can always use more of at the movies. The ending is a little cheap, but it’s satisfying anyway. I’d be fine with Carey Mulligan winning Best Actress for her sharp work here. $5.99 rental from Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, Directv, Flix Fling. Buy for $19.99 at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now, Microsoft, Redbox, Directv.
Sound of Metal I respect a movie that uses the specific language of cinema to show me how it feels to occupy another person’s headspace. The Father does that quite well, and so does this unsentimental drama (the director is from Massachusetts) about a punk-rock drummer, the excellent Riz Ahmed) who suddenly goes deaf. Not comforting, but not depressing either. Streaming at Amazon Prime.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 Like many movies last year, accidentally relevant — the fight of young idealists against powerful, corrupt men trying to criminalize protest seemed newly urgent. Occasionally it feels stagebound or grandstanding, and too much of it is just made up, but it’s entertaining in that slightly cheap Aaron Sorkin mode. Streaming at Netflix.
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