Movie Guru: Films to watch on streaming services ahead of awards season
Awards season is upon us, and with COVID throwing a lot of traditional releases into disarray, some of this year’s biggest movies premiered on a variety of streaming platforms. But that, and the fact that COVID has confined us to our homes, means there is plenty of time to check out this year’s front runners.
For a glimpse of some of the big names people will be talking about at this year’s Golden Globes and Academy Awards, here are some movies worth watching.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
This one is going to be big in all the major categories. Aaron Sorkin’s take on the legal action following the uprisings around the 1968 Democratic Convention serves as both a gripping historical drama and a powerful commentary on what’s going on today.
I also expect a lot of recognition for the amazing cast, particularly Sasha Baron Cohen in a wonderfully nuanced take on Abbie Hoffman and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in a powerful turn as Bobby Seale, the one black member of the group. This may be history, but you’ll still be on the edge of your seat.
One Night in Miami (Amazon Prime)
The story of Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, Malcom X and Jim Brown getting together for one night in Miami, this movie is a deceptively quiet story of four friends. Simultaneously, it wrestles with some deep, far-reaching issues.
This one is also likely to cause a splash in several of the big categories, thanks to director Regina King and and moving performances by Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X), Leslie Odom Jr. (Sam Cooke), Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown), and Eli Goree (Cassius Clay, who later took the name Muhammad Ali). Watch it, and you’ll never think about these four men the same way.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Though this one may end up in Best Picture contention, the real reason to check it out is for the electric performances from the late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis. Based on August Wilson’s stage play of the same name, the movie shows a particularly incendiary 1927 recording session with blues singer Ma Rainey and her band.
Denzel Washington, who directed the 2016 film “Fences,” based on another Wilson drama, has made it his mission to capture the playwright’s core works, dubbed The Pittsburgh Cycle.
Boseman puts it all on the table as horn player Levee, his last onscreen role before he died in August 2020 from colon cancer. It’s just as breathtakingly memorable and will surely become one of his best performances. Davis is at her most powerful as Ma Rainey, and watching her and Boseman face off gives the movie an amazing glow.
This one is a frontrunner for Best Animated Feature, and some commentators are even bringing it up for Best Picture. Though I’m not sure how appealing it is to kids, Pixar’s “Soul” is a profoundly moving look at passion, regrets, and what it means to truly be alive. Not only that, but it has some fantastic visuals and one of the absolutely best physical comedy sequences I’ve seen in a movie in years. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and maybe even look at your life a little differently by the time the credits roll.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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