Who has a chance of winning the first ever online Best Picture Oscar?
2020 was a year of firsts. It changed the way we travel, the way we socialise—and also how we do everyday activities, like watch movies. With cinemas closed and Hollywood in lockdown, audiences have turned their attention to streaming services instead. Netflix and Amazon dominate the film scene in a worrying time for Tinseltown, and they could come up with the first streamed movie to win the Best Picture Oscar. Below are some of the titles that could land the prize.
The frontrunner for the award, Mank is a gripping biopic about legendary screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, the man behind Citizen Kane – cited by many as one of the greatest movies of all time. The film is a personal project for director David Fincher, whose father Jack wrote the script back in the 1990s but died before David had the chance to make the movie.
The resulting flick has been praised by critics for its acting performances and storyline, telling the tale of how Mank and Orson Welles teamed up to make Citizen Kane, but politics surrounding the project threatened to derail it. It also looks at the tricky subject of Mank’s battle with alcoholism, and how the script almost remained finished.
If one is looking for drama, great music and superb cinematography, then Mank’s the film for you – it may also have an Oscar or two under its belt by the time spring rolls around.
The Trial of the Chicago Seven
Fans of courtroom dramas will love this Paramount movie about anti-Vietnam war activists, who are targeted by the US government as being “enemies of the state”. However, this movie is much more than that. Aaron Sorkin’s film shows the kaleidoscope of personalities involved in the cause, from Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant portrayal of the eccentric Abbie Hoffman to Eddie Redmayne’s intense performance as student leader Tom Hayden. It captures the white-hot political atmosphere of 60s America superbly, demonstrating how minor incidents could flare up into violent events.
While this move was scheduled for release via Paramount, the film company sold the distribution rights to Netflix at the outbreak of the pandemic, so technically it falls into the “streamed movie” category. Given its success, we may see Paramount strike similar deals in the future depending on how long it takes for the world to return to some kind of normality.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
1920s Chicago was a hotbed of musical talent, with iconic performers such as Louie Armstrong breaking boundaries. Ma Rainey was another of those: a glamorous powerhouse from the South, whose fiery nature leads her to clash with her manager over control of her music. In one recording session, the atmosphere gets heated as the two begin arguing, but this gives trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) the chance to step up and start something of his own. The actor puts in a sterling performance in his last role before his unfortunate death, and he steers the movie in a new direction – in which Levee and Ma become rivals.
The film started off as part of producer Denzel Washington’s 10-picture deal with HBO, but Netflix snapped up the rights in 2019 with filming starting shortly after. The result is a stylishly shot, entertaining look at the booming music scene back then, with some sterling performances to boot.
Da 5 Bloods
Real-life treasure hunts aren’t like they are in books and movies. While in everyday life our only chance of instantly striking it rich is to predict the winning lottery numbers, in fiction the story is normally more exciting. Da 5 Bloods is a tale of a modern-day treasure hunt: or, more correctly, a treasure stash. Five Vietnam veterans return to the Asian country to find a loot of gold bars that they buried there during the war. The only problem is the surrounding landscape was, and remains, obliterated thanks to a napalm attack.
As one might imagine, the task isn’t straightforward and there are plenty of thrills and shocks along the way. The late Chadwick Boseman appears with a fine cameo, while the rest of the cast received critical acclaim for their performances. This picture has the potential to land that Best Picture Oscar come April.
One Night in Miami
It’s a classic question: if one could choose three people, dead or alive, to have at a dinner party, who would it be? Muhammed Ali would be at the top of many people’s list. Others might mention Malcolm X, or musician Sam Cooke, for the important roles they’ve played in American history.
Regina King takes that idea and imagines what a night back in 1964 would have been like: an evening in Miami where the three greats were in a room together. Ali had just beaten Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world, and Cooke and X were about to change the world in their own ways. While the meeting is fictionalised, the characters are true-to-life. Eli Goree expertly portrays the swaggering Ali, Kingsley Ben-Adir shines as the shrewd Malcolm X, while Leslie Odom Jr becomes the physical embodiment of the musical genius Sam Cooke.
King’s movie is deservedly rated as one of 2020’s finest, and it’s easy to see why Time rated her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019 with such masterful productions as this.
The editorial unit