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A Crime Film Fan’s Guide to the Oscars


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Hello, movie fans. The 93rd Academy Awards will take place this Sunday, April 25th, at 6:30 EST (and you can watch them on ABC, if you, like most of us, will not be at the literal ceremony). Going to the movies is still pretty iffy, but luckily, all of the Oscar noms are streaming via one service or another. We’ve assembled a handy roundup of all the crimey movies nominated for Academy Awards, for your viewing pleasure, this weekend and beyond!

 

Promising Young Woman, dir. Emerald Fennell

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Nominations: Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Actress, Best Editing

Summary: We missed including Promising Young Woman on our roundup of the best movies of 2020, because it was released so late in the year, but I would have included it. It’s a bracing, wrenching story about two women whose lives are ruined (in entirely different ways) because of a horrific gang rape during their med school years. One of these women, Cassie (a relentlessly impressive Carey Mulligan) has made it her mission, in the years since, to get revenge not only on would-be rapists, but eventually the men responsible for the fateful crime. It’s a slow bur, and it’s all about pain, despair, and coping. Its spectacular, cherry bomb aesthetics (which involve lots and lots of pinks) have drawn criticism for being Barbie-esque, allegedly helping its main character be more of a vengeful Kewpie doll than a person, but I think the film is much, much deeper than both its revenge plot and this reading. I think Promising Young Woman is partially about attempting to find peace through pretty aesthetics, not merely use pretty aesthetics to ironically conceal sadism and madness. Anyway, I thought it was great.

Streaming: YouTube/Apple TV/Google Play (to rent)

The Letter Room, dir. Elvira Lind

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Nominations: Best Short Film (Live Action)

Summary: You’ll be very surprised when famous-person Oscar Isaac shows up as the protagonist of this poignant half-hour film (the short is directed by his wife, so once you learn that, things will make sense again) about a prison guard assigned to scan the correspondence between inmates and their loved ones outside–who then gets wrapped up in the lives he’s reading about.

Streaming: Amazon Prime

The Trial of the Chicago 7, dir. Aaron Sorkin

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Nominations: Best Picture, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song

Summary: This star-studded, breakneck legal drama from writer-director Aaron Sorkin, about the unjustified and prejudicial court case of seven activists scapegoated by the Nixon administration in 1968, really works. It’s a tight race-car of a movie, and once you’re locked in, you’re whipped through an electric moment in political history like you could never imagine. I don’t love Eddie Redmayne in it, though. As the brilliant film critic A.S. Hamrah has written, “Redmayne is totally lost here, playing someone from Michigan who has to say the word “Chicago” far too many times. He looks like he’s about to cry whenever he opens his mouth.”

Streaming: Netflix

Da 5 Bloods, dir. Spike Lee

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Nominations: Best Original Score

Summary: Spike Lee’s new movie (HOW WAS IT NOT NOMINATED FOR MORE OSCARS????) is a gritty Neo-Westerns, this one set in Vietnam. It’s about four Black veterans, members of a squadron nicknamed “the Bloods,” who return forty-or-so years after the war to hunt for gold that they had hidden while on duty, once new evidence surfaces that might reveal the treasure’s location. With it, they’ll find the body of their Squadron leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman). But as they head into the jungle, they wind up awakening physical and psychological ruins of the war that conspire to destroy them, for good. The lead is Paul, played by one of my favorite actors, Delroy Lindo (HOW WAS HE NOT NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR, I WILL NOT STOP SCREAMING), who delivers possibly the best performance of the year. Of the 21st century? Can we bench Gary Oldman from the Best Actor lineup and put Delroy Lindo where he belongs, please?

Streaming: Netflix

Judas and the Black Messiah, dir. Shaka King

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Nominations: Best Picture, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song

Summary: A film with many commanding, riveting performances, Judas and the Black Messiah is a biography of the legendary Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton, whose chapter is infiltrated by FBI informant Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield, amazing).

Streaming: YouTube/Apple TV/Google Play (to rent)

White Eye, dir. Tomer Shushan

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Nominations: Best Short Film (Live Action)

Summary: This 21-minute Israeli short film which unfurls in a single take is the Di Sica-esque story of a man who stumbles on the bike that had been stolen from him two weeks before and accuses the new owner of theft. But as they argue, they sink deeper and deeper into inextricable conflict.

Streaming: HBO Max

The White Tiger, dir. Ramin Bahrani

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Nominations: Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Summary: Ramin Bahrani‘s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel, produced by Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, is a clamorous, somewhat satirical story about a chauffeur named Balram who aspires to the wealthy lifestyle of his employers, and then does what he needs to do to get to the top, himself.

Streaming: Netflix

Greyhound, dir. Aaron Schneider

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Nominations: Best Sound

Summary: I think Vulture’s Joe Reid says it best, “The line on Greyhound from well before anybody saw it was that it was a peak Dad Movie. With Tom Hanks captaining a World War II destroyer in enemy waters, you couldn’t ask for a more appropriate movie for your dad to stretch out in the recliner in front of on a Saturday afternoon.”

Streaming: Apple TV

Quo Vadis, Aida?, dir. Jasmila Žbanić

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Nominations: Best International Feature Film

Summary: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry in this category is an incredible, devastating film about the 1995 Bosnian War. Aida (an incredible Jasna Đuričić) is a UN translator does everything she can to keep her family save in the face of the advancing Serbian troops, after realizing that the entire UN can’t stop them from coming. And she must be the voice of the UN while this is all happening.

Streaming: Hulu

The United States vs. Billie Holiday, dir. Lee Daniels

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Nominations: Best Actress in a Leading Role

Summary: The heretofore-unknown Andra Day is a beacon of brilliance in this otherwise okay biopic about the undercover federal narcotics sting perpetrated against Billie Holiday by her ex-lover, Agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes).

Streaming: Hulu

Collective, dir. Alexander Nanau

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Nominations: Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary (Feature)

Summary: Oh my god, Collective. This film is a co-expose by Nanau and the Romanian newspaper journalists (from the publication Gazeta Sporturilor) it follows. They are trying to uncover a mammoth healthcare fraud that allowed tycoons to profit off the deaths of citizens. And oh my god…

Streaming: Hulu

Two Distant Strangers, dir. Travon Free, Martin Desmond Roe

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Nominations: Best Short Film (Live Action)

Summary: This movie is absolutely wild. Joey Bada$$ is Carter, a young Black man trying to get home to his dog one night when he’s stuck in a time loop and forced to relive the day he’s killed by a cop, over and over.

Streaming: Netflix

Better Days, dir. Kwok Cheung Tsang

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Nominations: Best International Feature Film

Summary: Better Days is a crime film that’s totally about teenage bullying, and in a way that feels very new. A bullied high schooler named Nian forges a protective friendship with an enigmatic petty criminal named Bei while she studies for her life-changing final exams, but the two become the prime suspects in the investigation into the death of one of Nian’s classmates.

Streaming: YouTube/Apple TV/Google Play (to rent)

A Love Song for Latasha, dir. Sophia Nahli Allison

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Nominations: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Summary: This shattering, beautiful short film celebrates the short life and marks the avoidable death of Latasha Harlins, the 15-year-old Black girl murdered in 1991—a crime which contributed to the 1992 LA riots. Latisha’s cousin Shinese Harlins and best friend Tybie O’Bard are the film’s guides, telling her story with heartbreaking love.

Streaming: Netflix

The Mole Agent, dir. Maite Alberdi

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Nominations: Best Documentary (Feature)

Summary: In this oddly-funny Chilean documentary CAPER (YES CAPER) film, an eighty-three year old man named Sergio works with a private detective and poses as a resident of a nursing home to see if he can detect signs of elder abuse.

Streaming: Hulu

If Anything Happens I Love You, dir. Will McCormack, Michael Govier

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Nominations: Best Short Film (Animated)

Summary: This papery, pencily animated film about a couple grieving the loss of their child is sometimes very beautiful and sometimes a little uneven (especially when you learn about the crime that took their child).

Streaming: Netflix

Time, dir. Garrett Bradley

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Nominations: Best Documentary (Feature)

Summary: This enormous accomplishment of a film follows Fox Rich, an woman who served three and a half years of jail time for her small part in an armed robbery, and who has spent the last twenty years battling for the release of her husband, who was sentenced to six decades in prison for the very same crime. This movie is able to capture so many rich dimensions, from Rich’s personal attempt to reunite her family, to the large-scale impact of her work as a fearless, tireless advocate for prison reform.

Streaming: Amazon Prime

Hunger Ward, dir. Skye Fitzgerald, Michael Shueuerman 

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Nominations: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Summary: This devastating film captures the efforts of two women health care workers working inside two of the most intense therapeutic feeding centers in Yemen, as they struggle to care for starving children in the middle of a famine. Just to warn you, it is one of the most devastating films you will ever watch.

Streaming: Paramount+, Amazon Prime

Tenet, dir. Christopher Nolan

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Nominations: Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects

Summary: After all the hype, I found Christopher’s Nolan’s dizzying, time-origami-ing espionage thriller to be a little inchoate, but it’s definitely worth the watch. It’s more ambitious (and cumbersome) than Inception and you absolutely have to give all one hundred and fifty minutes of its runtime your maximal attention. Simulate intense movie theater conditions in your home and hit “play.”

Streaming: YouTube/Apple TV/Google Play (to rent)

Do Not Split, dir. Anders Hammer

Nominations: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Summary: China literally won’t air the Oscars, this year, due to rage about this film’s being included in the lineup. Norweigan director Anders Hammer’s film boldly captures the Hong Kong protest movement of 2019 and 2020, in which young protestors came head to head with the extremely violent Chinese police.

Streaming: Vimeo

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, dir. Jason Woliner

Nominations: Best Actress in a Supporting role, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Summary: It’s about a political bribe, and features a bunch of folks from Trump administration. So, yeah, crime movie.

Streaming: YouTube/Apple TV/Google Play (to rent)

 

 

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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