We are in the heat of Oscar season! Dozens of motivated nominees are positioning themselves to take home the gold statue during the Academy Awards on March 27. Press interviews, award luncheons, personal appeals, and full studio marketing are doing everything they can to influence the minds of the Academy voters.
It all sounds exhausting, to be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve had any personal investment in the Oscars as an accurate barometer of the best work of the year. Even still, it’s an outstanding achievement to be recognized by your peers as an Academy Award winner. That’s why we’re kicking off our new streaming recommendation column with Oscar-winning movies available on Netflix, starting with one of this year’s nominees.
“The Power of the Dog” (2021): Over the past few years, Netflix has invested in distributing original films that have award-winning potential to boost their credibility. One of the latest is Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” a western drama considered one of the frontrunners for Best Picture this year.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Phil Burbank, a Wyoming ranch owner who becomes spiteful toward his brother George (Jesse Plemons) after marrying a widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst). Rose and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), move to the Burbank ranch, enduring the harassment and taunts of Phil until Peter shows an interest in ranching himself.
Filmed in her native New Zealand, Campion uses the breathtaking natural landscapes to draw our admiring eyes as the tense drama unfolds into a mystery. Cumberbatch finds moments to hint at the character’s hidden introspection beyond the menace he tries to portray, while Dunst, Plemons, and Smit-McPhee all attempt to uniquely respond and deflect Phil’s torment. “The Power of the Dog” confidently immerses the audience in its environment as each new layer draws us deeper into the story. Simply put, it’s one of 2021’s best adult dramas.
“The Power of the Dog” has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the most ever for a movie by a female director. All four main actors have received nominations, as has Campion for directing, her second nod after 1993’s “The Piano.” The race for Best Picture feels very competitive this year. Still, with its number of high accolades already, it’s difficult to count the Netflix movie out.
TL;DR Verdict: Must Watch
Netflix offers several past winners beyond this year’s slate of nominees. Here are four to recommend:
- “Apocalypse Now” (1979): You can make a strong case for “Apocalypse Now” being the best war movie ever made. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who was finishing a first-ballot hall of fame career decade), the movie stars Martin Sheen as a young soldier tasked with finding and assassinating a rogue Army Special Forces colonel (Marlon Brando) in Cambodia during the Vietnam war. Coppola blends the best of two film eras with the widescreen epic style of a David Lean with the harsh perspective of a modern war movie, and the result is a compelling classic. Netflix has the Redux version of the movie, which is the longest cut of the film. “Apocalypse Now” was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
- “My Fair Lady” (1964): The selection of older classics is few and far between on Netflix, but it does have this legendary musical that won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Audrey Hepburn stars as Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney woman selling flowers on the street to make ends meet. Eliza encounters Henry Higgens (Rex Harrison), a phonetics professor who bets he can revamp Doolittle’s entire demeanor to make her presentable to high-end English society. Not only do you get one of the most famous and acclaimed film musicals starring one of the great icons of Hollywood, but you also have what’s become a bit of a modern movie unicorn: An award-winning all-ages film without animation.
- “The Exorcist” (1973): The Oscars usually avoid scary, but they couldn’t look away from director William Friedkin’s supernatural horror film that earned 10 nominations and one victory for William Peter Blatty’s adapted screenplay. “The Exorcist” brings us into the Georgetown home of a single mother (Ellen Burysten) whose maternal terrors are realized when she comes to believe her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is possessed by a demon. Friedkin’s film still spooks modern audiences because it avoids the cliched trappings of the genre while forcing audiences to confront an evil that aims directly for our worst fears.
- “The Social Network” (2010): This gripping drama about the creation of Facebook manages to age better than wine every year. Harvard geek Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) plots a new programmed digital platform with his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), but it isn’t long before ego, greed, and insecurities rupture their lives even more. Director David Fincher, working from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, crafts one of the most incisive films on American capitalism and male ambition that’s ever been made. “The Social Network” was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Sorkin.