With “Beasts of No Nation” from Netflix getting its bow two weeks ago, and securing an awards possibility surrounding Supporting Actor hopeful Idris Elba, we take a look at the VOD sector of the film industry. As Netflix gears to move streaming service to the mass population of general movie-goers and Oscar voters, the VOD placement has not been one that has been warmly received or looked upon as an awards vehicle in any fashion. Who says VOD films aren’t worthy of the Oscars?
Magnolia Pictures, who is a staple of such releases, has delivered some of the most intriguing cinematic climates in the last few years. However, in the wake of their success, they continually get passed over in regards to awards prospects. They’re not the only indie distributors on the beat though. Gravitas, among others, continually fight to have their films seen by as many viewers as possible.
With the awards season underway, I felt it appropriate to shine a light on some smaller, independent films that are well worth the eyes of voting members of various guilds, including the Academy, and that are completely accessible to general audiences. Maybe it’s time we think a little outside the box.
Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s “The Stanford Prison Experiment” emerged from the Sundance Film Festival as one of the true highlights in January, picking up the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. A tight, thought-provoking look into the mind of a social experiment gone terribly wrong, the film boasts a career best performance from Billy Crudup with standout turns from the impeccably underutilized Ezra Miller and Michael Angarano. Claustrophobic yet effective camera work from Jas Shelton and a fascinating script Tim Talbott, the film is surely worth catching.
Tribeca bowed this year with freshly original “Maggie” from Henry Hobson and starring former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his most sensitive role of his career. Alongside Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin, the zombie-drama presented a unique spin on a genre that’s been beaten to death. DP Lukas Ettlin’s filters and dark lenses create an atmosphere of horror and despair, without diving into the overdone territories of “jump scares” and “mutilated human flesh.”
A year and a half has passed since getting a first look at Lou Howe’s intense character study “Gabriel” with a vibrantly lived in performance by Rory Culkin. Praying for it to see the light of day, the film was finally released in VOD platforms in July. Fast forward to the Gotham Nominations announced recently, it was one of the best moments of the year to see Culkin’s name cited among the nominees for Best Actor. It’s well worth the discovery for his complex and sensational turn that allows him to go to places we don’t see many actors afforded the opportunity to do in their breakout roles.
In other ventures, the Best Actress race has been a topic of conversation for months with the amount of quality contenders that are in the hunt. I’ve been banging the drum for Olivia Wilde‘s heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of a struggling mother in Reed Morano’s “Meadowland.” Ditto goes for a similar yet completely different interpreted work by Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet in “Bleeding Heart” from writer/director Diane Bell.
Finally, a little film by the name of “Five Star” by writer/director Keith Miller has been one of the least seen gems of 2015. Also debuting at Tribeca 2014, this drama that blends documentary and fictional storytelling is a harrowing and honest look into gang life on the streets of New York. Examining the question of what it means to be a man, “Five Star” gets the grit and services it in the form of a suspenseful tale of redemption and revenge. Well worth the time if given the chance.
Some will chime in with a few gems I’ve yet to catch up with like “5 to 7” with Anton Yelchin or the indie documentary “Misery Loves Comedy” and “I Am Chris Farley.” There’s so much more to add. Here’s to hoping for some critical citations for some of these fine films and performances along the way, outside of the Independent Spirit Awards. Seek them out if you can.
Share and discuss some of yours in the comments below!