Lists can be extremely useful, especially when you need to get organized, go grocery shopping or break down all the ways Jon Snow will return on Game of Thrones (very important). I like those kinds of lists, as the many Post-Its littered across my desk (and Macbook and iPhone) will show you. But making a Top 10 for the best movies of the year is a whole other monster, a film writer’s Sophie’s Choice. For someone as ridiculously indecisive as myself, it took days to finalize the final spots on this list.
Year-end awards are supposed to honor the best in cinema. But it might be more accurate to say they honor a narrow sliver of the best in cinema; only films released from October thru December; only the stuff promoted by the big studios; only movies deemed “important” or “serious” or “biopics about dead famous people.” The impulse to make lists and give out prizes is a good one, but more often than not that impulse results in one big echo chamber, with pundits predicting — and critics and guilds rewarding — the same half-dozen contenders.
Talk of the Oscars has been taking up much of our time lately, but let’s take a break to highlight this year’s top indies. The Independent Spirit Awards, considered the most important awards in the indie film world, revealed their nominees on Tuesday.
Netflix’s head of content acquisition Ted Sarandos has refrained from releasing subscription or content-specific streaming rates, mostly because he doesn’t have to. No larger presiding body has mandated that Netflix publicize its rates of success or failure, and so Sarandos has decided it’s in the company’s best interest to maintain a veil of secrecy over their operations. But in a new interview with Deadline, Sarandos surrendered a little ground and spoke about the playcount of the content streaming giant’s first foray into original scripted film programming, Cary Fukunaga’s brutal war picture Beasts of No Nation.
Each week, ScreenCrush will analyze the Oscar potentials. This past weekend saw the opening of three big studio films in wide release, with a handful of limited releases shining even brighter. It’s the little guys and festival favorites that are already garnering the most Oscar buzz: Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation and A24’s Room. But can Netflix and the up-and-coming indie distribution company make it all the way to the Academy Awards?
Beasts of No Nation marks the streaming video giant’s first serious attempt to become a major player in the feature film world, the same way they’ve become a giant in the world of serialized TV. And what’s most surprising about that first serious attempt is the fact that Netflix made a movie that will probably not play very well on Netflix. Beasts practically demands to be seen in a movie theater, not just for its impressive cinematography and immersive sound design, but also because of its expansive runtime and harrowing subject matter — the plight of child soldiers in Africa.
Netflix has come a long way from the company that used to send you little red envelopes in the mail. Their original programming slate is expanding exponentially; after making major inroads into television and documentaries, they’re now expanding their feature film division as well. Their ambitious slate of movies includes Beasts of No Nation, the new project from Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective (but not, it should be noted, the second season).
After teasing their upcoming original film lineup for some time now, Netflix has finally announced release dates for three major titles: Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, the company’s first original film acquisition for exclusive distribution; Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, which marks Paul Reubens’ big screen return as the beloved, iconic character; and that Adam Sandler comedy western movie that’s been causing quite a fuss.