Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, Frozen, Captain Phillips…everyone’s talking about these big budget films that garnered many Oscar nominations that’ll culminate into Sunday night’s ceremony when we’ll find out who’ll take home the gold.
But I’m not here to talk about THOSE films – I’m here to talk about three nominated films that, because of their categories, usually go unseen by the general public due to their subject material or unavailability in their respective hometowns.
But thanks to Netflix and Hulu, you can check these out before filling out your Oscar pool ballot!
Cutie And The Boxer
Nominated for Best Documentary, Cutie And The Boxer explores the 40-year marriage and careers of artists Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko.
A former boxer, Ushio is known as a “Japanese Neo-Dadaist” artist specializing in “boxing paintings” (boxing gloves with sponges attached dipped in paint and punched on paper or canvas), “junk art” sculptures made from found objects, and “imitation art” (works purposely made to imitate Western Neo-Dada and Pop Art), and was revered in the art world by the likes of Andy Warhol and others. The only problem was while people liked his art, no one ever bought any of his pieces.
Noriko met and married Ushio when she came to New York fresh out of art school and in the film we also get to see the 40 year relationship through her work, the story of a young artist who falls in love with an artist and boxer (which is also where the title of the film comes from).
If you’re expecting sunshine and roses, expect more. Featuring footage and recordings from The Shinoharas themselves in their best and worst moments, this film explores frustration, alcoholism and its effects on not only THEIR dynamic but on their son, Alex (also an artist) as well.
The Act Of Killing
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, co-directed by Christine Cynn (and an anonymous Indonesian – more on that later), and exec produced by documentary gods Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, The Act Of Killing focuses on the men who participated in the Indonesian anti-communist purge that occurred during after Suharto’s overthrow of then Indonesian president Sukarno in 1965-1966, when 500,000 suspected communists (and Chinese locals who refused to pay extortion money) were executed.
The film centers on Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, two movie theatre gangsters (black market movie ticket sellers) that became two of the most revered and feared government assassins. Anwar is also known in Indonesia as one of the founding fathers of Permuda Pancasila, the right-wing paramilitary organization (whose members include high ranking government officials) who will happily tell you about their involvements in corruption, election rigging and yes, mass genocide.
In the film, Oppenheimer invites Anwar (above, who’s said he’s personally killed 1000 people) and his friends to re-enact some of the killings using the style of their favorite American films – including gangster, western and musicals – which they gleefully do. To see these men not only talk about the joy of killing and raping women (especially 14-year-olds) with enthusiasm you’d normally hear when people tell stories of seeing an amazing touchdown play or meeting their favorite actor, but to also PLAY the victims they executed, is absolutely bone chilling.
When I say “communist,” I’m talking farmers, women, children, people who’ve been fingered by others as communists and while some of these executioners begin to realize the depth of what they’ve done, others are more concerned about what the film will have on their current public image…but the most horrific thing of all is no one’s ever paid for their crimes. NOT ONE.
People are still so scared of the Pancasila that several crew members (including the aforementioned co-director) decided to be credited as “anonymous” after receiving numerous death threats and Oppenheimer honored their wishes, so don’t be surprised when you see the name Anonymous pop up several times.
While I loved Cutie And The Boxer, The Act Of Killing is my choice to take home the statue.
AND NOW, for something a little more lighthearted.
Room On The Broom
Based on the British children’s book by Julia Donaldson and illustration by Axel Scheffler, director Max Lang deftly and lovingly animates the tale of a kind witch, her cat, and a few other animals they meet along the way and invites along for the adventures on her broom.
What makes this nominee for Best Animated Short Film so endearing is that not only is the story about friendship and sharing, it’s STUFFED with A-list Brit talents including Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson (she’s half English and bi-dialectal – Google it), Timothy Spall, David Walliams, Rob Brydon, Sally Hawkins (who’s also in the multiple Oscar-nominated Blue Jasmine) and Martin Clunes.
Truth be told, I’ve watched this particular short 4 times and hope it beats out Disney’s offering, Get A Horse!
If you’d like to see more Best Documentary nominees, check out The Square (produced by Netflix), The Act Of Killing, Cutie And The Boxer, 20 Feet From Stardom and Dirty Wars; head on over to Netflix! For Room On The Broom, that one’s streaming on Hulu.
There you have it! I hope you’ve liked my picks! Who are YOUR picks to win in these two categories? Sound off in the comments below!
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