Watch 2021 Oscar-nominated documentaries, including ‘The Mole Agent.’
First-time producers Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins face challenges staging the 93rd Oscars Ceremony during the Coronavirus pandemic. People remain focused on critical next steps regarding justice following Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd. The nominated movies are low-profile indie fare. Taking place at Downtown L.A.’s Union Station Oscars along with the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, entertainment reporters are predicting a 50% drop in ratings for a scaled-down, glamour-free event they’re calling the “Ghost Oscars.”
Comedians like Bill Maher complain that most people have not seen the Oscar-nominated movies. Thanks to video on demand platforms from Amazon Prime to Hulu and Netflix, movie fans can play wannabe Oscar voters and watch many of the Oscar titles before Sunday, April 25, 2021 ceremony.
I admit all the Coronavirus changes have me curious about Sunday’s festivities. In anticipation, I’m binge-watching the Oscar-nominated Documentaries. Join me, and we’ll cast our votes together.
What I’m Watching:
In Bucharest, a deadly nightclub fire ignites the storytelling in director Alexander Nanau’s edge-of-your-seat documentary “Collective.” The movie delivers a deep dive into healthcare corruption and profiteering by Romanian officials. Journalists Catalin Tolontan and Mirela Neag, who work at a sports daily of all places, uncover diluted cleaning supplies as the source of 64 deaths from nightclub fire victims during their hospital treatment. As the movie unfolds and the investigation grows, Tolontan and Neag inspire whistleblowers and a new Romanian health minister to demand change and prioritize patients’ rights. “Collective,” from a script by Nanau and co-writer Antoanete Opris, is a detective story and social justice documentary that inspires audiences to political activism. The Romanian health care system reforms may be short-lived, but “Collective” remains an uplifting story of civic journalism.
“Collective,” from Magnolia Pictures and Participant, is available on Hulu.
What I’m Watching:
“My Octopus Teacher”
“My Octopus Teacher” times its Oscar arrival during Earth Month. Winner of the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, “My Octopus Teacher,” transports audiences to an underwater South African kelp forest for a beautiful and meditative year-long journey between diver Craig Foster and his unlikely friend, a young cephalopod. Co-filmmakers James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich collaborate with Foster on sharing his year-long friendship with a young octopus and immersion into the ocean habitat at the tip of Africa. Cinematographer Roger Horrocks captures the underwater environment beautifully. Like all standout nature films, “My Octopus Teacher” is a delight for the eyes. What distinguishes “My Octopus Teacher” from other environmental movies is Foster’s re-ignited commitment to climate activism and spirit for discovery thanks to a unique underwater relationship.
“My Octopus Teacher,” from Off The Fence and The Sea Change Project, is available on Netflix.
What I’m Watching:
“The Mole Agent”
Making its premiere in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, “The Mole Agent” combines themes on ageism, eldercare, and loneliness for a feel-good and laugh-out-loud Spanish-language documentary. Sergio Chamy, an 83-year-old star widower and star of writer/director Maite Alberdi’s fun movie, experiences a new chapter as a spy hired to look for evidence of inadequate care and theft at a Chilean assisted living community. “The Mole Agent” filmmaker Maite Alberdi addresses important aging and elder abandonment themes throughout the movie. Alberdi spotlights the likable Sergio, his heartfelt stories, new friendships, and carefree adventures as an elderly spy in place of a hard-hitting expose. The result is a story that impacts our ideas about the elderly as much as any social justice documentary.
“Collective,” from Gravity Ventures, is available on Hulu.
What I’m Excited to Watch:
“Wet Season” begins the U.S. run on April 30, 2021
Singapore writer/director Anthony Chen (“Ilo Ilo”) brings artistic style to the student/teacher romance genre with his latest feature, “Wet Season.” Set in Singapore during monsoon season, Ling (Yeo Yann Yann), a Mandarin-language teacher, bonds with solitary student Wei Lun (Koh Jia Ler). An installment in what Chen describes as his “growing up trilogy, “Wet Season,” is the second collaboration between Chen, Yeo Yann Yann, and Koh Jia Ler. They’ll reunite for the upcoming drama “We Are All Strangers,” set during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Behind the Screens: Congrats Independent Spirit Award Winners
Congrats to “Nomadland” (Best Feature, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing), “Sound Of Metal” (Best First Feature, Best Male Lead, Best Supporting Male), and “Promising Young Woman” (Best Screenplay, Best Female Lead) for winning multiple prizes at the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards. Congrats to all the Independent Spirit nominees.