• (L–R) ‘Another Round’, ‘Whiplash’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’. (SBS)Source: SBS
Recently the Oscars have focused on rewarding overlooked gems, so if you missed these winners in cinemas, here’s your chance to get caught up.
By
Anthony Morris

11 Mar 2022 - 1:31 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2022 - 10:21 AM

When you think of the Oscars, chances are you think of movies’ night of nights: big stars, red carpet fashion, tearful speeches, an actor looking grumpy because they missed out. What you might not always think of, especially over the last decade, are the actual films. Which is a shame, because when the Oscars focus on the gems that don’t have a big Hollywood promotional push behind them, they’re doing us all a favour.

Done right, the Academy Awards are an amazing way to focus attention on films that deserve a closer look. Take last year’s winner of both Best International Film and Best Director, Another Round, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Sunday 13 March. It’s exactly the kind of smart, funny, character-based drama (with a twist) that deserves both the award and the attention. Four aging high school teachers decide the way to restore their zest for life is by getting slightly drunk all day every day, which works out both better and worse than you might expect. Let’s put it this way: star Mads Mikkelsen dances, and it’s amazing.

Another Round airs on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Sunday 13 March. Stream it anytime at SBS On Demand.

 

 

No surprise then that as blockbusters get bigger and louder, the Awards have often chosen to use their promotional power to put forward smaller, more interesting films. Instead of handing out statues to the hit films everyone already knows – and has probably already seen – they’re saluting smaller films you might not have heard of, but are well worth checking out.

Even when the win is a little more low-key, it can still be a big boost to a film’s profile. Whiplash, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Monday 14 March, was a critical fave with plenty of buzz by the time the Oscars came around, and J.K. Simmons’ win for Best Supporting Actor was well-deserved. As the sadistic music teacher who takes an up-and-coming drummer (Miles Teller) under his wing, only to reveal that with his harsh and punishing methods for achieving greatness that might not be a great place to be, it was a standout performance in any year.

Whiplash is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

Sometimes the Oscars even work as a reminder that an old favourite still has a bit of life left in them. In the early 2000s Woody Allen seemed to realise he didn’t have to keep making the same off-beat New York comedies, and with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Tuesday 15 March, he served up a relationship drama with more of an edge than he’d shown in a while. In a love triangle centred on charismatic painter Juan (Javier Bardem), Penélope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress as the fiery ex he can’t quite leave behind – which isn’t automatically a deal-breaker for Cristina (Scarlett Johansson).

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

There’s a downside to focusing on smaller films: it assumes people will pay attention to the Oscars even when they don’t know the films up for the big awards.

The best-case scenario for the Oscars (and the ceremony’s TV ratings) is when a film that’s already a critical hit – and doing well at the box office – swoops in and makes a big impact, as did Birdman, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Wednesday 16 March, in 2015. Winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography, and with all the main cast nominated, it’s a one-take look at a former superhero actor (Michael Keaton) struggling to revive his career with a much-anticipated stage play that constantly threatens to derail in thrilling (if nail-biting) fashion.

And it’s not like the Oscars don’t know when to play to their big strength: true stories about major issues turned into compelling dramas. A gripping re-enactment of Boston Globe reporters’ years-long investigation into sex crimes and cover-ups inside the Catholic Church, Spotlight, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Thursday 17 March, won Best Picture. Zero Dark Thirty, screening on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Friday 18 March, was nominated for a slew of awards (and won Best Sound Editing) for its electrifying re-enactment of the years-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Spotlight airs on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Thursday 17 March. Stream it anytime at SBS On Demand.

Zero Dark Thirty airs on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Friday 18 March. It is streaming at SBS On Demand till midnight, 1 May.

 

It might seem silly to suggest that any Oscar-winning film could be a secret. They’re globally recognised awards backed by the second largest movie industry in the world, after Bollywood. But as Western cinema increasingly focuses on movies based on massive spectacle as a drawcard, a film like Midnight In Paris, premiering on SBS World Movies at 8.30pm, Saturday 19 March, which won for Best Original Screenplay, seems increasingly pushed to the margins.

Midnight In Paris is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

A small-stakes comedy in which one of director Woody Allen’s traditional insecure leads (Owen Wilson) is carried back in time to hang out with Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and other titans of the Jazz Age – and tackle his dissatisfaction with his present-day life – it’s a bubbly delight that deftly punctures the appeal of nostalgia. So long as the Oscars keep highlighting this kind of film, we’re all winners.

SBS World Movies screens these Oscar-winning gems at 8.30pm each night from Sunday 13 to Saturday 19 March. The 2022 Academy Awards ceremony is on Sunday 27 March, in Hollywood. 

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