Movies don’t always have to be Oscar-winners to be worth watching, as this month’s streaming selections show.
This year’s Oscars, known officially as the 94th Academy Awards, are due to take place on 28 March. The world-famous gongs, and film awards in general, can be controversial though, with people disagreeing on the judges’ final choices. As a result, many high quality films have been overlooked by the Academy.
Here’s our pick of this month’s top flicks – some garlanded with statuettes and some not – available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Best of all, Vodafone Pay Monthly mobile customers can add Amazon Prime Video to their plans for a low monthly fee.
The coming-of-age novel Little Women has been adapted for the screen countless times, but this 1994 version has arguably never been bettered. The low-key talents of the cast, from Susan Sarandon to Winona Ryder, are key to pulling you into this warm and sentimental story of love, loss and other life lessons. Ryder was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar in 1995.
This Cold War-era espionage film based on a true story won’t set the world of cinematic intelligence gathering alight. Even so, Benedict Cumberbatch deserves plaudits for his performance as a nervously excitable everyman suddenly thrust into the high-stakes world of clandestine meetings and pilfered files.
Attack The Block
Alien invaders always seem to land in Manhattan or on the White House lawn. Not so in this criminally underappreciated movie – here, the extra-terrestrials set their envious eyes on a south London housing estate. They’re opposed not by stereotypically square-jawed military types, but by John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker – before both starred in bigger-name sci-fi properties. Neither of their talents is wasted, helped along by Joe Cornish’s able direction and snappy script.
Walk the Line
While this biopic of iconic singer Johnny Cash has been criticised for a few historical inaccuracies, the acting is peerless. Joaquin Phoenix’s brooding Johnny Cash meets his match in the warm feistiness of Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter, for which she deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar in 2006. Inevitably, Phoenix’s singing can’t hope to match that of The Man in Black – but then that really would have been an award-worthy feat.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Tales of derring-do during the Age of Sail were once common cinematic fare, but have largely sunk without a trace. This is despite the gusty efforts of Master and Commander, a naval epic set during the Napoleonic Wars, to revive the genre. Russell Crowe is at the helm, bringing his unique swagger and charm to this story of friendship, exploration and naval warfare. While deprived of Oscar recognition by the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and certainly not flawless, it’s still well worth a watch.
Teen romance flicks are rarely considered gong-worthy, even when one takes an 18th Century French novel (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and cleverly updates it to the 1990s, as is the case with Cruel Intentions. Mind games, desire and snobbery collide as a pair of wealthy, ruthless step-siblings set their beady gaze on a fellow classmate. If only all literary adaptations on film were as effortless as this one.
The Big Sick
For an underappreciated love story of a somewhat more traditional kind, try The Big Sick. Kumail and Emily’s budding romance in modern day Chicago is complicated enough with their different backgrounds and disapproving parents. It gets even messier when Emily gets some unexpected news. While The Big Sick is a romcom, it avoids many of the genre’s usual cliches while building its own quirky brand of warmth and intelligence.
Given the Academy’s penchant for feel-good musicals, it’s surprising that Strictly Ballroom wasn’t more widely appreciated. The first film from Baz Luhrmann, better known for Moulin Rouge, this film has a very similar mix of dizzying emotion, energetic dance numbers and misfit outsiders – but set in the world of competitive Australian ballroom dancing. Quirky and crowd-pleasing, it still has plenty of soul beneath all the sequins.