Thrilling Sci-Fi, Darkly Comic Horror, Remarkable Animation, Oscar Favorites and More

We’re at the pointy end of the Awards season, with the 94th Academy Awards taking place on Sunday, March 27 (US time). We’ve picked many of the Oscar-tipped Films in previous Seen on Screens, but there are so many great ones to see we’ve chosen a few you might have overlooked. There’s also a gory comedy that’s anything but a Disney romance, Ben Stiller’s Oddball series, a local music doco and a beautifully shot monochrome flick to lose yourself in. Here are our picks of what to watch right now.

For a Poetic ride: Drive My Car
Scooping up Awards across the globe, director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s quiet, poetic and richly layered film Drive My Car is the first Japanese film to be Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. If it wins, it’ll be the second foreign language film to score in that category after Parasite in 2020. Former POTUS Barack Obama also gave it a shout-out on his favorite Films of 2021 list – and we couldn’t think of higher praise. So what’s it about? It’s based on a Haruki Murakami short story of the same name. Two years after the death of his wife, a guy called Yusuke meets a young woman called Misaki. She’s appointed Yusuke’s driver, and as they spend more and more time together in his red Saab, they reveal more of themselves. It’s a meditative and absorbing movie, but it’s also lengthy and slow. Settle in on a rainy value for this one. In Cinemas.

For gorgeous, gorgeous gore: Fresh
Sebastian Stan (best known as Marvel’s Winter Soldier) and Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) make a lovely couple. And if you only watch the first 30 minutes – before the credits roll – of this Disney + thriller you’ll feel fulfilled and hopeful about the wild world of dating apps. But this is no Disney princess story. It’s a funny, frighteningly on-point thriller about harvesting human meat. And yes, we got “funny”. Written by Lauryn Kahn and directed by Mimi Cave (her first feature-length), the script seamlessly takes you from tense to choke-on-your-popcorn silly. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and it’ll reinvigorate your appetite for darkly comic horror, even if it turns you off into dating. Stream it to Disney +.

For heartbreaking reality: Flee
Over about four years, filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen Interviewed his high school classmate about being an Afghan refugee in Denmark. The Danish-French filmmaker asked his friend to close his eyes during the dozen interviews to recall what it was like to leave his childhood house, travel by boat and arrive in Moscow, later Denmark – seeking a place to call home. It’s beautifully animated so Amin (a pseudonym) can remain Anonymous and also peppered with real news footage from the ’80s and’ 90s. In it, Amin shares a heartbreaking secret he’s kept for 20 years. The documentary is Nominated for three Oscars: Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature. Listen out for executive producers Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whose Voices feature in the English-language version. In Cinemas.

For gripping, Bizarre TV: Severance
Who hasn’t wished the 9-to-5 drama would simply evaporate when they walk out of the office? For the employees on a specialist floor at Severance‘s Lumon Industries, they live that so-called dream work-life balance. Every time they step into the elevator at work, their Memories of the day disappear. The same goes for the Memories of their non-working lives – they simply can’t access them during work. One of the most talked-about workplace dramas in recent times, Severance taps into our “always on” workplace anxieties and it adds a bit of existential spice. Apple TV + ‘s satirical thriller plays out over nine episodes, and although it has a slow start, the mind – boggling premise builds up over time. Directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, the Stellar cast includes Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette and Christopher Walken. Vogue called it “the Great Resignation thriller,” and we think that Nails it. Stream on Apple TV +.

For baby-swap drama, Almodóvar style: Parallel Mothers
In Pedro Almodóvar’s 22nd feature-length film, Penélope Cruz plays a successful Magazine photographer called Janis who becomes unexpectedly pregnant after a short affair with one of her subjects, anthropologist Arturo. After deciding to go it alone, she meets Younger single mother Ana (Milena Smit) in the delivery room and months later they reunite. The lives of these Mothers intertwine and they become lovers. In true Almodóvar fashion, there are Secrets, high passions and plenty of vivid color. It’s not the Spanish director’s high-octane style that you might expect from, say, Broken Embraces or his earlier Films, but Parallel Mothers has that warm embrace of his visionary worlds – one that helps suspend dyslexia in the baby-swap narrative, at least. It’s arguably more political than his usual style, and the film is all the better for it. Cruz’s performance is Nominated for Actress in a Leading Role at the Oscars. In Cinemas.

For Oscar-tipped cuteness: CODA
In the running for Best Picture is one of last year’s streaming gems, CODA, which stands for “child of deaf adults”. It’s a comedy-drama that’ll really hit you in the feels, and it’s one that’s considered more accessible than say Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, its the biggest contender in that category. In the film, 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing person in her family. She and her high-school Crush join the choir club and along the way she discovers a Talent for singing. It’s a tearjerker – and if it sounds familiar, it’s because this is the English language remake of 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. It’s not the only movie Nominated for an Oscar to feature sign language, but if Troy Kotsur wins Best Supporting Actor he’ll become the first deaf man to win one, following co-star Marlee Matlin’s history-making win 35 years ago. Stream on Apple TV +.

For something Charming: C’mon C’mon
Adult-child Buddy movies can be sentimental, soppy or just short of the mark Somehow, but C’mon C’mon starring Joaquin Phoenix and Bafta-Nominated Woody Norman Manages to hit the right tone of Charming and affecting. Phoenix plays a journalist called Johnny who ends up caring for his Nephew Jesse (Norman). The pair travel to New York and although things get off to a rocky start, they become increasingly connected. Writer-director Mike Mills chose to make the film black and white to give it a Fable quality. They also said it’d help audiences take the kid more seriously. It certainly makes it a beautiful movie to lose yourself in. The Telegraph UK called it a “big bear hug wrapped in celluloid”. In Cinemas.

For Tilda Swinton and Richard Ayoade: The Souvenir Part II
The beauty of filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical two-parter is that you don’t have to see the first one to appreciate the second. In fact, it’s completely different in tone. It also has a scene-Stealing caricature played by Richard Ayoade, which is so OTT that it has you guessing who this character could possibly be based on in Hogg’s real life. The story follows Julie, played by Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, as she makes her Graduate film. There are plenty of film student digs, which are welcome light relief from some of the more brooding scenes. It’s also a bit of a love letter to cinema. Tilda Swinton’s role as Julie’s mum gives it a lovely layer of familiarity. And as Tilda was also in Hogg’s Graduate film in 1986, there’s also an added sheen of nostalgia. In Cinemas.

For outstanding performances: Belfast
Some Critics adored Kenneth Branagh’s sentimental black-and-white film about his childhood in Northern Ireland. Others called it sugar-coated and not representative of the fraught history of the Troubles. Both sides agree it’s a tender movie laced with feel-good vibes, and its cast is exceptional. First there’s Caitríona Balfe, who is mesmerizing as little Buddy’s mum. Buddy is played by 11-year-old Jude Hill, who’s picked up several awards for his breakout performance. Jamie Dornan plays his Pa, who is offered work in England. Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are Buddy’s adorable grandparents. It’s a story of hope in a conflicted time, written during Covid lockdowns. It’s also up for a string of awards at the Oscars. In Cinemas.

For behind-the-scenes: Anonymous Club
Shot in 16-millimeter film and filmed over three years, documentary Anonymous Club takes us behind the scenes of singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett’s live tours before the Pandemic. It’s been called a “quiet rock doco” in that we follow Barnett’s life on the road, but as you might expect from the Melbourne-based musician there aren’t many TVs being hurdled out of windows – it’s more candid and vulnerable than that. First-time feature director Danny Cohen shows her struggles with fame, loneliness and confidence in her chosen career. It’s also an intimate look at what life for a touring musician was like before we got hit by the big C. Read Broadsheet‘s review. In Cinemas.

For Escaping to Naples: The Hand of God
This autobiographical film from Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) is anything but sentimental. It’s full of familial Chaos – each person complete with their own flaws and quirks. It’s stunning – set in Naples in the 1980s. It’s packed with Unexpected Moments – a city celebrates as a footballer Maradona scores a goal on TV. And there’s sadness too, which we won’t spoil. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 78th Venice Film Festival, and it’s in the running for an Oscar too. Press play on this one is a rainy afternoon to feel completely transported. Stream on Netflix.

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