This week we checked out Netflix's Oscar-nominated original documentary Virunga and found it very much worth watching. While we were in an Oscar-type mood, we found some other, previous nominees and winners, as well as some good movies that maybe should have been nominated. Amazingly, there are crime films, cult films, and rock films among them, as opposed to the usual "serious" stuff that often captures the spotlight. Finally, allow me to introduce you to Break.com, a new and free streaming service for Lionsgate movies.
Recommended on Netflix
Netflix's own feature documentary Virunga (2014) received a 2015 Oscar nomination. It's a compelling work of journalism, depicting the struggles of the Virunga National Park in Africa's Congo. The park is home to an endangered species of mountain gorilla, and animal lovers will want to save their best "awwws" for these huggable, docile creatures.
But the park must also maintain its own militia, because it's harbors precious natural resources — including a recently discovered oil deposit — and that makes it a constant target. The movie includes some shocking hidden camera footage of oilmen discussing their nefarious plans, as well as footage of real attacks. In real life, park director Emmanuel de Merode was shot just before the film's premiere (he survived). Orlando von Einsiedel directed this powerful, must-see film.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Many complained that it was too confusing, but for patient viewers, it's remarkable how well Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) compresses John le Carré's 1974 novel into a two-hour movie, not only conveying precise espionage information, but also allowing for a gloomy, quietly visual scheme not completely packed with facts and chatter. Though many prefer Alec Guinness as lead character George Smiley (Guinness played him in the 1979 TV miniseries), Gary Goldman matches him with a great performance that earned his first Oscar nomination. (He lost to Jean Dujardin for The Artist.)
Agent Smiley is called out of retirement to help find a mole in MI6, aided by Benedict Cumberbatch as his young assistant. The awesome cast also includes Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong, and Tom Hardy. Director Alfredson, from Sweden, made his English-language debut here after directing the acclaimed vampire film Let the Right One In (2008).
The French Connection
William Friedkin's The French Connection (1971) is one of the great cop pictures, based on real cops, and focused on the grimy details of the job. The story has "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman, who won an Oscar) and "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider, who was nominated) on the trail of an international drug smuggler (Fernando Rey). Friedkin "stole" most of his New York location footage, shooting quickly and without permits, and uses plenty of spy and surveillance footage to heighten suspense.
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