December 10, 2023

What to watch September 22, 2023: Movie awards contenders


This week’s streaming debuts bring standout performances from a handful of would-be first-time Oscar nominees, plus another from a previous winner whose name connotes prestige. At least one of these movies is already plotting a robust campaign, and as more category placements and Best International Feature Film selections are trickling in, awards season is starting to get serious. 

The contender to watch this week: “Cassandro

Gael García Bernal has somehow never received an Oscar nomination, and here comes one of his best performances. In “Cassandro,” he plays a gay, working-class Texan who became an unlikely superstar in the macho world of Mexican wrestling. Bernal has earned some of the strongest reviews of his career for this movie, which premiered at Sundance in January and bowed theatrically last week. He’s up against a stacked Best Actor longlist, but surely voters know he’s overdue, right? “Cassandro” is streaming on Prime Video. 

Other contenders:

  • Bottoms“: Two of the internet’s favorite young comedy stars, Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, headline director Emma Seligman‘s late-summer high school romp about two teen outcasts who start a fight club in hopes of seducing cheerleaders. It’s the sort of off-color sex comedy we don’t see enough of anymore. “Bottoms” is still in theaters, but now it’s available on VOD, too. 
  • “Sanctuary”: Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley make an alluring pair in this two-hander about the heavily negotiated relationship between a spoon-fed hotel heir and the dominatrix he routinely hires to humiliate him. Part erotic thriller and part twisted romantic comedy, “Sanctuary” had a theatrical run in May and is now streaming on Hulu. 
  • Past Lives“: Director Celine Song‘s early-summer indie favorite is already preparing to mount an Oscar bid. SAG granted the A24 movie an interim agreement that will allow its cast — headlined by Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro — to participate in FYC events and other promotional opportunities. If bigger movies are limited in how they can campaign during the actors’ strike, that might give the critically adored “Past Lives” a much-needed boost. As of this week, you can rent it on VOD.
  • Golda”: On paper, this is the sort of role that would win Helen Mirren immediate awards buzz. It’s an unglamorous political biopic in which she plays former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier, specifically during the 1973 international oil crisis. The movie opened without a ton of buzz, but it hit VOD this week. 

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