November 28, 2023

What to watch September 8, 2023: Movie awards contenders


Oscar buzz has been pouring in from the mountains of Telluride and the canals of Venice, which makes this week’s streaming debuts seem tepid by comparison. But there’s an underwater adventure, a couple of documentaries, and a low-fi alien fable ready for your home viewing. 

The contender to watch this week: “The Little Mermaid

Disney’s live-action remakes have earned a collective 15 Oscar nominations since “Alice in Wonderland” kicked off the fad in 2010, which primes “The Little Mermaid” for similar below-the-line recognition. One wrinkle: Many reviews dinged the Rob Marshall-directed adaptation for its lackluster visual effects and lifeless production design. Still, “Mermaid” has a heavy hitter in two-time nominee Lin Manuel-Miranda, who wrote the original songs “For the First Time” and “The Scuttlebutt.” The movie is newly streaming on Disney+. 

Other contenders:

  • “Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy”: Kino Lorber released Nancy Buirski‘s documentary about “Midnight Cowboy” in theaters earlier this summer, and now it’s available to rent on VOD. The film chronicles the making of the zeitgeist-shifting Best Picture winner, including its gay legacy and the controversial X rating it initially received. Rent “Desperate Souls” on VOD. 
  • “Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind”: Despite her polarizing Twitter presence, Joyce Carol Oates remains a literary lion. Irish critic Stig Björkman, who made a documentary about Ingrid Bergman in 2015, directed this portrait of Oates’ life and career with the help of narration from Laura Dern. It opens in theaters and arrives on VOD platforms this weekend. 
  • Landscape with Invisible Hand“: Cory Finley became a Sundance darling with the stylish 2018 teen psychodrama “Thoroughbreds” and followed it up with the slick, Emmy-winning HBO crime drama “Bad Education.” His latest, based on M.T. Anderson‘s young-adult novel of the same name, is a futuristic alien lark. It doesn’t rise to the heights of Finley’s first two films, but there’s some inventive creature design and refreshingly gentle sci-fi. “Landscape” is now on VOD. 
  • The Banshees of Inisherin“: One of 2022’s best movies, Martin McDonagh‘s existential dramedy about an aging musician (Brendan Gleeson) who breaks up with his best friend (Colin Farrell) after a few too many aimless afternoons spent at the pub is now streaming on Max. It earned nine Oscar nominations. 

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