Netflix feature films set to impact awards season

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Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (above) is an autobiographical epic that has critics swooning. The black-and-white film centers around a middle-class family and the lives of their live-in domestic help in 1970s Mexico City. Image: NETFLIX Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (above) is an autobiographical epic that has critics swooning. The black-and-white film centers around a middle-class family and the lives of their live-in domestic help in 1970s Mexico City. Image: NETFLIX

After competing with HBO in the original series game, Netflix is now gunning for Hollywood recognition with a slew of prestige film acquisitions helmed by some of the most respected names in show business. Here are a few streaming contenders for Oscar glory.

Roma

R, 135 minutes (On Netflix December 14)

Perhaps the biggest score of this new era of Netflix is Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Not only is Cuarón himself the winner of several Academy Awards, but this is Mexico’s official submission for best foreign language film. Whether or not you’re a fan of the director’s signature style—long, active shots that are alternately flashy and meditative—Roma is a gem of a movie. It’s personal and nostalgic, yet still relatable for those of us who did not grow up in 1970s Mexico City. Commentaries on race and class are interwoven with universally resonant emotions and experiences, while the core narrative remains fascinating in its own right. This is Cuarón’s best in years.

Outlaw King

R, 121 minutes (On Netflix now)

To everyone who’s ever complained that Braveheart should have been more historically accurate: Be careful what you wish for. David Mackenzie’s historical drama Outlaw King focuses on Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), another character involved in the struggle for Scottish independence, bringing him out of William Wallace’s shadow to portray him as the national hero he is. Outlaw King generated enormous award buzz until its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, when audiences got a first glimpse at an overlong, unfocused epic. It has since been trimmed, and though the result is said to be better than the TIFF cut, the post-production surgery shows. The film begins with intricate long takes that combine action, political intrigue, character development, and special effects in smooth, natural transitions. By the end, Outlaw King is full of rapid cuts and unclear use of space, and while the story gets from A to B with little confusion, there are definitely a few beats missing. With solid acting and lush visuals, it’s by no means a bad movie, and Mackenzie is a director we’d like to see get more work of this scale. But, it is obvious why this went from blockbuster epic to the small screen in just a few months.

The Ballad of
Buster Scruggs

R, 133 minutes (On Netflix now)

Probably the most unconventional movie coming directly to Netflix is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs from the Coen brothers. Initially conceived as a six-part anthology series about the Old West, it is instead being released with all installments back-to-back. This may sound like a disaster, but the result is utterly captivating. Each unrelated episode packs its own emotional punch, and when viewed in sequence, they complement each other beautifully, often with devastating results. The stories are alternately slapstick, tragic, absurd, and melancholy, sometimes all at once. Classic Coen nihilism mixes with emotional material we don’t generally see from the duo, brought to life by an exceptional cast—standouts include Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Tim Blake Nelson, and Tom Waits at the top of his game.

OPENING this week z Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056, drafthouse.com/charlottesville z The House That Jack Built z Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213, regmovies.com z Meow Wolf: Origin Story, The Possession of Hannah Grace z Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000, charlottesville.violetcrown.com z The Possession of Hannah Grace z Check theater websites for complete listings.

See it again

ELF

PG, 97 minutes;
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

December 4

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