These former Oscars contenders on Netflix are ‘As Good as It Gets’


Photo credit: Amanda Greene

The Academy Awards, and the gold Oscar statue which punctuates them, have long been a symbol of cinematic excellence. However, the Academy has been criticized for snubbing female creators, and creators of color. In a yearly awards show renowned for being awkward and disappointing, the 2020 Oscars surprised me.

Though most use Netflix for their daily fix of reality TV, ’90s movies and comedy sketches, the streaming service serves a new purpose during awards season: reminiscing about the best movies of the past. Though they can be hard to find amid the vast jungle of films available to stream, these Academy Award-nominated gems are worth a watch.

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As Good as It Gets (1997)

The (less than famous) film that beat “Titanic” for best actor and actress, “As Good as It Gets” tells the story of Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), a jaded author who suffers from OCD. In his daily routine, he encounters compassionate painter Simon (Greg Kinnear) and single mother and waitress Carol (Helen Hunt). After Simon is violently attacked, Melvin is forced to take in his dog, Verdell. A beautiful testament to love, understanding and overcoming mental illness, the film deserves far more recognition and renown than it has been granted. The audience grows to love Melvin and becomes engulfed in the financial struggles of Carol and Simon. Each character is well-rounded and complex, and the ending is beautifully simple.

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper shine in this dramedy. Cooper plays a former mental hospital patient and victim of bipolar disorder, while Lawrence plays a haunted widow. The two begin a quirky and unlikely friendship and connect over the destruction of their marriages. The film offers an honest look at living with mental illness, from talking about medication to sudden mood swings. The film discusses the throes of infatuation and reveals what it’s like to constantly replay traumatic moments. The film chronicles two people, both in emotional ruts, struggling to form connections in a world that makes little sense to either of them.

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Good Will Hunting (1997)

The story of a young genius with a traumatic past (Matt Damon), “Good Will Hunting” certainly deserved its nomination for Best Picture. Contrasting a beautiful mind with the dark and ugly backdrop that shapes it, the film delves into the way youth effects adulthood. Will pushes away those closest to him and refuses to open up, even to his court-ordered therapist (Robin Williams). As the film progresses, we learn more about Will’s past and the ways it impacts his relationships. The film offers an honest account of a trauma survivor and has many scenes that don’t revolve singularly around Will’s psyche. The film also discusses class dynamics and the ways the lower class are excluded from academia. The film is beautiful, complex and enlightening.

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Icarus (2017)

When Bryan Fogel set out to create “Icarus,” his goal was to record a personal odyssey and reveal an imbalance in the sports industry. He planned to use steroids for several months before a bicycle tournament and then see how his performance compared to the previous year, in which he used no narcotics. However, when American sports scientists refused to help him, he turned to Russian Olympic scientist Grigory Rodchenkov. As the two get closer, Rodchenkov reveals that he had a part in a state-sponsored Russian doping scandal. In a film that is part documentary and part crime thriller, the Russian doping scandal becomes accessible. By delving into the emotional turmoil of Rodchenkov and the vastness of the doping program, “Icarus” is shocking, poignant and terrifying. The stakes are constantly rising, and the film is full of twists and turns. Named for the meteoric rise of Lance Armstrong followed by his shocking fall from grace, the film reveals that corruption in sports runs deep and is an urgent call for more transparency in the industry.

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Lion (2016)

A masterclass in exploring family and the effects of cultural assimilation, “Lion” certainly deserved its place among 2016’s Best Picture nominees. The film tells the story of Saroo (Dev Patel/Sunny Pawar) and flashes between his journey through India as a young child and his struggle to find his biological mother as a man. The movie explores the deep internal struggle between the heritage of other cultures and Western hegemony and digs deeply into what it truly means to be Indian, Australian and — most importantly — human. The film also discusses familial relationships and poses many important questions: What is a mother? Can a person have more than one family? How do you support your child without holding them back? “Lion” is as poignant as it is fascinating and will have you crying, smiling and, most importantly, questioning.

Netflix offers binge-worthy dramas, gut-busting comedies and a fair number of Oscar-nominated gems. From the informative and thrilling “Icarus” to the understated and dry “Silver Linings Playbook,” one can find solace in the fact that so many critically acclaimed films are available on the world’s most popular streaming platform.