Video-on-demand roundup: Oscars special

Saqib Shah
February 28, 2014

With the year’s most glamorous film awards almost upon us, this week’s VOD roundup is an awards special. So sit back with your popcorn, have your presentation speeches at the ready and tune in (whenever, it is on-demand after all).  


Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine (Oscars double bill)

Not all the Oscar contenders are available for home viewing in the UK. The big guns vying for Best Picture at this year’s ceremony – Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle – are all still awaiting release. However, to get in the mood for the Oscars why not catch up with Captain Phillips (up for six awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for its star Tom Hanks) and Blue Jasmine (the film’s lead Cate Blanchett is a shoe-in for Best Actress and it’s also up for Best Original Screenplay). Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) brings his tense hyper-realistic style to Captain Phillips, a true-life tale of modern-day piracy. Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is a complex portrayal of a woman’s mental breakdown anchored by a brilliant performance by Blanchett, with undertones of Tenessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. As an aside, i think we can stop calling it a return to form every time Allen makes a good film. In hindsight it’s not like he ever stopped making interesting films, despite his high output.



Spike Jonze’s Her is up for five awards including Best Original Screenplay – for Jonze himself – and Best Picture (although it’s a crying shame that the film’s lead, Joaquin Phoenix, missed out on a Best Actor nomination). It will have a hard time winning any of those categories, but certainly deserves to take home a few trophies. Generally speaking, the Academy doesn’t go for films that have an element of sci-fi – even if it is only slight. But they don’t have a problem with Jonze’s quirky sensibility, having already nominated him for his directing work on Being John Malkovich. Adaptation saw Jonze team up again with writer Charlie Kauffmann for a delirious dark comedy with the kind of mind boggling meta-narrative you’d expect from a Kauffman screenplay. It also had a double-role for Nicolas Cage, back when that was greeted as a reason to watch a film rather than run for the hills. Despite being nominated for four Oscars, Adaptation only took home a supporting actor award for Chris Cooper.

Google Play

Gone with the Wind, Reds (Oscars classics double bill)

Google’s VOD service has a convenient ‘Award winning movies’ section that offers some interesting choices and outright classics – the selection is better than anything you will find on Netflix and Blinkbox. Out of the films on the curated list, sweeping romantic epics Gone With the Wind and Reds are two great examples of two different – but extremely creative – periods in Hollywood history. The former was a labour of love for the Hollywood studio system that went massively over budget and had multiple directors working on it, but still managed to become one of the most popular and acclaimed movies of all time. The story of the stubborn Scarlett O’Hara – still viewed as one of the best female characters to ever make it on to celluloid – and her chaotic affair with a blockade runner amidst the backdrop of the American Civil War is a timeless classic. Warren Beatty’s Reds on the other hand is the singular vision of an auteur director at the height of his power. Despite being made in the early eighties, it is a product of the seventies ‘film brat’ era of visionary Hollywood filmmaking. The film tells the romanticised story of radical American journalist John Reed and boasts a great cast in Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Beatty himself -who also co-wrote and directed the film. Reds went on to be nominated for a staggering 12 Academy Awards.So, if you have a spare seven hours, why not binge watch a couple of Hollywood classics rather than the same old TV shows.

Honourable mention:

Harold Ramis interview

Earlier this week, the film industry lost a brilliant writer, actor and director in the hugely talented Harold Ramis. Known for his work behind the scenes on comedy classics such as Caddy Shack, Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Groundhog Day and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Ramis was also partly responsible for launching the post Saturday Night Live career of the legendary actor Bill Murray. For his own part, Ramis’ Igon was an integral part of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 – which doesn’t bode well for the rumoured sequel, but maybe that wasn’t such a good idea in the first place. His style also matured from juvenile comedies to witty – often deceptively clever (see Groundhog Day) – films about male mid-life crises. In this short interview, available here, a young Ramis discusses one of his most beloved cult films; Ghostbusters. It’s a fitting way to remember a comedy great.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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