The majority of this year’s Oscar nominees are from movies that — no surprise! — were released during Oscar season. So to catch up, you have to leave your house and buy a ticket. One title you can watch instantly, from the comfort of your recliner, is one of this year’s unexpected moneymakers: That darkly comic dystopia in which single people have 45 days to find a romantic partner or else they’re turned into an animal of their choice. “The Lobster” nabbed a nom for its imaginative — and in its second half difficult — screenplay, but we’d say it should have gotten another for Colin Farrell. As a divorcee who’s chosen the eponymous sea creature as his potential final destination, he turns awkwardness into a beautiful, hilarious, deadpan art.
‘O.J.: Made in America’
One Oscar-feted film that might work best at home is this sprawling, exhaustive (but never exhausting) doc on the life of Orenthal James Simpson. Why? Because it runs nearly eight hours. What would seem daunting in a movie theater works like a dream on your TV. Divided into five parts, it covers a life that once seemed to define the American dream, before taking a hairpin turn into its worst nightmare. Director Ezra Edelman gives himself acres of space to tease out all the complexities of Simpson’s life and trial, in turn speaking to race, class and the way the media both tells us what we want to hear and what to think. It’s like a rich doorstop of a novel, and one you can’t put down.
This year’s Best Documentary Oscar quintet is strong, with not only “O.J.” (see above) but “I Am Not Your Negro” and “13th” — all three incisive and fiery explorations of race in America. One film not on the list that should have been is Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson.” Johnson is a longtime cinematographer for documentaries, and her deeply unique film is a collection of old footage that never made their films’ final cut. It’s a diverse lot: scenes from war zones, a boxer walking off a lost fight, Johnson’s late mother, all coming to us as if on shuffle. We don’t know anything about each clip except that it means something to her. What it means for us, the viewers, is that we’re forced to ruminate about what it means to point a camera at something and shoot. In an age of too many images, so many that they lose their meaning, “Cameraperson” wants us to stop and think.