Field of Streams: And the Oscar Went To…

Gearing up for Hollywood’s big night with a two-part tribute to some former winners

Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s weekly guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What’s new on Netflix and Amazon Prime? What do we recommend on Kanopy, Fandor, and Shudder? We’ve got it all. From monthly roundups, to curated top 5 lists, to reviews of our favorites available now… it’s here. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.

The Oscars are coming…much sooner than usual this time around. As is usually the case this time of year, many will no doubt be flocking to whatever arthouse theater or streaming platform to see any one of the buzzy Oscar hopefuls that are playing. Fair enough. However while Oscar season means soaking up the latest awards titles which represent the current state of cinema, it’s also the absolute perfect time to revisit selections from past decades, all of which can proudly boast the title of “Academy Award winner.”

Unlike today, a movie didn’t always need splashy campaigns or a collection of awards leading up to the big night in order to secure a win. There was actually a time when a film could achieve such a victory based solely on its own merits. The proof in such a theory can be found in the staying power of those films today. In this special 2-part edition of Field of Streams, we take a look back at some streaming favorites from the 40s to the 2010s, all of which made their mark on cinema in such a way that it took them all the way to Oscar gold.


How such an acclaimed title like Mildred Pierce can be so admired yet not fully accepted as a credible entry in the genre it belongs to is an outright shame. However that’s a rant for another day. Instead, we’re focusing on the film’s staying power as one of the most indelible Oscar winners of all time. Joan Crawford never found a better role than that of a mother who climbs her way up to the top after being widowed only to find herself challenged by her increasingly complicated relationship with her oldest daughter (Ann Blyth). Even if some may feel Mildred Pierce doesn’t completely earn its noir stripes, few can deny it’s cinematic power. The family struggles, the yearning for romance, the passage of time and the crime of passion at the heart of everything has everything a movie needs to bring home Oscar gold. Voters seemed to agree…to a point. Mildred Pierce scored nominations in most of the top categories, taking home only one for Crawford’s stunning performance. It’s hard to ever think of Crawford as washed up during the 40s, especially since the movie feels like the quintessential vehicle for her. Yet the assignment was a happy accident which the actress took on (after Better Davis refused it) and used to bring Oscar home and revitalize her career. The classic film world is much better for it.


Of all the Oscars a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock could win, you wouldn’t expect Best Original Song to be one of them. But that’s just what happened in the case of the director’s 1956 offering, The Man Who Knew Too Much. A remake of his earlier film, James Stewart and Doris Day play and American couple on vacation in the French Morocco whose child is kidnapped in a bid to keep Stewart quiet when he finds himself with information regarding an upcoming assassination. The actor is predictably solid, but it’s Day who is the surprise MVP. Her breaking down into sudden panic when she learns of her son’s abduction is so gut wrenching and her anguish throughout most of the Albert Hall sequence in London (which culminates in a bloodcurdling scream from Day) shows the actress’ talent as most never knew it to be. Early on, before she shows off her dramatic thriller chops, Day sings the eventual iconic tune “Que Sera Sera” as she gets her son ready for bed. The scene, meant to signify the loving bond between mother and child, is made all the more powerful as she beautifully and perfectly introduces the future classic to the world.


While its fate as one of the costliest film productions of all time was sealed even before shooting had ended, Cleopatra was still ripe for Oscar love. The gross excesses (such as personally flying in dishes from star Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite L.A. restaurant all the way to Rome) and mounting costs during filming became legendary. Taylor’s record-breaking salary, grand-scale sets, countless extras and a bloated script inflated the budget to the point where the studio was forced to shut down all other productions due to the fact that they couldn’t afford them. When audiences got passed all the making-of mayhem, they were treated to a sprawling story which featured romance and conflict of excellent quality. The real-life affair of Taylor and Richard Burton only made their screen time together all the more exciting and there isn’t a moment in Cleopatra which isn’t ripe with the kind of fodder which practically made the sandal epic. Co-star Roddy McDowall may have famously missed out on a nomination due to a documented clerical error, but Cleopatra otherwise scored noms in many of the top categories, winning for its costumes (Liz looks great), cinematography, art direction and visual effects.


The first version of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels was lauded by the author herself and remains one of director Sidney Lumet’s greatest achievements as well as one of the decade’s best films. The story of the famous detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney at his best) who is tasked with solving a murder on a train full of starry passengers stranded in the middle of Eastern Europe still makes for such ripe and refreshing cinematic entertainment. Everything about Murder on the Orient Express works to perfection, bringing to life Christie’s story through the use of glamour and darkness. Academy voters agreed by bestowing nods on the movie for its screenplay, costumes, score and lead actor. But it was Ingrid Bergman who took home the movie’s only win for Best Supporting Actress, playing a God-fearing Swedish missionary in heartbreaking turn which all but transported the already-perfect Murder on the Orient Express into another realm. It may not be as popcorn-heavy as Kenneth Branagh’s recent version, but Lumet’s version of Christie’s tale is one which manages to both dazzle and haunt in ways in which even the author herself probably hadn’t imagined.

There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? And, as always, if you’ve got thoughts on titles we’re missing out on or new services to check out, leave a comment below or email us.

Till next week, stream on, stream away.

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