Top 9 Now Streaming: Under the Radar Awards Movies

FIELD OF STREAMS gives you 9 streaming gems that really “coulda been contenders”

This month on Field of Streams, we’re bringing Top 9 lists, in honor of this being the 9th year of Cinapse! During this anniversary month, we’ll give you our patented streaming recs, but in lists of 9. From awards movies to beloved directors to service-specific lists, expect some great streaming films that you can sink your cinematic teeth into. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.

As is custom during this time of awards season, the Oscar nominations have been announced, the campaigning is in full swing (keep it up, Kristen Stewart!) and the usual suspects are making their way to the various stages where they’re collecting as many prizes as they can before the big night arrives.

Can Kirsten Dunst still best Ariana deBose? Is it going to be Drive My Car, or will Coda surprise? Does Andrew Garfield still have any chance at all? Such questions are on the minds of industry players and watchers as they go back to revisit their favorite contenders in anticipation of Oscar night.

But for those tired of hearing about the (admittedly impressive) camerawork of West Side Story, could care less about Sam Elliott’s thoughts on The Power of the Dog (to quote our site’s fearless leader: “I just don’t have the bandwidth for that,”), or are so totally done with the Licorice Pizza discourse, Field of Streams is here to save you.

Instead of watching the aforementioned titles again, I’ve gathered a different watchlist full of films that at one point had dreams of Oscar glory before being relegated to the sidelines. Some were poised to be awards ready, others so clearly had what it took, but all went virtually unnoticed despite representing some of the best of what cinema had to offer last year.


BERGMAN ISLAND (Hulu)

Dramas rarely feel as sublime as this tale of a pair of married screenwriters (Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps) who journey to the island that inspired legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman in the hopes that they will get rejuvenated enough to complete their respective projects. It’s so rare that a film’s landscape can be the star of the show, but that’s certainly the case here. The location of Faro Island is dreamy and magical, but also mysterious in the way it causes the film’s characters to confront the torture within themselves. Writer/director Mia Hansen-Love makes excellent use of the island in order to explore these complex characters and the scattered elements which have held them together. When the film takes us into one of the characters’ screenplays (a separate romantic drama starring Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie), Bergman Island takes on a Paul Auster-like quality where destiny reigns supreme and nothing remains the same for anyone. Check out Elizabeth’s review here.


THE HUMANS (Showtime)

C’mon C’mon was A24’s main horse in the race this awards season, but one cannot discount The Humans, the studio’s adaptation of the Tony award-winning play. Taking place over the course of a single Thanksgiving meal, the film follows a middle-class New York family (Richard Jenkins, Jane Houdyshell, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen Yuen, Amy Schumer and June Squibb) as they gather to celebrate the holiday in their youngest daughter’s new Chinatown apartment. The sprawling two-story loft with its fixer-upper spots and narrow corridors not only helps The Humans feel more like a film, but the setting also proves a great metaphor for the family itself, each of whom feels somewhat broken thanks to the state of their own lives. The Humans foregoes most of the traditional family holiday moments seen in other films in favor of a close and intimate look at a group of people who simply want to be the best for one another. Rather than revel in the family’s misery, the film ends on a hopeful note, inspiring its weary characters and the audience watching to simply keep on going. Check out Emma’s review here.


NO MAN OF GOD (Sling, Roku Channel)

When No Man of God was announced, the film community collectively (and understandably) sighed: “Not another Ted Bundy movie.” That was my initial thought as well until I saw this true retelling of a young FBI Agent named Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) who is sent to interview the notorious Bundy (Luke Kirby), eventually befriending him over the course of several years. Director Amber Sealy’s mission here was clear: to tell the story of how a junior criminal profiler broke into one of the most disturbed minds in creation all in the name of science. Without missing a beat, Sealy’s film is an interesting and authentic insight into the birth of serial killer profiling. But No Man of God also goes deeper, taking Bill on a journey of darkness through every interaction he has with Bundy. Eventually, the proceedings evolve into a mental game of cat and mouse and a harrowing exploration into the dark side of the soul. Check out Frank’s review here.


NO SUDDEN MOVE (HBO Max)

Some directors just never lose it. Steven Soderbergh definitely hasn’t, based on his 2021 effort, No Sudden Move. Featuring a collection of stars and character actors, including Don Cheadle, Jon Hamm, Benicio Del Toro, Julia Fox, David Harbour, Ray Liotta and Matt Damon, among others, the film centers on a trio of criminals hired to carry out a simple robbery job who find themselves setting off a chain of events that lead to serious consequences. No Sudden Move flew under everyone’s noses when it was released to streaming last July. Those who did see it were treated to a crackling crime caper that features great acting and twists for days. Despite fears he might actually retire one day, No Sudden Move shows an active and passionate Soderbergh, one who seems more alive behind the camera than ever before. A mix of thrilling turns that also serves as a look at the underbelly of 1950s America, No Sudden Move is an instant Soderbergh classic begging to be found. Check out Eddie’s review here.


STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET (Hulu, HBO Max)

One of the most surprising documentaries to come out in 2021 was this look back at one of television’s longest-running staples. Using priceless archival footage and recollections from those who helped shape it, the story of Sesame Street is told, complete with all its trials and triumphs. Notable moments include the purpose behind its conception, the battle to get it on the air, the battle to keep it on the air and figuring out what it could be as everyone went along. Street Gang is straightforward in terms of its format, but the documentary really comes alive thanks to the magic of its subject. We see the wizards behind the curtains as they work to bring this groundbreaking show to life with a sense of playfulness and curiosity that matched those of the very audience they were hoping to win over. Inspiring and nostalgic all the way through, this is a look back at not just an innovative television show, but one of the most indelible cultural landmarks to have ever existed. Check out Frank’s review here.


SWAN SONG (Apple TV)

Mahershala Ali gave one of last year’s most acclaimed performances in writer/director Benjamin Cleary’s film about a dying man named Cameron who is wrestling with the idea of leaving his family (including wife Naomi Harris) with a replica of himself engineered by a scientist (Glenn Close) as he lives out his final days alone. Swan Song’s a sci-fi piece through and through, but it’s first and foremost an elegiac tale about a man at a very specific and monumental crossroads he never thought he’d be at. The film’s themes of mortality and legacy all hit home in a way that feels more sensitive than sentimental. Cleary’s film does inject a bit of suspense with the main character’s reluctance to go through with the procedure. However, Swan Song’s aim isn’t to create tension through plot, but rather provide a human examination about the courage it takes to let go and the pain that comes with saying goodbye.


SWAN SONG (Hulu)

The last year in film gave us not one, but two movies titled Swan Song. While the first was a moving sci-fi drama, the second proved a testament to an acting stalwart. Udo Kier leads Swan Song as Mister Pat, a once-popular gay hairstylist in a small conservative town now living out his days in a nursing home. When his most famous client (Linda Evans) passes away, he makes the trek back into town to style her hair for the funeral. Kier has been a mainstay in films for decades but never has he turned in work so poetic and hilarious than with this small gem of a film. Although he spends great stretches of Swan Song wandering around the city he once knew, occasionally bumping into someone from the past, writer/director Todd Stephens and Kier give us so much insight into Pat’s own complicated life story, endearing him to us with each scene. We see him make peace with his past and claim it in a number of breathtaking moments, all of which together create one of the most life-affirming indies of the year.


THE TENDER BAR (Prime)

While the current trend of biopics seems to be focusing on a specific period of a person’s life, The Tender Bar instead opted for the traditional route. The film is adapted from the life story of writer J.R. Moehringer (Ty Sheridan) who, following his parent’s divorce is forced to follow his mom (Lily Rabe) back to her childhood home where he finds a mentor in his bartender uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). Sheridan and Rabe are both great and the working class Boston setting of the 70s/80s is gives the film a true sense of place. But it’s Affleck who makes the whole film worth it. As a man whose own dreams never got off the ground, his love and devotion to his nephew is touching as it is hilarious. The film tends to wander a bit once our young hero leaves the nest, giving the movie a real slice of life feel. But when Affleck’s uncle Charlie shows up, The Tender Bar becomes the kind of enriching salt of the earth experience you want it to be.


ZOLA (Hulu, FuboTV, Showtime, Roku Channel, Sling)

Described by my esteemed colleague as “the most Florida movie I’ve ever seen,” Zola began life as a Twitter thread that quickly went viral. In the film, an amateur dancer named Zola (Taylour Paige) gets roped into a road trip by a young woman named Stefani (Riley Keough) who insists they can make a lot of money dancing at an exclusive club in Florida. Soon, the weekend turns into more than Zola bargained for thanks to her new friend’s “handler,” X (Colman Domingo). Zola feels damn near revolutionary in a number of ways, but especially in its production qualities, many of which brilliantly mimic the heightened social media culture. The score resembles phone alerts, the cinematography feels like the movie was shot through an iPhone camera and even bits of dialogue bear similarities to the kind of jargon people use on their socials. But Zola is also a coming-of-age tale of sorts for its titular character, who over the course of a single weekend develops a strength she probably didn’t know she had. Check out Jon’s review here.


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? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.

Till next week, stream on, stream away.

Previous post SXSW 2022: RAQUEL 1:1
Next post SXSW 2022: MILLIE LIES LOW Reaches Comedy Heights