What to Watch Next: Oscar-Winning Documentaries

On your seventh FRIENDS binge? If you’re tired of watching the same thing over and over, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning documentaries - and the key lessons we can learn from them - so you can worry less about what to watch this weekend.
by Rob Eades / 2021-08-18

Sometimes, movies just won’t cut it. Maybe you’re sick of superheroes, or you’ve watched the Godfather at least 18 times now. You’ve got a thirst for some knowledge that only a documentary can quench. 

It’s 2021! So instead of endlessly scrolling through the depths of Netflix and Amazon Prime, trying to figure out what to watch, let the internet do the work for you.

Inside Job - Charles Ferguson

On Uptime

Deceit and Loopholes

A banker will do whatever makes them the most money. 

It’s a sad truth that was uncovered by Charles Ferguson. Things like planned instability, deregulation, and other shady tactics became the norm amongst bankers, politicians, and other powerful people. This of course then eventually led to the infamous 2008 banking collapse. 

They were transparently deceptive and self-serving, but no checks were functioning to stop them. 

Reverse Robinhood

The bank’s bailout (around $500 billion) took American taxpayer money and put it in the hands of those who caused the crisis. Truly a classic case of taking from the poor and giving to the rich. 

With the money they received in bailouts, the executives of these banks continued their bonuses and excessive lifestyles whilst the market crashed around them. 

Like a bad smell…

Most worrying of all, Charles Ferguson points out that the people who caused the crisis are still around and in charge. 

Some figures remain as university faculty and advisors to financial institutions. It’s almost as if their criminal failures were a selling point.

Citizenfour - Laura Poitras

On Uptime

Edward Snowden - an elusive character if there ever was one. Laura Poitras’ 2014 oscar-winning documentary follows whistleblower Edward Snowden and highlights what moved him to leak documents that has since branded him a traitor and a political refugee.

Drone Strikes and Surveillance

One of President Barack Obama’s promises was to undo the unchecked use of executive power in the Middle East. After he was elected, the drone strikes and state secrecy ramped up. 

Snowden realized that without any rigorous checks on the new surveillance and counterintelligence practices, things only stood to get much worse. 

Internet free speech

The internet was branded as a place to gather and freely share information and ideas without fear. But today, the internet is largely controlled by governments and large corporations. 

Snowden saw the NSA’s surveillance practices as a threat to the internet that he believed in and to the boundaries of intellectual exploration. 

The threat of silence

Snowden was fully aware of the risk he was taking by releasing his allegations. 

Once he went public, the U.S. Department of Justice charged with him violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. 

His U.S. passport was revoked and he has since been in political exile in Russia. Though in 2020, former President Donald Trump announced that he was considering a pardon for Snowden.

In the end, Edward Snowden saw the threat of staying silent was much larger than coming forward. 

American Factory - Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert

On Uptime

What happens when a Chinese company buys the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio and reopens it as a glass manufacturing factory? Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert take a look at the culture clash that occurs in their 2019 academy award winning documentary. 

Globalization isn’t a blue-collar job

In most cases, bosses are willing to outsource labor to the cheapest location. They also tend to hire workers who are willing to work away in substandard conditions. 

But in this particular case, the blue-collar American workers were used to a higher standard of working conditions than the new owners were prepared to give. With pay slashed to beneath the living wage and basic labor protections cut, this was always going to be a clash. 

American Attitude

Steven & Julia point out that the difference in attitudes towards labor significantly varies between American and Chinese workers. 

The factory workers were told that their company is not a union shop, and they want to keep it that way. Yet tensions build as the American workforce starts to push towards unionizing at the factory. 

To the Americans, the working conditions are an unacceptable affront, but to the Chinese workers; it’s just business as usual. 

Progression and Regression

In China, their steady economic growth has allowed many blue-collar workers to move into a middle-class bracket for the first time. But this rise of the working class in China is in stark contrast to the situation in the U.S.A where there is a sense of stagnation and even decline for the workers. 

After all, the American dream isn’t about just scraping by.


Amy - Asif Kapadia

On Uptime

Amy Winehouse - a generational talent that was tragically taken far too soon. Director Asif Kapadia gives us an intimate and tragic look into the life and career of British singer Amy Winehouse before her tragic death at just 27 years old. 

Amy the prodigy

There was no late bloom for Amy Winehouse. Her artistic prowess was clear even as a young child. In fact, she was discovered and signed for a record deal as a jazz vocalist at the age of 16 - for £250,000. 

Whilst her career was going well, her personal life suffered. Amy’s parents separated when she was just 9 years old and her father was consistently absent from her childhood. It is said that this had an adverse effect on her as she acted out and developed bulimia at 17. 

Love is a strong drug

Amy met Blake Fielder in January 2005. They had an intense love affair and when Fielder left her for another woman, she was distraught. 

She started to cope with alcohol and soon developed an addiction. Her friends wanted to check her into rehab but her father intervened and said she was healthy enough to keep working. 

Instead of receiving the help she needed, Amy was sent back to the recording studio where she found success with ‘Back to Black’.  After her success, Fielder returned to her life and they married. It was then that Fielder introduced Amy to crack cocaine and heroin. 

Fame was a burden

In an early interview with Amy Winehouse before she became truly famous, she said that she didn’t think she would be able to handle fame. 

This proved to be true as she would constantly hide from the spotlight. After Back to Black, Amy became a media sensation and was constantly hounded by paparazzi and tabloid journalists. 

Soon after she finished a failed tour she was tragically found dead in her apartment from alcohol poisoning. 

The Oscars are never wrong - these four documentaries are sure to be a winner in anyone’s book. 

If any of these documentaries catch your attention, be sure to head over to Uptime for more information and ways to watch them online.

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