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Whether he's earthbound or in a galaxy far, far away, Oscar Isaac brings out the humane core of each of his characters. Through varying genres and a wide range of personalities, the performer has demonstrated his talents on several occasions, and that won't stop anytime soon. Currently, Isaac stars in The Card Counter and HBO's Scenes from a Marriage. Soon enough, Isaac will be seen in Dune and heard in The Addams Family 2. It's a very active time for the animated actor, and it's well-deserved, too. Certainly, if you've followed Isaac throughout the years, you're probably well-aware of his skills, and if you're not, then you have some homework to do. If you love the Star Wars actor, here's what you should stream next.
Inside Llewyn Davis (Amazon Prime)
A week in the life of a sorrowful singer (Oscar Isaac) navigating poverty and rejection in Greenwich Village's 1961 folk scene.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: As our forlorn folk singer who can't catch a break, due to his rotten luck, his inflated pride, or his stubbornness, trying to make his way in a competitive market following years of grief and disdain, Inside Llewyn Davis is a textured and enveloping film that provides Oscar Isaac with the opportunity to give what might very well be his finest performance. Through each dispirited sigh and crooning tune, Isaac portrays the fine talent and unstable resentment that bubbles throughout this man's wayward core. He brings so much depth and life to this man, even with all the weight provided by another excellent screenplay from writers-directors Joel and Ethan Coen. As moving as it's melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis is a smart, profound movie about trying to move forward when you're stuck at a creative crossroad.
Ex Machina (Showtime/Hoopla/Kanopy)
A programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment with a reclusive genius (Oscar Isaac) and a highly advanced humanoid A.I. (Alicia Vikander).
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: As a hard-drinking, secret-wielding, machine-making, dancing-loving tech whiz on the verge of changing the known world for eons to come, Oscar Isaac absolutely tears it up in Ex Machina, writer-director Alex Garland's beguiling and profound sci-fi character drama that also serves as a wonderful showcase for Domhnall Gleeson, Sonoya Mizuno, and especially Alicia Vikander, only a few short months away from winning her Oscar. A sneering, tactful genre film filled with lofty ideas and even grander ambitions, Ex Machina is intelligent enough to let the talky characters captivate us, assuring that the nifty little movie keeps itself focused on their budding dynamics as well as their growing resentment for that which they create and destroy — even if it's themselves. Of course, Isaac's stunning turn remains sensational.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens & Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney+)
Follows the continuing intergalactic adventures of a galaxy far, far away.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: For many mainstream audiences, especially younger viewers, the new Star Wars trilogy was their formal introduction to Oscar Isaac. Though the actor has been quick to impress in a number of recent movies, his affable-yet-hot-headed portrayal of Poe Dameron remains an ever-popular favorite, showcasing his machismo and magnetism in equal measure. Particularly in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the proven talent is quick to showcase his star potential (if you can pardon the pun) as a captivating and venturous actor who brings a wealth of wit and gravitas to his characters. Even in the recesses of space, Isaac is quite a bright figure. As for The Rise of Skywalker... the less said about it, the better.
Triple Frontier (Netflix)
When five former special forces operatives reunite to take down a South American drug lord, loyalties are tested.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: Reuniting with A Most Violent Year director J.C. Chandor, Triple Frontier isn't quite as strong as Oscar Isaac's previous film with the acclaimed filmmaker, but the expensive Netflix drama is also elevated by the assured performances at its center. While Ben Affleck gets the most time to shine in his hefty, hard-lucked lead role, Isaac does solid work in his prominent supporting part, bringing the weighted pathos that you can readily expect from the dependable actor. Particularly by the movie's emotionally taxing third act, Isaac conveys the long-suffering troubles of his burdened character well, resulting in a moody finale that conveys a wealth of sorrow that's made bearable through the dedicated dependency of its creditable ensemble. It might not ultimately be Isaac's best or more memorable movie, but it's certainly worth watching — not merely for his performance but the commendable work of its high-profile cast.
Show Me A Hero (HBO Max)
Mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) deals with the building of public housing in the white, middle-class side of town upon taking office in 1987.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: Under the firm guidance of acclaimed writer David Simon (The Wire) and award-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash), HBO's Show Me A Hero allowed Oscar Isaac to play a well-drawn character, one who could be fleshed out in ways that his big-screen counterparts often couldn't. Though the material threatens to be too uncommercial or, dare one say, unbecoming, Isaac's intelligent and simmering performance (even under a dorky haircut and a trimmed mustache) keeps it captivating, allowing the acclaimed actor to really sink his teeth in this political persona. The result is one of Isaac's most celebrated performances, even in a career filled with highlights, and yet another great demonstration of his expanding star power — notably at a time when Hollywood was taking notice of the performer's powerhouse promise.
A biologist (Natalie Portman) signs up for a dangerous expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature do not apply.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: Though he's strictly in supporting character mode opposite Natalie Portman and the rest of the female-led ensemble, Oscar Isaac does a dutiful job playing the emotional rock at the festering core of our lead's internal struggle in Annihilation. Given the opportunity to reunite with writer-director Alex Garland, Isaac makes a meal out of every moment, providing depth and pathos to even the most seemingly banal interaction. The actor's care and attention to detail are especially highlighted, as he brings some sensitive perspective to each key scene and gives meaning to each interaction he shares with his Oscar-winning co-star. The result isn't Isaac's all-time best performance but a fine display of his dependable talents, no matter how much screentime he gets, and another reminder that Isaac can plant a seed and build a vast, vibrant forest out of seemingly any character he's given.
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman (Ryan Gosling) moonlighting as a getaway driver gets himself in trouble when he forms a connection with his neighbor (Carey Mulligan).
Why You Should Stream It If You Love Oscar Isaac: Though Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive is ultimately Ryan Gosling's showcase, it's one of several movies from the past decade that proves that Oscar Isaac can leave a deep impression, even when he's only given a few select scenes. In the role of Standard, Isaac's innate charisma seeps out, providing a transfixing supporting turn that doesn't steal the show but certainly wins over your attention. While the actor's better work would come in the years to follow, this early standout performance is a good early indicator of what he can bring to the fold. This movie remains one of his finest (which is saying something), even if he only plays a minor role, and it's made better knowing that he'll shine ever brighter as the actor gets more plump parts and several more opportunities to prove his commanding versatility.
A Most Violent Year (Showtime/Hoopla/Kanopy)
An ambitious immigrant (Oscar Isaac) fights to protect his business and family in New York City 1981 — the most dangerous year in the city's history.
Why It's Worth Streaming If You Love Oscar Isaac: Before they took on the lead roles in HBO's Scenes from a Marriage, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain starred in 2014's A Most Violent Year, a gritty, gripping character drama with a thoughtful narrative and tight formal control. With its tempered pacing and its classy presentation, this period piece is well-crafted and commanding with each beat, and it's elevated quite nicely by the well-assured performances from its central stars. Isaac, in particular, is impressive in his restrained control, conveying the depths of his changeling character with dignity and grace. With even one passing glance, he can convey magnitudes. That quiet captivation proves exceptionally gratifying here, particularly as this movie fares subtle nuances that give it more life.
X-Men: Apocalypse (Disney+)
In their most perilous adventure, the X-Men must defeat an ancient, all-powerful mutant (Oscar Isaac) who intends to bring destruction to the world.
Why It's Worth Streaming If You Love Oscar Isaac: One would be hard-pressed to consider X-Men: Apocalypse to be Oscar Isaac's best, most accomplished, or most dignified performance. Wearing a permanent scowl and buried under mountains of blue make-up, this melancholic menace is often considered a career-low for the prestigious actor, earning more comparisons to Power Rangers villains than his other, more acclaimed performances. And yet, despite all the movie's clunky failures, there's something charmingly quaint about X-Men: Apocalypse. For all its assortment of blunders, there's a schlocky appeal to this would-be trilogy capper that's absent in most serious-minded superhero movies today. It makes no bones about being slapdash and silly, often owning up to its inherent goofiness. It's reminiscent of the sort of comic book movies that once paraded on the big screen, which might not be nostalgic for some but earns some of my affections.
At Eternity’s Gate (Netflix)
Explores the wayward life of Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) during his French travels.
Why You Should Stream If You Love Oscar Isaac: While Willem Dafoe's warmly soulful portrayal of the little painter fellow understandably got the lion's share of the praise during At Eternity's Gate award season rollout, Oscar Isaac's spirited performance as Paul Gauguin shouldn't have been overlooked. While Dafoe is the movie's emotionally tormented centerpiece, Isaac's take on the French post-impressionist artist carries the actor's signature flair for playing wily characters with a fire in their belly and a roaring desire to take the world by storm — whether the world wants him to or not. He only gets a handful of scenes throughout the film, but Isaac provides a splashy turn, filled with wry humor and a boisterous heart. It serves as a fine counterpoint to Dafoe's anguished characterization, providing flickers of flare and fury that bolsters a broad-reaching film that can be held down by its tiring pondering and its occasional heavy-handedness.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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