Crossing the Streams: May 2017, by Jim Rohner
Congratulations! With your recent purchase of a brand new Roku/Apple TV/Amazon Fire Stick you’re ready to – as Obi-Wan Kenobi said – take your first step into a larger world. That larger world is, of course, the world of chord cutting in which a seemingly endless supply of streaming apps, services, and content are available instantaneously at your fingertips. But with so many options of things to watch spread out across so many different services changing literally by the day, what’s worth binge watching before it expires and you’d have to – (GASP) – pay for it? Allow Crossing the Streams to be your official guide to what’s worth watching before it expires, what’s just been made available, and what’s just plain damn good.
Watch It Now
Well, it certainly has been a roller coaster month, hasn’t it? First we found out that HBO shows were leaving Amazon Prime in 2018, then we were assured that they weren’t, only to then be told, “Just kidding! They are definitely all leaving.” Springtime is finally here, so it’d be understandable were you to find a bar with an outdoor area in which you can drown your sorrows in shandy like so many Jimmy McNultys, but the healthier option for your liver would be to distract yourself with an alternate consumption – that of taking in these titles before they expire…
Wuthering Heights (Amazon Prime): Andrea Arnold has always brought a blue collar, underclass sensibility to her films, not just in the lives she chooses to depict and follow (the financially and societally marginalized), but also in her creative aesthetic choices (often shot handheld and in a 4:3 aspect ratio). So, she seemed a curious choice to direct a big screen adaptation of Wuthering Heights, the Emily Bronte novel often mentioned in the same breath as classic Victorian literature like Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility. In retrospect, Arnold was the perfect choice to tell the story of Heathcliff, a homeless, dark-skinned boy adopted and regularly mistreated by an only slightly better off white family. Arnold’s adaptation is admirable in its filth and abrasiveness, never downplaying the mental and physical cruelty inherent within the novel, breaking down the romantic ideal upheld by most period costume dramas. Arnold’s adaptation is dirty, emotionally raw, and expiring on May 14th.
Hostel (Amazon Prime/Hulu): These days Eli Roth is primarily known (to put it kindly) for films that people forget either purposefully or imminently but back in 2005 he wrote and directed a film that over a decade later is still one of the best horror films in American history. Hostel and Roth got pejoratively lumped together with (lesser) “Splat Pack” filmmakers like Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) within the nebulously labeled torture porn subgenre, but that label and its associations belie the brilliance of a film that explores the amoral ceiling of unfettered capitalism and its specific connections with Americans and their attitudes toward the outside world. Roth has tried very hard ever since to convince us all that he’s really the libido driven, superficial, red-blooded bro that we all thought he was, but for proof that he once aspired to profundity, check out Hostel before it expires from both Hulu and Amazon on May 31st.
Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, A View to a Kill, License to Kill, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies (Amazon Prime): I’ll be honest – I don’t understand the appeal to James Bond at all. I’m comfortable enough with my masculinity that I don’t need to live vicariously through a man who apparently needs to murder and/or fuck indiscriminately in order to compensate for the fact that he likely had an upbringing of either extreme neglect or unprecedented plainness. However, I recognize that an ungodly amount of people love James Bond in either specific iterations or across the board without exception. The Bond series is one of the few cinematic series that brings generations together as evidenced by its continuing seemingly in perpetuity. Its streaming rights, however, don’t share the same invincibility of its unkillable secret agent as all of the above titles are set to expire on 31st, May 31st (see what I did there?).
Other Notable Titles Expiring: A Simple Plan (Amazon Prime/Hulu, May 31), Ides of March (Amazon Prime/Hulu, May 31), The Passion of the Christ (Amazon Prime, May 30), Shakespeare in Love (Amazon Prime, May 31), Up in the Air (Amazon Prime/Hulu, May 31)
Watch It Later
All of the titles mentioned in this section have either just been made available, will be available soon, or their rights have recently been renewed. Either way, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, which means they’ll still be there long after you’ve awoken from that infamous shandy hangover…
Master of None: Season 2 (Netflix): 2015 proved to be a watershed year for Aziz Ansari, an insightful and irreverent voice on big city dating with his book, Modern Romance, only to further make the internet all “can’t even” with his Netflix original series, Master of None. From the opening scene of the first episode, “Plan B,” in which Dev confronts the hilariously awful reality of having kids in New York City, Ansari proved that he wasn’t going to pull any punches with his incisive wit and cynicism towards otherwise relationally sacred topics. That approach extended to topics like being a second-generation immigrant (“Parents”), racial typecasting (“Indians on TV”), male privilege (“Ladies and Gentleman”), and ultimately, the harsh realities of what it entails to sacrifice parts of your life for somebody else (“Mornings,” “Finale”). The second season comes exclusively to Netflix on May 12th. Maybe take your time watching and re-watching, since the odds for a third season aren’t looking great.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 3 (Netflix): Can I tell you a secret? I don’t love Unbreakably Kimmy Schmidt as much as the rest of the Internet does. It’s not that I think it’s bad – I’ve watched both seasons so far and fully intend to watch the new one – but I find that while creator Tina Fey brought just the right amount of absurdity to 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt tends to be more silly than it is funny to the point where the conflicts driving each season haven’t been equipped with a sense of urgency. Still, I find Ellie Kemper endlessly charming, Tituss Burgess consistently hilariously, and I will always have a special place in my heart for Bunny and Kitty. No matter what my opinions may be, Kimmy Schmidt has already found its place within the pop culture lexicon thanks to “Peeno Noir” and will continue being strong as hell on May 19th.
House of Cards: Season 5 (Netflix): Can I tell you another secret? I have long ago forgotten about the many subplots in which Francis and Claire Underwood have entangled themselves upon their winding road to mutually assured destruction. But I will voraciously consume every single minute of Season 5 when the deeply cynical yet infinitely compelling political drama premieres. The aesthetic and tonal blueprint laid down by inaugural director David Fincher has germinated into a bleak exploration of how absolute power corrupts absolutely that has garnered a shit ton of awards and nominations for the streaming exclusive, cementing its legacy as a show that belongs amongst the nominees of cable heavyweights like The Americans, Game of Thrones, Fargo, and Mr. Robot. I may not fully understand what’s going on all the time, but I know that it’s damn fine TV. The Underwoods don’t negotiate with terror but they continue to make terror on May 30th.
Winter’s Bone (Amazon Prime/Hulu): Before she was Mystique or Tiffany or Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence was Ree, a teenage girl living trying to keep her family together while searching for her absent, drug-dealing father in the seedy and largely unknown underbelly of the Ozarks drug trade. Winter’s Bone first won prizes for writers Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to go along with Granik’s Grand Jury Prize en route to winding up on just about every year-end “Best Of” list, snagging four Oscar nominations – including Lawrence’s first for a leading role – and an ill-advised erection joke that I made on Twitter. For many of us, it was also the first time that we realized John Hawkes had some serious chops (before we realized he had even seriouser chops in Martha Marcy May Marlene). You can see where the hype train started on both Amazon Prime and Hulu, where Winter’s Bone has been streaming since May 1st.
Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Prime): Whereas Netflix could point to House of Cards’ Golden Globe wins as proof that streaming services should be taken seriously as TV content creators, Amazon Studios can hold up Manchester by the Sea’s two Oscar wins – Best Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan – as proof that they should be taken seriously as a movie studio. Proof in another regard – that of Casey Affleck being a titanic scumbag – isn’t as substantiated, but it was enough for some (myself included) to avoid contributing money towards the love train that seemed to justify – or, at the very least, overlook – the accusations for such a monumental achievement in acting. Perhaps the fact that Manchester by the Sea has been available for free on Amazon Prime since May 5th could alleviate some of either the guilt or curiosity if you too didn’t want to financially contribute to the film’s somewhat tarnished reputation.
Moonlight (Amazon Prime): Not satisfied with bringing us just the Best Original Screenplay winner for free, Amazon Prime has graciously made available the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay as well. Oh, and I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that Moonlight walked away from last year’s Academy Awards as the Best Picture winner as well. The emotionally and aesthetically beautiful Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, tells the tale of a gay, African-American man growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Miami, his tale brought to life by three different actors who portray three different transformative times of his life. Mahershala Ali’s stellar performance as Juan, the surrogate father, won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (along with just about every other award there is to win) and was one of many highlights for a film that ended up on basically every Top Ten list there was for 2016. If it wasn’t on your list because you never got around to seeing it, May 21st will allow you to retroactively change that.
Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, A View to a Kill, License to Kill, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies (Hulu): All those James Bond titles that left Amazon? Yeah, they’ve all been on Hulu since May 1st.
Other Notable Titles Arriving: A Christmas Story (Amazon Prime, May 1), The Wizard of Oz (Amazon Prime, May 1), Jackie Brown (Amazon Prime, May 7), Gladiator (Hulu, May 1), Cabin Fever (Hulu, May 1), Twin Peaks Season 3 Premiere (Hulu w/ Showtime subscription, May 21), Sense8: Season 2 (Netflix, May 2), The Host (Netflix, May 7), Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (Netflix, May 9), Sherlock: Series 4 (Netflix, May 15), The Place Beyond the Pines (Netflix, May 16), Inglourious Basterds (Netflix, May 22), War Machine (Netflix, May 26), Doctor Strange (Netflix, May 30).
Just Watch It
Somewhere in between the titles that are expiring and the titles that have just entered this world lay those that we’ve either taken for granted, forgotten about, or just plain didn’t realize we could watch for free. Let’s fix that because they’re damn good and they’re waiting for you.
Don’t Think Twice (Netflix): This could very well have been included in the previous section seeing as it just arrived on Netflix at the beginning of May but then how could I impress you all with my deep cuts? Don’t Think Twice isn’t just the sophomore directorial effort of comedian Mike Birbiglia, it also happens to be – according to me – one of the 10 best films of 2016. While I admit to having a fondness for it as one who just recently started taking improv comedy classes, Don’t Think Twice is also remarkable for how it acknowledges the symbiotic relationship between comedy and tragedy through editing and scene construction. A criminally overlooked lead(ish) performance by Gillian Jacobs is a standout amongst a stellar ensemble cast consisting of comedy stalwarts Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, and Tami Sagher.
The Graduate (Mubi): Hey, remember when you graduated college and had no life direction and just sort of meandered through existence until you found a passion that at the time drove you only to gradually realize that you would eventually become exactly like the people that you didn’t want to be like? No? Well, you should probably still watch The Graduate anyway, the 1967 film that won the late Mike Nichols his Oscar and broadcast to the world not only the presence of Dustin Hoffman, but also the voice of a new generation of Hollywood filmmakers. Be quick about it though – as of the writing of this article, there’s only 25 days left to watch it on mubi.com (a free trial for which you can for 30 days!).
The Devils (Shudder): I don’t know why “the Netflix of horror” wouldn’t already be a draw to you but in case you needed another reason why you should be subscribing to Shudder, it’s that it’s the first place that the controversial film has been shown in its unrated 109-minute cut in the United States since 1971. The film was condemned by the Catholic Church as blasphemous upon its release and given an X-rating. It was only released once it was heavily edited and then was basically buried and allegedly lost forever until Sam Zimmerman and Shudder quested for over a year to make it available. The film stars Vanessa Redgrave as a hunchback nun who lusts after a priest played by Oliver Reed and developed its infamy courtesy of scenes like “a nun orgy that culminated in a sexual assault on a statue of Christ and Sister Jeanne masturbating with Father Grandier’s charred leg bone” according to IndieWire.