Crossing the Streams: April 2018, 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 cord 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
Spring is allegedly here, though you wouldn’t know it from the 30-degree temperature swings and wind chills that bring temperatures into the lower 40s. As the nursery rhyme alleges though, we’re due for so-called “April showers,” which supposedly bring “May flowers,” but will more than likely to bring you plenty of reasons to stay inside and watch something on streaming. So, as we welcome thunderstorms back into our climatological vocabulary, perhaps I could recommend some expiring titles that no amount of rain can revive. Take these, for instance…
The Prestige (Netflix): Though Dunkirk was the film that brought many people around to finally embracing Christopher Nolan as a masterful filmmaker (three Oscar wins and nominations for Best Picture and Best Director should not be taken lightly), I would argue that it was The Prestige, so often overlooked due to being released between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, that was Nolan’s masterpiece. From the show-stealing cameo of David Bowie as Nikola Tesla to the ethereal cinematography of Wally Pfister to the tortured complexities of co-lead Hugh Jackman, there’s plenty to love about The Prestige. For my money, however, what makes the film so brilliant is how it stands as a perfect metaphor for both filmmaking and magic in that the revelation of how the art is made does not take away from the enjoyment in and willingness to get fooled by the spectacle. Film, like magic, is an illusion, but both art forms require a suspension of disbelief when stepping into the theater, an agreement that we do not care about reality as much as we do about how to escape it. Like so many magic props, The Prestige will soon disappear right before your eyes, so be sure to feast said eyes before April 21st.
La La Land (HBO Now): I do my best not to repeat titles on “Crossing the Streams” and I realize that I wrote about La La Land already back in November but as my favorite film of 2017 and legitimately one of my favorite films of all time, I’ve decided to break that rule for the first time to talk about Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning ode to old Hollywood musicals. Despite its plethora of award wins, overwhelming critical acclaim, and mind-boggling box office intake, La La Land remains incredibly divisive, with no real middle ground existing between those who had it in their top ten and those who couldn’t even make it through “Another Day of Sun” without wanting to vomit. If you still haven’t figured out in which camp you’re pitching your tent, you have until April 30th to figure it out.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Netflix): I remember that after Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered there was a lot of discussion around whether the film was a genuine chronicle of the rise of amateur rip-off artist Mr. Brainwash or whether the whole thing was a hoax perpetuated as a comment on the mainstream takeover of street art by Banksy, the ultimate troll. My feelings remain the same now as they were back in 2010: I don’t care. The question of whether Exit Through the Gift Shop is real, fake, or some Frankenstein’s monster of both isn’t as interesting to me as the questions the film raises about what happens to underground art when it’s re-appropriated for a mainstream audience. Does Banksy (or any artist) become more or less significant and important if the artist that he/she (allegedly) inspires stands on his/her shoulders to become more prominent? Does the introduction of popularity and financial compensation automatically taint the quality of the creation or the integrity of the creator? These questions aren’t meant to be answered by me or the film, but they’ll only be around for the asking until April 22nd.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
Amazon Prime: Spectre (4/12), For a Few Dollars More (4/29)
HBO Now: A Monster Calls (4/30), Hidden Figures (4/30), Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (4/30), The Royal Tenenbaums (4/30), The Terminator (4/30)
Hulu: Amelie (4/30), Capote (4/30), For a Few Dollars More (4/30), Red State (4/30)
Netflix: Kung Fu Panda 3 (4/26)
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.
The Florida Project (Amazon Prime): Though I think we can all agree that 2017 wasn’t anything to write home about cinematically – sure, The Shape of Water was pretty good and the Hollywood Foreign Press are mostly idiots – one standout film that we all seemed to agree on but which barely appeared as a blip on the awards radar outside of individual accolades for Willem Dafoe was The Florida Project. The bittersweet tale of 6-year old Moonee (standout Brooklynn Prince) who lives with her unemployed mother in a low-budget hotel in the shadow of Disney World, The Florida Project is a tale painted in childlike naivety, but framed in adult cynicism; sympathetic towards its motley, low income residents, but not optimistic towards the fate that imminently awaits many of them. The tourists passing through town on their way to Disney World will overlook or look down upon Moonee and co., but don’t let that be said about you. It’s been available since April 6th.
Se7en (Netflix): The last David Fincher creation focused on serial killing that came to Netflix seemed to be a big hit, so there’s no better time to see his first – but by no means best – attempt at tackling a story about a man who takes it upon himself to kill multiple members of the general population in horrific ways. While Mindhunter focuses on the attempts to understand the psychological and environmental factors that create serial killers and Zodiac explores the consequences of giving too much of one’s self to attempting to uncover the identify of a serial killer, Se7en posits that the same oppressive life that we all live through is the best we’ve got and that the good guys are the ones who accept it while the bad guys are the ones who are lost within it. Geographically ambiguous, Se7en implies that evil is inherent to the human condition and that, with just one bad day, a good guy can become a bad guy. Se7en has been available since April 1st.
Taxi Driver (Hulu): There’s been so much written about Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film across the years that the only angle from which I can really approach it today is to say that this is not a film that could have been made in any other place than America during any other time than the New Hollywood Wave. The tale of an unstable Vietnam vet who takes it upon himself to become a vigilante to liberate a 12-year old prostitute is not only a film that every studio would avoid today, but is also one that certainly wouldn’t be vying for a Best Picture honor at the end of year either. Nevertheless, Taxi Driver not only exists, but also has been burned into our cinematic consciousness as the film that launched the careers of Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Jodie Foster. The New York City that exists in Taxi Driver has long since died along with the porn theaters that used to litter Times Square but it was Paul Schrader’s and Scorsese’s fascination with the danger of The Big Apple (and, unquestionably, a lot of cocaine) that gave us Travis Bickle, “You talkin’ to me?”, and the uncharacteristically jazzy score of legend Bernard Hermann. Taxi Driver exists now as a time capsule, but one that has been able to be viewed again and again since April 1st.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: A Simple Plan (4/1), Carrie 1976 (4/1), Escape from New York (4/1), Friday the 13th 1980 (4/1), For a Few Dollars More (4/1), Mystic River (4/1), Paranormal Activity (4/1), Small Soldiers (4/1), The King of Comedy (4/1), Throw Momma from the Train (4/1), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (4/5)
HBO Now: Waitress (4/1), Final Destination (4/1), War for the Planet of the Apes (4/21), Westworld Season 2 Premiere (4/22)
Hulu: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (4/2), Preacher Season 2 (4/10), The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Premiere (4/3), 50/50 (4/1), A Simple Plan (4/1), Carrie 1976 (4/1), Friday the 13th 1980 (4/1), For a Few Dollars More (4/1), Lawrence of Arabia (4/1), Small Soldiers (4/1), American Gangster (4/15), The Messenger (4/15), 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene (4/28)
Netflix: The Iron Giant (4/1), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (4/1), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (4/1), Speed Racer (4/1), Come Sunday (4/13)
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.
Andre the Giant (HBO Now): Whether you realize it or not, you know who Andre the Giant is. Even if you’re not like me, who grew up on the WWF (now WWE) and first came to be aware of the French wrestler as the ultimate foe for Hulk Hogan (more on that in a bit), you’ve likely either delighted in his rhyming prowess or been unknowingly exposed to him as a street artist phenomenon. When he was alive, Andre the Giant, real name Andre Roussimoff, cast a large shadow both in the wrestling ring and in the life he led. Born with acromegaly, Andre drifted to wrestling in his early teens, but despite his intimidating size, he was known by friends, family, and fellow wrestlers as a gentle giant, a man who wished he could live for just one weekend as a normal size to avoid the spotlight. Chronicling his rise in the pro wrestling world up to his death of a heart attack in 1993, Andre the Giant recounts the life of a cultural icon who laughed easily, gave unconditionally, and was such a prognosticator of the craft and future of pro wrestling that he put his own health and reputation with the crowd on the line to help usher in the phenomenon that made professional wrestling what it is today – Hulkamania.
Oasis: Supersonic (Amazon Prime): Oasis is my favorite band of all time. There, I said it. Now I know that some of you critics out there are probably saying things like, “they just were ripping off The Beatles” or, “Blur was better” and that’s all well and fine, but you’re wrong so let’s move on and talk about why Oasis: Supersonic a great documentary. From the team behind the Oscar-winning Amy, Oasis: Supersonic avoids the broad strokes and cultural implications of Live Forever to focus on an intimate look at the foul-mouthed folks from Manchester that were, at one point, the biggest band in the world. Constructed entirely of archival footage and pre-recorded interviews, the insight found in this doc is a pastiche of memories that form a mosaic of egos that gave us “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” but who regularly (and loudly and vulgarly) warred and fought in public. Fate – and bad blood – eventually took the Gallagher brothers separate ways, but Oasis: Supersonic wants to remember them for the force that they were, culminating in their back-to-back concerts at Knebworth in 1996 where they performed in front of 125,000 people each night.
Flint Town (Netflix): In 1989, Michael Moore’s Roger & Me exposed us all to the plight of Flint, Michigan, a former industrial boom town that was hurt irrevocably by the downsizing of the local GM plant. Almost 30 years later, Flint was again in the news when it’s revealed that over 100,000 residents were potentially exposed to dangerous levels of lead when the drinking water source was changed to the Flint River. Flint Town begins en media res as a new mayor and subsequent new police chief take charge in a city with crumbling infrastructure and a police force so understaffed that many officers respond to potentially dangerous calls without backup. The Netflix-exclusive documentary series shows you the city through the eyes of the civil servants that regularly patrol it and it neither pulls punches nor casts aspersions on the opinions that the motley crew have when it comes to the city’s racial divide and distrust that both sides of the law feel for each other.
Gently Down the Stream…
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, then you’ve already picked up on the fact it’s published mid-month. This is primarily done for the purposes of time; mainly how much I don’t have of it and how much of it I take to do research and compile the plethora of titles and the platforms on which they stream for me to write about here. Often, however, many titles expire before the blog is published and even before I sit down to write it, meaning that a whole host of great content is lost before you even click. In light of that, here’s a brief recap of the titles that have expired before the publishing of the last “Crossing the Streams” entry and this one. Just like characters in comic books though, streaming titles never truly die; they just reappear at later dates in venues that don’t make as much sense, so stay tuned!
Netflix: Apollo 13 (4/1), Batman 1989 (4/1), Caddyshack (4/1), John Mulaney: New In Town (4/1), Never Let Me Go (4/1), The Shawshank Redemption (4/1), Small Soldiers (4/1)
Amazon Prime: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (4/18)