Crossing the Streams: December 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
Well, at this point you’ve either given in to the Yuletide cheer or you’re counting down the days until every retail store takes down the twinkling lights and ceases playing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” ad infinitum. In the middle of the Venn diagram of how each type approaches this time of year is the indulging in the countless streaming titles available at the touch of a button or click of a mouse (assuming there are any stirring, of course). Whether you want to be overcome by the avalanche of Christmas movies available or avoid them, there is something for everyone, and my advice on how to make merry would be to start with some of the following titles, all of which are set to expire before all the needles have fallen off your tree.
Spotlight (Netflix): If there were a Jeopardy category for “Films You Forgot Won Best Picture,” it’s very likely that “What is Spotlight?” would be one of the correct answers given. 2015 was a strong year for cinema (Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol, Room, The Revenant, The Martian, Ex Machina, Sicario), but it was the big screen depiction of the Boston Globe’s expose of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese cover up of child molestation that walked away with the tiny gold statuette for Best Picture. That’s not to say that Tom McCarthy’s most recent feature film is unworthy of praise, however. While Mark Ruffalo was clearly swinging for the fences when it comes to awards recognition, the film is chock full of fantastic performances from leading and supporting cast alike (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and more). The Spotlight team’s efforts by no means dammed the abusive practices of the Church but in a year in which Time Magazine has named journalists as guardians and the collective Person of the Year, Spotlight is an important reminder that there will always be people working ceaselessly to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, you’ll only be reminded until December 22nd.
Lots and Lots of James Bond (Hulu): This isn’t the first time that I’ve documented my distaste for the James Bond films nor subsequently is it the first time that I’ve chosen to write about how their time on a streaming service grows short but once again I must concede that while Agent 007 isn’t my thing, he is the thing of many other people who grew to love the suave Brit because their father or family first loved him. Thus, in recognizing that many of you will soon be traveling great distances to bask in the warmth of the same kith and kin who first introduced you to the preference for martinis that are shaken rather than stirred, I feel that it’s my duty to let you know that a great many of Bond films won’t last on Hulu past December 31st. Specifically, you’ve only got a few days left to watch A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Diamonds Are Forever, Dr. No, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love, GoldenEye, and Goldfinger.
Blade Runner 2049 (HBONow): Looking over his impressive résumé, one would assume that Roger Deakins would have won multiple Best Cinematography Oscars—No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, at least—before he picked up his first in 2017 for Blade Runner 2049. The sequel to Ridley Scott’s beloved postmodern cinematic classic, Blade Runner 2049 was Denis Villeneuve’s follow up to his fantastic Arrival, returning again to the sci-fi genre in order to hypothesize about how mankind’s potential path is one of isolation and despair. Unlike its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is very clear about its protagonist, K (Ryan Gosling), being a replicant and its establishing that fact from the beginning ensured a clear outsider perspective on the human world that is equally despicable and enviable in its emotional complexities. Being the next title after The Force Awakens for Harrison Ford, the film also allowed the beloved American actor to again put to rest the fate of one of his most iconic characters. The fate of Blade Runner 2049’s streaming rights will also be put to rest come December 31st.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (HBO Now): On November 16th of this year, the world lost a great talent when novelist and screenwriter William Goldman passed away. While we’ll never again see anything new from the man who gave us both the print and screen versions of The Princess Bride, his legacy will live on in his immortal cinematic output such as All the President’s Men, The Stepford Wives, and Misery. It was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, however, that put Goldman on the map. Directed by George Roy Hill and released on the heels of the unpredictably successful Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy won four Oscars, including one for Goldman (though it lost Best Picture to Midnight Cowboy, another likely candidate for the aforementioned Jeopardy category). Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular thieves and wearing its French New Wave influences on its sleeve, Butch Cassidy was indicative of the short-lived New Hollywood Wave that also gave us such classics as Taxi Driver, The Godfather, The French Connection, and The Last Detail. Goldman would go on to have a prolific career until his passing at the age of 87, snagging another Oscar for All the President’s Men and writing one of the greatest books about screenwriting that the world has ever known, which helped coin the phrase “nobody knows anything” in describing how Hollywood executives make their decisions. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid expires on December 31st.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
HBO Now: Jennifer’s Body (12/24), Away We Go (12/31), Dunkirk (12/31), Napoleon Dynamite (12/31), Garden State (12/31), Patti Cake$ (12/31), The Full Monty (12/31), The Sandlot (12/31)
Hulu: Child’s Play (12/31), Hoosiers (12/31), Ocean’s Eleven – Ocean’s Thirteen (12/31) Netflix: Moana (12/20), Food, Inc. (12/20), Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (12/25), Troy (12/31)
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 is good because you can only watch 24 hours of A Christmas Story so many times before you start going insane.
Roma (Netflix): Conventional wisdom says that the most accurate prognosticator of what will win Best Picture at the Oscars is what takes home the top prize at the Producers Guild of America Awards but there’s also something to be said about momentum and consensus. In that regard, there’s already a good deal of buzz behind Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. Granted,not every critics group or awards circle has weighed in yet but the Mexican filmmaker’s intimate follow up to the bombastic Gravity has already been named the best film of the year by the Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (with the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Golden Globes still to weigh in). Semi-autobiographical and shot in black in white by Cuaron himself, Roma is a return to a more personal style of filmmaking that has defined both his indie (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and mainstream titles (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) alike. As they did with the staggered released for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Netflix has already released Roma into a few theaters in major cities but has now also made it widely available for streaming as of December 14th.
Dawn of the Dead/Land of the Dead (HBO Now): George Romero’s Dead films have always stood as metaphors for society’s ills, with each installment’s zombies shambling on the periphery of the plagues eating America alive. Seeing as each film is a reflection of the (de)evolution of America’s vices across both time and geography, it seems unfair, or at least, unwise to try and recommend any two with an eye towards some narrative or thematic cohesion. But I’m not a wise man. Were there any two of his zombie films that would make sense paired together, it would be his seminal 1970s masterpiece Dawn of the Dead and his most financially successful, 2005’s Land of the Dead. While the latter lacks Tom Savini’s jaw-dropping viscera, it does seem to embody a logical extension of the inherent poison of the consumerism lambasted in Dawn of the Dead with Land of the Dead’s haves in their luxurious towers far removed from the poverty and fear of the have nots. The ideas for Romero’s films may have been inspired by specific times and places but their themes have proven to be more long lasting than the army of the middle class undead marching towards Fiddler’s Green. Both titles have been available since December 1st.
Hereditary (Amazon Prime): In the last few years, the first-time output from certain horror directors have been some of the best and most provocative films of the year: The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2015), The Witch (2016), Get Out (2017),and now Hereditary. In telling the story of a family grappling with grief after the death of their matriarch, writer/director Ari Aster has crafted one of the most effective and disturbing viewing experiences of the entire year. The death awakens a darkness from both within and without the family, calling into question the very roots of the entire family line. Countless horror films can sicken and disturb viewers but very few can actually scare them. But Aster, similar to David Robert Mitchell before him, utilizes his editing and camera blocking and movements in such a way so as to evoke both screams of terror and gasps of surprise. The film features stand out performances from Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd and a haunting score from Colin Stetson to make it a truly unforgettable viewing experience. Watch it if you dare on December 27th.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 (Amazon Prime): As both a resident of New York City and someone involved in stand-up comedy, it seems a little criminal that I still haven’t watched a single episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who had previously delighted us with the whip smart comedic stylings of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, the series follows Mrs. Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a 1950s housewife who decides to become a stand-up comedian. While Netflix’s TV series get most of the attention from a bingeing perspective, Amazon’s exclusive TV offerings are taken more seriously come awards time with Mrs. Maisel in particular cleaning up at last year’s Emmy’s (eight wins out of twelve nominations, including taking the top prize for a comedy series). My girlfriend keeps swearing that one of these days she’s gonna sit me down and show me the series from the beginning, and as of December 5th, there’s been even more to show.
Avengers: Infinity War (Netflix): Marvel may have just canceled basically all your favorite TV shows that it was offering on Netflix but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still want you to have a Merry Christmas. Perhaps that’s why they’ll start streaming Avengers: Infinity War on Christmas Day, so that you can come down from that high of tearing open delicately wrapped presents and ingesting countless numbers of cookies by seeing the lives of basically all your favorite superheroes canceled with a snap of Thanos’ fingers! We’re all still trying to dissect the morsels of hints that Marvel has given us for what to expect in the upcoming sequel but if you regret the fact that you weren’t able to get around to seeing the most lucrative film in the entire world again, this is your chance.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: A Clockwork Orange (12/1), A Fistful of Dollars (12/1), All the President’s Men (12/1), Boogie Nights (12/1), Event Horizon (12/1), Groundhog Day (12/1), Margin Call (12/1), Ordinary People (12/1), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (12/1), The Dark Crystal (12/1), The Game (12/1), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (12/1), Iron Man (12/25)
HBO Now: The Book of Eli (12/1), Dave (12/1), The Hangover (12/1), Inception (12/1), The Land Before Time I – X (12/1), Rampage (12/1), Ready Player One (12/8), Pete Holmes: Dirty Clean (12/15), Blockers(12/15), Isle of Dogs (12/22)
Hulu: 24: The Complete Series (12/1), The Wonder Years Complete Series (12/1), Adventure Time Season 10 (12/3), Into the Dark: Pooka! (12/7), Marvel’s Runaways Complete Season 2 (12/21), Apollo 13 (12/1), Blue Velvet (12/1), The Da Vinci Code (12/1), The Exorcist (12/1), Gangs of New York (12/1), Little Miss Sunshine (12/1), Requiem for a Dream (12/1), The Shawshank Redemption (12/1), Tombstone (12/1), Deck the Halls (12/12), Food, Inc. (12/20), Iron Man 2 (12/25), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (12/27)
Netflix: 8 Mile (12/1), Christine (12/1), Friday (12/1), Hellboy (12/1), Shaun of the Dead (12/1), The Big Lebowski (12/1), The Lobster (12/2), District 9 (12/4), Nailed It! Holiday! (12/7), Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale (12/14), Fuller House: Season 4 (12/14), Baby Mama (12/16), The Theory of Everything (12/16)
Showtime Anytime: Braveheart (12/1), Donnie Darko (12/1), Friday the 13th Part I (12/1), Moonstruck (12/1), Patriot’s Game (12/1), The Piano (12/1), The Spanish Prisoner (12/1), Tootsie (12/1), The Untouchables (12/1), When Harry Met Sally… (12/1), Witness (12/1), The Death of Stalin (12/15), Spotlight (12/22)
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 to fill you with Christmas spirit!
A Christmas Carol (HBONow): According to Wikipedia, A Christmas Carol has been adapted about 50 times for film and TV, which means that filmmakers must (hopefully) be running out of ideas as to how to make their adaptations unique and personal. Mostly what defines a director’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s immortal classic is what they do with Ebenezer Scrooge and over the years we’ve had a fair share of great actors take on the mantle of the iconic miser: Alastair Sim gave us a Scrooge who wondered if he was past redemption, Michael Caine gave us one who excitedly succumbed to the spirit of the season, and Bill Murray gave us a contemporary iteration who oversaw a media empire. There isn’t a particular flair associated with the 1984 TV movie –can you name anything else Clive Donner directed off the top of your head?—but it does feature an Emmy-nominated performance from the late George C. Scott, whose Scrooge is one of the most imposing of all. Scott portrays the wealthy businessman as a truly mean-spirited character, one who not only despises Christmas, but whose only joy in life is derived from the suffering and misery of others. At times it’shard to watch, but it makes Scrooge’s turning over a new leaf truly merry.
Tangerine (Hulu): Tangerine likely won’t be as widely watched this Christmastime as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life but it also wouldn’t be out of place being recommended by recent I Do Movies Badly guest Alonso Duralde. Sure, the film follows two transgender prostitutes scouring a seedy neighborhood in Los Angeles looking for the pimp who broke one of their hearts but all the events also transpire entirely on Christmas Eve. Without the critical response to Tangerine—shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, by the way—it’s possible that we don’t get The Florida Project, both films featuring exceptional performances from actors who are either non-professional (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Bria Vinaite) or just starting out (Brooklynn Prince, Mya Taylor).
Black Christmas (Shudder): Bob Clark’s legacy will forever be cemented because of A Christmas Story, the Christmas film that an entire generation was raised watching thanks to Ted Turner. Fans of the Yuletide classic might be surprised to learn that Clark got his start in the horror genre, starting with the horror-comedy Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, then moving onto the Vietnam allegory Dead of Night before directing the cult classic Black Christmas. Released four years before Halloween, it was arguably Black Christmas’s success that laid the groundwork for the modern slasher film and made the soil fertile enough for John Carpenter’s holiday-themed horror masterpiece to become a part of the cultural zeitgeist. The box office success of the raunchy comedy Porky’s and a later career turn to serious director-for-hire projects meant that Clark never returned to the genre that gave him his start and while a traffic accident took his life in 2007, Black Christmas lives on (despite the efforts of X-Files alum Glen Morgan).
The Christmas Chronicles (Netflix): Despite my love for Kurt Russell, I had no intention of watching The Christmas Chronicles after seeing the trailer for it plastered all over the Internet. But after reading some not terrible reviews and finding myself in need of something to have on in the background while writing this very blog, I decided to throw it on and I have to say, it’s a delightful little film. Don’t get me wrong—the latest film from the director of The Angry Birds Movie hasn’t made an entry into the holy canon of Christmas films—but the charm of Kurt Russell as a not so archetypical Santa Claus and a Minions-like approach to his elves makes The Christmas Chronicles more fun than it has any right being. Also, my mom really liked it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!
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 between 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: Groundhog Day, Hellraiser, The Game, Cabin Fever, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Teeth, Star Trek Beyond
AmazonPrime: Baby Mama, The Good Shepherd