Crossing the Streams: November 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
With Halloween sadly in our rearview, all of us approach November in our own way. While most of the population is still grappling with how to reconcile the ever-encroaching influence of Christmas marketing (are you Buddy the Elf-ing or Jackson Maine-ing your way through it?), others have their focus on the more immediate concern of how to survive the Thanksgiving holiday that’s just around the corner. With travel planning, awkward political conversations with distant relatives, and Black Friday shopping all very real and very stressful prospects up ahead, there are undoubtedly many of you who wish you could spend your 4-day weekend (no disrespect meant to those in civil services or the healthcare industry) alone, curled up the couch watching movies. If you find yourself with both the desire and the ability to achieve such escapist whims, then I recommend you start with one of the titles below before they disappear like so many home cooked sides.
The Terminator (Hulu): It’s weird to think that not only is the highest-grossing film of all time so utterly forgettable, but also that its sequels have been James Cameron’s life and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Pandora has absorbed so much of Cameron’s time and dignity that it’s easy to forget that he made his name as an exciting genre director with another franchise that he also created. The Terminator, the story about a warrior cyborg sent back in time to eliminate the mother of the future’s human resistance against machines and the lone soldier sent back to stop him, forced all Americans to learn how to spell “Schwarzenegger” and teamed Cameron up with many people who would become his long-term collaborators both professionally and personally: Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor (and future ex-wife #4), Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, editor Mark Goldblatt, and co-writer/producing partner Gale Ann Hurd. The Terminator franchise has fantastically devolved since Cameron’s departure – I dare you to name me the director of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines without IMDBing it – but with both Cameron and Hamilton returning for the next installment, perhaps we’ll be able to get back to some semblance of the glory days, which you can revisit on Hulu until November 30th.
What Dreams May Come (Hulu): I don’t know if it’s safe to call What Dreams May Come a cult classic but the few people I’ve met who like the film really like it (myself included). What Dreams May Come didn’t catch on with audiences, grossing roughly $55 million on a budget of $85 million, and Richard Matheson, who wrote the book upon which the film was based, also wasn’t pleased with the saccharine liberties that Hollywood took with his theosophical story of a man leaving heaven to seek out his wife in hell. But the film is a sumptuous visual feast that paints (literally) the afterlife in a different way than has been depicted on film in the past. The film rightfully won an Oscar in 1999 for its visual effects and its art direction was nominated for another, both of which were elevated thanks to the decision of director Vincent Ward and DP Eduardo Serra (The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and 2) to shoot the film entirely on Fuji Velvia, a film stock largely used by nature photographers for its vivid color reproduction. Sure, the film tugs on the heart strings a bit too much – child death, suicide, Herculean demonstrations of self-sacrifice – but what meager offerings the film has to feed the mind, it makes up for with a feast for the eyes. Plus, it features a fun cameo from Werner Herzog as one of the many faces amongst a sea of tormented souls in hell upon which Robin Williams must tread to reach his wife. The afterlife may last for eternity, the rights for What Dreams May Come will not, expiring on November 30th.
The Howling (Mubi): When it comes to the canon of werewolf films, An American Werewolf in London is probably on the top of everyone’s mind, setting the template for not just what mythology films would later follow but also insurmountably raising the bar for transformation sequences. Close behind it would be The Howling, released the same year as American Werewolf and taking a similar, tongue-in-cheek approach to its admittedly campy material (its transformation scene, while a bit more bubbly, is also entirely practical and no joke). Directed by Joe Dante, The Howling is significantly sillier than American Werewolf – no surprises there from the Corman disciple who would later make the quintessential Looney Tunes adaptation – but hits a bit more on the sexual subtext that have been part and parcel of monster films since the 1930’s. Like many horror films from the 1980’s, The Howling spawned a franchise that no one really asked for with a revolving door of writers and directors adding their own spin to each installment, from a more faithful adaptation of Gary Bradner’s source material to weremarsupials. At least none of them are An American Werewolf in Paris. The Howling expires on November 30th.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
Amazon: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (11/20), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (11/20), The Great Escape (11/20), Hotel Rwanda (11/20), House of Games (11/20), In the Heat of the Night (11/20), The Magnificent Seven (11/20), Mississippi Burning (11/20), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (11/20), Throw Momma from the Train (11/20), De Palma (11/21)
HBO Now: Atomic Blonde (11/30), The Devil Wears Prada (11/30), Identity (11/30), Seabiscuit (11/30)
Hulu: American Psycho (11/30), Emma (11/30), Escape from New York (11/30), Get Shorty (11/30), Ghost in the Shell (11/30), They Came Together (11/30)
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 once you start digesting that bountiful feast, you’re not moving off the couch anyway.
The Other Side of the Wind/They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Netflix): After Orson Welles died in 1985, everyone assumed that his last contribution to the world they’d be able to see was The Transformers: The Movie. Though Welles filmed The Other Side of the Wind on and off in the 70’s after returning to Hollywood from Europe, lack of funding and lengthy legal battles seemed to ensure that we’d never get to see the final film from the legendary director. Now, thanks to Netflix, we will get to. Assembled together based on notes and an unfinished cut that Welles started, The Other Side of the Wind is basically a fictionalized, satirical take on the filmmaking experience that Welles was going through as he was going through. John Huston stars as Jake Hannaford, an aging director trying to secure funding to complete the filming of his comeback film, the titular The Other Side of the Wind. Eclectic, kinetic, and suffocatingly self-referential, the film is equal parts comedy and tragedy, the thinly veiled parallels between the lives of Hannaford and Welles paying tribute to both how clever and doomed Welles was and how aware he was of it all. After watching The Other Side of the Wind, stick around Netflix to watch They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, the documentary directed by Academy Award-winner Morgan Neville (30 Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) about the attempts to bring the feature film to life. Both have been available since November 2nd.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix): The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the latest attempt by Netflix to try and play the Oscar game, apparently having learned their lesson from the simultaneous theatrical and streaming release of Beasts of No Nation. This time, Netflix is hoping that the staggered release – theatrical on November 9th, streaming on November 16th – will appeal a bit more to the historically older and stuffier Academy members who still have associated a stigma with Netflix original titles. It also helps that the six-part Western anthology film is directed by Academy darlings Joel and Ethan Coen. The film reunites the Coens with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and has so far been very well received, even if it has also reignited the odious Twitter revisionist tradition of having people re-rank the best Coen Brothers films.
Children of Men (Netflix): While I was happy that The Departed finally gave Martin Scorsese an Oscar for which he was long overdue, I also believed that that little gold statuette looked wildly out of place in Scorsese’s hands. It’s not just that the legendary director should have already won an Oscar at least twice before, but it was also that Children of Men should have won all the Oscars that year. Based on the novel by P.D. James, Children of Men showed Alfonso Cuarón to be capable of work both visually and emotionally profound, which made it all the more frustrating to have to wait seven years for a film with such little replay value as Gravity. The film not only features some amazing cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki and arguably the best Clive Owen performance you’ll ever see, but its 5 credited screenwriters miraculously defies the convention that too many cooks in the kitchen will muddle the final product. Children of Men is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time and has been available since November 1st.
Jacob’s Ladder (Amazon Prime): I would never have discovered Jacob’s Ladder if not for Silent Hill, the seminal PlayStation horror video game whose creators listed the Adrian Lyne film amongst its influences along with the works of Stephen King, David Lynch, and Hieronymus Bosch. The film was an odd choice for both Lyne as director, who largely dabbled in sultry romances, and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who chose this as his follow up to the Oscar-winning Ghost. The film is a terrifying look at how regret can haunt people for their entire lives with Tim Robbins starring Jacob, a Vietnam vet who is either going insane or slowly descending into hell. The film’s message is muddled a bit by a closing title card that feels it necessary to address the real-life use of Agent Orange during Vietnam – a thread that’s more MacGuffin than anything else in the film – but mostly the film does an excellent job at examining how our attachments in life can tear us apart if we’ve not made peace with them. As Danny Aiello says, “the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments.” Jacob’s Ladder has been available since November 1st. And after watching, listen to me discuss it with Tyler Smith and Reed Lakey over at More Than One Lesson!
Paddington 2 (HBO Now): I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t seen either Paddington movie but seeing as basically everybody loves this film, it seems like it was worthy of its own shout out. My interest was piqued when I heard a friend describe Paddington 2 as basically a child-friendly call for prison reform, so now I’ll finally have my chance to check it out since it has been available since November 17th.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: Child’s Play (11/1), Christmas with the Kranks (11/1), Die Another Day (11/1), Excalibur (11/1), Hostel & Hostel Part 2 (11/1), Leaving Las Vegas (11/1), Michael Clayton (11/1), The Adventures of Tintin (11/1), The Birdcage (11/1), The Motorcycle Diaries (11/1), Homecoming Season 1 (11/2), Kick-Ass (11/3), Patriot Season 2 (11/9), The Expanse Season 3 (11/15), Downsizing (11/24)
HBO Now: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Extended Edition) (11/1), Cop Car (11/1), Hard Candy (11/1), Invictus (11/1), Room 104 Season 2 Premiere (11/4), Annabelle: Creation (11/14), Pacific Rim: Uprising (11/17), Sesame Street Season 49 Premiere (11/17), My Brilliant Friend Series Premiere (11/18)
Hulu: 28 Days Later (11/1), Amelie (11/1), Downsizing (11/24), Four Rooms (11/1), Hero (11/18), Monster’s Ball (11/11), Ocean’s Eleven – Ocean’s Thirteen (11/1), The Big Lebowski (11/1), Baskets Complete Third Season (11/23), Into the Dark: Flesh & Blood (11/2), Sailor Moon Complete Season 3 (11/1)
Netflix: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (11/1), Cape Fear (11/1), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (11/1), Cloverfield (11/1), Doctor Strange (11/1), Good Will Hunting (11/1), Sixteen Candles (11/1), The English Patient (11/1), John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons (11/5), Outlaw King (11/9), Green Room (11/12), Narcos: Mexico (11/16), Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia (11/20), Jiro Dreams of Sushi (11/22),
Showtime Anytime: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (11/1), The Bourne Ultimatum (11/1), Field of Dreams (11/1), Throw Momma from the Train (11/1), True Romance (11/1), The Usual Suspects (11/1), Frances Ha (11/12), Escape at Dannemora (11/18)
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 coming to get you, Barbara.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (Netflix): The Daily Show has been a breeding ground across the years for comedians to establish their own voice before moving onto solo properties. Though things didn’t work out so well for Michelle Wolf and Larry Wilmore, the show was a launching pad for Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and now, with Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj. Similar to Oliver and Bee, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj features the comedian addressing an audience solo, but the free rein of Netflix episodes allows him to tackle an individual topic with laser focus and incisive wit. Released weekly, the current episodes cover topics ranging from Amazon’s market control, to the grim realities of Saudi Arabia’s “progressive” crown prince, to the lawsuit that Asian American students brought against Harvard, which could effectively end affirmative action. With no shortage of topics to discuss and armed with a 32-episode deal, it seems as though Minhaj is primed to join the ranks of prolific TDS alums.
RBG (Hulu): Later this year, Focus Features will be releasing On the Basis of Sex, a feature-length biopic on Supreme Court Judge and progressive feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The studio is undoubtedly hoping that the film picks up some Oscar buzz but, unfortunately for them, star Felicity Jones and director Mimi Leder, the film is entirely unnecessary since the documentary RBG exists. Co-directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the film tracks Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s life from upbringing to her exceptional legal career, chronicling the challenges that she faced in her judicial pursuits due to her sex despite her plethora of legal and academic accomplishments. Touching upon her relationship with her late husband and most ardent supporter, her odd yet endearing friendship with the late conservative Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, and how the political lean in SCOTUS has shifted throughout her tenure, RBG is a true American story, the kind of inspirational and uplifting tale of how an underdog overcame the odds to pave her own path through history.
You Were Never Really Here (Amazon Prime): Between his upcoming turn as Joker and his Oscar-worthy work in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, there’s been a lot of focus on Joaquin Phoenix in 2018, which isn’t inherently terrible except that a lot of the attention is shifting focus away from You Were Never Really Here, the unpleasant yet powerful film from writer/director Lynne Ramsay. Phoenix stars in the film as a veteran who has to contend with traumatic visions of his violent past as he helps track down trafficked children and return them to their parents. Violent and fractured, the visual style of You Were Never Really Here reflects the chaotic nature of a man who is barely holding it together mentally while the sparse and direct narrative is reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, another film that approached the world through the skewed lens of a mentally unwell protagonist. In 2017 the film scooped up awards for both Phoenix and Ramsay at the Cannes Film Festival and a repeat at this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards could be possible, as could awards for Best Feature and Best Editing for Joe Bini.
Happy Thanksgiving, 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: Amelie, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Jurassic Park I – III, The African Queen, Up in the Air, Paddington, Anna Karenina
HBO Now: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Amazon Prime: House of Games