Crossing the Streams: July 2017
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, summer is officially here and you know what that means – parking your butt inside in front of air conditioning and neglecting all human contact outside of the “(Insert Streaming Service) and Chill” variety. Sure, it may be hot outside, but missing these titles before they expire will leave you feeling cold on the inside (David Caruso slips on his sunglasses and walks away).
Jackie Brown (Amazon Prime): I mentioned last month that 2007 was arguably the greatest year of cinema in recent memory. Well, with titles like Good Will Hunting, As Good As It Gets, LA Confidential, Boogie Nights and Titanic (if you’re into that sort of thing) being released a decade earlier, 1997 was no year to shake a stick at either. That year also saw the release of Quentin Tarantino’s criminally overlooked Jackie Brown, which may have been a letdown for people who were expecting the world to shift again after Pulp Fiction, but instead got a chill, self-assured adaptation (Tarantino’s only) of an Elmore Leonard novel starring two actors (Pam Grier and Robert Forster) who had been popular with their parents. Featuring memorable supporting performances by Chris Tucker, Robert De Niro, and Michael Keaton and being arguably Tarantino’s funniest script, Jackie Brown is worth another look, but it better be before July 31st.
The Matrix/Reloaded/Revolutions (Amazon Prime): If you’re a reader/listener of More Than One Lesson as well as Battleship Pretension, then you already know that The Matrix is one of my top ten favorite films of all time. While I don’t love The Matrix Reloaded, it does have one of the best car chases you’ll ever see and The Matrix Revolutions is definitely a movie that people made. Still, love it or hate it, The Matrix series is one of the most popular and lucrative film franchises not based on a pre-existing property, made all the more impressive when you think of how audacious the Wachowskis were to make a big budget franchise that so proudly wore its philosophical and metaphysical influences on its sleeve (sometimes obnoxiously so). It’s arguable that we don’t have Side by Side or John Wick if not for the series that brought Keanu Reeves back into the public consciousness, though it can also equally be blamed for the canonization of Laurence Fishburne into meme culture. Witnessing The Matrix was witnessing an iconic shift in the cinematic landscape and no matter what your thoughts may be on its sequels. Such reverberation can often cause waves and waves crash like Reloaded and Revolutins largely did. The Trinity (see what I did there?) expire on July 31st.
The Addams Family/Values (Amazon Prime/Hulu): When I was a kid I didn’t really understand the concept of dark comedy, but I knew that I found both The Addams Family and Addams Family Values to be absolutely hilarious and perhaps a touch inappropriate for the child of my parents. When The Addams Family debuted on TV in 1964, there was something gleefully counter-cultural about a family of horror archetypes that reveled in subverting depictions of the traditional nuclear family. Barry Sonnenfeld wonderfully captured this joyous macabre with his cinematic adaptations brought to life by a flawless balance of darkness and comedy and one of the best examples of perfect casting that you’ll ever see. Come for Gomez Addams (Raul Julia) driving golf balls into his neighbor’s cereal and stay for the most horrifically accurate re-enactment of the First Thanksgiving in which children have ever participated. There won’t be any waking these titles from the dead when they both expire on July 31st.
Batman Returns (HBO Now): Speaking of darkness, remember when Tim Burton was the visionary director bringing Batman to the big screen? In a way, you have Burton to blame for Zack Snyder’s DCU seeing as the smashing success of Batman in 1989 was the first demonstration that comic book films had a place in Hollywood. With its clear German Expressionism influences, you also probably have Burton to blame for any nightmares you had as a child of Michelle Pfeiffer plummeting to her demise(ish) after you received Batman Returns on VHS in your stocking one Christmas (don’t ask). To this day, I am still privy to and engage in debates as to whether Batman or Batman Returns was the superior film (I support the former), but the fact that it’s even a debate speaks to Burton’s talent and the impression that he and Michael Keaton’s Batman left, an impression that might start to slowly fade after its expiration on July 31st.
Other Notable Titles Expiring: Bowling for Columbine (Amazon Prime, July 31), A Christmas Story (Amazon Prime, July 31), Teen Wolf (Amazon Prime, July 31), Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (Hulu, July 31), Clue (Hulu, July 31), Cabin Fever (Amazon Prime/Hulu, July 31), Winter’s Bone (Amazon Prime/Hulu, July 31), Unfaithful (HBO Now, July 24), Catch Me If You Can (HBO Now, July 31), Hail, Caesar! (HBO Now, July 31), Road to Perdition (HBO Now, July 31), My Cousin Vinny (HBO Now, July 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 neither is the heat and the air conditioning feels so, so nice…
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Netflix): Let’s be honest with ourselves, guys and girls – Rogue One wasn’t a great film; it was a great concept with a great cast and impressive direction from Gareth Edwards, a significant chunk of which we’ll likely never see thanks to the extensive meddling of Tony Gilroy on behalf of Disney. While we were promised a Star Wars standalone film that would set itself apart from the main series in its non-Episodic narrative and aesthetic, what we got instead was a problematic film that reeked of too many cooks in the kitchen, the first sign that perhaps Star Wars is in trouble. Gareth Edwards deserves a much better script than the last two he’s been handed, but my God – the man pulls off scope and scale like no other director working today and the diverse and talented cast is a larger step towards a more accurate representation of Disney’s fan base than their other properties are taking. Rogue One will be available starting July 18th.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – First Contact (Amazon Prime/Hulu): Hey, speaking of movie series that take place in space, Star Trek is a thing! Now, I have never and would not consider myself a Star Trek fan – I debated the superiority of Star Wars countless times in middle and high school – but even I would be a fool not to acknowledge its importance and influence on pop culture and the science-fiction genre (I’m also quite a big fan of First Contact, which was actually my first exposure to anything Star Trek related). If you consider yourself a Trekkie, chances are you’ve already seen all the movies more times than can be counted (except Nemesis), but now you have the chance to add to that count exponentially as every single film of the Kirk and Picard universes (except Nemesis) are now available on not one, but TWO streaming platforms. Loved The Wrath of Khan? Watch it twice in a row. Want to skip over The Voyage Home? Knock yourself out. All of them have been available in the cloud, the final final frontier, since July 1st.
Up in the Air (Amazon Prime/Hulu): Jason Reitman seemed to be a flawless filmmaker beginning with Thank You For Smoking in 2007 up through Young Adult in 2011 and he’s been trying his hardest to convince us otherwise ever since. While it was Juno that really put him and Diablo Cody on the map – 4 Oscar nominations, 1 win for Cody’s script – it’s Up in the Air that gets my vote for his best film to date. Released the same year as The Hurt Locker, Avatar and Inglourious Basterds, Up in the Air tends to get lost in the shuffle despite a fabulous leading performance from George Clooney and a script whose emotional and narrative uncertainty reflected the social and economic environment that spawned it without getting bogged down in cynicism. The American economy may not be as volatile as it was back in 2009, but there’s no shortage of questions about the future, so if you’re looking for a cathartic experience, this one has been available since July 1st.
Loving (HBO Now): I seemed to be the exception to the rule last year amongst my fellow BP Fleet members when it came to my inclusion of Loving amongst my top 10 films of the year. Jeff Nichols needs no defenders, but audiences and critics seemed to respond to Loving with a collective shrug, focusing what praise they had for him – if any – on Midnight Special instead. The film was criticized for not being very dramatic, which is exactly what I liked so much about it. In my Top 10 blog from last year, I wrote: “[rather] than a song that plays the rests over the notes, Loving is a poem in the vein of Jane Campion’s Bright Star, a reaction to events rather than an attempt at dramatization.” I stand by that assessment, maintaining that it’s not the drama that matters, but how the married couple at the center of the film respond to the drama that Nichols finds more important. In an increasingly divisive political climate, we don’t need anymore stories about attacks or hate or what divides us. Rather, we need more stories about what connects us and Loving is exactly that. You can love it too – it’s been available since July 1st.
Pi (Amazon Prime): There was a good decade long stretch bookended by notorious lesbian sequences in which we couldn’t stop talking about Darren Aronofsky. While the world shrugged a collective “meh” at Noah, it’s important to remember that Aronofsky has otherwise been an innovative and challenging filmmaker. That all started with Pi, a micro-budget psychological thriller shot on grainy, 16mm black and white film that introduced many of us to Sean Gullette and Mark Margolis. Lacking any significant budget, Aronofsky had to rely on crafting an intellectually stimulating and emotionally wrenching script and he delivers, casting Gullette as a paranoid mathematician who believes that he has discovered a numerological code that will unlock basically every mystery of the universe. Gotta imagine everyone would want to get their hands on that knowledge, huh? Well, you’ve had the ability to get your hands on it since July 1st.
Other Notable Titles Arriving: Castlevania: Season 1 (Netflix, July 1), Ozark: Season 1 (Netflix, July 21), Delicatessen (Netflix, July 1), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Netflix, July 1), Punch-Drunk Love (Netflix, July 1), Titanic (Netflix, July 1), Lion (July 9), Braveheart (Amazon Prime/Hulu, July 1), The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (Amazon Prime/Hulu, July 1), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Hulu, July 4), Mr. Robot: Season 2 (Hulu, July 13), Dark City (Amazon Prime, July 1), Rosemary’s Baby (Hulu, July 1), Melancholia (Hulu, July 12), Jeepers Creepers (Amazon Prime/Hulu, July 31), The Blair Witch (HBO Now, July 1), The Dark Knight (HBO Now, July 1), Panic Room (HBO Now, July 1), Watchmen: Extended Version (HBO Now, July 1), Hacksaw Ridge (HBO Now, July 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 for you.
Monsters (Netflix): Remember when I said Gareth Edwards needs to be working with better scripts? Well, maybe the problem is he shouldn’t be using a script at all – it worked out pretty damn well for Monsters. Edwards worked for years in visual effects before he made his feature film debut with Monsters, a film that was shot on a micro-budget because it was almost entirely improvised while traveling through Central America. With the exception of leads Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able (who met and married through the course of filmmaking), every actor in the film is a non-professional local and Edwards created and edited all the visual effects himself. With the relative disappointments of both Godzilla and Rogue One, perhaps Edwards needs budget taken away for him to get back in touch with his creativity.
The Imposter (Netflix): If there were a thesis for The Imposter, it would be that sometimes truth is much, much stranger than fiction. In 1994, a Texas boy named Nicholas Barclay disappeared at the age of 13. Three years later, the boy was found and returned to his family, but there were some things…off about him. Nicholas now spoke with a French accent, had brown eyes rather than blue, and dark hair rather than blonde. How could this be? Well, Nicholas wasn’t Nicholas – he was French conman Frederic Bourdin. But the Barclays believed him. What would lead Bourdin be so bold (or foolish) to attempts such a poorly planned deception and how in the hell could the Barclay family possibly have ever believed him? Attempting to uncover the answers to those questions takes The Imposter in a direction that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, resulting in a fascinating documentary about one of the most audacious – and for a time, successful – cons in American history.
Anomalisa (Amazon Prime): In 2008, critics raved when longtime brilliant and eccentric screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, made his directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York. Then, for a long time, there was nothing. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that there was a lot of built up anticipation for Anomalisa, but whatever expectations people may have had for Kaufman’s next film, they probably weren’t met when a film entirely populated by puppets was released. Originally written as a play under the pen name Francis Fregoli, a reference to the Fregoli delusion, Anomalisa is about the dehumanizing of corporate culture, the animated component allowing the play’s original execution of 3 actors performing all the parts to be faithfully maintained.