Crossing the Streams: November 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 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
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means that those of us not working in the medical field or entertainment industry are looking at a long weekend coming up. Thanksgiving is, of course, a time for reflection upon the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in the past year. Also, we turn into tremendous gluttons and indulge in more food than our stomach linings or conscious can handle. Luckily, there’s plenty of wonderful streaming content out there to either distract you from the pain you feel in your overextended gut or lull you off to sleep as you lay on the couch slowly giving into the food coma. Best start with the titles below, which won’t last as long as mom’s leftovers…
Black Hawk Down (Amazon Prime/Hulu): Remember when Ridley Scott made great films? Me neither! But you can remind yourself by checking out Black Hawk Down, the Oscar-winning film from 2001 about a rescue mission in Somalia that features a dynamite ensemble cast (Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Sam Shepherd, Hugh Dancy, Tom Hardy, Jason Isaacs, and seriously I could go on and on with this) which includes arguably the best performance of Josh Hartnett’s career. Ridley Scott has reached some great heights since Black Hawk Down (American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, The Martian) but none quite as high as the thrilling, immersive experience that he crafted with this film. Some would undoubtedly push back and argue the case for Prometheus, but those people would be wrong. Black Hawk Down expires on November 30th.
Good Will Hunting (HBO Now): It’s still tragic to think that we won’t ever again see anything new from Robin Williams and for me, nothing hammers that point home more profoundly than seeing his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting. For many of us, it was out first introduction to Gus Van Sant, a director with a penchant for coaxing great performances from his actors and for long takes. For better or worse, it also gave us the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and a controversy over where their voices stopped and William Goldman’s began. But 20 years after its release, Good Will Hunting still holds up as a great film. It expires on November 30th.
Parenthood (HBO Now): I saw Parenthood for the first time as a child, which was probably healthy because it introduced me early to the idea that starting, raising, and maintaining a healthy family life is more than likely going to be a chaotic nightmare. But man, is that chaos fun to watch in Ron Howard’s Parenthood. An ensemble comedy starring Steve Martin, Diane Wiest, Rick Moranis, and Jason Robards, Parenthood follows the Buckmans, a multi-generational family that grapple with such light-hearted matters as estranged relatives, raising kids, financial difficulties, learning disabilities, dating as a single parent, and you know what I could go on and on but I won’t seeing as a lot of this will be unearthed around the dinner table shortly anyway. What better way to deal with it than through catharsis? Laugh about it now because you won’t be able to after November 30th.
The One I Love (Amazon Prime): Mark Duplass has made a career of attaching himself to projects that are small, intimate, and unique. Whether it’s just as an actor (Creep, Safety Not Guaranteed, Blue Jay) or as a co-writer/co-director with brother Jay (Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives at Home), Duplass only involves himself in the kinds of films that he would want to watch, which are far more often than not, micro-budget independent features that focus on intricacies of character relationships and are far away from any studio interference. The One I Love features Duplass in front of the camera, co-starring with Elisabeth Moss as a married couple who take a retreat to a small, secluded house in an effort to rehabilitate a failing marriage. While I can’t divulge much else for the sake of keeping the plot a surprise, I will say that the house has something unexpected in store for the young couple, raising questions for them and us about what it is that defines the one we love. No questions will be raised past November 28th.
Other Notable Titles Expiring: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (November 30, Amazon Prime), Fargo (November 30, Amazon Prime/Hulu), Lars and the Real Girl (November 30, Amazon Prime/Hulu), An Inconvenient Truth (November 30, Hulu), The Monster Squad (November 30, Hulu), Cop Land (November 30, HBO Now), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (November 30, HBO Now), Panic Room (November 30, HBO Now), Shakespeare in Love (November 30, HBO Now), The Deer Hunter (November 30, HBO Now)
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 I’m sure you’re not getting up off that couch anytime soon either. Not with a 4-day weekend coming up.
Marvel’s The Punisher (Netflix): Marvel’s Netflix-exclusive offerings have been a bit of a mixed bag with hits (Jessica Jones, the hallway fight scene in Daredevil season 1) and misses (literally everything else). While season 2 of Daredevil went off the rails thanks to a shadowy villain about whom nobody cared and Matt Murdock being written as the worst lawyer that ever existed, it did give us a very good thing with the character and subplot involving The Punisher as depicted by Jon Bernthal who, between this and The Walking Dead, seems to have a thing for being the best part of something bad. I gave up on Luke Cage, I go back and forth about starting The Defenders, and I didn’t even consider watching a second of Iron Fist, but I am all in on a series that gives me Bernthal as arguably Marvel’s greatest anti-hero. It probably isn’t healthy to binge watch a show with “punish” in the title, but if that’s your thing, you’ve been able to do so since November 17th.
Whose Streets? (Hulu): Mainstream media showed us a lot of coverage of the response to the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and what they showed us was largely horrifying and chaotic. Fires, looting, tear gas, the National Guard, and disorder were what we were shown and what we were told was that the militaristic response was necessary to suppress the violence and anarchy that the citizens of Ferguson had unleashed. What we weren’t shown were the individual stories of leaders of the protests, those who responded to the murder of Mike Brown not with violence and animalism, but with organization, with solidarity, and with a civility and unified voice that was not afforded to them in media coverage, but which they capture with their rallying cry, “Whose streets?” “Our streets!” Whose Streets? follows some of the individual leaders of the protests in Ferguson who called for accountability, action, and unification but not for violence. The rallying cry has been calling since November 16th.
Get Out (HBO Now): Until I saw my current #1 film of the year (more on that in a bit), Get Out was on the top of my list of best films of 2017 for months. The horror film (or comedy if you’re a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, apparently) from writer/director Jordan Peele is an uncomfortable look at race relations in a country that alleges to be post-racial told through the lens of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American who’s meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s family for the first time. The horror in Get Out comes not from the jump scares or anything that goes bump in the night, but from the mirror that the film holds up to a country where one regularly hears phrases like, “I’m not racist – I have black friends.” Get Out is being talked about for end of the year awards and accolades and all of it is earned – any reservations that one would harbor about a comedian like Jordan Peele being able to handle effective directing should see those reservations melt away during the sequence in which Chris visits “the sunken place.” Watch Get Out from your place sunken into your couch now that it’s been available since November 4th.
The Big Sick (Amazon Prime): As of the writing of this blog in late November, no film has yet to supplant The Big Sick as my #1 of the year. The romantic-comedy from co-writers and real-life married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon tells the story of their real-life romance from meet cute, to break up, to medically induced coma, to meet cute part 2. No other film that I’ve seen this year plumbs the emotional depths and peaks of romance like this film does providing enough catharsis and relief with its laughs without shortchanging or sabotaging the intimacy. Subtly effective directing from Michael Showalter keeps the film moving and engaging and the supporting performances from Ray Romano and Holly Hunter ensure that Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan don’t have to shoulder the emotional load by themselves. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the best (according to me) film of 2017 beginning November 24th.
Other Notable Titles Arriving: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (November 17, Netflix), Mudbound (November 17, Netflix), Godless (November 22, Netflix), Broadchurch Season 3 (November 27, Netflix), She’s Gotta Have It (November 23, Netflix), 25th Hour (November 1, Hulu), Airplane! (November 1, Hulu/Amazon Prime), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (November 1, Hulu/Amazon Prime), Jacob’s Ladder (November 1, Hulu), Ocean’s Eleven (November 1, Hulu), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (November 1, Hulu), Up in the Air (November 1, Hulu/Amazon Prime), Winter’s Bone (November 1, Hulu), Fences (November 24, Hulu), The Departed (November 1, Amazon Prime), Kong: Skull Island (November 25, HBO Now), Warcraft (November 26, HBO Now), Wolf Creek: The Series (November 9, Shudder), Hard Candy (November 9, Shudder), Mulholland Drive (November 9, Shudder), The Fog 1980 (November 9, Shudder), The Wicker Man 1973 (November 9, Shudder)
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.
The Confession Tapes (Netflix): Between Serial, In the Dark, Making a Murderer, and The Messengers, we’re up to our neck in true crime series that engage and enrage us with perceived misses and misdeeds of the American justice system (so saturated are we with true crime that only two years after Making a Murderer first aired, we’ve already gotten our first satirical true crime series). If the barrage of constant bad news and abuses of power are causing your blood to boil and your hair to fall out, then perhaps The Confession Tapes isn’t for you. Created by Kelly Loudenberg, the seven-episode documentary series focuses on six murders that resulted in their suspects all being found guilty… thanks mostly to coerced confessions, that is. Though the ages, ethnicities, geographies, and socio-economic statuses of all the victims and perpetrators run the gamut, the one thing that connects each case together is the hypothesis that each suspect was not approached objectively, but with minds already made up and accusations already believed. Sound a bit like any conversations you’ve recently had?
You’re the Worst (Hulu): With the fourth season having just wrapped up, FX has announced that the fifth season of You’re the Worst will be its last. If you’re an idealist or an untainted romantic, that might be the best because You’re the Worst is neither ideal nor untainted, the Millennial response to network sitcoms that depict romantic relationships as seamlessly functional. You’re the Worst stars Chris Geere as Jimmy and Aya Cash as Gretchen, two dysfunctional people who “don’t do” relationships and decide to get involved in one with each other anyway. Things…do not go well. For anybody. That’s not to say that You’re the Worst is a hopelessly bleak look at monogamy in 2017 but it does take the time to admit that people are complex, often messy, and that the complications of two people aren’t canceled out when they meet; often, in fact, it just further complicates things. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry and with You’re the Worst you’ll probably be doing a little bit of both.
La La Land (HBO Now): The Oscar-winning film – and my favorite film of 2016 – actually came to HBO about a month or two ago and I fully intended to included it amongst the “Watch It Later” category, but since I forgot to do so, that just means I can do it now! La La Land is one of the more divisive films I can remember seeing from last year but as soon as the “Winter” title came up over the end of “Another Day of Sun,” I was hooked. Yes, the tail of Seb (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) meeting, falling in love, and inspiring each other to pursue their dreams in Hollywood is neither a new nor unique story but Damien Chazelle got his Best Director Oscar for a reason: La La Land is an ambitious and joyous undertaking, an homage to the Hollywood of old and an appreciation of the people and relationships that act as milestone markers in our lives. Perhaps it was because I was transitioning in my own life while seeing it for the first time that La La Land resonated so strongly with me but if I ever get to a point in my life where “Audition” doesn’t choke me up then put me out of my misery.