Crossing the Streams: March 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 right around the corner, which most people have been looking forward to ever since winter began. Spring means outdoor activities, longer days, lighter clothing, and vacation plans, which means that your movie and TV viewing habits are going to be sorely neglected. On behalf of all streaming services, I’m here to shame you for your inconsiderate disregard of Netflix and co. While you’re out there reveling in later sunsets, some of your favorite titles are melting away like so much winter snow. Take these, for instance…
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Netflix): These days, Robert Zemeckis’ toying with mocap technology has made him a little bit of a filmmaking Doctor Frankenstein in regards to both the monstrous things he’s created and the masses who have turned against him for it but, at one point, his experimentation created beautiful things. Arguably the most beautiful thing he created from his bonding animation with live action is 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a hilarious hybrid that finds both humor and brilliance in its homage to LA film-noir played out through a mystery involving – and perpetrated by – cartoons. The film rightfully took home three Oscars for visual effects and introduced many children to the strange juxtaposition of being horrified by Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom while also turned on by the cartoon Jessica Rabbit (thanks in part to her performance model, Betsy Brantley). The cartoon equivalent of Heat, it’s also the only film where you’ll see both toon titans Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on screen at the same time. Of course, you’ll only be able to see them until the film expires on March 24th.
The Hurt Locker (Hulu): Luckily for you and your springtime frivolities, there’s not much leaving Hulu in the month of March but the scarcity of those expiring titles should add more of a sense of urgency, sort of like the urgency that might be felt by someone defusing bombs, maybe? To this day, The Hurt Locker is still the lowest-grossing film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but it brought sharp focus on talented, journeywoman director, Kathryn Bigelow, who also took home the Oscar for Best Director, becoming the first woman in history to do so (her win also ensured that we mercifully wouldn’t have to take Avatar more seriously than its vapidity demanded). Any love you may have for Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (Avengers), William Brandt (Mission: Impossible), or Mayor Carmine Polito (American Hustle) can be traced back to his standing out in this film as well, which first paired Bigelow with writer Mark Boal, who would join her on Zero Dark Thirty and Detroit, as well as cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who would shoot Detroit (which is currently streaming on Hulu as well, by the way). The Hurt Locker has its own timer though, set to go off on March 31st.
Nocturnal Animals (HBO Now): Tom Ford was a fashion designer and creative director before he tried his hand at directing 2009’s A Single Man, which got Colin Firth his first Oscar nomination. It took Ford 7 years to direct a follow up and he chose an adaptation of the 1993 novel “Tony and Susan” as the vehicle for his return. Having neither seen A Single Man nor read “Tony and Susan,” I can’t attest to any themes or emotions that Ford likes to explore, but Nocturnal Animal reeks of a film that’s long been a passion project. Yes, it was fairly critically acclaimed – it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and accolades for Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – but either the story just exists to be mean-spirited, or Ford just isn’t a skilled enough director to handle whatever meditations on emotional complexity exist on the page. Yes, the performances are almost universally excellent, but the depictions of rape, murder, and revenge don’t seem to serve as much more than provocative material for a dirty, pulp story. So, if I dislike it so much, why am I writing about it here? Because I want to know what I might be missing. But hit me up before March 31st or you might not be able to convince me otherwise.
All Is Lost (Amazon Prime): Though I still haven’t seen A Most Violent Year, the one-two punch of Margin Call and All Is Lost was enough to convince me that JC Chandor was a filmmaker that demanded attention be paid to him. While Margin Call was a fast-paced ensemble, All Is Lost swings the pendulum in the opposite direction, starring Robert Redford – and ONLY Robert Redford – as a sailor whose boat collides with a shipping container and slowly sinks for the remaining duration of the film. The rest of the film is an almost entirely dialogue free exercise in man’s determination and will to survive, a harrowing film that sees the tension ramp up as the runtime and specter of death increases. Somehow, the film only garnered one Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Sound Editing in a year where American Hustle got all sorts of nominations it didn’t earn (I’m looking at YOU, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay). Criminally underseen and already forgotten, All Is Lost deserves to be seen before it too is lost on March 31st.
Other Notable Titles Expiring:
Amazon Prime: Sicario (3/21), Iron Man (3/26), Basic Instinct (3/30), Million Dollar Baby (3/30), Black Hawk Down (3/31), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark/Temple of Doom/Last Crusade (3/31), Requiem for a Dream (3/31), Reservoir Dogs (3/31), Total Recall 1990 (3/31)
HBO Now: Erin Brockovich (3/31), About a Boy (3/31), Jackie (3/31), Platoon (3/31), Suicide Squad (3/31)
Hulu: Blazing Saddles (3/31), Dirty Dancing (3/31)
Netflix: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (3/26), Awake: Season 1 (3/31)
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.
Note: Some of these recommendations are repeats from the unpublished February blog
Goodfellas (Netflix): One of these days I’ll attempt to sit down and craft a proper (read: pretentious and fully unqualified) Top Ten Films of All Time list. The closest I got was an episode that I recorded for More Than One Lesson about my Top Ten Favorite Films, (emphasis mine) which has since changed slightly since I discovered La La Land (sorry, The Muppets!). Though there are semantic differences between a Best Of and Favorites list, one film that would find inclusion on both for me would be Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, a film that I legitimately believed to be the greatest American film ever made at one point in my life. While I don’t hold that belief anymore (I recently re-watched The Godfather Part II and holy shit), I still think that Goodfellas is almost unmatched in its balancing of pop appreciation and artistic sensibilities. So iconic that it reached across generations, Goodfellas is such a quintessentially American story that its appeal will likely continue to bridge across ages and experiences. You’ve been able to watch my 2nd favorite film of all time since February 1st.
Casino (Netflix): If I’m going to recommend Goodfellas, it only makes sense that I recommend its spiritual sequel as well. Somewhat lost in the mix of Scorsese’s canon due to the similarities it shares to Goodfellas in both theme and cast, Casino is a phenomenal film on its own, depicting the real-life fall of the mob influence in Las Vegas viewed through the specific lens of the Tangiers casino, the fictional stand-in for the Stardust, which was ultimately destroyed and replaced by a more family-friendly, corporately controlled establishment. The decadence of both wealth and violence are brought into sharp focus by Scorsese, aided by the opulent costume design of John Dunn and Rita Ryack and the luscious cinematography of Robert Richardson, none of whom received any Academy Award recognition. Scorsese’s sardonic use of classic pop music is once again supplemented by Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing but Casino is a more visceral and violent mob story than Goodfellas, played up undoubtedly due to the indulgent environment in which all the very real horrors took place. Sharon Stone is an absolute force in the film, but Joe Pesci has never been more frightening. See for yourself – the film has been available since March 1st.
Wonder Woman (HBO Now): For a long time, Wonder Woman held down a spot on my Top Ten list for 2017 and, while it ultimately didn’t make the cut, I can’t imagine anything in the near future unseating it as the best film that the DC Cinematic Universe has to offer. Patty Jenkins became the highest grossing female director in history after Wonder Woman was released, boldly unleashing an exciting and uplifting cinematic adventure that stood in sharp contrast to the plodding and dour Batman and Superman titles that had been offered prior (I’ve just been informed that apparently Suicide Squad was a thing too?). So commercially and critically successful was Wonder Woman in comparison to Batman vs. Superman: Yawn of Justice that it actually prompted some reshoots and reworking for Justice League in hopes it would avoid the same grim fate as its predecessors (SPOILERS: it didn’t). Entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to take chances and clean up at the box office but even the most cynical of us are eagerly awaiting what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store next. In the meantime, Diana’s exploits have been free to revisit since February 10th.
Jessica Jones: Season 2 (Netflix): HOT TAKE ALERT: Jessica Jones is the only Netflix-exclusive Marvel TV series that’s really worth your time. I suppose you can take what I say with a grain of salt considering I couldn’t get through Luke Cage and didn’t even make an attempt at Iron Fist but Jessica Jones was, and is so far, the only Marvel TV offering that actually created emotional stakes for its hero because of how dynamic its protagonist (Krysten Ritter) was both on her own and in relation to her antagonist. While The Punisher took a more institutional approach to its villainy and Luke Cage’s Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) was as much of a threat culturally and socio-economically as he was a badass, if it’s truly the personal touch and complex relationship that makes a villain truly threatening, there is no one better than Kilgrave (David Tennant). I realize that he’s not present in Season 2 of Jessica Jones, but his shadow is certainly still being cast over our anti-hero, who now has to grapple with her reputation as a killer as she further delves into the past that saw her lose her parents and 20 days of her life, only to emerge with super powers. It’s that exploration of the missing time and the perpetrators of her change on which Season 2 is focused and on which you can focus since it’s been available to binge since March 8th.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Amazon Prime/Hulu): While I respect the hell out of both the hustle and personal philosophies of the Duplass Brothers, their work can be hit or miss. Jeff, Who Lives at Home, however, is one creation of theirs that I whole-heartily adore. The film stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms as two brothers, Jeff and Pat, the sons of Sharon (Susan Sarandon), all three of whom are looking for something existentially greater in their lives than just the banal day in and day out. A characteristically low budget from the filmmaking duo, the film features a lot of existential musings and not a whole lot of things happening, but it’s also a film that dares to appreciate the specialness of the everyday and how it may (or may not) tie into something bigger than ourselves. It’s going to be written off and derided as mumblecore self-importance by many that watch it but between this film and The Muppets, 2011 was a special year for Jason Segel trying to make audiences feel joy and peace. Feel it for yourself since it’s been on not one, but two streaming platforms since March 1st.
Other Notable Titles Arriving:
Amazon Prime: Amelie (3/1), Young Adult (3/1)
HBO Now: Die Hard/Die Hard 2 (3/1), The French Connection (3/1), The Silence of the Lambs (3/1), Where the Wild Things Are (3/1), Alien: Covenant (3/3), The Beguiled (3/17), Girls Trip (3/31)
Hulu: The Square (3/1), Chicago (3/1)
Netflix: The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale (3/4), Love: Season 3 (3/9), Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2 (3/23), A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2 (3/30), Adventureland (3/1), The Descent (3/1), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (3/1), Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters 2 (3/1), The Gift (3/1), Moon (3/1), Revolutionary Road (3/1), Up in the Air (3/1), Wet Hot American Summer (3/1), Ricky Gervais: Humanity (3/13), Let Me In (3/31)
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.
Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America (Netflix): Daryl Davis is an African-American jazz musician who’s had the privilege of performing with such iconic acts as B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. He still plays jazz, but these days the practicing Christian spends most of his time as a lecturer and anti-racism activist. Specifically, his activism takes the form of befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to expose them to the errors of their thinking through friendship and bridge building rather than through anger and hostility. Daryl has a collection of hoods and robes from Klan members who have turned from their bigotry thanks to knowing him and so far he’s collected more than 20 and is still going. Accidental Courtesy is an eye-opening look at approaching and deconstructing institutional oppression through empathy and individuality versus cutting off the nose to spite the face. Daryl’s journey has been long and fruitful, but it’s also not been without its fair share of detractors. To me, the most fascinating part of the documentary is when Daryl sits down with Black Lives Matter activists in Baltimore who basically accuse him of selling out his race. It’s an uncomfortable and frustrating yet important reminder that systems and institutions have left a far reaching historical, emotional, and psychological stain that the path to deconstruction is not an easy or quick one.
The Invitation (Netflix): Karyn Kusama burst onto the scene in 2000 when her directorial debut, Girlfight, won the Directing Award and Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Tepid reactions to her follow ups, Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, saw her retreat to TV for regular directing gigs, but before she retreated to Casual and Halt and Catch Fire she delivered an overlooked gem of intimate psychological horror with 2015’s The Invitation. Featuring a cast of relative unknowns (the biggest names are Game of Throne’s Michiel Huisman and John Carroll Lynch), The Invitation largely revolves around a dinner party hosted by a woman named Eden (Tammy Blanchard), the ex of audience surrogate Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who is attending the party with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), despite great reluctance due to unresolved emotional trauma that initially drove he and Eden apart. Though he carries the weight quite noticeably, Eden and all her dinner guests appear carefree and happy, though the secret behind their emotional liberation is not for me to spoil. The Invitation is a haunting slow burn with subtle performances and an intangible feeling of something askew that leaves this ominous feeling of something sinister constantly bubbling just below the surface.
Ingrid Goes West (Hulu): If you hate the term “social media influencer,” then you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy about Ingrid Goes West. Starring Audrey Plaza, the film follows the titular Ingrid as she moves to Los Angeles to stalk Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a social media influencer whose life Ingrid badly wants to duplicate/have/inhabit. The film pulls no punches in how it depicts either Ingrid, the mentally unhinged stalker that’s spent time in an institution for her behavior in the past, or Sloane, the vapid socialite who partakes in and spouts out every west coast cliché that you could possibly imagine. Co-writers David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer skewer both sides of the symbiotic social media relationship, lamenting the overall culture and how it has the capacity to so badly cause people to stray from who they really are – or, in some cases, reveal who they really are.
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-months. 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: Archer Seasons 1 – 7 (3/14), Jaws (3/1), Memento (3/1)
Amazon Prime: The Bay (3/12)