Crossing the Streams: September 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
Hey, did everyone hear the good news? Oh, wait, sorry I meant the bad news. Yeah, definitely the bad news. There has been a great disturbance in the Force as though millions of voices cried out in terror and then continued crying out in terror for the next 2 years because Disney is definitely pulling all Star Wars titles from Netflix when they launch their standalone streaming service in 2019. But, hey – at least you’ll have another 2 years year and a half to enjoy Rogue One and Rebels and Zootopia and Finding Dory before they’re gone forever. The following titles, on the other hand, are going to disappear faster than it takes for the Death Star to clear the Yavin moon…
30 Rock (Netflix): Were it not for Mitchell Hurwitz, I’d say that Tina Fey created the greatest TV comedy since the turn of the century. I can certainly understand the arguments that people would offer for Community, but for my money, 30 Rock is the greatest comedy TV show of my adult life behind Arrested Development. Airing for 7 seasons during NBC’s multi-year effort to ruin all of comedic credibility it had built up over the years with Friends, Seinfeld, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, 30 Rock racked up 6 Golden Globes, 16 Emmys, and approximately 7000 jokes per minute of runtime. It’s one of the few TV shows that I’ve re-watched in full more than twice and it’s insane to remember not just how good it was so early (season 1’s “Tracy Does Conan”) and how good it remained so late (the final shot of the entire series in “Last Lunch”). I could write superfluously about 30 Rock’s fast-paced humor and editing, self-awareness, and memorable characters, but arguably its greatest contribution to TV history is/should be your favorite Halloween staple. Well, maybe not this year’s Halloween, since the show expires September 30th. Blerg.
Boogie Nights (Amazon Prime): Don’t hate me but I’ve never understood the reverence that people hold for Boogie Nights when the same director made the absolutely amazing There Will Be Blood. Then again, I’m the guy who lost his mind when he first saw Magnolia, a film that even P.T. Anderson admits he would cut down significantly if he could do it again, so perhaps I’m not the best judge of taste. Still, a lot of us (ahem…) still haven’t seen Hard Eight, so it was Boogie Nights that first introduced us to the filmmaker who was hailed as the second coming of Robert Altman. Since then he’s collected 6 Oscar nominations, brought respectability back to both Burt Reynolds AND Adam Sandler, and has become that rare filmmaker whose profound and relatively sparse output has elevated his releases to events. Boogie Nights, the ensemble film set in the porn industry in the Valley of the 70s and 80s, was his first time working with a few of his favorite collaborators – William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, editor Dylan Tichenor and eventual Oscar-winning collaborator Robert Elswit – and, perhaps more importantly, the first time that his brilliance and ego were unleashed on Hollywood. Allegedly, while filming Boogie Nights, Anderson showed the Magnolia script to Macy, soliciting his opinion. “It’s a little long,” Macy commented. “Fuck you,” Anderson responded. “I’m not changing a word.” What will be changing is the time you left to watch the film for free as it expires from Amazon Prime September 30th.
Saw – Saw: The Final Chapter (Amazon Prime): As we get deeper into that time of the year when the bliss of wearing sweaters in the morning becomes hell come afternoon, our thoughts start turning away from the summer and towards the greatest season of them all – Fall. Why? Because Fall means Halloween and Halloween means scary movies. With the recent 2-year commemoration of the passing of Wes Craven, one would be forgiven to also commemorate the passing of the mainstream horror franchise, those series that – for good or for ill – would return on a regular basis to add a new chapter to the book of the burned, dream killer or the silent, masked stalker. The closest that our generation has come to partaking in such a legacy is the Saw series, started innocently enough when two Australian filmmakers, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, set out to scare audiences with a very limited budget and a B-list cast in 2004. The runaway hit spawned a series that became Byzantine (to put it generously) in its mythology and creatively spent with its Rube Goldberg viscera. Like many horror icons of the 1980s, it also seemingly could not be killed. Love them or hate them though, audiences at least know what to expect when they head into a Saw film and it’s partly that same sense of macabre comfort that kept people coming back to A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. While Saw may be returning to theaters, it will not be returning to Amazon Prime, severing any hope you might have had for a Halloween binge watch on September 30th.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (HBO Now): This isn’t the first time I’ve written about how great of a year 2007 was for cinema and it probably won’t be the last because, damn it, it was a great year for cinema. Despite how often people gush about There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men or Zodiac, they often forget about the quiet, meditative The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. While the title is admittedly a mouthful, Andrew Dominik’s film is a revisionist Western, the kind of genre film that is slow paced and deliberate in an attempt to subvert the baked in expectations of a genre that has long since gone out to pasture, thematically matching the narrative of the so-called “legend” of the man who killed the great Jesse James. The film that forced us all to start taking Casey Affleck seriously as an actor is also – in this writer’s humble opinion – the most beautiful film ever shot. Legendary DP Roger Deakins shot many scenes in the film with lenses that would have actually been used for photography during the time period depicted but his Oscar nomination for both this and No Country for Old Men likely split enough of the Academy vote that it resulted in the no less deserved win for the aforementioned Robert Elswit. The picture on HBO Now looks dusty though and will be gone by September 30th.
Other Notable Titles Expiring: American Psycho (September 30, HBO Now), The Big Lebowski (September 30, HBO Now), Crimson Peak (September 30, HBO Now), M*A*S*H* (September 30, HBO Now), Philomena (September 22, Netflix), Almost Famous (September 30, Hulu), Rescue Dawn (September 30, Hulu), Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (September 30, Amazon Prime), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (September 30, Amazon Prime), Rosemary’s Baby (September 30, Amazon Prime), Tommy Boy (September 30, Amazon Prime), The Wizard of Oz (September 30, Amazon Prime)
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, unlike every Star Wars title you’ve ever loved.
A Monster Calls (HBO Now): Horror fans have known the name of J.A. Bayona since his fantastic film The Orphanage killed it on the festival circuit in 2007. He kept a relatively low profile after that, directing the little seen The Impossible and chipping in a couple episodes of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. The box office receipts for A Monster Calls wouldn’t seem to justify his being handed the reins for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but those who have seen the adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel would know that they hired the right man for the job. The novel is a brief, but by no means airy book, following a young boy who seeks the help of a tree monster to save his mother from the cancer that’s slowly killing her. Released to only four American theaters late in December, the film is a faithful adaptation in the best possible way, perfectly blending the fantastical heights and emotional depths that the story unveils as Conor (newcomer Lewis MacDougall) explores the concepts of pain and healing. It’s the only book to movie adaptation where both media have made me cry and it’s been available since September 2nd and if you’re not already watching it, you’re doing something wrong.
The Deuce (HBO Now): I hate to be that guy but even if David Simon had churned out nothing but garbage since 2008, he’d still be worthy of every exultation he’s ever received for creating The Wire. The former Baltimore journalist brings a much-needed socio-political amorality and authoritarian skepticism to whatever subject he covers, whether that be the inner-city war on drugs (The Wire), the tepid response to the destruction of a uniquely American culture (Treme), or city regulations in regards to racial de-segregation (Show Me a Hero). So, if there’s anyone who would do justice to an objective examination of the socio-economic and political factors that would lead to the rise in the New York City porn boom of the 1970s, it would be him. Even if you’re not interested in a show that features James Franco playing twins or Maggie Gyllenhaal playing a prostitute who wants to get behind the camera, perhaps you could at least get behind a show and creators who have hired LGBTQ, non-Caucasian, and a trans writers in a deliberate effort to bring different voices to the conversation about a topic that affected so many different demographics. The first episode debuted on September 10th and new episodes will air weekly.
Carol (Netflix): Last year, the Battleship Pretension Fleet rated Carol the best film of 2015 and, while I didn’t vote for it at the time – my vote went to Room – I’ve revisited the beautiful period romance of Todd Haynes multiple times since first seeing it whereas my initial screening of the Brie Larson-Jacob Tremblay drama has so far been my only screening. Despite the fact that we’re living in 2017 and we (until recently) seem to be progressing as a society, it’s still pretty rare to find a film centering around a lesbian relationship that either ends happily, doesn’t make pain the focal emotion, and/or – even rarer – both. The film walked away from the 2016 Academy Awards empty handed, but was nominated in every major categorically with the exception of (bafflingly) Best Picture. In such a fantastic film, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which non-wins are the most egregious, but my vote(s) would go for Carter Burwell’s beautiful score and Edward Lachman’s soft, 16mm cinematography. I would also entertain arguments for Cate Blanchett for Lead Actress and Phyllis Nagy for Best Adapted Screenplay. Arm yourself with your own argument since it’ll be available on Netflix come September 20th.
Requiem for a Dream (Netflix): With the recent release of mother!, it seems only fair that Darren Aronofsky should be worked into the conversation. With the exception of Noah, the one guarantee of pretty much every Aronofsky film is that it’s going to fuck with you in one way or another, whether it be emotionally, intellectually, or both. While Aronofsky started his film career tripping our minds with Pi, it was Requiem for a Dream in which he reached into the very soul of the viewer and tore that soul to shreds. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr. (who makes a cameo in the film as a prison guard!), Requiem for a Dream has been described by Aronofsky himself as a horror film, following the downward spiral of four Brooklyn residents who fall victims to their various drug addictions. You’ll find it on many lists with titles such as “Films to Watch Only Once” (p.s. I think I’ve seen it six times. What does that say about me?), but if you’re brave enough to subject yourself to such an emotional ringer more than that, pay attention to how brilliantly and effectively Aronofsky balances the fantastic with the emotionally raw. There are phenomenal performances from all four leads, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, and Jared Leto, the latter of which being arguably the most tragic because of it opening the Pandora’s Box that would ultimately give us Mark David Chapman, Rayon, and The Joker. Test your limits on Netflix, where Requiem has been back since September 1st.
Other Notable Titles Arriving: Robocop (September 1, Hulu), The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (September 1, Netflix), Batman/Batman Returns (September 1, Hulu), The Cove (September 1, Hulu), The Silence of the Lambs (September 1, Hulu), Crash (September 5, Hulu), The Mindy Project Season 6 Premiere (September 12, Hulu) Narcos Season 3 (September 1, Netflix), BoJack Horseman (September 1, Netflix), Portlandia Season 7 (September 9, Netflix), Amores Perros (September 1, Netflix), City of God (September 1, Netflix), An American Werewolf in London (September 15, Hulu), I Saw the Devil (September 27, Hulu), Let the Right One In (Swedish) (September 27, Hulu), V/H/S, V/H/S 2 (September 27, Hulu), Gangs of New York (September 1, Netflix), Gone Baby Gone (September 1, Netflix), Club de Cuervos Season 3 (September 1, Netflix), Pulp Fiction (September 1, Netflix), The Squid and the Whale (September 1, Netflix), Marc Maron: Too Real (September 5, Netflix), Like Crazy (September 5, Netflix), Scarface (September 1, HBO Now), Jaws – Jaws 3 (September 1, Netflix), The Cove (September 1, Amazon Prime), Transparent Season 4 (September 20, Amazon Prime)
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.
Compliance (Hulu): Hey, remember up above when I recommended you watch Requiem for a Dream if you have no consideration for the wellbeing of your soul? Well, Compliance will do that, but minus the drug addiction and plus the unquestioning adherence to (alleged) voices of authority. Compliance is a horror film only in so much as you consider that the story, that of a man who calls into a fast food restaurant claiming to be a cop while asking the employees to do unspeakable things to each other, is based on things that actually happened. Real life is always more horrific than anything that a filmmaker can dream up. Featuring stellar work from amazing character actors Ann Dowd, Bill Camp, and friend of Battleship Pretension Pat Healy, Compliance was written and directed by Craig Zobel, who really swung the emotional pendulum in the opposite direction from when he co-created Homestar Runner. Compliance was my #1 of the year for 2012 and to this day is still one of the only film reviews of mine that I don’t hate. It’s waiting for you on Hulu, but has also been waiting to terrify you on Shudder since September 11th.
Timecrimes (Hulu): Nacho Vigalondo may not be a household name – how many of you actually went to see Colossal? – but that doesn’t mean that he’s not somewhat of a staple within the genre community. While he’s contributed to horror anthologies such as V/H/S Viral (“Parallel Monsters”) and The ABCs of Death (“A is for Apocalypse”), his feature-length work has been slanted towards science-fiction, starting with Timecrimes in 2007. To get too deep into the synopsis would spoil it but the basic gist is that a man, Hector (Karra Elejalde), finds a lab run by a young scientist (Vigalondo) who sends him back in time one hour and, if you’ve seen Primer, you already have a sense of the complexities of having multiple versions of one’s self running around. Beginning mysteriously then eventually evolving into horror, Timecrimes is an engaging, taut story told on a small scale (there are only five actors on screen in the entire film).