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[Now Streaming] Your ‘War Horse,’ ‘A Separation’ & ‘Pariah’ Alternatives

Written by on December 29, 2011 

Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to worthwhile titles currently streaming on Netflix Instant Watch. This week we offer alternatives to War Horse, Pariah, & A Separation.

With the Academy Awards eligibility deadline about to hit, three Oscar hopefuls do battle at the box office, including Steven Spielberg‘s latest epic, a gritty indie from Brooklyn, NY, and an Iranian thriller that’s drawing worldwide notice.


Based on Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel and its resulting Broadway hit, Spielberg’s War Horse centers on the bond between a young man and his horse. With its posh pedigree, this drama is looking to win more than audience attention. [Full Review.]

Oscar loves a good war story:

The English Patient (1996) This epic World War II-set romance scored 12 Oscar nominations and took home nine, including honors for writer-director Anthony Minghella and star Juliette Binoche, not to mention Best Picture. Based on Michael Ondaatje‘s historiographic metafiction novel, this lauded drama focuses on the relationship between a French-Canadian nurse (Binoche) and her mysterious English patient (Ralph Fiennes). Willem Dafoe and Kristin Scott Thomas co-star.


The Thin Red Line (1998) This World War II drama earned seven Oscar nods, including two for visionary writer-director Terrence Malick. Based on James Jones’ semi-autobiographical novel, this star-stuffed feature centers on a group of young soldiers who are forever changed by the horrors they encounter. Nick Nolte, John Travolta, George Clooney, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Adrien Brody and John C. Reilly co-star.

Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola’s harrowing Vietnam war drama was plagued by production problems that nearly killed leading man Martin Sheen. Yet it scored eight Oscar nods, including nods for Coppola and Sheen, but only won for Best Sound and Cinematography. (Oh, the horror.) Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this dark drama follows Captain Willard (Sheen) into the depths of foreign landscape and to the edge of sanity to find and destroy one Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

 Writer-director Asghar Farhadi crafts a layered and captivating thriller that centers on two families in modern Iran. (My full, spoiler-free review.)

The best of fresh foreign thrillers:

Rapt (2009) French star Yvan Attal stars in this tautly-paced tale of suspense that centers on an affluent industrialist who is kidnapped for want of a handsome ransom. But when the authorities and his colleagues decide the price tag for his freedom is too high, he’s left to dwell on the worst possible outcome. This Cesar-nominated thriller is already set for an English-remake, so check out the original now, and impress your friends with your cinema savvy.

The Last Circus (2010) “If I weren’t a clown, I’d be a murderer,” says one of the creepy clowns in Spanish writer-director Álex de la Iglesia’s twisted circus-set thriller that focuses on a ill-fated love triangle. New to the circus, sad clown Javier (Carlos Areces) is easily enraptured by the beautiful aerial acrobat Natalia (Carolina Bang). But she is married to a malicious and manic clown (Antonio de la Torre) with a wild streak and a lust for wrath. If you’re not afraid of clowns, this visually lush thriller will likely change your mind. (Trailer)

The Housemaid (2010) Based on a 1960s cult classic, this South Korean thriller takes viewers down a dark rabbit hole of desire. The newly hired nanny (Eun-yi) in an affluent household is sucked into a world of intrigue after sleeping with her boss, a businessman (Lee Jung-jae) whose engaged in a cruel game of wills with his pregnant wife (Seo Woo) and her manipulative mother (Park Ji-young). It’s a chilling and titillating thriller. (Trailer

In writer-director Dee Rees’ narrative debut, newcomer Adepero Oduye leads an incredible cast as a gay Brooklyn teen torn between parental pressure and peer acceptance in her search to discover her own identity. It’s a gritty indie that will dazzle. Charles Parnell and Kim Wayons co-star.

For more tales of Sapphic first love:

Water Lilies  (2007) With her debut feature, French writer-director Céline Sciamma crafts a compelling and complicated tale of friendship and first crushes that develop between three teen girls in the hidden confines of the local pool’s locker room. Pauline Acquart, Louise Blachère and Adele Haenel star.

Show Me Love (1998) This heralded and biting Scandinavian drama centers on an unlikely pairing in the world of high school romance. Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is gorgeous, popular and bored. So when nerdy but rebellious lesbian Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) reveals her feelings for Elin, a scintillating and tempestuous relationship blooms.

Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) Lonely late-bloomer Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt) has dated nothing but terrible men of late. So she turns to the personal ads in hopes of reigniting her love life. But when a woman (Heather Juergensen) answers, Jessica begins to wonder if it’s really a new man she needs. Scott Cohen and Jon Hamm co-star.

Orgasm Inc. (2009) Liz Canner’s revealing and deeply funny documentary lays bare the avarice and recklessness of America’s pharmaceutical industry by taking audiences behind the scenes of the development of female Viagra, which is intended to cure FSD—or Female Sexual Dysfunction. Never heard of FSD? It’s the latest epidemic afflicting women, according to the drug companies. But Canner takes us behind the scenes and unveils how these companies are exploiting women’s society-driven insecurites as well as American society’s general lack of sexual knowledge to market snake oil as the cure for sexual disinterest/discomfort/dissatisfaction. Canner takes on her shocking subject matter with plenty of cheek and humor, crafting a documentary that is equal parts hilarious and thought provoking. This is a must-see for women and men as it discusses in a frank and fun manner issues of sexual education, arousal and health. So make a ladies night of it complete with cocktails and confessional conversation. Or watch it with your partner as a springboard to a healthier and more satisfying sex life. Either way, you’ll be glad you opened up to Orgasm Inc!  [My full review and my interview with director Liz Canner]

 Is there a title Now Streaming that you think is worth recommending?
Send your pick(s) to Kristy.


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