With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit platforms. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.
American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
European directors have often faltered when crossing the Atlantic. Billy Wilder and Wim Wenders found things to say where Paolo Sorrentino could not. American Honey is certainly the former. Based on a 2007 article from the New York Times, it’s a backwater American road movie directed by an Englishwoman, Andrea Arnold, and shot by Irishman Robbie Ryan. We spot a few cowboys and gas stations and even the Grand Canyon, but it’s nothing to do with any of that. It’s about America (duh) but it’s also about friendship and money and learning to look out for yourself, and that primal connection young people make between music and identity. It’s visually astonishing and often devastating, too. This might be the freshest film about young people in America since Larry Clark’s Kids from 1995. – Rory O. (full review)
Barry (Vikram Gandhi)
During his college days in New York, Barack Obama used to be called “Barry.” At that point in time he hadn’t fully embraced his African American roots yet, but was headed towards a journey of self-discovery that would change him forever. That is at least what writer-director Vikram Gandhi tries to show us in compelling drama Barry, which captures the tumultuous first few college days of the future U.S. president at Columbia University. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse)
Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel The Dressmaker is described as “Gothic,” but its new film adaptation more often comes across as a picaresque with too much killjoy drama. It is an odd story, mixing haute couture, small-town gossipry, romance, dark secrets, an old murder mystery, and multiple random deaths. And yet it’s also not nearly odd enough, delivering all of this with a disappointingly straight-laced sensibility. It’s soapy melodrama with the fun dampened by “verisimilitude” – a Marvel-movie treatment for the book-club set. – Dan S. (full review)
Fireworks Wednesday (Asghar Farhadi)
After a festival tour back in 2006 and a now-out-of-print DVD release, Asghar Farhadi’s Fireworks Wednesday has been theatrically re-released by the newly established Grasshopper Films. The drama is another precisely calibrated, culturally specific demonstration of Farhadi’s skills in constructing empathy machines. Further in line with the director’s filmography, this story has a nesting-doll structure that combines ingrained social hierarchies, domestic drama, and a tragic intersection of misunderstandings. And while it doesn’t feel as revelatory as the other recent Farhadi re-release, the claustrophobic, L’Avventura-esque About Elly, it’s more than merely an artifact from one of our best contemporary directors. If anything, it’s a testament to the fastidious construction of latter-day work such as A Separation and The Past. – Mike S. (full review)
Where to Stream: iTunes
Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante)
Guatemala’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar last year is finally available to stream. We said in our review that it’s an “absorbing, beautifully shot drama of cultural ritual and the drive of one young woman to escape a rudimentary social system. Set in a small coffee plantation village under the shadow of a giant volcano (the Ixcanul of the title), we follow Maria (Maria Mercedes Coroy), a quiet, introvert teenager who nonetheless dreams of shaping her own destiny.”
Little Men (Ira Sachs)
As with all of Sachs’ films, Little Men is a study in compassion and humanity where each character deserves a film of their own. As thorough in his writing (he co-wrote the screenplay with frequent collaborator Mauricio Zacharias) as he is detailed in his direction, Sachs offers his audiences the opportunity to embrace complex moral dilemmas the likes of which mainstream American cinema has practically dispensed of. Regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, Sachs’ films are about soul-searching, and Little Men might just be his most profound work to date. – Jose S.
The Pearl Button (Patricio Guzmán)
Fitting more ideas into 80-or-so minutes than many films could even hope in twice that runtime, Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button is alternately dense and breezy, an examination of the most common pices of existence — from water to crime to pontificating the possibilities of outer space — that doesn’t pretend to have the answers. Guzmán instead “settles” for a mix and match of visual and aural materials, at once creating a unified vision of a world out of order while hoping (even reaching) for something better in the cosmos. What can be learned is up to you. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)
Snowden (Oliver Stone)
Remakes repackaging foreign films for American audiences are justifiable if done correctly. I’d hope our movie-going public would willingly read subtitles and experience the original artist’s vision, but we don’t live in a utopia. Dramatizing non-fiction work is equally acceptable in specific circumstances because a narrative built from talking-head interviews is sometimes easier to parse and appreciate than those disparate accounts alone. Where I take umbrage with this trend is when Hollywood uses a documentary –an Oscar-winning documentary, no less — and literally reenacts it for a fictionalized biopic. To watch Citizenfour is to be enveloped in a tense journey with real careers and lives at stake. To watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden take Laura Poitras’ film and artificially deliver what she did authentically is to wonder about its point. – Jared M. (full review)
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