Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Beckett (Ferdinando Cito Filomarino)
The title Beckett evokes the very mystery its plot presents. Former Luca Guadagnino understudy Ferdinando Cito Filomarino teams with versatile and bonafide action star John David Washington to create a throwback of a picture: at times a conspiracy thriller, character study, and man-on-the-run tale à la The Fugitive, Beckett presents an atmosphere unique to these genre conventions. – Erik N. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Cloud in Her Room (Zheng Lu Xinyaun)
The Hangzhou of Zheng Lu Xinyaun’s The Cloud in Her Room is a funereal city, a protean place rife with cranes and construction sites, where new buildings mushroom overnight and craters devour the earth beneath. People do not belong in that 10-million people’s metropolis as much as inhabit a liminal space–transient presences in a city in constant flux. “Anytime I come back it feels more different than before,” says Muzi (Jin Jing) halfway through her homecoming. A 22-year-old back in town for the New Year festivities, she saunters through her native turf with the wide-eyed wonder of someone who’s been jettisoned into a foreign planet. – Leonardo G. (full review)
CODA (Siân Heder)
It’s hard to judge Siân Heder’s Coda outside of its context: being one of the opening feature films to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, a (now-virtual) place known for family dramas and indie darlings. Depicting the high school struggles, and coming-of-age of the only hearing girl in a deaf family, Heder’s follow-up to Tallulah (another Sundance selection) takes its name from an acronym––Children Of Deaf Adults––though it’s determined to stray from any generalizations. With big warmth and bigger care, Coda overcomes its tropes and somewhat formulaic nature to produce a heartfelt tale of family, wrapped in a coating of love. In that way, it might be the ideal film to start one of the world’s biggest festivals during a seemingly never-ending pandemic, one that splinters families as well as hopes and dreams of child and parent alike. – Michael F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Apple TV+
Duvidha (Mani Kaul)
To run risk of disregarding delicate narrative rhythms (especially in the well-trod ghost-story mold) for superficial appreciation, one of the most purely beautiful films I have ever seen. As deserving of placement as anything herein, though something of a stand-in for Kaul’s filmography—perhaps the last year’s biggest discovery and strongest encouragement to never cease exploring. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (Hideaki Anno)
The final chapter in Hideaki Anno’s 15-year cinematic retelling of his anime magnum opus once again tackles the baffling contradictions of being simultaneously a blockbuster franchise epic, a disarmingly intimate confessional of its tormented creator, and a postmodern musing on the state of anime and consumer fandom culture. Contradiction is its heart: the 155-minute film is transcendent and ridiculous, heartfelt and numbing, trashy and eschatological, intimate and overstuffed; above all it’s completely inimitable, an auteur franchise work simply unlike anything you’ll ever see. That is to say it’s totally Evangelion.
Continuing where the third film in the “Rebuild” tetralogy left off, 3+1 follows Anno’s robot-piloting alter ego Shinji Ikari as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of a friend and a postapocalyptic world where he is literally trapped in perpetual adolescence while his former friends grow and change. Meanwhile, steely freedom fighter Misato Katsuragi and her crew aboard the airship Wunder prepare for a final assault on their former headquarters to stop the world-ending plans of Shinji’s ascetic supervillainous father, Gendo. The result is a beguiling maximalist cocktail of poignant allegorical character drama, mind-numbing CGI robot smackdowns, mystical revelations that double and triple down on the series’ bizarre Gnostic sci-fi mythology, and hauntingly surreal setpieces that recall Anno’s 1997 masterpiece The End of Evangelion. It’s a lot to process in one viewing, and breathless fans will surely waste no time double-dipping and dissecting the film for years to come; but even casual viewers should appreciate the singular intensity of Anno’s artistic vision and bittersweet sincerity of his messages about growing up and moving on from the psychic disfigurements of the past.
Amazon is also streaming the preceding three “Rebuilds”—all sporting new English subtitle and dub translations more closely supervised by Studio Khara—so if you’ve only seen the original series (possibly via the compromised Netflix release) there’s no better time to get caught up on one of Japan’s most epochal pop-culture phenomenons. – Eli F.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Homeroom (Peter Nicks)
Following the 2019-2020 school year, Homeroom sets itself up for more than it could have originally anticipated. It’s the senior year for a swath of Oakland High School students in Oakland, California. Many of them are schlepping through the usual fixings: SAT tests, college applications, general senioritis. Several of them take part in extracurricular activities and social causes, not the least of which deal with eliminating police from campus in order to get better school funding. A few of them are even student representatives for the Oakland Unified School District. – Matt C. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Materna (David Gutnik)
Materna opens with hazy close-ups of four women on the New York subway, all distracted and on edge. As we’ll come to learn, that’s partly from events in each of their personal lives. But it’s also because a man on the subway is harassing them, venting his frustrations, and teetering ever closer to violence. From here, director David Gutnik flashes back to show us, one-by-one, what led each woman to where they are now, sitting together on the subway as strangers, united only by the man’s harassment. – Orla S. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Meaning of Hitler (Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker)
Coming a few years after Taika Waititi’s all-around embarrassing Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit, it’s valued to see filmmakers take a more academic approach to unpacking Hitler and the Nazi movement, such as Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker do in their latest work. Based on Sebastian Haffner’s 1978 book, The Meaning of Hitler uses rhetoric and imagery throughout popular culture to dive deep into the truth behind fascism and, chillingly, the foothold it still holds in our modern life, from Trump to PewDiePie. While the visual language of the documentary never fully coheres, the story they are telling is well worth listening to.
Where to Stream: VOD
Swan Song (Todd Stephens)
Completing his planned trilogy about gay life in Sandusky, Ohio––a town known by most outsiders as the setting for Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy and the home of amusement park Cedar Point––Todd Stephens’ moving Swan Song imagines an extraordinary day where the town’s self-declared Liberace returns in grand fashion. Inspired by “an actual legend,” Udo Kier is radiant as Pat Pitsenbarger, who spends much of the film’s first act wasting away in a drag nursing home, occasionally giving beauty tips to his fellow residents. He’s brought out of his funk to fulfill the last wish of long-time client Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans), a Lake Erie debutant who betrayed him years prior by visiting with his former protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge). At first, he refuses an offer of $25,000 to make-up Rita at a funeral home before agreeing to abruptly escape the nursing home to head into town on foot. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
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