With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options—not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves–each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit platforms. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Curated by Ashley Clark, The Criterion Channel is putting the spotlight on Afrofuturism in a new series exploring, as Ytasha Womack writes, films that “combine elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western beliefs.” Along with a handful of shorts, the features include Space Is the Place (1974), Born in Flames (1983), The Brother from Another Planet (1984), Ornette: Made in America (1985), Yeelen (1987), Welcome II the Terrordome (1995), The Last Angel of History (1996), An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012), White Out, Black In (2014), Crumbs (2015), Once There Was Brasilia (2017), and Supa Modo (2018).
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
City Hall (Frederick Wiseman)
In the opening shot of Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery, a man polishes the floor in a room walled with masterpieces. Writing about the scene for MUBI recently, the critic Joseph Owen noted that “the politics of this institution exist in a subterranean passage: between its low-paid maintenance jobs and its disreputable oil sponsorships.” Petrodollars aside, it’s an observation that speaks in some way to any number of Wiseman’s films: that the souls of the institutions he so dedicatedly depicts are neither the heads on top, the public face or the multitude of working parts below but something malleable and indefinable in the middle. The director’s latest is documentary epic, a sprawling 4.5-hour study of Boston’s City Hall and its various satellite entities, that once again goes in search of that middle—although for once with an uncharacteristic scent of subjectivity. – Rory O. (full review)
Where to Stream: PBS
Give Me Liberty (Kirill Mikhanovsky)
If it wasn’t Vin Diesel behind the Fast & the Furious franchise, but rather a second-generation Russian-American living in a frigid Wisconsin, and if our protagonist’s goal wasn’t a victorious street race or bank heist, but rather dropping off handicapped people to their destination and his relatives to a funeral, you might have something like Give Me Liberty. A kinetic, comedic journey taking place over a day, Kirill Mikhanovsky’s film is a bit too needlessly frenzy as it eventually runs out of steam, but is potent in its exploration of shared cross-cultural experiences. – Jordan R. (full review)
I Used to Go Here (Kris Rey)
This was the week when Kate’s (Gillian Jacobs) dreams were supposed to come true. Her debut novel was releasing, her wedding was on the horizon, and a nationwide book tour was about to commence. Everything she worked for since college had finally bore fruit and you couldn’t blame her if she smiled with relief at a job well done. Except she never gets that chance. She receives a call from her publisher weeks after her engagement was canceled to hear the tour has been too. Kate’s book proves a financial liability nobody is willing to defend and her last chance at a distraction from what now appears to be a complete professional and personal implosion was gone. A voicemail from a former professor therefore feels like a godsend. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Max
La Flor (Mariano Llinás)
The fundamental details surrounding La Flor–its fourteen-hour run, its ten-year production, its appropriately devilish six-part structure–already have it predestined for cult status, yet Mariano Llinás’s mammoth effort both fulfill and far exceed any preconceptions. An extraordinary ode to forgotten genres, a sincere and open-hearted love letter to its four central actresses, who turn in some of the most astonishing performances in recent memory: what is perhaps most overwhelming about La Flor is that it manages to contain infinite worlds of pleasure, surprise, and glory, while paying tribute to the possibilities of cinema, storytelling, and human creativity. – Ryan S.
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Soul (Pete Docter and Kemp Powers)
A reservation often aired towards Inside Out was about its basis in reality, or how it went about characterizing the emotions we all feel. Really, it attempted to demystify the intangible processes of memory and consciousness, carefully laying out each explained concept like a jaunty science lecturer eager we don’t miss a beat. Soul bests this aspect of the film, by focusing on something far more hypothetical. Any thinking on, to paraphrase DJ Shadow, what a soul looks like, is a more poetic endeavour, specific to everyone with their individuality and varied backgrounds. The production consulted with religious leaders––rabbis, priests, and New Age thinkers––to give their own speculations weight, and the results allow greater room for audiences (especially mature ones) to ponder, sometimes in a state of awed confusion. – David K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Disney+
Sylvie’s Love (Eugene Ashe)
Lush and elegant with beautiful performances, the jazzy period melodrama Sylvie’s Love plays many notes exceptionally well. It’s a shame its plotting and pacing doesn’t keep up with its star power. The always-excellent Tessa Thompson stars as Sylvie, a young woman that works in her family’s Harlem record shop in the late 1950s. She’s there to watch TV mostly, keeping up appearances as her mother is the head of a local charm school and they cannot afford an employee. Enter Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), an aspiring musician who comes to ask for a job. Much to Sylvie’s surprise he’s hired on the spot–perhaps Sylvie’s dad can just tell. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Yourself and Yours (Hong Sang-soo)
Yourself and Yours is enjoyable the way every other Hong Sang-soo film is enjoyable: funny, relatable and emotionally honest, structurally innovative, and composed with a patient eye that favors the peaks and valleys of conversation over standard get-to-the-point construction. Here, though, he wields a sharper blade: in its defiance of internal logic, character motivation, or even a conventional understanding, the film’s narrative (about doubles or twins or doppelgängers or all or none) brings contemplation of romantic relationships’ hardest edges — those gaps between men and women that no one’s quite figured out, perhaps because they’re entirely irreparable — to a point more digestible than the standard dramatic formats of shouting, crying, confrontation, etc. Largely because it’s funny – Nick N. (full review)
Also New to Streaming
The Criterion Channel