With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we believe it’s our duty to highlight the recent, recommended titles that have recently hit the interwebs. 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 Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage
Annie Hall (Woody Allen)
As a sharp turn from Woody Allen‘s screwball beginnings, the film’s introduction tells us we’re climbing directly inside the director’s (or, this time, Alvy Singer’s) brain. With an infectious cadence in both the sharp-as-ever dialogue and nonconformist editing, it may very well be the best romantic comedy, bar none. And, for those wondering, this beat Star Wars at the Oscars for good reason. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
In The Grand Budapest Hotel we can sense both a progression and summarizing of the entire Wes Anderson canon: an immediate, overriding narrative and stylistic conflation of The Royal Tenenbaums’ literary qualities and Moonrise’s storybook leanings; the bandit antics of Fox; Bottle Rocket’s rabble-rousing spirit; the looming ghosts of never-to-be-recovered loved ones which so significantly drove Rushmore; The Darjeeling Limited’s always-searching eye for foreign landscapes; even, at its climax, The Life Aquatic’s gun fight. Yet despite the clear consistency in form, structure, theme, tone, and sensibility which run through them all, The Grand Budapest Hotel has the quality of being often overstuffed, at once emotionally devastating in a manner few outside his corner have seemed to master and, yet, the slightest bit slack in fulfilling much of a cogent throughline. – Nick N. (full review)
The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh)
How do you tell the story of something as horrific as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s four-year rule over Cambodia after the Kampuchean Revolution when the only footage shot was that distributed by the regime itself? This is the problem director Rithy Panh faced, a teenager when war hit to disperse the citizens of Phnom Penh into work camps so they could build a newly “freed” land. He witnessed the atrocities and lived through the famine as party leaders and their dogs ate, watching those who dared steal an extra ear of corn killed without remorse. He heard his father’s refusal to “eat like an animal”, dying instead of self-imposed hunger to instill the concept of free will beyond the Angkars’ false ideology. His siblings were taken and his mother died just before returning with stolen fish to feed her. – Jared M. (full review)
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (Jeff Broadway)
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton is an insightful and often fun documentary about Stones Throw Records, an imprint started by Chris Manak (aka Peanut Butter Wolf) as a means of releasing a record that the majors didn’t get. Directed by Jeff Broadway, the documentary is divided into multiple characters, focusing on Manak’s early life growing up in suburban San Jose before eventually moving to Oakland, harnessing the energy of that racially divided city by simply releasing the kind of music that interests him. – John F. (full review)
Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully)
Nostalgia can be an unwieldy tool in the world of filmmaking. Few features manage to effectively capture the charms of a certain time period, either going overboard to the point of exhaustion or poking fun of them so much it starts to feel disingenuous. Thankfully, Ping Pong Summer, which premiered in the NEXT section at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, takes us back to the 1980’s with charm, reverence and light, fun humor. – Jordan R. (full review)
See Also: Our interview with director Michael Tully.
The Recruit (Roger Donaldson)
I know what you are thinking, What could there be to recommend in a movie that I forgot even exists until I just saw it on this list? Well, as a connoisseur of mid-level action thrillers, I feel safe in saying that the answer to that questions is “more than you might think.” The Recruit is a movie predicated on deception, and while the story plays a bit too much like a spycraft version of Top Gun (complete with a paternal mystery) the games being played are quite engaging. Not only that, but while Al Pacino was deep into his “slumming it” phase when he starred in this film, he was still at least having fun applying his outsized persona to these minor works, and his wicked, mischievous turn here ranks with some of his best latter-day work. Likewise, Colin Farrell, who I have never not liked, makes an appealing center for the film to pivot around thanks to his gift for creating a magnetic sense intensity out of nothing but his voice and eyes. The Recruit didn’t invent a new style of music, but it plays an old song well, and sometimes that’s just what you need. – Brian R.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
Sarah Polley’s third film as a director is many things, all of them brilliant. It is a moving study of an atypical (to say the least) father-daughter relationship, a detective story, a treatise on the power of family secrecy, and an audacious commentary on “non-fiction” cinema. But above all else, it is a wildly entertaining quasi-soap opera. Watching Polley interview her siblings, share old films and photographs, and, ultimately, discover where she came from, is one of the most insightful cinematic experiences in recent memory. There is a specific moment near the film’s end that leaves the viewer confused, breathless, and exhilarated. That’s the power of Sarah Polley, and Stories We Tell. – Christopher S. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Willow Creek (Bobcat Goldthwait)
The best thing about the new found footage film, Willow Creek, is its nifty pairing of two undeniably quirky American originals, one famous for running in the buff along a Californian ravine and the other infamous for, among other things, once setting The Tonight Show couch on fire. I am of course talking about Bigfoot and Bobcat Goldthwait (in that order too), who seem like unlikely bedfellows at first but account for all the best moments in their movie despite neither ever appearing onscreen. – Nathan B. (full review)
Also Available to Stream
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Coffe and Cigarettes
Five Easy Pieces
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Reign Over Me
A River Runs Through It
The Triplets of Belleville
What About Bob?
What are you streaming this weekend?