Gobble gobble! Hopefully, there’s some quality rest and relaxation headed your way (especially for American readers) as we seize the holiday season. Here are ten movies soon to depart streaming services to give thanks for as you recover from a turkey-induced tryptophan coma.
Dune (1984), HBO Max
You’ve now missed your window to watch the latest Dune on HBO Max (good, you should be seeing it on the big screen anyway!) — but if you want to watch the David Lynch version for free, you’re running low on time to do so. This is as much a warning for myself as I, too, have yet to watch the first time Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic on film.
A Knight’s Tale, Netflix
It doesn’t get any easier to think about all we lost when Heath Ledger’s brief candle went out. Beyond the tragedy of losing a friend and father, moviegoers lost a true star who shone brightly. A Knight’s Tale is just pure fun Hollywood camp that transforms medieval warriors into rock stars of their day. It’s no Baz Luhrmann, but it’ll do for a fun movie night in.
The Immigrant, HBO Max
Not to be dramatic but I do think this is the best movie of the 2010s and the closest thing contemporary cinema has produced to a filmic “Great American Novel.” It’s like seeing the face of God and finding salvation. I was just thinking today about how I want to be the person to write the definitive 10th-anniversary piece on The Immigrant in a year or so … editors if you’re listening …
Margaret, Criterion Channel
There’s a reason my last newsletter, The Distancer, concluded a year of movie-watching suggestions by emphatically recommending Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret. Few movies understand the profundity and peculiarity of how people experience and process grief. It might seem messy, but this sprawling 3+ hour masterwork is worth your time and attention.
Minority Report, Hulu
I’m finding myself a bit trepidacious about the prospect of seeing the new West Side Story next week, but then I have to remind myself: it’s Steven Spielberg! Doubt the maestro at your own peril. I’d argue his output from the 2000s contains just as many solid entries as his prime in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Eerily prescient dystopian sci-fi flick Minority Report is not necessarily short on fans (check back in for my soapbox rant about how great Bridge of Spies is when that gets added to streaming), but we could all use a reminder of how brilliant this movie is.
School of Rock, Netflix
🎵 Because you’re not hardcore — NO YOU’RE NOT HARDCORE — unless you live hardcore 🎶
Forever cursed to sing this in my head when I hear the word “hardcore” thanks to School of Rock. Now that’s the power of a great movie.
Stalag 17, Criterion Channel
Amid the hellscape of pandemic summer 2K20, I found pleasure in researching the cinema of Billy Wilder for a big essay that would eventually be published on the site Bright Wall/Dark Room. By far the most pleasant surprise of the bunch was his prison escape movie Stalag 17, which contains multitudes ranging from war movie to black comedy. It’s anchored in one heck of a turn from leading man William Holden, a name you don’t hear thrown around as much as stars of the era these days … and yet is every bit as electric a screen presence as the bigger names.
Tangerine, Prime Video (until 11/29)
If you’re the type who likes “anti” Christmas movies — the ones set around the holiday but are debatably “about” it — then you’ve got to check Tangerine off your list. Sean Baker’s scrappy indie triumph garnered a lot of headlines upon release in 2015 for things that were novel at the time: shot on an iPhone! Features trans performers! About sex work! But as movies have slowly caught up with depicting the variety of lived experiences in the world (NB: there’s still a long way to go), the sweetness and sourness of Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s Christmas Eve spent hard at work proves the sustaining value of found families.
That Thing You Do!, Hulu
I’ve seen Tom Hanks’ tale of the one-hit wonders (One-ders?) probably a hundred times cumulatively between decades of hits on cable TV and HBO — and have listened to the titular track thousands of times. I could go for a few more, to be honest. Maybe even one before it expires from Hulu. Very much the perfect crowd-pleasing movie.
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WHAT I WATCHED
I am now reluctantly starting to make the pivot towards the sprint of screener season, where I have to watch all the movies I missed before I vote for year-end awards.
One movie sure to make my top 10 list is Zola, which I was glad to catch with a fun crowd at New York’s Metrograph on Saturday night. (Didn’t hurt that there was a cocktail reception afterward — apparently, Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter was there but I didn’t clock her presence.)
The Broadway theatergoer has logged back in as well to see two plays soon to close: Is This a Room (fine) and Dana H. (GO IF YOU CAN).
On a bite-sized note, my new favorite Twitter account is @oscarsclip. We often talk dismissively about a performance’s “Oscar scene,” the one where the performer is doing the most in a showy display of acting for the awards ceremony. It’s always fascinating for Oscarologists to observe what ends up making the show (when they decide to show clips). Sometimes they get it so right!
WHAT I HEARD
I mean, Adele’s 30 …
Those strings on Love is A Game! I can’t *wait* for some great filmmaker to manipulate me into feeling all sorts of melodramatic sentiments by needle dropping this track.
Two podcast episodes I really enjoyed this week, too! First, Hans Zimmer deconstructs the Dune score:
And Marc Maron gets deep into the ahistorical panic around “cancel culture” and the idea that these imaginary threats to free speech are somehow spoiling comedy. He invites on two guests with RECEIPTS around the long conversation spanning over a century that this latest panic ties into. TL;DR — when’s the last time a comedian literally went to jail for their jokes? Until then, this moment has nothing on previous decades.
WHAT I READ
Reader, I finished a book! For the first time in 3 months!
Check out my pal Sophie Monks Kaufman’s excellent tome on Wes Anderson (Close-Ups: Wes Anderson) if you want to go beyond the Instagram aesthetic.
WHAT I WROTE
I’m frequently asked if I’ll ever review TV. My response is usually — look, I know my lane is movies. But every once in a while, I’ll dip my toes into the episodic landscape because I’m interested in diversifying my skill set. I notched a first this past week by reviewing the second season of a show that I had previously reviewed! For The Playlist, I took a look at the new season of Hulu’s The Great. The chemistry between leads Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning is electric, yet the political intrigue is a bit anemic.
For Slant, I interviewed filmmaker Robert Greene about his fascinating new film Procession (now streaming on Netflix). This non-fiction work fuses documentary filmmaking with the practices of drama therapy to help six survivors of clergy abuse process their stories and shame. Not an easy watch, but it’s undeniably innovative and riveting.
On the one hand, I hope you have a holiday away from your emails! But stay tuned for more #CONTENT from me that will be useful as we pivot towards Christmas, if that’s your thing.
Yours in service and cinema,