Hello again friends! Apologies for the unplanned week off, as you might know … I was a little busy in Venice.
I’m back now and promise I’ll make up for some lost time (and maybe stick to some kind of consistent schedule) with a few bonus editions later this month. I’m also delaying the paywall drop for a tiny bit — relieve your worries of missing a single newsletter by going ahead and subscribing here 👇
But for now, let’s just give you what was delayed from a planned send earlier! This is The Upstream, 10 titles new to popular streaming sites in September that are worth your time and attention.
Filmmaker Andrew Niccol (writer of The Truman Show, director of In Time) has a number of ideas about what a dystopian future could look like stemming directly from present-day maladies. For my money, he marries concept and execution best in his ambitious directorial debut Gattaca. He imagines a bio-fascist state where genetics become destiny, and Ethan Hawke’s naturally born Vincent tries to overcome the societal barriers inhibiting his success and happiness. It’s a fully-fleshed-out universe with a real narrative pulse that peels away layers of Niccol’s imagination.
Get Him to the Greek, Peacock (free with ads)
This isn’t one that routinely ranks among the top comedies of the peak Apatow era, but Get Him to the Greek absolutely undoes me each time I watch it. Director Nicholas Stoller directs some brassy comedic setpieces with real gusto, even if the film does go a little off the rails by the end. At the very least, Rose Byrne’s blasé bad girl of pop Jackie Q is bound to make you laugh if for no other reason than she commits to the bit.
I Know What You Did Last Summer, Amazon Prime
Did you know Amazon was turning I Know What You Did Last Summer into a new TV show next month? I did not. So before they ruin this campy classic of the glorious ‘90s teen movie canon, revisit the glory of the original. This silly slasher film stalking down four teens for the consequences of covering up a car wreck is a perfect encapsulation of 1997 on-screen. You really couldn’t ask for a better quartet than Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt … and Ryan Phillippe in peak petulant form.
News of the World, HBO Max
This is really just a veiled excuse to ask you to read the longform essay I wrote on Tom Hanks’ recent career choices earlier this year for /Film. If you think his idea of cinematic heroism is static, think again because it’s anything but. News of the World is a thrilling Western that shows Hanks is continually engaging the practice of deepening and redefining his own iconography.
On the Town, HBO Max
There’s a lot to love about classic Hollywood musical On the Town: the tunes (“New York, New York”), the stars (Gene Kelly and a young Frank Sinatra), the city (vintage Manhattan). But what really caught my attention watching this story about three sailors on a one-day leave in the Big Apple is … just how horny this movie is! Seriously, now you can see why this post-war period resulted in a baby boom. The women who court the sailors are truly about to jump out of their skin to sleep with the guys, and it’s a marvel to see how much Kelly and co-director Stanley Donen manage to get away with under the strict censorship of the time. You’ve really got to see it to believe it!
The Panic in Needle Park, Criterion Channel
It’s hard to believe now given how sanitized the area has become, but the intersection of 72nd and Broadway in ‘70s New York was where all the heroin junkies went to hang. (For non-New Yorkers, there’s a Trader Joe’s in this area now.) The Panic in Needle Park captures the era’s sordidness with the appropriate grime and gave the world the first major performance by legendary Al Pacino. It’s worth a watch both as a time capsule for a dirtier NYC and a time before Pacino became overly self-conscious about his work. Of note, this is generally not available to stream in the US — so don’t miss what could be a rare opportunity!
Raising Arizona, Hulu
When you think of the Coen Brothers, it’s probably for something dour like No Country for Old Men or immaculately staged like Inside Llewyn Davis. It often feels like we forget their considerable talents as comedic directors, a prowess on full display in their sophomore feature Raising Arizona. This crime caper about two hapless fools trying to steal a quintuplet in lieu of having their own child is a wild ride with all that classic Coens incisiveness and precision. (Also, this is apparently expiring from the platform at the end of the month, so consider this a pre-emptive Downstream entry as well.)
Sleepless in Seattle, Amazon Prime
Fall is, famously, Nora Ephron season. When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail are definitely the faves for the foliage folks, but don’t sleep on Sleepless in Seattle. It’s not a fall movie so much as it’s a falling in love movie where the leads never really meet until the very end. There’s so much that could have gone wrong with this bonkers concept about a woman falling in love with a widower she hears on a radio call-in show, and yet Ephron pulls it off in swoon-worthy fashion.
A Touch of Sin, Criterion Channel
If you want a look at the real China beyond just fearmongering from both American political parties, see the country through the eyes of its fine filmmaker Jia Zhangke. A Touch of Sin is a wild episodic tale of four different people pushed over the edge into surprising outbursts of violence. It’s a great film both to show different and memorable expressions of anger as well as interrogate the roots of anger themselves.
Young Frankenstein, Amazon Prime
Will we ever see a parody artist as great as Mel Brooks again? Maybe not. Young Frankenstein works as a gleeful send-up of old monster movies if you know them but as a fantastic farce even if you haven’t. It’s highbrow thoughtfulness with a lowbrow appeal, all executed with gusto and charm. We never really know how Brooks will make us laugh next, and it’s a joy to sit on edge waiting for the next comedic bit to hit.
WHAT I WATCHED
Yesterday, I went to see Spike Lee’s 25th Hour at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image! It was my first non-Venice-related watch in … maybe a month? As you can see below, I had an extremely busy time — the final count came out to 37 titles seen as part of the festival.
(This was, mind you, a daily “light” festival by my own standards. My busiest day was 4 movies!)
If you’re curious as to how I’d size up the films from the competition — I saw all but one — here’s that laid out. Among those in other sections of the festival, Dune and 7 Prisoners stood out.
WHAT I HEARD
Two weeks’ worth of random earworms! Admittedly, I was not listening to much music at all — trying to take in the sounds of Venezia where I could.
WHAT I WROTE
Um, quite a bit!
For /Film, I reviewed the following titles:
Parallel Mothers: 8.5/10
Last Night in Soho: 7.5/10
Halloween Kills: 7.5/10
The Last Duel: 8/10
For The Playlist, I reviewed the following titles:
For Decider, I reviewed The Hand of God. More to come here!
WHAT I READ
I managed to not finish Dune before screening the film in Venice … or even get to the point where the movie (which is technically just “part 1”) stops. But, at this point, I think I’ll still plow through.
That’s it for today! I’ll have a little bit more about Venice (I know, sorry, but it is my personality now) on Thursday … and perhaps a little something for the high holidays on Wednesday if I can finish some other writing.
Yours in service and cinema,