Friday, April 19, 2013

May Expiration Watch: Death by Twos

If the latest list is correct, a substantial chunk of Netflix's MGM/UA catalog is set to expire on May 1. Sadly that means a lot of great titles will be disappearing--including films by some of cinema's top directors. Many of the films represent these filmmakers' only Instant choices and, for whatever reason, seem to be leaving in groups of two (and occasionally three). So if you're a fan of--or just curious about--the work of any of the below directors, you'll want to consider pushing these titles toward the top of your queue. (Comments accompany films I've seen and can personally vouch for.)

Other departing titles include those of a few big-name bombshells (hint: initals B.B.), and yes, the increasingly slippery Mr. Bond. (Update: titles that stuck around past 5/1 have been noted accordingly.)


Robert Altman

(Known for: M*A*S*H, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts)

Thieves Like Us (1974) - Altman tries his hand at the young-outlaws-on-the-run genre, producing a characteristically idiosyncratic work which more than holds its own among the Bonnie and Clyde wannabes. (3/1/14: now back)

Vincent & Theo (1990) - Tim Roth is the tortured Van Gogh, Paul Rhys is his loving brother, in this alternately painful, heartbreaking, and illuminating work. (3/1/14: also back)

Tim Roth

Eric Rohmer

(Known for: My Night at Maud's, Chloe in the Afternoon, Claire's Knee, Love in the Afternoon)

Pauline at the Beach (1983) - A great entry point to Rohmer's chatty, philosophical, and wise brand of comedy, with his usual mix of beautiful women, brooding men, and South of France locations.

Tale of Springtime (1990)

Bill Forsyth

(Known for: Local Hero, Housekeeping)

That Sinking Feeling (1980) - Forsyth's first effort, combining two of his favorite subjects: teens and capers. Extremely low budget, but shows the promise of things to come.

Gregory's Girl (1981) - For a lot of us, this one never gets old. An absolutely charming and idiosyncratic look at one gangly soccer player's pursuit of love at a Scottish high school. So many great lines and moments. You may not catch everything due to the accents, but you'll catch enough. (UPDATE: I'm happy to report that this title has returned as of 5/3/13.)

Cagney rules

Billy Wilder

(Known for: Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment)

One, Two, Three (1961) - James Cagney talks fast and furious as a Coca-Cola salesman in Communist-era East Berlin. Along with His Girl Friday, this is some of the fastest (and funniest) movie dialogue ever rat-a-tat-tatted. Check it out, ya mugs.

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) - One of Wilder's overlooked gems, with Dean Martin and Kim Novak getting naughty in a town called Climax. See full review.

Ingmar Bergman

(Known for: Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander)

Hour of the Wolf (1968) - Bergman takes on the horror genre and brings his own sensibility (and some genuinely disturbing images) with him. As creepy and weird as you'd expect.

Hour of the Wolf

Passion of Anna (1969) - UPDATE: Turns out this one also survived the great 5/1 purge.
The Serpent's Egg (1978)

Nicholas Roeg

(Known for: Performance, Walkabout, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth)

Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980) - When a torrid affair between a professor (Art Garfunkel) and his lover (Theresa Russell) ends in an overdose, cop Harvey Keitel starts asking questions. Lots of intriguing time shifts in the classic Roeg manner, with a payoff that makes you go, "Ohh-hh!" (UPDATE: This title also managed to stick around past 5/1.)

Eureka (1983)
Castaway (1986)


Annette & Frankie
If your movie decisions are based more on leading ladies than directors (in which case, quality is not guaranteed), note that the following two classic stars are marked for imminent departure--at least for now.

Annette Funicello

It looks like all the biggies from the late Ms. F's ouevre, save for Beach Party, are drifting out to sea--five pics in all (all with Frankie Avalon). I've seen nary a one, having missed that particular wave, but I know she's a sentimental favorite to many Boomers out there, especially in light of her recent passing. R.I.P., Annette.


Brigitte Bardot 

It was already a crime there were only two Instant titles representing this French goddess--Doctor at Sea (1955) and Viva Maria! (1965). But now both of those will be gone as of May 1. Neither is Bardot's best, although Viva Maria!, directed by Louis Malle and co-starring Jeanne Moreau, is fairly entertaining. It also makes an interesting contrast with the earlier film, in which she has yet to bloom as the B.B. the world would come to love. (Come on, Netflix--is this any way to treat a screen icon?) (UPDATE: As of 5/3, Doctor at Sea remains listed for streaming but Viva Maria! is gone as advertised.)

Girl on a door
And if you like Bardot, you may also enjoy Elke Sommer in Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), in which she plays a B.B.-like starlet named, um, Didi. It's a Bob Hope-Phyllis Diller comedy, so don't expect too much, but Elke does a fine job upholding the cinematic tradition of blondes in men's shirts. Hubba.

Among Netflix's less (ahem) well-proportioned actresses, there's soon to be a sudden dearth of mostly enjoyable 1980s flicks featuring Teri Garr, Kelly Preston, and Catherine Mary Stewart. I've always had a soft spot for Ms. Garr, for whom I once held open a theater door (which makes you so impressed, I know). You may want to give a parting look to Out Cold (a black comedy enjoyed by Pauline Kael), Night of the Comet (cult sci-fi with Ms. Stewart) (3/15/14: now back), and Spellbinder (Kelly Preston gettin' all witchy and nekkid). And you already know about The Apple, though it's possible you wish you didn't. (NOTE: The Apple somehow escaped getting cut and will live to stream another day. We'll call that a good thing.)


Bond Films

Remember all those great James Bond pics I recommended not too long ago? Well, it seems they were only on a month-long furlough from the vaults of MGM/UA. So, if you haven't already said hello to Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, and Licence to Kill, get ready to bid them adieu. Will James Bond return? Only Netflix will tell...

Here's hoping all of the above titles--and many more--find their way back to the Instant library soon.

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