Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New March Titles: Exiles' Return (2014)

So many new and returning titles this month! Whether by accident or design, Netflix seems to be making up for some of its recent deletions. Already back from the January 1 "great purge" are a number of classics including Easy Rider (1969), Roman Holiday (1953), Serpico (1973), and True Grit (1969), along with popular favorites The Bad News Bears (1976), Dirty Dancing (1987), and As Good As It Gets (1997). Fans of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman will also be pleased to see Capote (2005) return to the fold.

Also returning: a veritable slew of Robert Altman films, from the good to the great to the misguided, bringing the director's total number of streaming titles to an impressive nine. No telling how long they'll stick around this time, but must-sees are The Long Goodbye (1973) and Thieves Like Us (1974); should-sees are Streamers (1983), a stark, underappreciated adaptation of David Rabe's play, and the Tim Roth tour de force, Vincent & Theo (1990). In the "misguided but rarely seen" category is O.C. & Stiggs (1985), Altman's satirical attempt at a teen comedy that remains fascinating despite its flaws. This intermittently funny oddity is worth watching for Dennis Hopper alone, who seems to be reprising his stoner-photographer character from Apocalypse Now, complete with a "Ride of the Valkyries" attack. Martin Mull, Ray Walston, and Jane Curtin also join the fun. Bizarre? Entertaining? Misunderstood? I can guarantee you at least two.

The great and the greater

Bening and Beatty
Along with M*A*S*H (which returned last month) and now The Long Goodbye, Elliott Gould increases his Netflix presence with supporting roles in two more notable films: Bugsy (1991) and Kicking and Screaming (1995). The former is Barry Levinson and James Toback's big-budget take on the rise and fall of Las Vegas gangster Bugsy Siegel, starring an effectively scary Warren Beatty and future wife Annette Bening; the latter is the directorial debut of Noah Baumbach, the writer-director of the excellent Greenberg (2010) and 2012's Frances Ha. If you like Baumbach's brand of scruffy, smart indie comedy-drama (he also directed The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding), then this one should float in your wheelhouse.

"Look at the big board!"
Robert Altman isn't the only great director with an added presence on Instant. Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic, Taxi Driver, now joins Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Hugo (2011) on the site—not too shabby. If you only know Robert DeNiro from his more recent comic roles, then have your eyes widened by his jittery, intense portrayal of the iconic Travis Bickle ("You talkin' to me?").

And then there's Stanley Kubrick, whose work has been notoriously absent from Netflix. No longer: please welcome to the streaming stage one of the all-time great black comedies, Dr. Strangelove (1964). This is the type of film whose sly humor may not hit you over the head (especially not compared to today's sledgehammer comedies), but once you get wise to its tone, it's pretty damn hilarious. Yes, Peter Sellers is brilliant in three different roles that make him an obvious source of amusement. But who would have thought that George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, and Sterling Hayden could have such comic presence? Scott's mugging in particular cracks me up, every damn time.

For the grownups in the room

The Fisher King
A number of personal favorites have also come online, all smart and entertaining and catering to that vanishing demographic, grownups. There's Donnie Brasco (1997), featuring one of Johnny Depp's great non-weirdo performances and Al Pacino's most subtle acting since his '70s heyday; The Fisher King (1991), which offers not only heartbreaking turns by Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, but a script by Richard Price that helps director Terry Gilliam deliver one of his most perfectly realized films; The Ice Storm (1997), Ang Lee's searing look at 1970s hedonism, with a stellar cast and enough suburban period detail to transport some of us back to our early childhoods (this would make a great double feature with The Virgin Suicides); The Station Agent (2003), an absolutely charming indie featuring Peter Dinklage's breakout role along with ample support from Patricia Clarkson and Michelle Williams; and Rachel Getting Married (2008), Jonathan Demme's Altman-like drama that's as notable for its musical performances and unnerving familial strife as Anne Hathaway's Oscar-nominated performance. Not for everyone, certainly, but great at what it does, and a must-see for fans of Demme and Debra Winger, who makes a rare big-screen appearance following years of semi-retirement. Demme's The Silence of the Lambs is also now streaming—although as good as it is, I've never been as big a fan as everyone else.

But wait, there are even more great movies debuting this month, including Das Boot: Director's Cut (1981), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Dirty Pretty Things (2002), The Long, Hot Summer (1958), and the zombie movie that kicked off pop culture's endless feast of flesh-eating corpses, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). But maybe you're looking for something in a lighter vein? Then feel secure in queueing up such unabashed cinematic comfort food as Seems Like Old Times (1980), Silverado (1985), While You Were Sleeping (1995), and the deliciously nasty camp-noir, Wild Things (1998).

 WoNN Spotlight  Blue Is the Warmest Color

I could go on (see the full list at the top of the page), but will instead offer one final film for consideration: the late-February addition, 2013's controversial Palme d'Or winner, Blue Is the Warmest Color. Its controversy—over the film's extended, lesbian sex scenes and the director's demanding treatment of his actresses—shouldn't distract from what is a remarkable coming-of-age story. Both of the leads are amazing, but Adèle Exarchopoulos, as the conflicted high school student who falls for Léa Seydoux's older woman, is a revelation. The passion and sensitivity she brings to her role is extraordinary, and it goes a long way toward carrying the film's three-hour runtime. Yes, that's a lot of movie to sit through, but the leisurely pace and breadth of character offer the same rewards as a novel or TV miniseries, transporting you inside the character's head and heart in a way that makes this tale of aching first love feel lived, not just observed. When it's over, it's hard to forget. So is Exarchopoulos.

Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux


20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
About Last Night... (1986)
American Dreamz (2006)
As Good as It Gets (1997) - Returned
The Bad News Bears (1976) - Returned
The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Returned
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Bugsy (1991)
Capote (2005) - Returned
Das Boot: Director's Cut (1981)
Desperado (1995) - Returned
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
Dhoom 2 (2006) - Returnedreview
Dirty Dancing (1987) - Returned
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Dogtown and Z-Boys (2002)
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Easy Rider (1969) - Returned
El Mariachi (1992)
Fish Tank (2009)
The Fisher King (1991)
Gattaca (1997)
The Grandmaster (2013)
The Ice Storm (1997)
It Could Happen to You (1994)
Kicking and Screaming (1995)
L.I.E. (2001)
The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Midnight Express (1978)
Mistress (1991)
Mr. Nobody (2009)
Mud (2012)
Night of the Comet (1984) - Returned
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
Panic Room (2002)
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Roman Holiday (1953) - Returnedreview
Seems Like Old Times (1980)
Serpico (1973) - Returned
Silverado (1985)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Spider-Man (2002)
Stir Crazy (1980)
The Station Agent (2003)
Taxi Driver (1976)
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Wild Things (1998)
With a Friend Like Harry (2000)
A Young Doctor's Notebook (2012)

The Long Goodbye (1973)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
Streamers (1983)
O.C. & Stiggs (1985)
Vincent & Theo (1990)

Also Worth a Look

(i.e., those I haven't seen or have mixed feelings about):
All the Pretty Horses (2000)
Bad Boys (1995) - Returned
Brokedown Palace (1999)
The Final Cut (2004)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Jobs (2013)
Last Action Hero (1993)
Les Miserables (1998)
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Over the Top (1987)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Something's Gotta Give (2003) - Returned
Steel Magnolias (1989) - Returned
Stuart Little (1999)
Summer's Moon (2009)
True Grit (1969) - Returned
The United States of Leland (2003)
Valkyrie (2008)
Vanilla Sky (2001) - Returned

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