BINGE-R #16: Four New Netflix Movies + January's Best Shows
FOUR NEW NETFLIX MOVIES
At January’s Sundance Film Festival, a hub of American independent cinema, the two largest buyers of movies were Netflix and Amazon. Increasingly, streaming services are securing the rights to new films, which in some cases mean they’ll reach us much sooner. One example: the winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize, I Just Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, goes up on Netflix in a matter of weeks from now. Here are four more Netflix features well worth watching between now and then.
13th (Netflix, 2016, 100 minutes): Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this month’s Academy Awards, Ava DuVernay’s follow-up to her powerful Civil Rights drama Selma is a searing indictment of the American establishment’s mass incarceration policy, which as her finely honed collection of experts reveal is simply a continuation of the exploitation of African-Americans. After slavery and segregation, putting African-American men in jail made them chattels once more. Private prisons are profit centres while black voting ranks are thinned, in a process that’s been underway since the Nixon administration. The United States has approximately 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, and in telling the story DuVernay never lapses from her fierce humanism.
Green Room (Netflix, 2015, 95 minutes): The touring punk band in this horrifying American horror-thriller don’t just sing about survival, they fight for it. Booked into a skinhead club outside Portland, The Ain’t Right witness something they shouldn’t, and are locked in and hunted by a Neo-Nazi gang run by Darcy (a coiled Patrick Stewart). The violence here is sudden, bloody and messily incomplete, shocking the likes of bassist Pat (the late Anton Yelchin), and testing the group’s moral and physical fortitude. Jeremy Saulnier’s independent feature has a geographic intensity that is cruelly specific – one side of a door is safety, the other death – and without a single get-out clause.
Miss Stevens (Netflix, 2016, 86 minutes): On paper Miss Stevens sounds like a bad mix of The Breakfast Club and Glee: young disaffected teacher (Lily Rabe) escorts three high school students – the rebel, the perfectionist, and the gay kid – to a weekend drama competition where their inner selves are revealed. Trust me, thanks to Rabe’s deeply held performance, which contains layers upon layer of conflicting emotion, and the story’s empathy for the characters but refusal to indulge them, Julia Hart’s directorial debut is leaner and more honest than you would expect. The camera repeatedly finds Rabe’s title character isolated in everyday environment, and the film reveals why she’s drifting away.
Under the Shadow (Netflix, 2016, 84 minutes): One of the best psychological horror films of recent years, Under the Shadow is set in Tehran during the final year of the Iran-Iraq war. A medical student banned from studying by the fundamentalist authorities, Shideh (Narges Rashidi), and her young daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), are increasingly tormented by a malevolent spirit while her husband is away on national service. The dialogue is in Farsi with English subtitles, but Iranian-British filmmaker Babak Anvari speak an unsettling universal language, mixing the ancient myths of the supernatural djinn with contemporary repression; when Shideh flees with Dorsa, the Djinn’s target, she’s arrested for being improperly dressed and is officially reprimanded before being ordered to return home.
>> Bonus Binge: The previous feature from Green Room writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, the even better Blue Ruin, is available at SBS On Demand – it’s an intimate revenge tale soaked in violence and regret.
JANUARY’S BEST SHOWS
January was the first full month of BINGE-R, and a fair one in terms of shows to watch. The first two of the three series listed below stood out, while the third just pipped the pack.
1 – Underground S1 (Stan): An escape thriller and a systematic dissection of slavery combined, Underground was “searingly watchable” and the first essential series of 2017. [review here]
2 – Santa Clarita Diet S1 (Netflix): Domestically astute and tonally unpredictable, this black suburban zombie comedy gave Drew Barrymore her best role in far too long. [review here]
3 – Crazyhead S1 (Netflix): A Buffy successor that stood tall on its own, with two young women from London comically conquering the all too real demons that had plagued them. [review here]
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