5 Best New Movies on Netflix Instant Streaming
We’d love to rhapsodize something sweet and meaningful about spring, one of the all-time best seasons, but frankly, we’re sneezing and coughing so much from the pollen, we simply don’t have the strength. In any event, here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month—all of which are delightfully allergy free.
The Last Waltz (1978)
Martin Scorsese’s indelible concert film about The Band, performing their last ever show in 1976 is both an engrossing portrait of a group of musicians who worked together for 16 years, and a perfect time capsule of the era of Big Rock. Scorsese’s camera captures the magic of their on-stage performance—one that includes guest spots including everyone from Eric Clapton and Neil Young to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris—but also gathers a sense of the off-stage interaction of the band and what made them tick. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of their music, the film is a fascinating take on the delicate psyche of an artistic group collective—and its inevitable dissolution.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
On New Year’s Eve 2008, a 22-year-old kid from Oakland named Oscar Grant III was killed by BART transit police as he and his friends were being arrested for an alleged brawl that occurred on the train. As horrified witnesses looked on—and recorded on numerous cell phone cameras—a police officer, mistakenly believing he was using his taser, shot Grant in the back as he was handcuffed to a guardrail. Ryan Coogler’s film stars an astounding Michael B. Jordan as Oscar in the last 24 hours of his life, as he attempts to better attend to his mother and girlfriend and become a better father to his young daughter. It is indeed difficult to watch, but especially in this divisive time where police forces all over the country are finally being called out for their systemic racism and brutality, it’s also vitally necessary.
Before I Disappear (2014)
It’s not often a young, unknown director gets to turn one of his short films into a full-length, studio-backed feature, but such is the power of winning an Oscar. When Shawn Christensen’s 19-minute short, about a suicidal drug abuser (played by the director), who in the midst of ending his life, gets a call from his estranged sister begging him to look after her 9-year-old daughter, won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, he was granted a chance to revisit the characters and make a full-length version. Utilizing the same set-up and award-winning pairing of himself and young Fatima Ptacek, his feature film is every bit as charming and hard-working as the original, just with a broader scope and a more complete sense of the familial relationships that power the film.
Inevitably, as it was released in the same year as Richard Linkletter’s Boyhood, Céline Sciamma’s French coming-of-age film about a young woman (memorably played by Karidja Touré) who joins a gang in Paris in hopes of establishing her identity only to lose hers in the process, was relentlessly compared to its American counter-part. But the films take such wildly divergent paths to their protagonist’s self-realization, the cinematic hive-mind shouldn’t have bothered. Instead, Girlhood stands on its own as a luminous, lush illustration of youthful identity and integration politics.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarrantino’s spell-challenged film is actually several movies stitched together: On the one hand, a Jewish revenge fantasia set in the midst of WWII; on the other, a more serious cinematic exploration of war movies and Tarrantino’s ability to pace an extended tense scene such that your anxiety level shoots into overload. It claims to star Brad Pitt, but given the divergent story angles and drifting narratives, don’t expect to see him terribly much on screen. Instead, as with most of QT’s work, the real star is the director himself, and his impressive array of ever-expanding filmmaking tools. Pitt’s absence notwithstanding, Basterds remains filled with strong performances, earning a Best Supporting nod for Christoph Waltz, who plays a opportunistically sadistic Nazi colonel—as if there were any other kind. (Available 5/22)
Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Sweet Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.