Every Monday morning, I find myself whispering the old Beckett adage “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” to myself as I settle down into work. No matter how thrilling the day’s prospects may be, it’s that midweek slump that always seems to rear its ugly head in the worst way. But never fear, the hours are sure to breeze on by and soon it will be the weekend—one that happens to be rife with fantastic films both premiering and screening around the city, thanks to NYFF and various other retrospectives.
But in the meantime, what better way to spend an evening than curled up under the sheets enjoying the best of cinema—new modern masterpieces to wonderful classics—from the comfort of your bed? And with myriad options to choose from on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, the nightly decision of what to show in your private bedroom screening can prove a challenge. So to make your time easier, I’ve rounded up some of the best films available to stream, so peruse our list, get cozy, and enjoy.
Gray’s Anatomy (Hulu)
That Gray is never completely enveloped by the events he recalls, but always remains an outside observer, even when he appears to be choking on the special-effect smoke in the sweat lodge, doesn’t make his story any less compelling or terrifying. Indeed, it is the distance between Gray’s first-person narrating voice and the events he describes that makes all his work at once anxiety-provoking and hilarious, a state Soderbergh perfectly captures. And Soderbergh reinforces this distance in Gray’s Anatomy with his mise-en-scène, Cliff Martinez’s droll score, and Susan Littenberg’s deft editing, which complements Gray’s brilliant comic timing. Soderbergh also introduces an element entirely of his own devising. Having eliminated the audience inside the theater, he adds a half dozen or so outside observers, who in most cases are literally outside—standing in driveways and yards that appear barren and just a bit ominous. They have all experienced eye injuries, and they view Gray’s adventures in alternative medicine with a certain skepticism. They are stand-ins for us, calling attention to our own observation of Spalding Gray in his telling of his own observational crisis. We may believe that we have been spared their—and Gray’s—dual role of being the observed even as they are observing. But if you watch this disc to the end of the credits, you will find that Soderbergh has saved his best twist for last. See you at the eye doctor.
Computer Chess (iTunes)
These nerds aren’t to be distracted by sex or self-knowledge. In a late-night pot-smoking session before the convention begins, they’re more absorbed by the larger problems of artificial intelligence—whether the computers are in any sense thinking, or only calculating faster than a human can. We’re still on pause at that point. In its technical specs, "Computer Chess" is flawless. All of the clunky old equipment makes us wonder how the computer pioneers ever got anything accomplished. They must have been very patient. But we know right off the bat this is a put-on. The giveaway: There’s footage of the cameraman and his camera. The simple fact of this film is unlikely enough. The probability of a film about it, one that also films the swinging and self-helping , even more so. As an achievement, "Computer Chess" is laudable. As a film, it’s missable.
Stories We Tell (iTunes)
Sarah Polley’s documentary is a startling mixture of private memoir, public inquiry, and conjuring trick. On camera, she quizzes a long list of relatives and friends, beginning with her father, Michael, and her siblings. The subject is Polley’s late mother, Diane, an effervescent soul, as we see from old home movies; as the story unfolds, however, the footage seems to be so profuse, and so oddly convenient, that we start to question our own assumptions about her—which is exactly what Polley had in mind. (She is an actor, as both of her parents were; clearly, an acute strain of make-believe runs in the blood.) The main secret that is dug up by Polley’s investigations regarding her own origins is somehow more invigorating than traumatic, although there are hints of collateral anxiety among her brothers and sisters; the very ordinariness of the saga, however, becomes its strength, and, if viewers leave the screening feeling destabilized, determined to chip away at the apparently fixed narratives that sustain their own families, then the movie’s job is done.
Antichrist felt so intimate, with a tiny crew who went to extremes. And with this character everything was more subtle and more difficult for me to understand, and to know where I was going because it was less extreme. And the crew felt different, the whole thing was nearly the opposite which was nice. I was nervous before I started this film because I enjoyed myself so much on the first, that I was worried it wouldn’t be as good. I enjoyed Antichrist very much in a troubled way. That’s why we do this job, not to go in easy places…this was very different. I think he was not well when we shot Antichrist and came up saying he didn’t know if he’d be able to finish the film. And so we suffered looking at him and not being able to cope with everything. For this, he was good and was saying how happy he felt. So that was nice to see him recover.
Lost in Translation (Netflix)
For Coppola, pink isn’t a color so much as a feminine stop-loss between being young and being happy. In The Virgin Suicides, pink was the air of impenetrability that covered the Lisbon girls like an irremovable veil. InMarie Antoinette, pink arrived as tiered cakes and frivolous attitude, humanizing a young queen entrusted with an angry nation, and in Somewhere, which was effectively a man’s tale, Coppola personified the color into a character, allowing it to grow and take its ultimate form in the shape of a Fanning sister. Johnny Marco’s daughter personified the best of himself that he had allowed to wither, sacrificed to a world intent on using him up. For these women, pink is a problem to be solved or make public, a private ideal they struggle to preserve and share. Indeed, the broader the context in which one considers Charlotte’s underwear, the less those Arax panties feel like a costume department’s quasi-arbitrary decision or a scrap from the bottom of Scarlett Johansson’s luggage. In fact, the story goes that Coppola was so insistent upon Charlotte wearing this particular undergarment that, to convince her shy actress to wear them, the director modeled them herself.
Blue Velvet (iTunes)
I’d always had a desire to sneak into a girl’s apartment and watch her through the night. I had the idea that while I was doing this I’d see something which I’d later realize was the clue to a mystery. I think people are fascinated by that, by being able to see into a world they couldn’t visit. That’s the fantastic thing about cinema, everybody can be a voyeur. Voyeurism is a bit like watching television – go one step further and you want to start looking in on things that are really happening…."Blue Velvet is a very American movie. The look of it was inspired by my childhood in Spokane, Washington. Lumberton is a real name; there are many Lumbertons in America. I picked it because we would get police insignias and stuff, because it was an actual town. But then it took off in my mind.
After Life (YouTube)
Like every filmmaker whose primary interest lies in illustrating the unseen, Kore-eda’s visual style owes much to the Transcendentalists, Yasujiro Ozu among them. Paul Schrader (in Transcendental Style in Film) wrote that in the Japanese director’s films ‘the action gives meaning to the still life.’ When the deceased are contemplating their lives at the beginning of After Life, Kore-eda’s sets are as sparse as sets can be; only an occasional window gives any hint of an alternate reality. After they’ve chosen their memory, the sets are designed and the deceased give form to eternity. The set, and by extension the world itself, is infused with the meaning we bring to it. It is our collective memories that animate the universe, that infuse the world with meaning, that hint at the divine. Without them, we’re lost–in limbo.
Fish Tank (Netflix)
Fish Tank’s authenticity may owe much to Arnold’s own experiences, but it undoubtedly stems almost as much from her finding Katie Jarvis, an untrained seventeen-year-old discovered having an argument with her boyfriend on a station platform, and coaching her through a demanding central role. Just as Loach’s Kes depended totally on the tough vulnerability of the young David Bradley as Billy, so Jarvis brings to Mia a complete believability. Whether she is asserting her status among peers, tentatively trying out makeup in her mother’s bedroom, or impulsively wreaking revenge for Connor’s betrayal—in a scene both frightening and exhilarating that takes us to the coastal edge of the Thames Estuary—Jarvis is entirely convincing. And never more so than when she decides she must leave the family nest and seize her chance at happiness. Here, Arnold’s unerring ear for the soundtrack of her characters’ lives (which has already given us Connor’s cherished “California Dreamin’,” creating an immediate bond between him and Mia) produces a triumphant, wordless scene, as Mia and Joanne launch into an impromptu dance routine, set to Nas’s pounding “Life’s a Bitch.”
Stray Dog (Hulu)
Its openness to this multiplicity is a key aspect in which (despite surface similarities) Stray Dog differs from American film noir. Violence as catharsis; the possibility that physical action can solve, by metaphor, a political, social, or moral problem; the ability of individuals to perform acts that have symbolic validity for their societies—these are the basic conditions of American action cinema, including that hybrid or offshoot or mutation labeled film noir. In Stray Dog, action solves no wider problems—only the immediate ones of recovering the gun and catching the criminal—and yields no release. It’s tangential to the larger sphere of society, as Kurosawa stresses in the climactic sequence by shifting our attention from the cop and the culprit to a young woman practicing piano nearby; and even within its own sphere (of narrative cause and effect), it is unsatisfying and inconclusive, as Kurosawa makes us feel by lingering on the murderer’s tortured scream and, in the final shot, on Murakami’s silent gaze out the hospital window. Kurosawa’s great originality with rhythm and structure is most evident in this final section: the rain finally comes, bringing a logical end to the film, but the film continues, tracking the object of Murakami’s obsession across a series of now-liberated landscapes to which his quest is irrelevant. It’s in its suggestion, through a multiplicity of rhythms, textures, and moods, of the range of human possibilities and of multiple worlds that ignore each other, that Stray Dog is most fervent and haunting.
Bad Timing (Hulu)
Like the Klimt painting “The Kiss” shown in the first sequence of the film, the story is told with a fragmented narrative—a collage of moments that make up their disjointed relationship. But what’s interesting about Milena and Alex is that even in the deepest moments of affection or love you can taste that hate is only a touch away. Their desire for one another is primal, a type of obsession that stems from the games lovers play and the incessant torture they inflict on one another—whether it’s a purposeful pain or simply a subconscious desire to hurt that which you love before it can hurt you. In an article for the Criterion Collection, Richard Combs once desired their relationship as resembling “one of those impossible ball-in-a-maze puzzles—there are, in fact, two matching sets of these in the film—where he is drawn to her wildness and chaos and impelled to tame it, perhaps because he fears a matching chaos in himself. When he despairs that she’ll never change, she retorts, ‘If you weren’t who you are, I wouldn’t have to.’” Their love is a rare breed that is an absolute fury and a fire. It’s as if the two have transcended past affection and become a sort of conjoined wound that just won’t heal, constantly tearing and bleeding with lust and hatred. They wish death upon themselves and one other. “Leave and you kill me. Leave and I’m dead,” screams Milena in a manic fit of rage towards Alex.
I think as an artist, whether it’s what you do or what I do, when you start looking back you’re fucked. It slows you down. And it’s a little hard to sit through the play now. I’ll probably feel the same way about the movie some day where I can see the things I did wrong and think of all of the things I have learned. But the play was born out of such pain and fear about what was going to happen to me, what was going to happen to all of us. It’s sort of why I called it Bachelorette. There were a couple of people that encouraged me to change the title because the wedding genre, and then of course when Bridesmaids opened we were four weeks away from shooting. But the reason I called it that was because I was like, “We’re fucked. This is the only word we have for these people.” Like, they don’t even have a name. Think of a movie title like Swingers. That’s such a great title, and those guys are trying to be cool but they’e not, and then there’s the swing dancing and it all makes sense. But I couldn’t for the life of me think of one good moniker for these women and who they are that wasn’t punitive. You know what I mean, like Sluts or Bitches, and who would see a movie called that? All we’ve got is this feminized version of this male idea, that’s, by the way, a great thing if you’re a man. If you’re not married and you’re a straight guy, the world is your fuckin’ oyster, but if you’re single and you’re a woman and you’ve got something going for you, it’s just so sad you’re not married yet. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But what do I know? I’m sad and alone.
Like Crazy (Netflix)
For them, the relationship becomes like trying to come back to a moment that existed, that’s in the past, and that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s that first three or four months that you cling to, or want to relive over and over again, like a drug. That’s the saddest thing of all, because while you’re in it, you can’t tell yourself that it’s not real, or that it doesn’t exist anymore. I feel like it’s two things, to be concise: One, it’s Jacob and Anna trying to get back to that moment, and two, it’s Jacob and Anna trying to move on from each other and not being able to. It’s somewhere in between those two, and it’s the grey area that’s devastating. That’s something that I really wanted to convey.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (iTunes)
"Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" isn’t really about wife swapping at all, but about the epidemic of moral earnestness that’s sweeping our society right now. For some curious reason, we suddenly seem compelled to tell the truth in our personal relationships Some critics have called the ending (when the two couples do not trade partners after all) a cop-out. Not at all. It’s consistent with the situation and the development of the characters, and an orgy at the end would have buried the movie’s small, but poignant, message. It’s a message, incidentally, that I think was missed by the feminist who sent me a postcard saying: "Down with wife-swapping, up with husband-swapping." They’re two sides, wouldn’t you say, of the same coin?
Veronika Voss (Hulu)
Veronika Voss is something else again, a druglike immersion experience disguised as a Citizen Kane-like investigative inquiry, tonally very close to Fassbinder’s earlier In a Year of 13 Moons (In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden, 1978). The narrative of Robert’s investigation never gains much momentum, as the sense of skin-crawling anxiety stretches out to infinity in scene after scene. Every image hurts in this hypertactile, overstuffed world, shot in bric-a-brac stuffed interiors in the most piercing black and white, closer to an X-ray than to high Hollywood. Fassbinder was a genius with rhythm, and in each of these films he builds to set pieces of tremendous power and gravity.
Starring Jonathan Groff, C.O.G. tells the story of an arrogant but meandering post-collegiate man named David, who has now decided to go by the name Samuel—not Sam. By bus, he travels to Oregon, leaving his well-traveled, Ivy League education and troubled home life behind to go work on an apple farm. With his sense of entitlement still intact, he finds himself in the trenches a world completely removed from his own, out of his element, and confused about exactly what he’s doing there. His lifestyle and arrogant ways are quickly picked apart and whittled down by the various local characters he encounters and strange mentors he picks up along the way, forcing him to put his pride aside and learn assimilate in order to find his place.
As an acronym for “Child of God” "C.O.G." was originally published in 1997’s Naked. But rather than creature a caricature of Sedaris, Alvarez put his own passionate voice into the work, to tell a story that not only deals with the rough road to self-discovery and self-acceptance, but how we deal with the way others perceive us in the world. Dealing with sexual identity and the myriad ways religion can be used in our lives, Alvarez’s film gives you that bizarrely comforting feeling that comes from diving into the world of David Sedaris—not only entertaining us, but forcing us to look the complex way we view our own internal battles—no matter how unremarkable they may seem. And with a cast featuring Dean Stockwell, Corey Stoll, and Denis O’Hare, C.O.G truly comes alive through its characters, whose idiosyncrasies clash with that of Sam and begin to tear down his affected exterior.
The Kings of Summer (iTunes)
In a cinematic culture that’s become oversaturated with inauthentic emotion and the use of technology over human connection, we often forget what the joy of movies is all about. You look back on what made you first fall in love with film, on the pictures that truly excited you, and it wasn’t about cheap thrills or blockbuster blasts. It was the simple idea of good storytelling—films that felt rich and alive and took you on an adventure and made you feel as though you experienced something great. It’s the memory of those cinematic moments that stay whole in our minds and inspire what we will go on to create. And in recent years, as a new wave of filmmakers emerges, we’ve begun to see a harkening back to that kind of storytelling through the new voices of independent cinema—revitalizing a generation and telling stories teeming with life and excitement, being made to please their artistic sensibility rather than a grand ideal of what a successful film in Hollywood should be. And with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ directorial debut The Kings of Summer, he recalls a certain kind of coming-of-age story that feels both anachronistic yet with a fresh take on the genre. Telling the story of Joe (played by Nick Robinson), the film is about "what the hell it means to be a man in the video game era," about teenage boys struggling to understand their own ascent into manhood and independence while clashing with parental authority, and the newfound hells of love.
Mr. Nobody (iTunes)
The film is less “Sliding Doors” than a series of revolving doors, and auds will be too busy figuring out what’s going on much of the time to contemplate the underlying themes, such as chance, choice and the potential of every person to influence the course of his or her own life. But despite the film’s clever construction and its often whimsical asides, there’s a benign humanism underneath it all that ensures that the pic is finally about emotions, not artifice. The closest the film comes to having a gravitational center are in the scenes set in 2092. What makes them soar is not the imaginative staging of the future — in clinical white and impressive CGI, courtesy of its $53 million budget — but Leto’s performance. Though he is competent as the adult Nemos, his acting talent really comes into full view in his scenes as the last dying man on Earth (advances in technology have kept everyone else from aging). Despite too much old-age makeup, Leto nevertheless infuses the character with some real raw emotional power.
The Last Detail (iTunes)
The Last Detail is less sentimental and spiked with a disconcertingly bleak sense of humor; it’s ultimately about two worker bees who elect to cover their own asses rather than stick their neck out for a potential systematic casualty. The film has an engagingly profane, scruffy looseness, a hallmark of Ashby and Towne’s careers, that undermines the conventions of the narrative. Every major scene goes on longer than one expects, and often to considerable effect. Moments that find the three men sitting in a cheap hotel room talking pussy and drinking themselves into oblivion are initially funny, but they go on long enough to reveal, without fuss, the loneliness and quiet despair that often fuels such encounters. And an interlude between Meadows and a whore (Carol Kane) is unforgettable—one of American cinema’s great tender scenes of sexual disillusionment. Like a number of Ashby and Towne’s respective films, The Last Detail ages well because it appears to retrospectively explain why so many baby boomers disappointed themselves. The pragmatic answer would appear to be that rebellion, in the face of almost absolute failure, is simply exhausting, and the anger can’t sustain itself if it isn’t fueled by the immediate threat of demise. The government will always eventually win so, fuck it, let’s drop the kid off at the jail and grab a beer.
Cries & Whispers (Hulu)
Cries and Whispers remains one of the most superb manifestations of the art of cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who justly won an Academy Award for his work on the film. From the hallucinatory images of the coming of dawn in the parkland surrounding the manor, to the intensity of the close-ups inside the house, he creates a three-dimensional magic that aestheticizes the emotional anguish of the family. Bergman and his team made the film over a 42-day period during the late summer and early autumn of 1971, shooting on location in Taxinge-Näsby, outside Mariefred in the Mälär district west of Stockholm. Although the budget was modest at just under $400,000, Bergman had to ask his actors and Sven Nykvist to invest in the picture. The film’s brilliant quality assured its success at festival after festival, and while it did not perform well at the box-office, it quickly became an art-house staple and remains today an extraordinary vision of “the interior of the soul”.
Paris, Texas (Hulu)
The next day he returns, but this time he picks up the phone, turns his back to her, and begins to tell a story. He details their relationship, from beginning to end: ”I knew these people…They were in love with each other…He was kind of raggedy and wild. She was very beautiful, you know?” He expresses the adventure and excitement they found in being together and how they ached to be in each other’s presence to the point where he’d quit working just to be with her. But as his story progresses you see how that same tremendous passion unraveled them both, how quickly love can turn to resentment, even violence. The primal act of falling in love shakes the core of our foundation and forces most of us to submit to our emotions in a way we find frightening. What fractured Travis and Jane’s love came from the larger existential questions that linger between most men and women—an insular battle with self-destruction that caused a rift too large to patch. One of life’s most painful truths, although we refuse so often to admit it to ourselves, is that love is not enough. It may be the most profound and astonishing thing two human beings can share in this crumbling world, but it cannot fill all the gaps that rest between our bones or mend those wounds that will never heal. No matter how hard we try.”
My Life as a Dog (Hulu)
Still, My Life as a Dog is a stubbornly affectionate and often lyrical film. Hallström backdrops Ingemar’s narrational asides about the misery of others with a vision of a star-filled night sky as a child might see it lying on his or her back, imagining the plight of that Russian dog. The film’s visual sense is organically realist: whole scenes are swallowed in one shot, seen from a slight distance, so that the characters and the environment can be experienced without manipulation. Simple, patient images, like of Ingemar huddled on a bench in a wide hospital hall after visiting his mother’s sickroom, have an impact no amount of hyperactive editing and emphatic mega-close-ups, in the American style, could approximate. When the child disembarks from the train that has carried him back to his uncle’s town after finally being orphaned, we can barely see him for all of the steam and snow, until his lovable, irreverent uncle runs to meet him, picks him up, and stands embracing him selflessly in the cold. It’s a film about people shaped by people, by the rhythms of their behavior and feelings, and in this, My Life as a Dog belongs to a tradition beginning with Jean Renoir, a sensibility that has been explored precious little since and may very well be expiring. What could be more fundamental as a cinematic substance than the truly observed properties of our fellow humans?
Blue Caprice (iTunes)
But from the initial moments on screen, it was evident that Blue Caprice was far more than a literal depiction of the Beltway Sniper attacks and the father and son duo—John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo—that committed them. Rather than highlighting the act of brutality itself, Moor’s film plays out as a symbolic meditation on the psychology of violence, attempting to understand and uncover its tangled roots. Starring Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond, Blue Caprice is a film of ambiguities. Named for the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which Muhammad and Malvo traveled in, the film was written with R.F.I. Porto who, alongside Moors, dug heavily into the court cases and examinations that followed the attacks, yet, crafted a film that exists in the intimate moments where one can only surmise what truly occurred between these people. Moor gives us a chilling portrait focused on the interior of his characters, allowing for a deeper awareness into their lives and their existence as people before they were murderers. Through Moor’s use of muffed sound and setting the camera at a distance, you experience an incredibly unnerving sensation while taking in the film—one that lingers far longer than had you only been exposed to a recollection of historical news coverage. It’s the notion of the capacity for violence and how the ability of carry out terror can be inherited or impressed upon us so easily that sends a chill down our spine and makes the atmosphere of Blue Caprice film so heavy.