weekend watchlist: a timely remedy for collective cultural amnesia
First published May 7, 2022 on Substack and Patreon.
Don’t spend hours scrolling through the menus of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other movie services. I tell you the best new movies and hidden gems to stream.
Movies included here may be available on services other than those mentioned, and in other regions as well. JustWatch and Reelgood are great for finding which movies are on which streamers; you can customize each site to show you only the services you have access to.
When you rent or buy a movie through the Amazon and Apple links here, I get a small affiliate commission that helps support my work. Please use them if you can! (Affiliate fees do not increase your costs.)
on both sides of the pond
It’s not often that collective cultural amnesia is a good thing, and it’s certainly not now that it seems reproductive rights in the United States are in danger of an immediate rollback. (This is something that should concern those in the UK as well.) Anyone under 60 in the US will have no memory of what it meant to need an abortion before it was legal. to have one. Films such as the heartbreaking and incredibly timely new drama Eventabout a young woman in early 1960s France seeking illegal dismissal and now in cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic, can serve as a reminder of the terror and dangers of the time.
Another cinematic reminder of how women and other pregnant women were doing before Roe v Ward can be found in the 2018 low-budget independent film Ask for Jeanne, a direct and lucid dramatization of the work of the underground Jane Collective in late 60s/early 70s Chicago. The brave women in the group organized to ensure that women who needed abortions could get them safely and clandestinely. The bravery of women seeking abortion themselves, who risked their freedom, their health and even their lives to ensure a better future for themselves and, in some cases, for the child they already had, is also obvious here. There is a compassion for women here and an understanding of the difficult choices women make that is often lacking in pop culture and mainstream discourse. And it is a compassion that is again urgently needed.
(Also be on the lookout for new documentaries The Janescoming in June on HBO in the US, and most likely also on a UK streaming service soon.)
United States: available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime
UK: Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
last chance on netflix
2016 eye in the sky is a incredibly important and provocative dramatic thriller about drone warfare, and every element is intellectually, philosophically and viscerally engrossing. A military procedural that takes place in near real time, it’s people – the formidable cast includes Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman (in his final screen appearance) – sitting around staring at computer screens, debating and arguing on what they see and how they should react to it. This war is fought from a conference table in a cozy office building or in front of a platform that looks like an elaborate video game. It is a film as entertaining on the level of escape as it is irrefutably engaging on an essential level for the active citizens of our political environment. (Read my review.)
streaming on Netflix until May 12; also available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
last chance on prime
A happy spin on the heist movie, 2008 bank work exists in the delightful space between a limited set of real facts and the conspiracy theories that have popped up to fill in the blanks. In September 1971, British newspapers were full of reports of the brazen theft of a safe deposit box from a London bank… and a few days later the story disappeared from the newspapers. Just disappeared, like it never existed. Rumors swirled about what might have been stolen from these boxes, prompting the government to cancel the story. What this movie suggests is a damn good guess, and it’s ridiculously fun to see how it pulls it off. (Read my review.)
streaming on Amazon Prime, free for members, until the end of May; also streaming on Hulu, and available to rent or buy on Prime and Apple TV
new on premium
Dip your toe into the concept of the multiverse – the endless multitude of alternate realities where things are just a little different from ours – with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Winner of the 2018 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, this is an utterly charming adventure starring Spider-Man in the form of Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales as he meets Spider-Man as the form of Peter Parker of Queens, among others. You don’t need to know anything about the comic books or the sci-fi ideas this fresh and fun movie plays with: it’ll give you clues, quickly and sneakily and without stopping the plot to the beat. frantic. Visual styles collide here like universes collide: in a way that is both dangerous and synergistic, complementary but conflicting. If animated movies seem to have forgotten how visually adventurous they can be, spider worms is a huge honk of an encore (Read my review.)
streaming on Amazon Prime, free for members; also available to rent or buy on Prime and Apple TV
Netflix Hidden Gem
If the Downton Abbey film currently in theaters it’s a little too… nice for your taste, reconnect with the 2001s Gosford Park, the sublime black comedy that Julian Fellowes wrote before creating the much smoother saga of the Earl of Grantham and his family. It’s upstairs/
streaming on Netflix; also available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime (free for members) and Apple TV