Two weeks ago, I wrote that I didn’t know when I would start doing What’s Screening, my weekly newsletter, again. Well, I’m starting it up again, now as What’s Streaming. Hopefully, it will soon be back to What’s Screening.
In the meantime, I’ll be writing about struggling theaters and streaming movies.
Helping a theater
Last week, I mentioned several ways you can help your favorite independent cinema. I’m adding one more: If you like the Alameda, please purchase a gift card.
Special online events
A Strangers On a Train (1951), hosted by the Balboa and the Vogue, Saturday, 7:00; Click here to watch free online.
One of Hitchcock’s scariest films, and therefore one of his best. A rich, spoiled psychopath (the worst kind) convinces himself that a moderately-famous athlete has agreed to exchange murders. The athlete soon finds himself hounded by suspicious cops who think he’s killed his philandering wife, and a psycho who thinks he’s owed a murder. Log onto chat room afterwards to discuss the movie with others.
Transgender Day of Visibility & MAJOR! (2015), hosted by the Roxie
I’m taking this directly from the Roxie website: “MAJOR! explores the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a formerly incarcerated Black transgender elder and activist who has been fighting for the rights of trans women of color for over 40 years.”
Streaming for theaters
Here’s where you can buy an e-ticket to stream a movie at home while financially helping your favorite theater.
A- Sorry We Missed You (2019), helping the Rafael and the Roxie
Imagine a food that you absolutely hate, but you eat it anyway because it’s good for you. That’s the experience of seeing Ken Loach’s grim but necessary attack on the gig economy. A man struggles to make money delivering packages. In theory, he’s an independent contractor, but he’s much worse off than an employee. His wife, a nurse, is also in the gig economy. Neither of them has time to take care of their children. With almost no happy moments, Sorry We Missed You is like an empathy bomb, forcing you to care for the working poor. Read my full review.
B+ Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991), helping the Rafael, becomes available today
This low-budget Chinese western succeeds in making you feel good, while reminding you how badly Asians were treated in 19th-century America. A young woman (Rosalind Chao) is sold by her father and shipped to America. She lands in a small mining town in Oregon, where she’s essentially a slave. Slowly she gets on her feet and becomes her own person, thanks to her willpower and the help of a few new friends, the main one played by Chris Cooper. The low budget is easily visible, but it doesn’t really hurt the movie much. Based on a true story.
B+ Bacurau (2019), helping the Rafael and the Roxie
The Brazilian town of Bacurau is so small and unimportant that it’s not even on Google Maps. But something evil is coming its way. We know there’s something evil when an overturned truck is filled with empty, now-broken coffins. And yet, for a large part of the picture, we get to sit back and enjoy the people and the atmosphere. I’m not telling you where the evil comes from, but the final act feels like a Sam Peckinpah western, and a good one. Sônia Braga plays the no-nonsense doctor.
B Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (2020), helping the Rafael
Any documentary about The Band – one of rock’s greatest groups – should be worth watching. But Daniel Roher’s documentary centers so completely on Robby Robertson that it doesn’t really tell you much about his “brothers.” True, Robertson has an interesting story, growing up in Canada with a Mohawk mother and a Jewish gangster father he never knew. But I wanted to see more points of view. The only other surviving Band member, Garth Hudson, is not interviewed. Nor are wives and children of the three who passed on. For six years, The Band created great music. Then they fell apart. Too bad this documentary tells only one side of the story. Read my full review.
B- The Wild Goose Lake, helping the Rafael and the Roxie
Early in this Chinese crime thriller, a top criminal gives something like a masterclass on stealing motorcycles. It all seems very well organized. Hands go up, answers are questions, until it breaks into a very violent free-for-all. Violence is always near amongst these crooks. But the plot, about a likeable thief with a bounty on his head, and a young woman who gets involved with what’s going on, is very hard to follow. Writer/director Yi’nan Diao provides some very exciting and original action scenes, and Jingsong Dong’s photography is often stunning. The title refers to the dangerous neighborhood where much of the film is set.
C+ Fantastic Fungi, helping the Rafael and the Roxie
If a documentary’s claims are too good to be true, they’re probably false. Keep that in mind while considering what would probably be a great movie to watch on ‘shrooms. The bright colors, the time-lapse photography, and the wild use of digital effects make a psychedelic experience. But I saw it sober, and while it was still visually appealing, I often found it difficult to believe. While containing actual information about fungi’s importance to our ecosystem, the film makes claims that are hard to believe. For instance, one of the interview subjects tells us that mycelium are intelligent (director Louie Schwartzberg didn’t bring in anyone to refute that hypothesis). Even less likely is the claim that eating psilocybin magic mushrooms made our pre-human ancestors’ brains grow. That’s not how evolution works.
I haven’t seen the films below, or I haven’t seen them recently enough to give a real opinion, so I’m just listing them:
- And Then We Danced (2020), helping the Rafael and the Roxie
- Corpus Christi (2020), helping the Lark and the Rafael
- Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976), helping the Lark. I saw this sexy fantasy/comedy ages ago and liked it.
- Extra Ordinary (2020), helping the Balboa and Vogue
- The Etruscan Smile (2020), helping the Balboa and Vogue
- The Infiltrators (2019), helping the Roxie
- L’Innocente (1976), helping the Lark
- Saint Frances (2019), helping the Rafael and the Roxie
- Vitalina Varela (2019), helping the Lark
- Whistlers (2019), helping the Roxie
Toshiro Mifune Turns 100, Criterion Channel, since Wednesday
Love Mifune? Criterion is streaming 28 features starring Japan’s greatest movie star. There is, of course, a lot of Kurosawa, including Ikiru, Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Red Beard. But it also has Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy, the early Snow Trail, Masaki Kobayashi’s Samurai Rebellion, and the documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai.
Raging Bull, Criterion Channel, becomes available Friday
Martin Scorsese put a cap on 70’s cinema with this study of boxer Jake La Motta. It isn’t an easy film to watch; the experience is not unlike a fierce pummeling. But it’s worth it. Robert De Niro gives one of the great physical performances in cinema, changing from a taut athlete to a man who has let himself go, and always making things difficult for the people close to him. Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman make brilliant use of black and white, allowing us to experience the emotional brutality of the fights. Including an archival laserdisc commentary with director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
A Am Not a Witch, Criterion Channel, becomes available Thursday
In an unnamed African country (shot in Zambia), villagers accuse a young girl of being a witch. She’s forced to live with other “witches,” all old women. They’re treated like slaves, with thick ribbons substituting as chains. A government official takes her under his wing, exploiting her alleged powers for profit. Writer/director Rungano Nyoni uses cinematic techniques that keep the audience emotionally distant, which somehow makes the protagonist’s treatment feel all the worse. A powerful film.