Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekend Stream for 9/20/13

The Weekend Stream is a weekly feature curating content for you to watch this weekend from the current selection on Netflix's US streaming service. Since titles can disappear with little or no warning, there's always a chance a title will no longer be available by the time you read this, so you'd better act fast, sport!

Weekend Stream for 09/20/13

So for this week's movie selections, I thought I would do something a little different and point to some things I've already reviewed here that ALSO happen to be streaming now. That means there's no TV choices this week, though you're always welcome to stream Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, or Doctor Who (all of which have been partially reviewed here).

First, there's Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance's 2010 film that could justifiably be called a romantic tragedy. The film cuts between the beginnings of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy's (Michelle Williams) relationship and its seemingly-inevitable end. Here's an excerpt of what I had to say about it in May 2011:
"'Unflinching' is a word that gets tossed around a lot, perhaps too often, in critical circles. But Blue Valentine earns the description. Its shaky, hand-held camera shows us awkward, uncomfortable scenes—both good and bad—of the kind normally kept behind closed doors. Cianfrance and cinematographer Andrij Parekh stay with these scenes in search of the tiny moments, the gestures and expressions that are indicative of each character's state of mind. The script gives them words and phrases to repeat, and the actors imbue these halting repetitions with subtle depth that shows just how stuck their characters have become. We're privy to fights, intimate conversations, even sex scenes, none of which have the typical glamor we've come to expect from a film, and both leads do a great job keeping their performances raw and real."

Next, we have Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol, an intimate documentary about the aftermath of trauma and how art can help one work through psychological damage in ways that nothing else can. It focuses on Mark Hogancamp, who was beaten nearly to death one night outside of a bar. As part of his therapy, he constructs an elaborate miniature of a WWII-era town, populated with dolls and action figures of himself, his friends, and his attackers (here represented by Nazis). Here are some of my thoughts from April 2011:
"[...] in terms of making sense out of a senseless tragedy, why shouldn't [Hogancamp] externalize a process that most people keep inside? By placing his grief and need for reason into the familiar WWII dynamic of good and evil, Hogancamp can come to terms with what might otherwise be a gnawing desire for unattainable answers. He can channel his rage and revenge fantasies into a consequence-free world, one where his limitations, old and new, don't matter. And while he might never have intended them to be such, his well-shot, highly-emotional photographs are art, in the truest sense: an expression of his emotional state, made real and intuitively understandable to others."

Finally, there's Monsters, an ultra low-budget sci-fi flick that earned first-time director Gareth Edwards a shot at the biggest monster franchise of all time, Godzilla. Set at a time well after humans have come to a fragile coexistence with the giant extraterrestrial monsters that invaded, the film tells the story of a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) charged with bringing his boss's daughter (Whitney Able) back from Mexico through the quarantine surrounding the monsters' territory. Back in April 2011, I had this to say:
"Just about everything works here. The largely-improvised scenes and many non-professional actors add a good sense of verisimilitude. The story is believable, the creatures are relatively novel, and the effects are dynamite at this or any budget."

So that's it for this week. I already have a timely theme cooked up for next week's edition, so hopefully you'll join me then! 


  1. ohemgee, Marwencol. SO good. So enthralling. And simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Plus it's a unique opportunity to see someone who can look at his own pathology and tell it to you, step-by-step, as though from the outside. He's not defending or ashamed or any of what the rest of us would default to. The 'him' he's talking about is almost like another person to him, but one whose history and thoughts and actions he just happens to know intimately. It's strange, but so compelling.

    1. Agreed on all counts. And I'm so glad that the movie doesn't really condescend to him or look at him like some weirdo or freak. He's just a guy who had something terrible happen to him, and now this is how he copes. Fascinating stuff.