Friday, October 4, 2013

Weekend Stream for 10/04/13

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. Just search for the bolded titles on your preferred Netflix-watching device, and you're in business! Since content can disappear from Netflix 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, chappy!

Weekend Stream for 10/04/13

After last week's heavily-British/Irish edition of the Weekend Stream, I've decided to avoid the United Kingdom and the Emerald Isle in favor of other regions for this week's streaming choices.

First up, we have The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 character study of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a cautious audio surveillance expert who becomes obsessed with deciphering the meaning of a conversation he was asked to record by Martin Stett (Harrison Ford) and his shady boss (Robert Duvall). What seems to be just another '70s paranoid conspiracy thriller becomes much more in Coppola's hands, as he adds loads of Catholic guilt to the film's heady thematic mix of privacy, ethics, and isolation. Hackman is brilliant as the brittle, antisocial Caul, while he gets able support from the late, great John Cazale, among others. This is a slow-burning, contemplative film, and Coppola's visuals and audio trickery add up to a sense of urgency and unease that gets under your skin. Often outshined by the Godfather franchise and Apocalypse Now, The Conversation is top-tier Coppola, beyond any doubt.

Following that, why not look into Trollhunter, André Øvredal's 2010 Norwegian found-footage horror/comedy that posits that trolls really exist but are covered up by the government. Student filmmakers Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) set out to catch a bear poacher but instead discover Hans (Otto Jespersen), a gruff, no-nonsense troll hunter in the government's employ who keeps Norway's troll population away from cities and towns with the help of a UV gun that turns trolls to stone just like real sunlight. The film has fun with the folklore of trolls and with the conceits of the found-footage genre, and its low-budget special effects largely work well in conveying the power and scope of the trolls. While the plot may not stray too far from generic tropes, its sense of humor and moments of genuine tension more than carry the weight.

Finally, now that Netflix has finally added the show's most recent season, there's no better time to catch up on Louie, the brilliant comedy series from Louis CK and FX. Louie follows the life of stand-up comic and divorced single dad Louie (CK) as he navigates the tribulations of his career, parenthood, dating, and middle age. While this sounds like the set-up for any of a million sitcoms, what makes Louie stand out are its structure and tone. Most episodes consist of one or two acts—bookended by irreverent bits of CK's stand-up—that could basically function as short films about Louie's life. These are well-shot and directed (typically by CK himself), and don't shy away from awkwardness and cringe humor. Still, there's a very humanist core at the center of Louie's world, and though the universe (and the comics CK gets to guest star as outlandish versions of themselves) often seem out to punish Louie, his decency usually shines through—even if the inappropriateness of his jokes might make you think otherwise. Alternately hilarious, sad, and touching without ever descending to mawkish sentimentality, Louie is a testament to what happens when a network trusts a hard-working autodidact to do as he pleases. 

Well, that does it for another week here. If you've watched any of these things, let me know what you think!

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