The Voice Of Energy Vol. 040.5
Good day, friends. Another Monday brings another selection of streaming picks for each day of this week.
As much as I’ve enjoyed putting these together recently, I’m really looking forward to putting my focus on movies in theaters and concerts and other events. Feels like that is becoming more and more possible with each passing day. I do my best to hedge my bets and plan for the worst to happen, but today… I’m feeling hopeful.
Also feel like I’m repeating myself.
No matter. Go forth and watch some stuff while you wait for your turn to get vaccinated.
Monday March 29
This show might only hit you as hard as it has hit me if you’re a parent. Because no other half-hour TV program has captured the agony and ecstasy of raising children as perfectly as Breeders. The first series concentrated on a pair of formerly hip parents (Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard) trying to maintain their cool and calm as they deal with big life changes and young, loud kids. The second series picks up years later as they are now faced with their eldest son hitting his teens and wrestling with depression as well as that awful anxiety of their children gaining independence while their older family members start needing more help. Yes, it’s still funny as all get out but the ache that each episode instills is just as strong (available to stream on Hulu)
Tuesday March 30
City So Real
As the trial for the murderer of George Floyd gets underway, it feels like a good time for folks to visit/revisit this series from acclaimed documentarian Steve James (The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams). While it takes place in another Midwest city - Chicago - the issues at stake in City So Real are very much connected to what happened in Minneapolis last May. The backdrop is the mayoral election but what is foregrounded is the very different views of politics, policing, and inequality as told to the camera by various Chicago residents. It’s a damning portrait and also a hopeful one as James brings to light those candidates and those activists that are giving all of their time to protect and support BIPOC in the Windy City. (available to stream on Hulu)
Wednesday March 31
Collective (2019, dir. Alexander Nanau)
Another timely story putting the spotlight on the hard work that investigative journalists are doing every day, often for little reward and (in the case of many female writers) waves of online harrassment. This Oscar-nominated documentary follows a crew of journalists in Romania as they seek the truth behind a deadly nightclub fire and wind up uncovering a deeply corrupt healthcare system. It’s gripping stuff even as it shows the arduous work of digging for information and chasing down sources – and then double and triple checking the work to make sure it is factual and airtight. Inspiring. (available to stream on Hulu)
Thursday April 1
An Ordinary Woman
As production companies around the U.S. try desperately to reach the cultural and creative heights of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Russian producers Valerly Fedorovich and Evgeny Nikishov have beaten them all to the punch with this tense, brilliant series. The title character is a seemingly normal flower shop owner juggling a potentially problematic pregnancy and a busy home life with two other daughters. Behind the scenes, she’s a madam, running a stable of young sex workers. The wheels start falling off from the first episode when one of her employees winds up dead and she is forced to deal with the fallout. Adding to the ripple effect of that murder are her eldest daughter’s own illegal dealings and her husband impregnating his mistress. It’s masterfully made and held together almost entirely by a controlled and coiled performance by Anna Mikhalkova as Marina, the ordinary woman at the center of it all. (available to stream on Topic)
Friday April 2
Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987, dir. Louis Malle)
As the story begins in this heartbreaking drama from Louis Malle set at a French boarding school during World War II., three young Jewish boys being protected from the Nazis by the priests in charge are brought into the student body. Much of the film concerns the tenuous and growing friendship between one lad and a bookish classmate in all its sticky, brutish glory. But the boarding school becomes an allegory for France during the war, with Resistance fighters and conscientious objectors living awkwardly next to those citizens that want to keep their heads down and survive. Malle was already a great director, but this poignant film cemented his status as a true master of the cinematic medium. (airing on TCM @ 7pm PT; streaming on HBO Max and Criterion Channel)
Saturday April 3
A Girl Missing (2019, dir. Kōji Fukada)
The latest and best film to date from young Japanese talent Kōji Fukada makes its streaming bow this month on Criterion Channel. Ichiko, a home nurse for elderly patients gets embroiled in a whirlwind of controversy and media attention as a granddaughter of one of her clients vanishes and Ichiko is accused of facilitating the disappearance. Fukada builds the layers of this story with such confident ease that the growing knot of tension takes a while to become apparent - and when it does, it’s so big as to be almost painful. The director is supported by a fantastic lead performance by Mariko Tsutsui who brings Ichiko and her fragile mental state that starts to further crumble as a result of this drama to discomforting life. (available to stream on Criterion Channel)
Sunday April 4
After Hours (1985, dir. Martin Scorsese)
Word is that this film is leaving HBO Max at the end of the month which leaves you a little while to fully appreciate its dark brilliance through one or hopefully multiple viewings. Made in the throes of one of Martin Scorsese’s richest creative periods, this perfectly paced film follows an office drone (Griffin Dunne) through one of the worst and weirdest nights of his life that through happenstance and bad decisions takes him deeper and deeper in the late night world of SoHo in New York City. The whole thing is a blast to watch thanks to Thelma Schoonmaker’s always brilliant editing work and the array of comedic character actors like Catherine O’Hara, Teri Garr, Dick Miller, and John Heard dancing giddily on the edges of this razor sharp film. (available to stream on HBO Max)
Thanks, as ever, for reading and subscribing. Back with a full newsletter on Friday that will include some film reviews and an interview with the neo-folk artist Shrines.