You Should Be Watching: May 31 – June 6

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week, I’m recommending one of my all-time favorite crime thrillers that doubles as a piercing character study of the everyman. Next, I have a classic pairing of Bogart and Hepburn on an adventure on the rivers of Africa. And finally, I’m recommending an intense Israeli courtroom drama about one woman’s quest for a divorce from a loveless marriage. And in the coming and going section, there are a whole bucketload of worthwhile movies coming to streaming in the first week of June including the arrival of Thor: Ragnarok to Netflix, Lady Bird to Amazon Prime, and Blade Runner 2049 to Hulu.

 

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


A Simple Plan

    

Year: 1998

Director: Sam Raimi

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Drama

Cast: Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe, Chelcie Ross, Gary Cole, Becky Ann Baker, Tom Carey, Jack Walsh

 

To start my recommendations, I’m headed back to 90s crime thriller territory to a can’t miss film about good people doing evil things. It’s easy to watch films like The Wolf of Wall Street and… well, Wall Street and self-righteously sit back and condemn the greed on display. We’re not heartless and self-absorbed like those jerks, we think. We wouldn’t put the pursuit of money above literally everything else. We’re not evil like that. But greed is not so easily dismissed. Greed does in fact lie in the heart of good people. And when that greed takes hold, well, as the Bible says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

The setup of A Simple Plan is just that, simple. Two kindly brothers, Hank and Jacob, and their good friend Lou (Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe) discover a crashed plane in the woods near their home with nothing but a dead pilot and over four million dollars in cash. What Sam Raimi does with this setup is to masterfully challenge his audience through the consequences of one seemingly rational decision after another by each of these characters along with Hank’s wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) to reveal the horrifying things human nature can convince us to do out of greed and fear of getting caught. It is a film rightfully at the top of Raimi’s filmography, one of the best studies of human nature on film, and among the best performed roles of each of its stars. I cannot recommend <i>A Simple Plan</i> highly enough.


 

The African Queen

Year: 1951

Director: John Huston

Genre: Adventure, Romance, War, Drama

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Peter Swanwick, Richard Marner

 

Sure, it’s directed by John Huston, the man who gave us such adventure classics as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Man Who Would Be King. Sure, it’s filmed on location in the jungles of Uganda and the Congo in lush technicolor. But what makes The African Queen really shine is the strength of its stars, that is Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Even playing the disheveled, ill-mannered boat captain Charlie Allnut, Bogie can’t help but charm. And with Hepburn as his near polar opposite, the straight-laced missionary Rose Sayer who has just seen her mission destroyed and the villagers run off by the Germans of World War I, the stage is set for this unlikely pair to set off on an unlikely adventure.

Through the trials of a handful of thrilling set pieces and especially the sharp, snappy dialogue and wonderful chemistry between Charlie and Rose, a relationship slowly begins to take shape. While neither expects the other to become something they’re not, they find satisfaction in learning about each other and looking out for their well-being, whether it’s Charlie taking ill or Rose about to dive into alligator-filled waters to get away from a horde of files. The more dirty, weary, and bedraggled the pair become, the more joy they find in simply being together and facing their obstacles as one. All in all, it’s a charming film showcasing Africa’s beauty and its exotic rivers and an inspiring story of love strengthened through trials.


 

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

  

Year: 2014

Director: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz

Genre: Drama

Cast: Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian, Menashe Noy, Gabi Amrani, Dalia Beger

 

For my final recommendation, I head to the oft-neglected area of Israeli film for a searing single-room setting courtroom drama. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem presents the unfolding of hearing after hearing as Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) and her lawyer implore the Jewish religious courts to give her a divorce from her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) whom she can’t abide and no longer lives with. He is completely unwilling to grant her the divorce she seeks. While he claims to want her back, to love her, the bitterness is evident on both their faces. The acting in this film is stellar. It’s amazing to watch the change in Elkabetz throughout the extended trial, whether through her nonverbal reactions or her slow burning frustration that eventually bubbles over.

This is actually the third film in the Gett Trilogy. Weird recommendation, I know. However, I absolutely do recommend it even as a standalone film, even though Viviane’s stated goal is to obtain a divorce. Let me be clear. I hate divorce. It approves of selfishness, makes one’s happiness the ultimate priority, excuses a lack of sacrificial love, and tears apart families. I hate how prevalent divorce is, especially in western society, where people treat their vow to love and cherish the other for as long as they both shall live with utter disregard. So why the recommendation? It’s a brilliant study of Jewish culture and its court system and the bitter consequence of a lack of love lived out, a love in word not in deed until even the words are gone. While on one hand this film is a call to reform the Jewish court system, on the other, it’s a powerful revelation of how marriages die. It acts as a powerful warning to all husbands and wives to give themselves fully to their spouses, to love them deeply and unselfishly.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 31
8 Mile (2002)
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)
Men In Black (1997)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Neerja (2016)
Oldboy (2003)
Scarface (1983)
Super (2010)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015)
Training Day (2001)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 31
From the Rocky Collection:

Rocky (1976)
Rocky II (1979)

From the James Bond Collection:

Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

June 7
Remember (2015)

June 9
Rosewater (2014)

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)
Natural Born Killers (1994)

June 8
Christopher Guest:

Best in Show (2000)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Elia Kazan:

On the Waterfront (1954)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)

June 15
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
The Piano (1993)

 

HULU

May 31
1984 (1984)
Breakdown (1997)
Manhattan (1979)
The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Coco (2017)
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Seven Beauties (1975)
The Unknown (1927)
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
The Women (1939)
Lolita (1962)
Grand Hotel (1932)

 

HULU

I, Tonya (2017)
Rain Man (1988)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 1
Blue Jasmine (2013)
The Departed (2006)
Miracle (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Outside In (2017)

June 2
The King’s Speech (2010)

June 5
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 1
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Breakdown (1997)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Day of the Dead (1985)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
The Natural (1984)
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Space Jam (1996)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Wonder Wheel — AMAZON ORIGINAL MOVIE (2017)

June 3
Lady Bird (2017)
Stargate (1994)

 

HULU

June 1
Apollo 13 (1995)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bull Durham (1988)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Margin Call (2011)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The Running Man (1987)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)

June 2
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

June 3
Stargate (1994)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

What We Learned This Week: June 11-17

LESSON #1: WHEN IMPORTANT DIVERSITY IS IN PLAY, EXTRA HYPE IS WARRANTED— Not understanding the important opportunities for diversity is equivalent to being tone deaf.  Recently some people tried to bash the female empowerment frenzy over the very existence of Wonder Woman, no matter if the film itself was any good.  After its trailer debut, pockets of ostriches with heads in the sand are doing the same with the new trailer for Black Panther and the fervid immediate and early hype from the black audiences.  Let me put it like this when it comes to Wonder Woman and Black Panther: “If you don’t understand why these films are important on principle alone, then you are part of the problem.”  The marketplace doesn’t just need these films, they deserve them.  Their importance assigned by their demographics and fanbases grants them warranted extra hype.

LESSON #2: NEW SOURCES WILL INVADE AWARDS RACES THIS WINTERIndiewire had a nice story recently talking about the Oscar chances of Get Out and Emmy chances of Netflix offerings.  I, for one, am all for it, but early-year films like Jordan Peele’s hit are going to need help coming November and December thanks to good old “out of sight/out of mind” syndrome.  More critics and voters need to keep these films in the conscientiousness of viewers and watchers.

LESSON #3: WHEN STEVEN SPIELBERG CALLS, YOU SAY YES— Speaking of the Oscars, just about everything the legendary Steven Spielberg touches becomes some kind of Oscar nominee or winner.  For his upcoming and fast-tracked December film The Papers (and no, it’s not about supplies from your weed guy), he is multiplying that Midas Touch with having fellow Academy darlings Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep headlining.  If that wasn’t colossal enough, take a gander at the supporting ensemble cast assembled by Spielberg behind Hanks and Streep.  If that’s not an eclectic “Murderer’s Row” of character actors, I don’t know what is.  The Spielberg clout is real.  Get Out and Netflix be damned, but say an early hello to your new Oscar frontrunner.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG APPARENTLY NEEDS TO CALL MORE WOMEN— Well-liked actress and emerging filmmaker Elizabeth Banks attempted to put Steven Spielberg on blast for not ever having directed a film with a female lead.  Her rant, which lead to a public apology, was quickly dispelled when she learned of The Color Purple.  That’s the only film it takes from Spielberg to negate the “never” in Banks’ words, but I think the crux of her argument remains fair.  Even when you add Sugarland Express and the little girl from The BFG, Steven is  more than a shade low in his percentages of female leading roles.  It wouldn’t kill him to rethink that.  Watch him follow in the footsteps of Banks and direct a Pitch Perfect sequel to shut everyone up.

LESSON #5: ARTSY-FARTSY PEOPLE APPARENTLY HATE JARED LETO— Academy Award winner and Suicide Squad actor Jared Leto was recently named the Chief Creative Officer of the film streaming service Fandor, pissing off film snobs everywhere.  Fandor fashions itself as a database for indie films, documentaries, international features and shorts.  Apparently to the high-end cinephiles, Leto has sold out and is not qualified.  People forget before he was Joker, the man won an Oscar and worked with off the beaten path with the likes of Fincher, Aronofsky, Malick, Toback, Mangold, Schumacher, Stone, Niccol, and Villeneuve.  Beyond his work resume, Leto has championed his own broadcast and social platform business VyRt for five years.  Dude, he’s quite qualified.  He’s not going to ruin the place.  In fact, watch it multiple with a driven guy at the helm.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.