A feature I started last week… recapping… Netflix now has about twice as many streaming subscribers than DVD subscribers, according to a company financial statement during the first half of this year, it means more of you continue to sign up for Netflix streaming accounts, specifically.
And a common complaint I hear is that, available streaming titles aren't as robust of DVD titles – especially when it comes to recent releases.
Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about that. But I'm sure Netflix is aware of that popular complaint; however, it's my understanding that these matters aren't so simply resolved, especially as film studios continue to test the digital distribution waters, trying to find some balance that, at the very least, doesn't negatively affect their bottomline.
But what I can do is alert you to films (old and new) that are streaming on Netflix, that you may not already realize are available in that format, and may be interested in checking out. I'll start doing this weekly (I started last week) – picking 5 films at a time; many, if not all of the films I mention, will be titles that we've covered on S&A over the years, so you may recognize.
Without further ado, here are this week's 5:
All Night Long (1962) – an utterly compelling jazz-infused 1962 psychodrama from British filmmaker Basil Dearden; it's basically a retelling of Shakespeare's Othello, set in a 1960s London jazz club, taking place over the course of one eventful evening. As interracial couple, and band mates, Aurelius Rex (played by Paul Harris) and Delia Lane (played by Marti Stevens), celebrate their first wedding anniversary, jealous, ambitious drummer, Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan), who wants Delia for himself to headline his own burgeoning band, works feverishly to tear the couple apart, with lies and deception. A familiar story of jealousy and treachery; and by the time the night draws to a close, the previously-happily married Aurelius has been deceived into trying to murder his beloved wife, and her believed to be lover. It's provoking, especially for a film of its time. Not a film that I'd expect to be made by an American studio back then. And it wasn't. It was produced by the Brits. Here's a 1962 movie that accepts an interracial couple at face value; skin color is never a key factor in it, for better and for worse (depending on your POV). And oh, by the way, during the course of this evening, a few jazz legends pass through, like Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck, notably. The film is actually part of a 4-disc pack of crime dramas from Criterion Collection titled Basil Dearden's London Underground. It includes Sapphire (1959) – investigations into the murder of a young blonde woman named Sapphire, reveal that she was actually a black woman passing for white. Needless to say, Dearden didn't shy away from challenging material.
Raoul Peck's Lumumba (2000) – This was actually my intro to Peck's work as a filmmaker; although he'd been making films since the early 1980s, this was really his first international hit. And a solid film it is with Eriq Ebouaney playing the title character – Patrice Lumumba, in the period just before and after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) achieved independence from Belgium in June 1960. The plot is based on the final months of Lumumba's life, as the first Prime Minister of the Congo, whose tenure in office lasted just two months until he was driven from office, and eventually murdered (I don't think I'm spoiling anything there). So it's not a full biopic on the man's life, but what's here is riveting enough, and well directed that it will hopefully inspire you to want to learn more about him after you watch the film. The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, and played the festival circuit, to be later released commercially in parts of Europe (including Belgium, France, Switzerland), and the United States, and Canada. The film grossed $684,000 in the United States.
Trouble The Water (2008) – It was just about 3 weeks ago that we remembered Hurricane Katrina storming ashore in southeast Louisiana, killing 1800 people, destroying homes, as 100,000s were forced to flee. Tia Lessin's & Carl Deal's Academy Award-nominated 2008 documentary, Trouble The Water, is a powerful film that won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance 2008. 2 weeks after Hurricane Katrina landed, New York filmmakers Lessin and Deal flew to Louisiana to make a film about soldiers returning from Iraq who had become homeless, but the National Guard refused the filmmakers access. Just when they were ready to disband their crew, Kim and Scott Roberts, streetwise and indomitable NOLA residents, introduced themselves. Kim had bought a camcorder the day before the hurricane and, using it for the first time, captured the devastation and its pathetic aftermath, including the selfless rescue of neighbors and the appalling failure of government. The Robertses and their story form the dramatic core of Trouble the Water. It's easily one of the better Katrina documentaries on the market – raw and immediate – and it's streaming on Netflix, so you're clicks away from watching it.
Off and Running (2009) – Nicole Opper's documentary is a fascinating story of an adopted African American teen raised by lesbian Jewish parents in Brooklyn. The 75-minute film centers on Avery, a typical Brooklyn teen, living in an atypical, United Nations-style melting pot. Her adoptive parents are white Jewish lesbians, her younger brother is Korean, her older brother is mixed-race, and she is black. Though her household is loving, she can't quite quell her curiosity about her biological African American roots. The decision to contact her birth mother sparks a complicated exploration of race and identity. As Avery's self-awareness increases, the question of racial identity takes center-stage. The more she searches for answers about her biological family, the more emotionally charged and distant from her current family she becomes. She maintains her position on the school track team, but drops out of high school and eventually leaves home. Avery's constant displacement – whether it was at her Jewish elementary school, or among black friends, or even at home – informs her difficult journey, objectively documented by director Nicole Opper. The film made my list of top films in 2010, the year it was finally commercially released.
Top Boy (2011) – Strong audience response, and critical acclaim to the Ashley Walters 4-part drama/thriller titled Top Boy, encouraged the UK's Channel 4 to order a second season. And like season 1, season 2 will also comprise of 4 episodes. The first 4 already aired in the UK, and, from a few reactions some of our UK readers sent to me, it's a solid, solid piece of work, though its familiar *urban* themes of drugs, gangs and violence (but in a different setting) may turn off some Stateside, others said. There have also been comparisons made to The Wire, as they question Top Boy's *positive* and/or *negative* messages about black youth, as well as the authenticity of its representations (similar questions The Wire faced – a combo of the "burden of representation" and "the danger of the single story"). The point of it all being that these topics we constantly debate here in the USA aren't strictly black American concerns. I actually haven't had a chance to check out the series yet, but I will on enough. Written by screenwriter and novelist Ronan Bennett, and directed by Yann Demange, Top Boy is said to be based on first-hand extensive research by Bennett, who met with and interviewed local kids, who gave candid accounts of drug and gang culture life on the estates.
That's it for this week… I'll be back with another five next week.
Below is the trailer for All Night Long: