A feature I started about 4 months ago; I thought I’d be able to do it weekly, but, lately, it’s been more like monthly.
Recapping the idea… 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.
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.
And without further ado, here are this week’s 5:
1 – Everyday Black Man (2010) – Directed by Carmen Madden. A rare role as a “villain” for Omari Hardwick. A man who made the choice to walk away from violence must make a difficult decision in order to protect both his daughter and their quiet community in this intense family drama. The owner of a modest grocery store, Moses (Henry Brown) is dedicated to his community, and to watching over his young daughter Claire (Tessa Thompson), who isn’t aware that he is her biological father. Up to this point, Moses had been content posing as a family friend and watching Claire grow up from afar. But when charismatic Muslim leader Yusef (Omari Hardwick) makes Moses an offer he can’t refuse, the conflicted father must weigh his ambitions as a businessman against his growing devotion to his family and neighbors. It’s actually a fairly solid indie drama, although the ending left me wanting.
2 – Body and Soul (1981) – written by and starring Leon Isaac Kennedy, and co-starring his then-wife Jayne Kennedy, directed by George Bowers. It’s a remake of the 1947 film of the same name. Leon is studying to become a doctor, and boxes for fun. But when his younger sister needs expensive medical treatments immediately, Leon decides to put aside his medical studies and go after the boxing title for the prize money. Leon becomes the champ, and by indulging in all of the shallow temptations that come with his sucess, he alienates everyone he loves and loses much that he once cared about. Eventually he realizes his mistakes and hopes to redeem himself. I haven’t seen the original 1947 movie, but from what I’ve been told by those who’ve seen both, the 1947 version (which starred white actors by the way) was superior. But I thought this 1981 version was engaging enough for what it was, just post-blaxploitation. Plus, it’s not often that we get films about black fighters. Oh yeah, Muhammad Ali makes a cameo.
3 – Born In Flames (1983) – The docu-style fictional feminist movie by Lizzie Borden, which explores racism, classism, sexism and more in an alternative socialist democracy USA. Set ten years after a revolution in the United States that saw a socialist government gain power, the film presents a dystopia in which the issues of many progressive groups – minorities, liberals, gay rights organizations, feminists – are dealt with by the government, and yet there are still problems with jobs, with gender issues, with governmental preference and violence. In response, a group of women decide to organize and mobilize, to take the revolution farther. It’s regarded as the film that ushered in a new “Queer Cinema,” with a cast that includes a very young Kathryn Bigelow!
4 – I Am Slave (2010) – Directed by Gabriel Range, starring Wunmi Mosaku, Isaach De Bankolé, and Nonso Anozie in a small but crucial part early in his career. Malia (Wunmi Mosaku) comes from a proud Sudanese family, and her father Bah (Isaach De Bankole) is a powerful tribal leader in their community. But none of that means much when Malia is captured with a number of other young women in a raid on their village by mujahideen soldiers. Malia is shipped off to Khartoum, where she’s sold to an Arab family that abuses her, physically, sexually and psychologically, essentially using her as a slave. After several years, she’s sent to London to work for a relative of the Arab family, but her misfortune remains the same, although less abusive. Until one day when Malia decides to fight for her freedom. Despite the tough subject matter, it’s actually a rather quiet, contemplative drama. Well acted, and photographed. It’s based on the life of Mende Nazer, a British author, human rights activist and a former slave in Sudan.
5 – Bilal’s Stand (2010) – The indie drama from Sultan Sharrief centers on Bilal, an upright black Muslim teen, who works at his family’s taxi stand in Detroit, Michigan. “The Stand,” as they affectionately call it, has been the family’s social and financial hub for the past 60 years, and Bilal is in line to carry the torch. But Bilal, who burns the midnight oil to keep up both the family business and his grades, develops a secret life designed to enable him to attend a top university. When his two lives collide, Bilal is forced to decide between keeping The Stand alive – and living the only life he has ever known – or taking a shot at social mobility. The film, which is based on a true story, isn’t Mooz-Lum (Qasim Basir’s film that’ll come a year later); but don’t be surprised if you find yourself making comparisons here and there. Acting and production design are uneven (as I recall, he used non-professional actors in some roles, and it was a low-budget work), but there’s a breeziness and poignancy to it that I found charming.