November is a huge month for Netflix, as the streaming giant is finally set to unleash some of the biggest titles in their history. Brace yourself for new films by Alice Rohrwacher (!), the Coen brothers (!!!), and… Orson Welles (!?!?!). Confused about that last one? Well, Netflix is simultaneously launching a new documentary from “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” director Morgan Neville that will lay it all out for you, and make sense of why “The Other Side of the Wind” is seeing the light of day more than 40 years since it was shot. Another highlight from this month’s slate of Netflix Originals is Daniel Goldhaber’s “Cam,” a Lynchian dollop of psychological horror about a cam girl who just can’t bring herself to log off. And while Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” is waiting in the wings until December, you’ll be able to revisit the director’s masterpiece in the meantime, as “Children of Men” is now available as a glorious appetizer.
Here are the seven best movies new to stream in November 2018.
7. “Cloverfield” (2008)
“Cloverfield” arrived rather early into J.J. Abrams’ Hollywood takeover, but none of his other projects — either before or since — have so perfectly embodied his strengths as a showman. Beginning with a surprise trailer before “Transformers,” Abrams’ greatest mystery box hatched a monster so compelling that we’re still wondering about it today, as the “Cloverfield” name alone proved enough to spawn an ongoing series of spinoffs. Of course, Matt Reeves deserves his own share of credit for directing the thing, the future “Apes” filmmaker tapping into post-9/11 trauma and the rise of digital video to create a found-footage masterpiece that’s resourceful and spectacular in equal measure. Sure, the human characters are kind of dumb, but the monster disposes of them all in due time, leaving behind only pixelated memories and the splash of something shiny in the distance. Shame about the Time Warner Center, though.
Available to stream November 1.
6. “Cam” (2018)
Finally, someone has made a film about the existential horror of getting locked out of your account, and the horror is all too real. Daniel Goldhaber’s “Cam” also touches on a number of other digital crises (e.g. the way in which the internet’s short attention span requires people to constantly reaffirm their own existence), but this clever and unnerving mind-fuck of a movie is at its most effective when tracing the uneasy shadow relationships we share with our online personas.
Played to obsessive perfection by “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Madeline Brewer, and hatched from screenwriter Isa Mazzei’s own camming experience, Alice (who performs as “Lola”) is a successful cam girl on the brink of relative stardom. She’s hellbent on climbing the charts of the popular cam site that dominates her life, and she’ll stop at nothing to get to the top (her favorite ploy for popularity: duping her viewers with grisly and elaborate fake suicides). Alice grows increasingly convinced that a life that’s watched is a life worth living, and every tip she gets from a fan is a reminder that she’s alive. Even before things go totally haywire, you get the sense that she’d sooner die than log off — or that there’s no longer any difference between the two. That’s when she’s replaced by her doppelganger.
It’s one thing to curate some kind of identity on social media — to make ourselves appear more aloof and desirable than we they are in the flesh — but what happens when the projection of who we are begins to subsume the reality? What happens when our avatars take on lives of their own? These are well-trodden ideas that predate social media, but “Cam” lends them new life by making them hyper-literal. As Kurt Vonnegut put it: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” He was writing about Nazi propagandists, but his words also ring true for cam girls who constantly live-stream themselves for chat rooms full of horny strangers.
Available to stream November 16.
5. “Happy as Lazzaro”
A highlight of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro” confirmed the Italian writer-director as a major force in contemporary international cinema, and someone whose dreamy and bucolic dramas have much to say about the world at large. Beyond that, they’re also a consistently incredible showcase for the filmmaker’s sister — Alba Rohrwacher — a force of nature who can will any scene to life. Here’s what IndieWire’s Eric Kohn had to say about the film after its premiere:
“Rohrwacher’s surreal follow-up to her previous Cannes winner ‘The Wonders’ expands on her ongoing study of the way rural life is constantly threatened by urban progress. But this time, she expands on her naturalistic style with a welcome dose of magical realism, following the tale of Lazzaro (extraordinary discovery (Adriano Tardiolo), a peasant who serves an affluent family in the countryside. The life of Lazzaro and his peers seemingly exists out of time, until sudden events send him traveling into a future state where he doesn’t quite belong. A fascinating, poetic statement on the endless march of time, ‘Lazzaro’ fulfills the promise of Rohrwacher’s earlier achievements while cementing her status as one of Italy’s greatest working directors.”
Available to stream November 30.
4. “Good Will Hunting” (1997)
Before Ben Affleck was that awful Batman you were always reading about in the tabloids, and before Matt Damon was “a father of daughters,” they were just two wicked smart kids who met in Boston on their way to becoming Hollywood’s most beloved screenwriting duo. Remember the 1998 Oscars? It’s hard to think of another time when the film industry was so giddy to anoint a new pair of golden boys. And yet — painful as it might be for some to admit — watching “Good Will Hunting” makes it easy to remember why the movie caused such a fuss.
An unassuming drama about an adorable ruffian, his ride-or-die friends, the British girl whose number he gets, the stuffy Harvard professor who realizes that he’s a math genius, and the guru-like therapist who once wasted a perfectly good World Series ticket and still won’t shut up about it, “Good Will Hunting” is the kind of movie that only would could have been made during the glory days of Miramax. And while Harvey Weinstein isn’t the only reason why this film has grown unfashionable in recent years, those who are willing to hold their nose and push through the muck (or at least skip past those shrill opening credits) might be surprised at how well this thing continues to hold up. A largely unclassifiable love story that’s told with real tenderness, full of iconic moments, and rounded out by a wide array of brilliant performances, “Good Will Hunting” might not be the movie that started it all — “School Ties” erasure! — but it’s the movie that made the rest of it happen. For better or worse.
Available to stream November 1.
3. “The Other Side of the Wind” / “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead” (2018)
It would be an understatement to say that Orson Welles never had much luck when it came to exerting final control over his films, but — even after surviving some of the bloodiest studio battles in Hollywood history — he never could’ve imagined what fate had in store for “The Other Side of the Wind.” If stars John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich had gone up to him on the first day of shooting in 1970 and said “Hey Orson, this showbiz satire we’re about to make isn’t gonna see the light of day for more than 40 years, when it will be made available to stream over the internet on Netflix,” Welles probably would have had a few questions. Questions like: “What’s Netflix?” And “What’s streaming?” And “What’s the internet?” And also: “Why the hell did those bastards cancel ‘American Vandal?’”
Of course, distribution was only one of the many problems that plagued this production, which didn’t wrap until 1976, and ran out of money at several different points along the way. But now — well into the future — people can finally watch this fascinating (and often incomprehensible) film about the making of a fascinating (and often incomprehensible) film, putting a period on one of cinema’s most legendary run-on sentences. Not only that, but they can also watch a fascinating (and thoroughly comprehensible) film about the making of the making of Welles’ film within a film, as Netflix is also debuting a new documentary by “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” director Morgan Neville. “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead” is best enjoyed before watching “The Other Side of the Wind” in order to contextualize what you’re about to see, and appreciate the work that went into seeing Welles’ vision to completion.
Available to stream November 2.
When it was first announced that the Coen brothers were making a Western anthology series for Netflix, the news prompted some understandable grousing that the world’s greatest filmmaking duo had abandoned cinema for… something else. Something more scattered, imprecise, and insubstantial. We needn’t have worried. For one thing, the sibling team decided to package the series of vignettes as a single film, a largely semantic change that shifted expectations back to their rightful place and invited viewers to think of these six individual stories as a coherent whole. For another, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is vintage Coen brothers, no matter how you see it.
A hugely enjoyable but relentlessly bleak meditation on the indifference of death, this wonderful sextet of frontier misadventures proves once and for all that the Coens identified with Anton Chigurh more than any of the other characters in “No Country for Old Men.” After kicking off with its title segment — a wacky musical about a sociopathic gunslinger played by Tim Blake Nelson — “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” goes on to introduce us to an eccentric array of ill-fated travelers, including a bandit (James Franco) who robs the wrong bank, a salesman (Liam Neeson) who needs a new product, and a widow (Zoe Kazan) whose dog runs away from a wagon train. Everyone will have their own favorite segments, but when the whole thing closes with a carriage ride across the River Styx, it’s clear that every step of the journey was necessary to reach the final destination.
Available to stream November 16.
1. “Children of Men” (2006)
“Children of Men” arrived in theaters on Christmas Day, 2006, and immediately announced itself as the best and bleakest sci-fi movie of the 21st century. It’s also proven to be the most prescient, anticipating a time when Britain has closed its borders, hateful isolationism has taken root, and xenophobia spores out of walled gardens across the world. If once this story provided a window into a dark possibility, recent events have warped it into a funhouse mirror that reflects our new reality.
Set in a future without a future, Cuarón’s masterpiece immerses us in a grim tomorrow where women have been inexplicably rendered infertile, and society has responded to the crisis by hoarding power, normalizing catastrophe, and dehumanizing the disenfranchised. By the time the film begins, most people have already become so afraid of what’s over the horizon that they no longer have the heart to look at it for themselves. Theo (Clive Owen), a white Londoner with nothing left to lose, is one of them. Kee (the unforgettable and fittingly named Clare-Hope Ashitey), a pregnant refugee, is not. She’s got hope growing inside of her.
And so the stage is set for the rare dystopian movie that has the courage to convey the fragility of modern civilization, as well as our incredible capacity to live in the shadow of imminent disaster. It’s a movie about a world — this world — in which everyone already knows they’re doomed, and the only remaining struggle is what people ought to do with that information. It doesn’t bother tracing the path between infertility and extinction; it simply creates such a vivid state of hopelessness that you can connect the dots for yourself.
Available to stream November 1.