Netflix may get most of the attention, but it’s hardly a one-stop shop for cinephiles looking to stream essential classic and contemporary films. Each of the prominent streaming platforms caters to its own niche of film obsessives.
From the outré fare of OVID.tv to the boundless wonders of the Criterion Channel and the new frontiers of streaming offered by the likes of Disney+ and HBO Max, IndieWire’s monthly guide highlights the best of what’s coming to every major streamer, with an eye toward exclusive titles that may help readers decide which of these services is right for them.
Here is your guide for October 2021.
“The Velvet Underground” (dir. Todd Haynes, 2021)
Hypnotically vibrating in the fuzzy black space between a very special episode of “Behind the Music” and the longest film that Stan Brakhage never made, Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground” is a documentary (his first) by a man whose previous musical tributes include a glam-rock fantasia that gave David Bowie the “Citizen Kane” treatment, a “Mishima”-esque kaleidoscope that refracted Bob Dylan through the infinity mirror of his own myth, and an underground Karen Carpenter biopic that cast the late singer as a literal Barbie doll.
Haynes is less interested in reinterpreting the Velvets than he is in remembering them. And not just them, but also remembering the perfect catalyst of creative energies and tore it asunder before most of the world even began to recognize what it meant.
The historical fact of their transgressive greatness has been distilled/immortalized/done to death by t-shirts, dorm-room décor, The Strokes, et al., but Haynes also captures the specific texture of the creative freedom that conjured the Velvets from the heteronormative safety of “Mad Men”-era New York.
Just when you thought you’d rather watch all eight hours of “Empire” for the second time than ever sit through another documentary about Andy Warhol, this lucid history sparks a new appreciation of what his factory made possible.
Available to stream October 15.
“Jennifer’s Body” (dir. Karyn Kusama, 2009)
The Criterion Channel is celebrating Halloween with a can’t-miss series of Universal Horror classics (because it isn’t spooky season until Boris Karloff says it’s spooky season) and a spine-tingling collection of home invasion classics that all seem that much scarier after spending so much of the pandemic with nowhere else to go — picks in that surprisingly varied retro range from obvious go-tos like “Funny Games” and “Black Christmas” to out-of-the-box selections like Nagisa Oshima’s “Violence at Noon.”
“Jennifer’s Body” doesn’t fit into either program, but there’s a growing cult of horror fans who will be over the moon to see Karyn Kusama’s savage teen satire inch closer to canonization.
As usual, however, the most frightening thing about the Channel’s massive slate of new additions is that you probably won’t have time to watch them all. You could spend the entire month on the Channel’s epic series of Kirk Douglas movies alone (which programs favorites like “Ace in the Hole” and “The Bad and the Beautiful” alongside lesser-known deep cuts like 1968’s “The Brotherhood”). Ditto the even larger package devoted to the True Crime genre, which runs the gamut from Fritz Lang’s “M” to Denis Villeneuve’s “Polytechnique” and leaves traces of blood on all sorts of far-flung places in between.
If you feel unclean after all that murder and need some help washing the grime out from under your fingernails, the Channel has your back with a foursome of Ernst Lubitsch musicals capable of cocooning you away from the world’s darkness.
But anyone who doesn’t mind a little indecency can’t afford to miss the six-film retro celebrating the overlooked exploitation icon Doris Wishman, whose softcore dirties and subversive profiles of human sexuality offer an uncensored glimpse at the underbelly of ’60s and ’70s American cinema. And we haven’t even gotten to Edgar Wright’s “Adventures in Moviegoing” series — highlighted by seasonally appropriate films like “Blood and Black Lace” and “Don’t Look Now” — or the packages devoted to Cicely Tyson and Wayne Wang, among others. See you in November.
Available to stream October 1.
– “Ace in the Hole” (10/1)
– “Don’t Look Now” (10/1)
– “Violence at Noon” (10/1)
“Rookie of the Year” (dir. Daniel Stern, 1993)
Disney+’s October lineup of library titles is predictably light, but I have some good news for anyone who pines for the days when major studios made live-action family movies about little league pitchers whose broken arms allow them to throw supersonic fastballs and lead the Cubs to the World Series: “Rookie of the Year” will be available to stream just in time for the end of the MLB postseason. Did anyone else not realize that this masterpiece was directed by Daniel Stern!? The Wet Bandits did well for themselves, after all.
Available to stream October 22.
“My Little Sister” (dirs. Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, 2020)
The great German actress Nina Hoss is naturally associated with Christian Petzold (who’s directed her in the fantastic likes of “Phoenix” and “Barbara”), but too closely associating her with only one filmmaker risks overlooking so much of her best work. For proof, look no further than Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond’s sharp yet tender “My Little Sister,” in which Hoss plays a woman tasked with caring for her twin brother Sven — a high-profile stage actor — in the aftermath of his leukemia diagnosis.
As IndieWire’s Kate Erbland wrote in her glowing review of the film: “Hoss’ growing grief as Lisa is palpable but never over the top, as she becomes the character most keenly attuned to the possibility that Sven really might not survive and that she must still find a way to move forward with her life, even as the worst possible thing lingers in every moment. Even in moments when Lisa is expected to explode in the most cliched of ways — moments in which yelling, screaming, crying, and falling down sobbing are all part of the cinematic language of the ‘cancer drama’ — Hoss opts for the more restrained, more refined choice. The result is a movie that’s miles more powerful, and far more real than so many others of its ilk.”
Available to stream on October 15.
– “When the Trees Fall” (10/1)
– “Luis Buñuel’s Robinson Crusoe” (10/22)
– “An American Satan” (10/29)
“Dune” (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2021)
While this column ostensibly exists to highlight the best movies new to various platforms each month, one of its main functions is to underscore what differentiates them all from each other; when a movie as immense as “Dune” is streaming exclusively on HBO Max, for example, overlooking the arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s spice opera just because the author of this column was disappointed by it would seem a disservice to our readers.
A better reason to ignore it would be that “Dune” is also opening in theaters, where — for all of its flaws — this monolithic spectacle truly demands to be seen. Sorry to say it, but Oscar Isaac shouting “desert power!” every five minutes just won’t hit the same on your TV. The sand worms are big, it’s the screens that got small.
Available to stream October 22.
– “Pariah” (10/1)
– “In the Line of Fire” (10/15)
– “Point Break” (10/15)
“Force Majeure” (Ruben Östlund, 2014)
Ruben Östlund’s withering “Force Majeure” is still as potent and cringe-worthy as ever — and for some married men of a certain age, it might even be the scariest thing you could watch this Halloween. Here’s what IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt had to say about the film when it ranked on our list of the last decade’s best films:
“In a decade that flayed white male insecurity in public, Ruben Östlund’s wickedly hilarious study of masculinity in crisis took a natural place as one of the definitive comedies of our time. Right from this film’s famous inciting incident – in which a dad named Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) instinctively abandons his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and their two children during a false-alarm avalanche at a ski resort — the upper-middle class family’s comfortable existence is upended forever.
Nested inside perverse Kubrickian long takes, Östlund’s shrewd choreography and cringe-worthy situations heralded the arrival of a major cinematic storyteller who isn’t afraid to dig his characters into such deep holes that they have no choice but to try and tunnel out on their own. Each scene of this film shovels further and further into unsettling truth that Tomas’ reaction was not simply an isolated primal act, but something far more primal and perverse. The result is an unholy buffet of squirm-inducing humor, but one that’s built atop a dark reservoir of real empathy. Östlund takes seriously the escalating trap the family finds themselves in, and it’s the way that Ebba is forced to rebalance the gender equation that makes ‘Force Majeure’ one of the most profound and unflinching examinations of masculinity this decade.”
Available to stream October 26.
– “Beyond the Black Rainbow” (10/12)
– “Person to Person” (10/26)
– “Take This Waltz” (10/26)
“There Is No Evil” (dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020)
A victim of bad timing, Mohammad Rasoulof’s “There Is No Evil” seemed poised to be one of 2020’s most talked-about movies after it won the Berlinale on February 29 of that year, but shortly after that well-deserved victory something happened that stunted the film’s momentum and impacted arthouse cinemas around the world (I can’t remember exactly what).
After a brief theatrical release this past spring, Rasoulof’s sprawling anthology — comprising four wildly different stories about military executions as they grapple with their morbid duty — will finally receive the platform it deserves when MUBI premieres it towards the end of October.
As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote in his passionate review of the film: “Rasoulof, who has been barred from leaving his country since 2017, has made an absorbing ride defined by the paradoxes of its people. Nobody in ‘There Is No Evil’ has it easy: There’s no simple moral code when every possible option leads to a point of no return. From a dreary opening passage, the film mutates into a riveting thriller, takes a sharp turn into romance, and winds up with a family drama that brings all the individual components together for a poignant open-ended finale. Along the way, Rasoulof deploys an inspired tonal uncertainty, as each chapter involves a new angle on the emotional stakes at hand. The scope of the storytelling combines ‘Pulp Fiction’ energy with the structural playfulness of Rasoulof’s fellow Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, but radiates with a narrative urgency all its own.”
Available to stream October 29.
– “Vitalina Varela” (10/8)
– “PVT Chat” (10/23)
– “In My Room” (10/24)
“Malcolm X” (dir. Spike Lee, 1992)
As IndieWire’s Christian Blauvelt put it when picking “Malcolm X” as the best movie new to Netflix this month:
“Only Spike Lee could have made this sprawling, 201-minute biopic about Malcolm X. And some of his images have the power of fable: the giant full-moon hanging like the Death Star in the sky when Klansmen burn Malcolm’s family home; the brilliant colors and peacocking zoot suits worn at Boston’s Roseland ballroom (the best Lindy-hopping sequence put on film since the 1930s); the purifying desert wind around the Kaaba. ‘Malcolm X’ is a great movie — and more.”
The “more” of it all could mean a great many things, but in the build-up to the forthcoming release of Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” — in which Washington delivers yet another towering, nuanced performer as a doomed historical figure — “Malcolm X” is also the perfect way to steel yourself for another showcase for one of our greatest and most enduring actors.
Available to stream October 1.
– “Titanic” (10/1)
– “Zodiac” (10/1)
– “The Holiday” (10/1)
“La Navire Night” (dir. Marguerite Duras, 1979)
This critic has never had the chance to see “Le Navire Night,” but Icarus Films’ brand-new 2K restoration offers the perfect opportunity to explore Marguerite Duras’ adaptation of her own novella, a story that she produced as a written text, a play, and a film all in the span of just 10 months. Even the boilerplate description that OVID provided might be enough to entice you into a subscription.
With “Le Navire Night,” writer and filmmaker Marguerite Duras explores the matrix of love, desire and language in her characteristically oblique and experimental style. The film’s lovers—played by Dominique Sanda and Mathieu Carrière—are never allowed to meet in person, instead carrying out their conversations over the phone, using unlisted phone lines leftover from the German occupation of Paris. Elliptical sequences play out in empty streets, nocturnal cityscapes and shadowy interiors, linked together only by the spectral presence of the character’s voices.
Available to stream October 29.
– “Beauty in Trouble” (10/8)
– “The Juche Idea” (10/26)
– “Ziyara” (10/26)
“Wanderlust” (dir. David Wain, 2012)
The thing that most people don’t realize about David Wain’s unsung masterpiece — a zany and demented riff on every “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay ever written — is that John Belson is a creature of the Beltway! And he has been from the start! That blows my mind every time.
Available to stream October 16.
– “Die Hard” (10/1)
– “Atonement” (10/1)
“Nosferatu the Vampyre” (dir. Werner Herzog, 1979)
October is truly Shudder’s month to shine, although the horror-focused streamer goes so hard every month that it’s a wonder it still has a fresh batch of genre classics to bust out come Halloween. This year, Shudder has prepared a smattering of original films (toplined by the uneven anthology “V/H/S ’94”) along with a delightful grabbag of library titles that range from Blaxploitation classics (“Blacula”), John Carpenter favorites (“Escape from New York”), and even a freaky tale about… corn children (“Children of the Corn”).
But none of Shudder’s new additions has quite the same bite as Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre,” a beautiful gothic freakout that not only pays homage to F.W. Murnau’s genre-defining classic, but also features a deranged Klaus Kinski performance that goes toe-to-toe (fang-to-fang?) with Max Schreck’s immortal Count Orlok.
Available to stream October 11.
– “Blacula” (10/1)
– “Escape from New York” (10/1)
– “V/H/S ’94” (10/6)
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