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 June 2021.
“Pinocchio” (dir. Matteo Garrone, 2020)
Some of us may never understand what it is that compels filmmakers towards the story of a creepy wooden puppet who comes to life, but Pinocchio has shown the kind of staying power that stretches way beyond his nose (Robert Zemeckis and Guillermo del Toro are next in line to pull the strings, while Paul Thomas Anderson has circled his own take on the fable the recent past). Maybe it’s the fantasy of willing a creation to life. Maybe auteurs just can’t get enough of Pinocchio’s little pointy hat.
For Italian director Matteo Garrone — here working in the gothic mode he previously dipped into for “Tale of Tales” — it seems to have been a chance to bring the marionette back home to the country where he was first carved. Starring Roberto Benigni as Geppetto (giving him a chance to atone for his own nightmarish “Pinocchio” in 2002), Garrone’s film sees Pinocchio as a pure innocent in a cruel world that doesn’t make any concessions to small children, wooden or otherwise.
As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote in his review: “Garrone takes his cues from Carlo Collodi’s 1883 story collection, while dousing the vignettes in enough kooky practical effects to exploit the nostalgia for 1980s fantasy to its fullest extent. In the process, his enthralling version taps into the creepy, kinky nature of the material, resulting in a film that exhumes the appeal of the original story all over again.”
Available to stream June 11.
– “Burn After Reading”
– “Step Brothers”
THE CRITERION CHANNEL
“Poison” (dir. Todd Haynes, 1991)
The Criterion Channel can always be counted on to deliver an extraordinary lineup for Pride, and the top-class streamer makes very good on that promise once again in 2021. The Channel’s June release slate is highlighted by the fourth edition of its ongoing Queersighted series, for which usual programmer Michael Koresky has been joined by Rolling Stone critic K. Austin Collins to assemble a 10-film cross-section of some of the most taboo-breaking queer cinema ever made.
Standouts from this collection include Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ultra-horny and ever enigmatic “Teorema,” George Cukor’s 1935 “Sylvia Scarlett” (in which Katharine Hepburn cross-dresses in an attempt at social mobility), and Todd Haynes’ magnificent triptych inspired by the novels of Jean Genet, “Poison” (our pick of the month). The Channel is also offering a series dedicated to the films of trailblazers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Dubbed “Pride and Protest,” the retro is naturally anchored by “The Times of Harvey Milk,” but fans out from there to shine a light on a seven other vital works that continue to help combat queer marginalization.
Elsewhere, the Channel is celebrating screwball legend Carole Lombard with an 11-film tribute (including “To Be or Not to Be” and “My Man Godfrey”), devoting an equal amount of space to the serpent-tongued satires of “Bad Spaniard” Luis García Berlanga (“The Executioner” is a must-watch), and showing some love to the brief yet immortal career of Judy Holliday with a seven-film package that spans from “Born Yesterday” in 1950 to “Bells Are Ringing” 10 years later.
“Dear White People” creator Justin Simien is the subject of this month’s edition of the “Adventures in Moviegoing” series (don’t miss his chat with “Zola” director Janicza Bravo), and his selections focus on touchstones of Black cinema such as “Daughters of the Dust,” “To Sleep with Anger,” and “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One.”
That should be more than enough to keep you busy until July, but the Criterion Channel is all about that sweet, sweet range, so why not check out the streaming premiere of Manoel de Oliveira’s obsessive masterpiece “Francisca,” a trio of ’70s classics from John Waters, another chance to check in with regular Channel favorite Robert Downey (you have “No More Excuses” to sleep on “Putney Swope”), a four-part French miniseries starring Mathieu Amalric (“The Middleman”), and an early Bong Joon Ho short for good measure.
Available to stream June 1.
– “The Executioner”
– “To Sleep with Anger”
“Raya and the Last Dragon” (dirs. Carlos López Estrada & Don Hall, 2021)
Disney Plus continues to prefer big splashes over steady drops of new content, as the streamer hopes that subscribers will be too focused on Pixar’s “Luca” and new episodes of “Loki” (those are apparently two different things) to care about the lack of fresh titles from the vault. Some people might be willing to shell out $30 to half-watch “Black Widow” on their couch in between Instagram Stories, but more patient sorts who don’t mind waiting a few months for Premium fare can look forward to being rewarded with free access to “Raya and the Last Dragon,” a fun movie that serves as a fine reminder of what Disney still does better than anyone else.
As IndieWire’s Kate Erbland put it for the film’s theatrical and Premium VOD release in March: “A mythical land, packs of wondrous creatures, a plucky heroine, a mystery to untangle, and an eternal dragon who turns out to be a capricious teenage girl voiced by Awkwafina are tied up into a time-spanning journey that collects all these classic Disney princess story beats into a vivid and emotional epic.”
Available to stream June 4.
“In the Heights” (dir. Jon Chu, 2021)
So exuberant and full of life that it would probably convince you the movies were back even if they hadn’t gone anywhere, “In the Heights” is the kind of electrifying theatrical experience that people have been waxing nostalgic about ever since the pandemic began — the kind that it almost seemed like we might never get to enjoy again. In that sense, Jon M. Chu’s super-glossy adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other Broadway hit lands with equal parts rapture and relief.
Seeing this massive, guileless, heartfelt piece of Hollywood entertainment on the big screen is like coming home after a long year in exile only to find that it’s still there, and maybe even better than you remembered. Seeing it at home on HBO Max… is something you should only do in case of emergency. Forsake the best movie-going experience of the year at your own peril.
And yet, this critic has to admit that “In the Heights” slaps on a screen of any size; it’s a musical with a heart so big that it can almost make your shitty TV feel like an IMAX theater. Almost. Kind of. Not really. But it’s good.
Available to stream June 11.
– “The American President”
– “Eyes Wide Shut”
“Night of the Kings” (dir. Philippe Lacôte, 2020)
Hulu subscribers are in for a robust June streaming lineup as the month’s release slate runs the gamut from genuine American classics (e.g. “The Long Goodbye,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”), more recent gems (“Two of Us,” David Chase’s “Not Fade Away”), and even “Gone Girl” (the perfect way to end a long day of tweeting new Ben Affleck paparazzi shots). Hulu is also about to benefit yet again from its output deal with Neon, as it’s hosting the exclusive streaming premiere of Philippe Lacôte’s 2020 festival hit “Night of the Kings,” a commanding drama set deep inside the bowels of the infamous La MACA prison on the south side of the Ivory Coast.
Observing that male hierarchy are at the center of many prison stories IndieWire’s Ryan Lattanzio writes that few such films are as “visually rapturous as ‘Night of the Kings,’ an intoxicating and immersive experience about the universal power of storytelling and how it can be used as a way to survive.”
Available to stream June 3.
– “The Long Goodbye”
– “Two of Us”
– “Ordinary People”
“The Eyes of My Mother” (dir. Nicolas Pesce, 2016)
Still one of the most shocking and fully formed horror debuts of the last 10 years, Nicolas Pesce’s “The Eyes of My Mother” may not be for the faint of heart, but it’s essential viewing for everyone else. Here’s what IndieWire’s Eric Kohn had to say about the film when it took midnight audiences by surprise back at Sundance 2016:
“Fusing classic horror ingredients with haunting gothic imagery and expressionistic dread, ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ mashes its gorgeous components into a shockingly original tone poem. ‘Loneliness can do strange things to the mind,’ says the mother of young Francisca (Olivia Bond) in the opening moments of writer-director Nicolas Pesce’s striking black-and-white debut. As Francisca grows up in an isolated country house under depraved circumstances, the movie hovers within her mother’s assessment, enacting a nightmarish statement on seclusion with the delicacy of artistic discipline.
Exclusively set on the farm and the adjacent empty road, “The Eyes of My Mother” unfolds over the course of three tense chapters as Francisca matures into a murderous psychopath. But this isn’t your average chronicle of a deranged soul. The pastiche lurks around every corner, including the cheesy horror shows and movies piping into Francisca’s living room from the television set. But the movie reaches well beyond those roots. Equal parts Ingmar Bergman, Tim Burton and Tobe Hooper, ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ suggests ‘Eraserhead’ meets ‘Repulsion’ by way of ‘The Addams Family,’ and yet its story maintains a high degree of unpredictability.”
Available to stream June 1.
– “I Am Not Your Negro”
– “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”
“Shiva Baby” (dir. Emma Seligman, 2020)
MUBI’s stellar and far-reaching June lineup features its fine share of time-tested classics (Alain Resnais’ “Last Year at Marienbad” and Chantal Akerman’s “Letters Home” being at the top of the list), low-flying retro gems (“Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris,” which will be free to stream in celebration of Juneteenth), and fiercely beloved favorites (Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” comes to mind, as it does in so many contexts). But for the purposes of this feature we’d like to call attention to more recent fare, if only to emphasize MUBI’s recent efforts to assert itself as a major distributor of first-run arthouse cinema.
Neither “PVT Chat” — which stars “Uncut Gems” breakout Julia Fox as a cam girl with a lovestruck and desperate new client — nor Emma Seligman’s indie hit “Shiva Baby” were released by MUBI, but they both help to reinforce the idea that the company is poised to become an increasingly vital outlet for some of the most exciting indie and foreign cinema that you may not be able to find anywhere else.
Back to “Shiva Baby,” which stars Rachel Sennott as a Jewish college student who runs into her (extremely married) sugar daddy at a shiva in the suburbs of New York. There will be tsuris. Framing the film as a welcome entry into the growing assortment of films that thread discussions of sex work into mainstream feminist dialogue, Jude Dry writes that “Shiva Baby” is “a sharp-witted dark comedy that blends a claustrophobic Jewish humor with a sexy premise to create debut that bears a likeness to the early work of Joey Soloway and Jennifer Westfeldt.”
Available to stream June 11 in the UK.
– “PVT Chat”
– “Letters Home”
“The Big Lebowski” (dirs. Ethan & Joel Coen, 1998)
The Dude abides.
Available to stream June 1.
– “Tragic Jungle”
– “The Best Man”
– “Killing Them Softly”
“the bomb” (dirs. Kevin Ford, Smriti Keshari, and Eric Schlosser, 2016)
Ovid can always be counted on for some unexpected treats, and the arthouse streamer delivers this June with a mini retrospective devoted to mumblecore trailblazer Aaron Katz (“Quiet City,” “Dance Party, USA”), a divisive offering from Mexican provocateur Carlos Reygadas (“Our Time”), and a remarkable Hany Abu-Assad biopic about a boy from a Gaza Strip refugee camp who grows up to win the Arabic version of “American Idol” (“The Idol”).
But that isn’t the only Palestinian film premiering this month; on a programming note that’s regrettably both topical and evergreen, Ovid is also streaming “5 Broken Cameras,” an essential 2011 documentary set in the West Bank village of Bil’in that chronicles five years of the suffering incurred by a Palestinian farmer and his family.
Also coming to OVID is a special project that is rarely shown in its full horror and awe, but is still worth seeing in the stripped down version that sometimes pops up on streaming platforms. Noting that “the bomb” was originally conceived as an immersive 360-degree live experience, IndieWire’s Steve Greene argues that Kevin Ford, Smriti Keshari, and Eric Schlosser’s singular project maintains its power at home, calling this mesmeric visual history of the nuclear bomb “a staggering look at the world’s most destructive weapon and the lessons of almost eight decades that some still choose to ignore.”
Available to stream June 22.
– “5 Broken Cameras”
– “Dance Party, USA”
– “The Idol”
“The Amusement Park” (dir. George Romero, 1973)
This is shaping up to be a big summer for Shudder, as the horror-focused streamer is looking to keep pace with the Netflixs of the world and release a new original movie each week (the first of which being the mystifying but creepy-as-hell Irish thriller “Caveat”).
Of course, the definition of “original” can be pretty elastic these days, but Shudder subscribers probably aren’t going to complain about how it’s being stretched in this particular case, as the service is set to premiere the “lost” George Romero film “The Amusement Park” 46 years after it fell off the radar. Commissioned by the Lutheran Society in 1973 after the success of “Night of the Living Dead,” this young work centers on an old man who grows disoriented by the apathetic crowds at a theme park one sun-baked afternoon. An hour-long allegory about the horrors of aging in a country that doesn’t give a damn about its elderly population, “The Amusement Park” is as unmoored and purely nightmarish as anything Romero ever made.
Available to stream June 8.
– “An American Werewolf in London”
– “Night of the Living Dead”
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