Newflix is our weekly look at notable new titles available on online streaming sites.
Directed by Celine Sciamma
Free for Netflix subscribers on Netflix
There’s a scene in Girlhood that’s stuck with me. All four members of the movie’s eponymous girl gang (what Bande Des Filles, the movie’s original French title, more accurately translates to in English) have rented a hotel room together for the night, determined to escape their “real” lives, which include abusive families, violent brawls with other teen gangs, and boy troubles. One by one, they prance in front of each other wearing dresses they’ve just “bought”—replete with tags and security devices—complimenting and lovingly mocking one another. Once each is satisfied with her look, they don’t go to a party or a club. Instead, they turn on Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” and begin passionately lip syncing and dancing joyously with each other. Director Celine Sciamma bathes them in warm blue light and doesn't cut away until the song ends and the girls have hugged, giggled, and collapsed in a heap on the bed. It’s one of the only moments of pure happiness that Sciamma allows her 16-year-old main character, Marieme (fantastic newcomer Karidja Toure); things get much bleaker for her from here on out. And the scene is a perfect example of how Sciamma doesn’t minimize or overplay the experience of growing up, of becoming yourself—topics that, in many a director’s hands, feel patronizing or overwrought. Instead, she fills her film with authentic and surprising moments like this, scenes that, taken as a whole, paint a convincing and painful picture of what it’s like to come of age female, black, and determined to flourish in a world that’s just as determined to make sure you don’t.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Free for Netflix subscribers starting May 22
I saw Inglourious Basterds for the first time in an appropriately Tarantino-esque setting: In a theater in my primarily Jewish town, surrounded, inexplicably and almost entirely, by people speaking German to each other. It was the funny and ironic cherry on top of the movie, of the experience of being a Jewish girl watching a group of movie stars plot to kill Hitler. It’s tricky business, making (relative) light of the Holocaust; I remember holding my breath for the first half hour or so, wondering if I’d be moved to walk out of the film in a fury (something I did feel years later, during a screening of Django Unchained). But I loved the shit out of Basterds then and still do now. It’s pitch-perfect, cutting satire, at certain times moving and stunningly wrought, at others disturbing and invasive. But it’s almost always cathartic. I could watch that balletic final sequence—“Oui, Shosanna”—on loop. Basically, I fell in love with QT for the Pulp Fiction, but stayed with him for the Basterds.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Free for Netflix subscribers starting May 23
I have yet to see The Boxtrolls—I know, I know, I’m on it—so let’s turn to our trusty Tasha Robinson, who gave the film four stars and an Essential Viewing tag. Tasha called Boxtrolls “whimsical and idiosyncratic,” a wholly original film that put its studio, Laika, on par with Aardman Animations in its ability to turn out “projects with a distinctive flavor, but even moreso, with a Selick-esque ambition and attention to physical craft that remains astonishing in a digital age.” Inspired by Alan Snow’s children’s book Here Be Monsters!, Boxtrolls centers on a community of, well, boxtrolls, harmless tinkerers who live beneath a Victorian village called Cheesebridge and spend their days scavenging broken machinery from their aboveground neighbors. The film kicks off as one of the trolls, Fish, steals a human baby, who ends up growing up alongside his scavenging brethren, and, eventually, having to set out on a rescue mission for his foster father. Tasha noted that Boxtrolls is “smarter than most kid films about getting a message across without preaching,” but still perfectly appropriate for the younger crowd, a “beautiful artbox dream” that will delight both you and your own human children (or boxtrolls).
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Free for Amazon Prime subscribers on Amazon
The Spectacular Now was one of 2013’s biggest surprises: a teen love story that felt open-hearted and lived-in, that (for the most part) evaded cliche and easy answers. That’s primarily thanks to fantastic performances from its pair of leads: Shailene Woodley as Aimee, a sweet and vulnerable girl who’s never been kissed, and Miles Teller as Sutter, a smooth-talking, cocky kid who's skated by on his considerable charm and with the help of several Big Gulps spiked with booze. The two fall for each other carefully and slowly, the audience holding its breath the whole time, just waiting for Sutter to smash Aimee's raw, exposed heart. When things do go awry, the scene marks one of the movie’s only weaknesses (it’s predictable and more than a little manipulative); the ending, though, makes up for the misstep. Mostly, the film is an unapologetically earnest look at young love, at its pure joys and pitfalls, and a standout in a genre currently overrun with bullshit.
Also new to streaming:
Keira Knightley doesn’t act her age in Laggies (Amazon Prime)…Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei have an age-inappropriate relaysh in In The Bedroom (Netflix)…You’re never to old to learn the whole Internet thing in Cyber-Seniors (Netflix)…Some fucked-up shit goes down in Cheap Thrills (Amazon Prime)…Cry forever after watching The English Patient ($2.99 to rent on Amazon)…Martin Scorsese gets particularly fantastical with Hugo (Amazon Prime)…We’ve finally got access to Area 51 ($3.99 to rent on Amazon)…Get tangled up in The Double Life Of Veronique (Fandor)…Ready for a taste of Chocolate City? ($3.99 to rent on Amazon)…Things don’t go well for a Russian dude named Kolya in Leviathan ($3.99 to rent on Amazon)…