‘Ride the Eagle’, ‘Bergman Island’ and more streaming gems
A few other 2021 gems find their way to the forefront of this month’s out-of-the-box streaming recommendations, along with a pair of charming and personal documentary portraits and a bombastic retelling of an urgent and timely historical story.
“Ride the Eagle” (2021)
Stream it on Hulu.
Jake Johnson’s shaggy dog charms get a prime showcase in this heartwarming, winning indie dramedy — and that should come as no surprise, since Johnson co-wrote the screenplay with director Trent O’Donnell. Johnson plays Leif, a 30-something slacker whose mother (Susan Sarandon) abandoned him when he was 12 to join a cult. She dies, leaving him her cabin near Yosemite as part of a “conditional inheritance”, for which he must complete a list of tasks intended to get him back on track. The modest but rewarding storyline plays to each actor’s strengths, taking advantage of Sarandon’s maddening energy, D’Arcy Carden’s sharp comedic timing (as Leif’s ex-girlfriend), and JK’s cantankerous warmth. Simmons (as Mom’s ex-boyfriend). Lessons are learned, inevitably, but O’Donnell manages to muster seriousness and sincerity without losing any edge or humor.
This YA-tinged “time-bounce” dramedy name checks out its most famous narrative ancestor, “Groundhog Day,” pretty early on, but it has more in common with “Palm Springs,” another film that merged the era gimmick buckles with the conventions of the boy-meets-girl romantic comedy. In this case, high schooler Mark (Kyle Allen) discovers that his classmate Margaret (Kathryn Newton) is also stuck repeating the same day over and over again, so they join together to break the pattern or, at the very least, have a good time together while trying. Newton and Allen generate considerable chemistry, while Lev Grossman’s screenplay thoughtfully delves into the complex philosophical questions that make these stories so compelling.
“Bergman Island” (2021)
Stream it on Hulu.
“I don’t like it when artists I like don’t perform so well in real life.” So notes Chris (Vicky Krieps), a filmmaker, married to another (Tim Roth); they take a working holiday on the island of Faro, where their common hero Ingmar Bergman lived and made his films. It’s a conundrum that interests writer and director Mia Hansen-Love, who uses Chris’ journey to ask perpetually pointed questions about the separation of art and artists. But Hansen-Love’s film is also romantic and playful, especially in its second half, when we get a glimpse of the deeply personal script Chris crafts during the trip. Krieps and Roth have their characters and their prickly dynamics in full control, as the two love, stimulate and annoy each other at the same time.
We are so emotionally and psychologically done with the Covid-19 pandemic that it is tempting to dismiss art that meaningfully deals with it. But this gripping documentary from director Nanfu Wang reminds us of the horrific tactical and political mistakes of the early days of the pandemic and almost begs us to learn from them. Working from Wuhan, the initial flashpoint of the outbreak, Wang is gathering surveillance videos, secret recordings inside hospitals, news clips and official government images to check not only the spread of the virus, but the spread of misinformation around it. Exhausting and often harrowing, it’s a non-fiction film that’s pitched and paced like a white-knuckle thriller.
‘137 shots’ (2021)
Stream it on Netflix.
In Cleveland in November 2012, a police car chase of more than 60 people ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds to kill Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were unarmed. Michael Milano’s gripping documentary not only investigates the night in question (via powerfully intercut testimony, dashcam footage and expert witnesses), but also the department’s attempt to cover up its mistakes as part of the powder keg story. of the city’s racial inequality and model of “unreasonable”. and unnecessary use of force” by his police. Milano continues to peel back layers of prejudice and corruption before retreating into the near-simultaneous murder of Tamir Rice, which ultimately is much more than the story he sets out to tell; it becomes less of a true-crime documentary and more of an in-depth exploration of the psychic divide that has split this country in two.
Post it on Amazon.
In one of the most notorious (documented) events of police brutality of the 1960s, known as the Algiers Motel Incident, a riot task force, which included state police and National Guardsmen of Detroit and Michigan, interrogated, tortured and murdered several black men during the 1967 Detroit 12th Street Riot. — is a hard-to-watch film, detailing these officers’ horrific tactics in heartbreaking detail. But it’s rare to see a major Hollywood production (let alone one from a white filmmaker) willing to address these issues with such unwavering clarity.
Five movies to watch this winter
‘The B Side: The Portrait Photography of Elsa Dorfman’ (2017)
Stream it on Netflix.
Errol Morris’ documentaries tend to delve into serious subjects like crime (“The Thin Blue Line”), politics (“The Fog of War”) and their intersections (“Standard Operating Procedure”). But he has a lighter side, best glimpsed in this short, modest and charming bio-doc from his friend and neighbor, photographer Elsa Dorfman. His medium is unusual – large-scale, oversized portraits – but his camera captures detail that standard photography fails to capture. And Morris draws a clear line between his work and his own, which has always focused on the small details that tell a bigger story.
“Introducing Princess Shaw” (2015)
Stream it on HBO Max.
Samantha Montgomery works as a nurse by day, earning an unglamorous life for meager pay. But by night, she becomes a superstar – an a cappella singer whose YouTube videos are emotionally overwhelming. Ido Haar’s documentary is, at first glance, the story of the discovery of this miraculous but little-known talent by Ophir Kutiel, alias Kutiman, a composer and producer who gives him a deserved place. But underneath, it’s a film about the eternal artistic spirit and how so many gifted dreamers are just a click away from the chance to shine.