Ah, the week of August 6th through 12th, the glory days of film-streaming in our new economy that is working out terrifically. What have you got for me, corporate overlords?
Netflix is very proud, I assume, to announce its quadruple punch of Black Site Delta, Diary of an Exorcist – Zero, Naked, and White Gold, which sounds like a terrible, kind of sticky evening at a Manhattan cinemateque circa 1977. The presence of Cam Gigandot, Marlon Wayans, and a production company called Life’s A Blitch don’t exactly bolster the respectability, either, but hey! Who’s judging, sight unseen? Perhaps they are all wonderful. You can find out.
Not to be deterred, HBO busted out with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and literally nothing else. That is absolutely a film that exists and can be watched.
Hulu, uncowed by the intensity of these offerings, did their part this week for the cultural zeitgeist: Mosquito, a film in which a group of “lone survivors … band together in a fight for survival as the mosquitoes continue their onslaught,” and Tall Men, where “[A] challenged man is stalked by tall phantoms in business suits after he purchases a car with a mysterious black credit card.” Interestingly, Jonathan Holbrook, the director of Tall Men, also made 2004’s Customer 152, which is summarized by IMDB as a story about “[A] challenged man … stalked by tall phantoms in business suits after he buys the car of his dreams with a mysterious black credit card.” Neat. Hulu means business this week.
(A still from both Tall Men and Customer 152, presumably, but not Little Man)
Amazon Prime, apparently seeking to prove a point, offers literally nothing new on the film front.
What a time to be alive.
Instead of these “black sites delta” and “tall men” and “Marlon Wayans,” here are some other suggestions for your weekend.
Watch Home Movies Of Yourself
A fascinating PBS interview explores the world of home videos, the ways in which our self-representation tells “the essential story of the 20th century … the composite story made from identical events shown slightly differently.”
So why not skip streaming entirely and watch yourself on the silver screen?
I have several good films to view on this score, including My Girlfriend Plays Hockey and I Didn’t Know I Was Recording, But Here’s What BART Sounds Like I Guess.
Jackass, A Rhapsody
Filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya is easily my favorite creator of video essays, and his ode to the post-punk transgressions of Jackass might be his best work to date.
While friend-of-the-site Liz Lerner maintains that valorizing Jackass is wrong-headed — that the masculinity on display is a cop-out and the whole thing should be filed alongside South Park in the category of “things that are not funny no matter how you rationalize it” — I relate strongly to this video. In fact, particular clips made me laugh so hard I risked waking up the neighbors, like some sort of nut-shot enthusiast version of Bryan Adams.
Speaking of Scouts, this video of Scout Niblett cavorting with Will Oldham is everything you need, if what you need includes false teeth, harmonies, and Will Oldham shaking his warbling booty. It’s probably better than Tall Men.
OpenCulture is one of the great treasure troves of internet cinephilia, and you could lose hours just reading through its table of contents. (And that’s just the movies! Feel free to also listen to 20th c. poets read their works, study syllabi, and learn a new language while you’re at it.)
Fear and Desire is a standout. Kubrick despised his own film and wanted to burn all the prints so we wouldn’t be subjected to it. Kubrick was wrong! It’s a pretty gripping bit of existentialist war cinema, with a captivating Paul Mazursky sweating through the role. I wrote about it here, and you can watch it here.
None of which is to say there aren’t worthwhile things in the digital stacks. The Incredible Jessica Jones is on Netflix and it’s fitfully funny, if you like cringing. Hulu has the under-loved Ali, and Shudder added Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, a film I watched too many times in college and which might make a good primer for his upcoming mother! (Oh, that trailer.) Finally, Shane Carruth’s Primer is a really good movie and would make a great end to this sentence, but unfortunately that’s not streaming anywhere as far as I can tell.
In conclusion, I’m starting to hate this column.