Streamers: AFS Staffers Recommend Some Streaming Faves
We’ve been using this space on Mondays to ask some of our friends in the film community for some streaming recommendations to share with our audience – many of whom have much more time to spend watching movies at home of late. This time we are doing something a little different. We are turning the camera around on the tripod to face the AFS staff.
So, here from our hard-working, home-bound staff members are some picks for home streaming. Here goes:
Max Benitez, Production Specialist
WE THE ANIMALS -Netflix
2018, Dir. Jeremiah Zagar
Life somehow seems busier than ever so I’m mainly watching dramatic films with brief run times. This film plays like MOONLIGHT’s magical realist cousin.
EN EL SEPTIMA DIA -HBO NOW
2017, Dir. Jim McKay
Watch this film in celebration of food delivery drivers. It was made with non-actors for zero dollars and yet it entertains like a major sports drama.
LITTLE BOXES -Netflix
2017, Dir. Rob Meyer
This dramedy balances brooding and levity (a necessary skill right now). It’s a fish out of water story with some really fine acting and is pretty light.
Chloe Carcamo, Austin Studios Rental Coordinator
ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK – Hulu & Amazon Prime
1988, Dir. James Signorelli
Horror movie hostess Elvira is all curves and sass and takes no guff from anyone. This campy comedy is just what the doctor ordered to take your mind off of daily woes and into the whimsical world of the macabre.
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE – Hulu & Amazon Prime
1969, Dir. Peter R. Hunt
This oft overlooked 007 film deserves a place at the very top of the collection. It reimagines the James Bond formula in a grittier new Hollywood-arthouse style without losing any of its expected thrills and frills.
THE CREMATOR – Criterion Channel
1969, Dir. Juraj Herz
Lean into the boundaries of your discomfort with this film’s uncomfortably dark humor and watch through the fascinatingly fragmented editing as the absurd protagonist is moved along by the forces of history around him.
Gabe Chicoine, Marketing Associate
SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA – Prime
1982, Dir. Osamu Dezaki
This psychedelic sci-fi spectacle follows a freewheeling space pirate with an arm that turns into a gun, who finds himself escorting an incognito princess who is pursued by the evil Crystal Boy, who looks like an Oscar statuette come to life, and is a real jerk. Dazzling moments of inspired animation carry a plot that is, as you might expect for an arcade game adaptation, not substantial. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
GIRLHOOD – Kanopy
2014, Dir. Céline Sciamma
Before her breathtaking breakout PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (which is streaming on Hulu), Celine Sciamma directed this powerful and intimately observed coming-of-age story about a teenager navigating a challenging home life and the precipitous freedoms she discovers when she falls in with a rebellious girl-gang.
MILFORD GRAVES: FULL MANTIS – Prime
2018, Dir. Jake Meginsky
I hope it’s not too tacky to recommend a film that I had a hand in as a co-producer. But as I spend more time cultivating both my backyard garden and my inner world these days, I find myself repeatedly returning to the philosophies of this film’s subject, the great avant-garde jazz drummer and polymath Milford Graves, who has spent a lifetime developing a vast interconnected cosmology of ideas about art, nature, biology, technology and even martial arts. If you’re looking for some new food for thought, FULL MANTIS provides plenty to chew on.
Austin Culp, Director of Marketing
THE TALK OF THE TOWN – The Criterion Channel
1942, Dir. George Stevens
Partly a screwball comedy, partly a political/legal story, I just fell in love with this film. Jean Arthur, Cary Grant, and Ronald Colman star in this film about a fugitive, landlord, and lawyer who wind up in a love triangle. The film makes the lawyer question ethics of the law in a way that felt refreshing and hopeful (compared to Better Call Saul, which I was watching at this point and also worth recommending). Screening as a part of Criterion Channel’s Jean Arthur series.
FINDERS KEEPERS – Amazon Prime
2015, Dir. Bryan Carberry, J. Clay Tweel
A festival favorite in 2015, this tragicomedy documentary tells an all-too-bizarre story of a man, his amputated leg, and his fight to get it back from a roadside attraction profiteer. Recommended for those who enjoyed Tiger King or crazy true stories.
AFTER MIDNIGHT – Kanopy
2019, Dir. Jeremy Gardner
From the director of THE BATTERY and producers Aaron Moorhead/Justin Benson, this indie horror feature mixes a relationship drama with a creature feature in a really effective way. Kind of like a mix of ALL THE REAL GIRLS and a Sasquatch-like story. One of my favorites from the 2019 Fantastic Fest.
Brady Dyer, Communications Manager
MAGNOLIA – Amazon Prime, Netflix
1999, Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
PT Anderson’s 1999 film is a perfect film for a quarantine because you will be thinking about it for days. Led by an extraordinary ensemble cast including Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Melora Walters, William H. Macy, and Tom Cruise in a memorable performance, the film follows many of the characters’ individual stories, which don’t often seem to relate to each other. One phrase in the film—we may be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with us—serves as a connecting thread and illuminates how each character is living out their own experience of that. Aimee Mann’s haunting soundtrack underscores all of it.
LOST IN TRANSLATION – Amazon Prime
2003, Dir. Sophia Coppola
Sophia Coppola’s 2003 sophomore effort starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, returning brilliantly after a hiatus from film. As with her first feature, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, Coppola is interested—and captures so well—feelings of isolation and the small, subtle gestures of communication, often non-verbal, that go with it. This film takes it to another level with Johansson and Murray as two lonely travelers in Tokyo who meet and bond with each other. She is with her husband, a celebrity photographer, and left alone most of the time, he is traveling solo to film a commercial. They both have insomnia and are experiencing trouble in their relationships. But a lot of the time they spend together is quiet—their friendship develops in the spaces in between conversations and a mutual need to connect. And who doesn’t need that right now?
Chris Engberg, Austin Studios Manager
REBELS OF THE NEON GOD – Amazon, Kanopy
1992, Dir. Tsai Ming-Liang
Feeling isolated and maybe a little despondent? Commiserate with this deeply affecting Taiwanese drama! It’s a heavy one but I’m really excited that Kanopy has recently added this to their offerings. This stream looks much better than the old DVD I have watched previously. I could listen to the theme music all day long. (fwiw, this movie has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
THE GENTLE ART OF JAPANESE EXTORTION – The Criterion Channel
1992, Dir: Juzo Itami
It was truly difficult to pick which Itami to include in my list but this one won because I love its name so much. You can hardly go wrong with anything in his small cannon (cut too short in part no thanks to him making this particular movie and pissing off the Yakuza — look it up). Partnered again with one of my favorite actresses, Nobuko Miyamoto, playing a variation on her A TAXING WOMAN (another great Itami, also streaming) character and some real jaunty tunes, this is a fun one!
THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED – The Criterion Channel
2008, Dir: Josh Safdie
I really, really, really, really like these Safdie brothers. This was Josh’s first feature and it’s a pretty incredible effort. Far less frantic and anxiety-inducing than Uncut Gems or Good Time, it’s worth a watch to see how naturally talented filmmakers these guys really are (note: Benny is only credited with some editing and sound work for this one, but you catch my drift.)
Martin Jones, Austin Studios Director
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER – Amazon Prime
1960, Dir. François Truffaut
François Truffaut’s SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER is a delightful little movie that gets overlooked in the Truffaut oeuvre. It’s a simple movie, with a great cast, and a little caper that’s a nod to American gangster pictures. I love how the film doesn’t take itself seriously and how the casting is spot on perfect.
SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT – Netflix
1986, Dir. Spike Lee
Spike Lee’s original black & white indie film SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT from 1986 is bold, sexy, and unapologetically Black. Spike clearly starts the alchemy of his aesthetic with this movie. I met Spike while he was still getting his Masters at NYU during the winter of 1985, and he told me about the movie. Summer 1986 I get a b&w postcard of Nola Darling – on the back in red Sharpie he wrote – “Marty, as hot as they come!, Spike” – he was a fresh voice as a filmmaker and a brilliant marketer. His bravado encouraged my career.
DRIVE – Netflix
2011, Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Ryan Gosling is the perfect lost Everyman In “Drive,” which is an homage to LA film noir mashed up with the movie business. It’s sparse dialogue and powerful visuals are as haunting as the stellar performances and it’s a masterclass in film direction by Nicolas Winding Refn working from a most sublime screenplay by Hossein Amini.
Lars Nilsen, Lead Programmer
BALL OF FIRE – Criterion Channel
1941, Dir. Howard Hawks
I’ll bet there are four or five people out there who have not seen this Howard Hawks comedy – co-written by Billy WIlder, shot by Gregg Toland and, oh yeah, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Coop plays a professor, engaged inwriting an enormous new encyclopedia, who realizes that his data on slang is lacking. His field research brings Stanwyck’s character Sugarpuss O’Shea into his life. She is a nightclub dancer on the run from the law. They hit it off. This is one of Stanwyck’s great triumphs and a film that lingers warmly in the memory.
EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY – Criterion Channel
1972, Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Also streaming on Criterion is Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s totally delightful family/workplace soap opera. Originally commissioned for German TV this is a miniseries that parallels family life with work life. Observant, funny and beautiful. How on earth did the 27-year old auteur have so much insight about so many different kinds of people?
BLOOD BATH – Amazon Prime
1966, Dir. Jack Hill & Stephanie Rothman
This movie is a real surprise for a lot of folks. Roger Corman asked a corps of his young apprentices to punch up a Yugoslavian horror movie that he had somehow acquired the rights to. The two young filmmakers, Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman, brought some interesting personal touches to the project, and mimicked the European locations and chiaroscuro look of the original film with ingenuity. It’s a good, expressionistic black and white horror with the overtones of a nightmare.
Conner Smith, Development Coordinator
THE SENTENCE – HBO NOW
2018, Dir. Rudy Valdez
I experienced this film at AFS Cinema during our Doc Days festival. First-time filmmaker Rudy Valdez was there for a very moving Q&A where most of the audience was in tears after watching this very inspiring and thought-provoking film. I urge you to check it out if you haven’t!
FAST COLOR – Hulu
2018. Dir. Julia Hart
This was one of my favorite films at SXSW a couple of years ago, and we were able to show it at AFS Cinema this past September. Some have described it as a “superhero” movie, but it doesn’t really fit into any particular category in my opinion. It’s a moving film about three generations of strong women, and if you missed it at the cinema in the Fall, I highly recommend watching it now.
HORSE GIRL – Netflix
2020, Dir. Jeff Baena
I watched this movie recently and was left with so many conflicting emotions. After a Reddit rabbit hole and a few days later, I was telling everyone to watch it. I look forward to revisiting it to look for the Easter eggs I missed the first time, and I really enjoyed Alison Brie’s strong and moving performance.
Taylor Whritner, Development Manager
TRAIN TO BUSAN – Netflix
2016, Dir. Yeon Sang-ho
Tis the season for zombie movies! TRAIN TO BUSAN is a super fun take on the classic, featuring major players in Korean film and TV like Ma Dong-seok (THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD) and Choi Woo-shik (PARASITE).
REBELS OF THE NEON GOD – Amazon, Kanopy
1992, Dir. Tsai Ming-liang
I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s next on my list: a perfect dose of energy, beauty, and weirdness to combat quarantine blues. According to my husband: a unique coming of age story that still feels fresh today, Tsai Ming-liang’s debut is a must-watch for film fans.
BOOKSMART – Hulu
2019, Dir. Olivia Wilde
A hilarious comedy led by two very talented (and funny) up-and-coming stars. Watch it!
Charles Wright, Engineer and Studio Operator
PARASITE – Hulu
2019, Dir. Bong Joon-ho
It lives up to the “Oscar” hype. It is such a wonderful and weird story that I think people need to see and feel.
2019, Dir. Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
It’s the best, and most brutal, modern horror film I’ve seen in a while. I haven’t rooted for a final girl like this since “Nancy Thompson”. It’s not for the faint of heart and I love that about the film, the camera never blinks and dares you not to.
BOOKSMART – Hulu
2019, Dir. Olivia Wilde
It is a gross out coming of age comedy in the vein of “Super Bad” but it is so tastefully done. It is silly and a little cliche but it is such a fun watch with such likable characters you don’t mind.