A work of almost breathtaking visual beauty that manages to ravish the heart while dazzling the eye simultaneously, neither at the expense of the other.
Is this week the tipping point? The conversation about audiences moving to streaming services like Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix and On Demand offerings like iTunes and Vudu instead of going to the theaters has been ongoing for years. And yet people pointed to the event blockbusters that would always dominate the market. Look at this week's theatrical offerings at the multiplex--"Deliver Us From Evil," "Earth to Echo," and "Tammy"--not a real event in the bunch. The biggest movie of the week, as far as most film lovers are concerned, is Steve James' "Life Itself." If that's playing in your market, go and see it. However, most cities in this country don't have the art house to play documentaries any more and so Magnolia has wisely released it On Demand as well. See it in theaters, if you can. But consider how much On Demand viewing has altered the market.
The director of "Hoop Dreams" isn't alone. The new film from Hal Hartley, one of the most influential independent filmmakers of the '90s, "My America," premieres on Fandor tomorrow. The streaming service dedicated to independent film has exclusive rights to this unique piece of work, a series of monologues from various playwrights. Some play like beat poetry, others like slice-of-life moments, and others like traditional monologues. Hartley keeps it fresh by shooting from different angles, using different musical beds, and finding other ways to keep the talking heads from getting dull. Some of the writing is a bit college-class level but some is brilliant. And you won't see it in theaters.
As for the streaming offerings this week for subscribers, Netflix issued a varied batch of titles on July 1st from Oscar winners to box office hits. Here are the most interesting:
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
3 NEW TO ON DEMAND
You want to pay for a new movie? Here are the three most interesting On Demand titles since our last issue. Of course, "Life Itself" is a must-see but two other Sundance 2014 premieres are available now, the latest from Joe Swanberg and David Wain.
"Happy Christmas" (available now)
"Life Itself" (available Friday, July 4)
"They Came Together" (available now)
THE BEST OF THE REST
Hulu continues to be an interesting alternative--a service that works best for TV fans but intrigues movie lovers largely with their access to Criterion titles. In the last two weeks, they added a beautiful little character drama called "Cairo Time," the flawed-but-sweet "Hank and Asha," and a Michael J. Fox movie that I loved as a kid, "The Secret of My Success."
Like Hulu, Amazon seems to lag behind Netflix in terms of new movies added to their Prime service but there are at least four worth a look since our last talk--the twisted "Cheap Thrills," the fantastic "Louis C.K. Hilarious," the fascinating "A Field in England," and the great rock doc "A Band Called Death."
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A note of thanks from Chaz Ebert to the wonderful people behind "Life Itself."