Movies to Stream at Home This Week 7/16/20 – 7/22/20

For the past few months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. More recently, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of the state’s gradual re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea yet. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated highly that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Wolf Devil Woman (1983) – From my review: “A disorienting Pure Cinema indulgence that makes for some very loopy late-night viewing despite its limited means as a cheap-o production. It can’t pretend to be as controlled or as accomplished in its far-out psychedelia as triumphs like King Hu’s A Touch of Zen, but its bootleg quality as a VHS-era indie knockoff from the fringes of the genre only make it feel stranger, like a found object that tumbled far outside the boundaries of a proper wuxia canon.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Playtime (1967): From our Movie of the Month discussion: “What I like most about this film’s dystopia is that human connection does persevere sometimes, especially in the latter half: restaurant patrons sing old songs together amid the restaurant’s wreckage, pipelayers collaborate to sneak a glass of beer in the morning, and life goes on. It’s nice (and naïve, given the current moment) to imagine that technological, bureaucratic, and capitalist systems around us might just be baffling, as opposed to actively toxic and harmful.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel or for free (with a library subscription) on Kanopy.

Blow the Man Down (2020) – From my review: “Frequently brutal & cold, following bone-tired characters as they trudge through the blue hues & white snows of coastal Maine as if they were walking corpses just waiting to be chopped up & shoved into fishing coolers. It’s also a warmly human movie about a silent system of tough, shrewd women, each with their own morbid senses of humor and touches of whimsy.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Streaming VOD

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) From our Movie of the Month discussion: “Looks & acts like a Normal movie on the surface, but constantly veers into absurdist humor, grisly violence, and straight-up Gay Stuff that you don’t normally get to see in a Hollywood picture of this flavor.”  A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

My Life in Pink (1997) – From my review: “Very much feels like an echo of the New Queer Cinema era, with a particular debt to how Todd Haynes explored real-world gay crises through a stylized fantasy lens (particularly recalling the segment of Poison about the boy who flew out the window).” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Family (2019) – From my review: “Reminded me a lot of The Bronze in how it looks & acts like a normal mainstream comedy in all ways except in how it allows its lead to be incredibly selfish & cruel without worrying about whether audiences will find her ‘likeable.’”  A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 7/9/20 – 7/15/20

For the past few months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  More recently, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of the state’s gradual re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea yet. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated highly that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Hail, Ceasar! (2016) – From my review: “Loaded with beautiful tributes to every Old Hollywood genre I can think of and pretty damn hilarious in a subtle, quirky way that I think ranks up there with the very best of the Coen Brothers’ work, an accolade I wouldn’t use lightly. If you need a litmus test for whether or not you’ll enjoy the film yourself, Barton Fink might be a good place to start. If you hold Barton Fink in high regard, I encourage you to give Hail, Caesar! a chance.” Currently streaming on Netflix.

Tourist Trap (1979)– From Britnee’s review: “Tourist Trap instantly became one of my favorite horror films of all-time. I literally got goosebumps several times throughout the film, and I’m not one who gets scared easily. I highly recommend Tourist Trap for anyone remotely disturbed by mannequins or psychopaths.” Currently streaming on Shudder and for free (with ads) on TubiTV.

Big Business (1988) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “The swapped-twins plot of Big Business feels like it’s straight out of an Old Hollywood comedy, the kind that Fred & Ginger might’ve starred in if it had been released 50 years earlier. The nature-over-nurture value system of the movie is very much an antiquated line of thinking and (although there’s some confusion about who winds up with whom at the end) the film’s intense concern with finding each sister a potential mate is very much in line with the structure of a traditional comedy. Instead of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Big Business is more like A Million Beaus for Four Sisters.” Currently streaming on Disney+.

Streaming VOD

To Die For (1995) From my review: “By 1995, neither celebrating nor satirizing the attention-seeking narcissism of tabloid-friendly criminals were especially novel; John Waters alone was nine features deep on the topic with Serial Mom the year before. Still, the specific textures of Pamela Smart’s bizarre circumstances, Nicole Kidman’s sweetly cruel performance, and Gus Van Sant’s playfully ironic (and, frankly, patronizing) tone make the film a sadistic delight.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Little Women (2019) From Boomer’s review: “This is a beautiful film, a timeless piece of literature made fresh once more with a cast overbrimming with talent and filmed with an eye for chromatic storytelling and such beautiful Northeast scenery that when I tell you I was there, I was there. This is also such a talented cast that they breathe a new life into characters that, in the original text and in previous film incarnations, were at times sullen, unlikable, or intolerable.” A $5 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Violence Voyager (2019) – From my review: “Feels as if it were made entirely by one loner-creep in some far-off basement, as if he were racing to publish his work before being raided by the authorities for crimes against society & good taste. It’s the rare work of modern outsider filmmaking that feels genuinely dangerous, with all the excitement & unease that descriptor implies.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 7/2/20 – 7/8/20

For the past few months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  More recently, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of the state’s gradual re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea yet. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated highly that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Jubilee (1978) – From my review: “Its sci-fi vision of London’s cracked concrete future is essentially just a portrait of its present-day moment in punk discontent, snapshotting the female teen degenerates, queer burnouts, and hedonistic vandals who defined the scene at its purest. Crass already declared that ‘Punk is dead’ in 1978, only a year after the scene had broken out of its urban subculture dungeons to reach a wider audience through proper record distribution (and magazine-promoted fashion trends). Jarman seems to be on the same page but finds his own sense of beauty while gazing at the movement’s rotting corpse.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Citizen Ruth (1996) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “The balance between emotional devastation and (pitch black) comedy is a major part of what struck me about Citizen Ruth (besides Laura Dern’s career-consistent brilliance, obviously). Ruth’s not a ‘bad’ person, necessarily. She’s just been turned into something of a feral animal by her addiction, making her play onscreen like a hyper-realistic version of Jerri Blank (who is a bad person, I should add) in her more amusing moments.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Boy (2012) – From my review: “Boy is by every measurement a triumph. It’s at times hilarious, devastating, life-affirming, brutally cold, etc. Taika Waititi risked taking his time to deliver a fully-realized, personal work on his own terms and the final product moves you in the way only the best cinema can.” Currently streaming for free (with library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla and for free (with ads) on Vudu.

Streaming VOD

Birds of Prey (2020) From my review: “More superhero movies could stand to be this excessive in their violence, this shamelessly broad in their humor, and this fabulous in their costuming. We’d all be better off.” A $6 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Shazam! (2019) From Boomer’s review: “A whole hell of a lot of fun, a modern day kid’s wish fulfillment film that harkens back to a time when it was still possible for such a thing to be dark, vulgar, and tongue-in-cheek. I was surprised at how much it was able to manipulate my emotions – I mean ‘move me’ – in its emotional moments. It has a lot of heart, is what I’m saying, but manages to avoid getting treacly by balancing its emotionality with good jokes and the occasional supernatural murder.” A $10 rental on all major VOD platforms (and for free with a subscription to HBOGo).

Darkman (1990) – From my review: “A comic book-inspired noir riding on the coattails of Tim Burton’s Batman, Darkman is a masterfully goofy work of genre cinema. Its comic book framing, over-the-top performances, and stray Ken Russell-esque freakouts were all perfection in terms of trashy entertainment value, pushing the lowest-common-denominator of trash media into the realm of high art. Darkman is not only the finest Sam Raimi film I’ve ever encountered, it’s also one of the most striking comic book movies ever made … which is saying a lot considering that it wasn’t even based off of a comic book.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

The Celluloid Closet (1995)

It’s not an especially unique observation that historical works are usually more indicative of the time when they were made than they are of the time they intend to represent. That quality of the mid-90s Gay Cinema documentary The Celluloid Closet still took me by surprise, though. The film still stands as an important work a quarter-century later, but the further we get away from its time of production the more peculiarly (and encouragingly) antiquated it becomes. Adapted from a critical text of the same name, The Celluloid Closet is intended to function as a history of onscreen gay & lesbian representation in Hollywood movies. In practice, it’s more of a documentary about how desperately starved queer audiences were for positive onscreen representation in the 1990s in particular.

As gay filmmakers & commentators walk the audience through the sordid history of Hollywood’s first century of homophobia (guided by a Lily Tomlin narration track), I found myself actively disagreeing with a lot of their opinions on what constitutes The Wrong Kind of Representation. I gradually recognized that I was feeling that way because of a somewhat spoiled vantage point of having a lot more variety in Queer Cinema to choose from decades after its sentiment had taken hold. At large, The Celluloid Closet is extremely dismissive of transgressive, morally troubling, or even actively villainous gay characters, the kinds of representation that generally creep up in movies that I personally tend to love (thanks to my bottomless thirst for low-end genre trash). Friedkin’s forever-controversial works Cruising & The Boys in the Band were singled out as especially toxic hallmarks of The Wrong Kind of Representation in the film, a poisoned leftover of Hollywood’s long history of unmasked homophobia. I love both of those movies; I’d even cite them among some of my all-time favorites. That’s an experience colored by a life lived when Normalized gay representation has since been achieved in popular media, even if it is still too rare to fully declare victory. In the 90s, transgressive, destructive creeps were the only gay characters who were allowed onscreen since the invention of the medium, which I totally understand would sour the thrill of their flagrant misbehavior.

Cataloging the censorship of The Hays Code era, the de-sexed caricature of the Sissy archetype, the villainization of “deceitful” trans characters, and so on, The Celluloid Closet mostly now served as a reminder of just how far gay representation has come in the couple decades since it was released. A lot of its searching-for-crumbs sentiment in its quest for positive onscreen representation sadly still resonates today, especially when looking for any prominent gay characters in big-budget media from corporate conglomerates like Disney. However, its push for cleaned-up, all-posi gay representation now feels extremely dated to me. I no longer believe we’re in a place where every gay movie has to be a sanitized Love, Simon-style journey of sunny self-discovery. I want to live in a world where Hollywood can catch up with the transgressive queer freak-outs of foreign indie releases like The Wild Boys, Knife+Heart, and Stranger By the Lake. In the 90s, when all the gay characters you’d ever seen were minor roles played for “comedy or pity or fear” we obviously weren’t there yet. Revisiting this documentary is a nice reminder that things have changed, however incrementally.

Documentary filmmaking itself has also apparently changed in recent years. I was shocked that The Celluloid Closet doesn’t label its films or its talking heads for the audience’s reference. You either recognize Quentin Crisp or you don’t, which would be highly unusual in a modern doc. We can refer to user-generated Letterboxd lists & IMDb cast lists to clear up any confusion or gaps in knowledge, though, so the real hurdle is just in understanding & reckoning with the film’s dated POV. As one of the talking heads explains (I wish I had caught their name, dammit!), “Nobody really sees the same movie.” Our personal biases and life experiences shape the way we internally experience art. The Celluloid Closet’s greatest asset is in documenting the biases & life experiences of gay audiences in the 90s in particular, since the history of onscreen representation in Hollywood is obviously an ever-evolving beast so no one documentary on the subject could ever be a definitive, everlasting work.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 6/25/20 – 7/1/20

For the past few months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  More recently, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of the state’s gradual re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea yet. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated highly that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) – From my review: “The Duke of Burgundy’s varied shots of a butterfly & moth filled specimen room sets a tone for how the film operates. It’s a narrative that relies on repetition & ritual, much like the repetition of a specific butterfly specimen is repeated within the display cases. Similarly, each image is tacked to the wall, hovering to be appreciated like a precious, organic object. Strickland finds emotional resonance in the film’s central relationship, but he also spends inordinate amounts of time reveling in the textures of the world that surrounds them. Filming the couple through mirrors, fringes, and fabrics, Strickland finds the same reverence for the sense of touch here that he did for sound in his 2013 ode to giallo, Berberian Sound Studio. It’s a challenging prospect for viewers, but the rewards are glorious.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Blood and Black Lace (1964) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “A landmark in horror cinema and one of the earliest giallo films in existence. It’s also considered to be the first ‘body count’ horror film, so we can thank Bava for all of those campy, raunchy 80s slasher flicks. Watching this film is like taking a walk through an art gallery. It’s chock-full of rich colors, eerie scenery, deep shadows, and impressive camera angles. The outstanding cinematography alone is a good reason to watch the film.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Pieces (1982)– From  Boomer’s review: “The film is at once a celebration of the horror genre as a cruel, ritualistic blood sport that serves a significant purpose in the lives of its audience and a condemnation of that very same audience for participating in the ritual in the first place. An ambitious, self-reflective work of criticism in action, Cabin in the Woods in one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years, not least of all for the way it makes me rethink the basic structure & intent of horror as an art from in the first place.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Streaming VOD

BlacKkKlansman (2018) From my review: “It’s been a while since a movie had me ping-ponging from such extremes of pure pleasure & stomach-churning nausea. What’s brilliant about BlacKkKlansman is that it often achieves both effects using the same genre tools. Even when it’s taking the structure of an absurdist farce, its humor can be genuinely funny or caustically sickening. Racism is delivered kindly & with a wholesome American smile here, without apology; shamelessly evil bigotry is presented in the cadence & appearance of a joke, but lands with appropriate horror instead of humor. Lee only further complicates his genre subversion by mixing that horror with actual, genuine jokes, so that the film overall maintains the structure of a comedy.” A $10 rental on all major VOD platforms (and for free with a subscription to HBOGo).

Body Double (1984) From Boomer’s review: “It’s a product of its time, a sleazy De Palma take on a Hitchcock classic, and as such it’s an oddity that I can’t recommend more highly. It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for months. There’s a new 4k restoration making the rounds, and it’s well worth the price of admission. And, as Halloween approaches, if you generally like your scares a little more cerebral than slashy but still want to feel a little bit dirty, Body Double could be your new go-to.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Basket Case 2 (1990) From Boomer’s review: “For all of its cheap thrills and corny gore, Basket Case could never be accused of having a character arc, which Basket Case 2 actually does. The extent to which Belial could be developed is pretty limited, but Duane moves from being merely Belial’s enabler/assistant to committing his own crimes and even self-identifying as a freak despite being the most normal (looking) person in the house.” A $2 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 6/18/20 – 6/24/20

For the past few months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  More recently, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of the state’s gradual re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea yet. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated highly that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Class of 1999 (1989)– From our Movie of the Month discussion: “I love this movie. It’s a perfect encapsulation of worst case, slippery slope thinking with regards to teen violence, a misplaced jeremiad warning of dark days to come–won’t someone please, please think of the children? Bradley Gregg, star of many of my adolescent fantasies (and one of the dream warriors from Nightmare on Elm Street 3), parades around in an outfit that manages to be both utterly ridiculous and strangely sexy, featuring skin-tight leather pants emblazoned with the word ‘war’ over and over again and a form-fitting tee under an oversized babydoll jacket. He has nothing on Keach, of course, who struts around in this film with a platinum ponytail and matching (painful looking) contact lenses, while still somehow managing to play this ludicrous role as straight as possible. Throw in the other stars in the cast, like Grier and McDowell, and it’s a surprise that this Terminator ripoff made barely half of its relatively low budget back in ticket sales.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Vudu & TubiTV.

Phenomena (1985) – From Boomer’s review: “Not a giallo picture in the way that many of Argento’s works definitively are or even Suspiria arguably is; although there is a mystery at its core, the crimes cannot be solved by the audience, making this much more of a slasher movie than other entries in the director’s canon, which may have contained elements of the slasher genre but were narratively focused on investigation. Running throughout the film is an undercurrent of terror, which is paired with distinctly beautiful imagery to create a film experience that is more haunting than inquisitive.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) – From my review: “My personal favorite Wes Craven film. It’s not his scariest, nor his most tightly-controlled work, but it is an incredibly smart picture that manages to bridge the gap between the dream-logic horror of A Nightmare on Elm Street with the meta genre reflection of the soon-to-come Scream franchise. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a perfect way to remember the filmmaker for all he accomplished, not only because it marries those two defining moments of his career in a single picture, but also because he plays a role in the film as a fictionalized version of himself.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Streaming VOD

Knives Out (2019) From Boomer’s review: “I’ve long been a fan of comedy pastiches and homages of genres that function perfectly as examples of those genres despite humorous overtones; my go-to example is Hot Fuzz, which I always tout as having a more sophisticated murder mystery plot than most films than most straightforward criminal investigation media (our lead comes to a logical conclusion that fits all of the clues, but still turns out to be wrong). Knives Out is another rare gem of this type, a whodunnit comedy in the mold of Clue that has a sophisticated and winding plot.” A $5 rental on all major VOD platforms.

42nd Street (1933) From my review: “I entered 42nd Street expecting a respectable, traditional backstage musical with some early glimpses at the extravagant choreography that made Busby Berkeley a legend. What I found was a technically gorgeous porno about women’s stockinged legs, a film that was much more interested in the infinite potential ways those body parts could be displayed & arranged than it was in the inner lives of the women attached to them. It’s shameless smut hiding behind an artistic pretense and has been historically lauded due to its Depression Era context; in other words, it’s a gem.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988) – From my review: “Just as overtly horny & sadistic as its soft-remake Cruel Intentions, but combines those impulses with the meticulously staged pomp of lush costume dramas – recalling the peculiar tone of genre outliers like Barry Lyndon & The Favourite. Characters peeping through keyholes, foppishly being dressed & perfumed by their servants, and firing off barbed phrases like “I’ve always known that I was born to dominate your sex and to avenge my own” feel like they’re getting away with something you can only do in period films, and Dangerous Liaisons benefits greatly from that setting.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms (or for free with a subscription to HBOGo).

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 5/28/20 – 6/3/20

For the past couple months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home. This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. As of two weeks ago, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of Phase One of the state’s re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea. So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)– From my review: “The film is at once a celebration of the horror genre as a cruel, ritualistic blood sport that serves a significant purpose in the lives of its audience and a condemnation of that very same audience for participating in the ritual in the first place. An ambitious, self-reflective work of criticism in action, Cabin in the Woods in one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years, not least of all for the way it makes me rethink the basic structure & intent of horror as an art from in the first place.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Black Moon (1975) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “Black Moon is extremely surreal. It has the rare quality of having the most dream-like logic of any movie I’ve ever seen. I frequently have sort of stressful dreams where I’m running in and out of buildings and rooms struggling to find something. The something is always vague. Watching this movie kind of put me into a familiar, trance-like state, which I’m not entirely sure if that’s a positive or negative attribute. In a way I think is dreamlike surrealism finds its own kind of horror whether intentionally or not.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

The Neon Demon (2016) – From my review: “I’m caught transfixed by its wicked spell & its bottomless wealth of surface pleasures, even as I wrestle with their implications. This is where the stylized form of high art meets the juvenile id of low trash and that exact intersection is why I go to the movies in the first place. The Neon Demon may not be great social commentary, but it’s certainly great cinema.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and for free (with library membership) on Hoopla.

Streaming VOD

The Masque of the Red Death (1964) From our Movie of the Month discussion: “A lot of what we think of as the hippie-dippie 60s came very late in the decade. The era-defining Summer of Love was in 1967, the same year Roger Corman dropped acid for the first time and fictionalized his experience in the film The Trip. The Masque of the Red Death‘s 1964 release positions the film as years ahead of its time. Corman was pulling off the Satanic psychedelia vibe the same year that Mary Poppins & My Fair Lady were huge cultural hits. I’m not saying Masque was particularly a major influence on the countercultural swell that was to come, but it at least was somewhat visually intuitive. And Corman himself did have direct influence on the later films that typified that counterculture, films like Easy Rider and Bonnie & Clyde. Even back then, when ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30’ was a motto to live by, he was the hippest geezer in the room and a filmmaking rebel.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Peeping Tom (1960) From my review: “It’s near impossible to gauge just how shocking or morally incongruous Peeping Tom must’ve been in 1960, especially in the opening scenes where old men are shown purchasing pornography in the same corner stores where young girls buy themselves candy for comedic effect & the protagonist/killer is introduced secretly filming a sex worker under his trench coat before moving in for his first kill. Premiering the same year as Hitchcock’s Psycho and predating the birth of giallo & the slasher in 1962’s Blood & Black Lace, Peeping Tom was undeniably ahead of its time. A prescient ancestor to the countless slashers to follow, Powell’s classic is a sleek, beautifully crafted work that should’ve been met with accolades & rapturous applause instead of the prudish dismissal it sadly received.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Crimes of Passion (1984) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “In some ways Crimes of Passion, a 1984 sex thriller starring Kathleen ‘Serial Mom‘ Turner as a fashion designer by day & prostitute by night, is the prime example of Russell’s self-conflicting nature. It’s a visually stunning work that uses a Bava-esque attention to lighting to create an otherworldly playground of sexual fantasy & escapism, but it’s also just pure smut. It occasionally attempts to laud the virtues of sex work, but also uses the profession as a means to leer at naked bodies. It reads like an intentionally cruel vilification of marriage & monogamy that also has a lot to say about the hypocrisy of self-righteous religious piety, but it’s also just a long string of dirty one-liners like ‘Don’t think you’re getting back in these panties; there’s already one asshole in there.’ Crimes of Passion is thoroughly bewildering in its refusal to be engaged with as either high art or low trash, but instead insists that audiences simultaneously appreciate it as both. In other words, it’s pure Ken Russell.” A $2 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 5/21/20 – 5/27/20

For the past couple months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home.  This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  As of last week, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of Phase One of the state’s re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea.  So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Society (1992)– From our Movie of the Month discussion: “Society was largely panned in its time for this disinterest in thematic subtlety, struggling for three years after its initial release in 1989 to earn a proper US distribution deal. Treating its class politics as a flimsy excuse for the disturbing practical effects orgy in its final act seems like a mistake to me, though, and I’m delighted that the film has been reassessed as a cult classic in the decades since its humble beginnings. The way it explores class divisions in the most literal & grotesque terms possible is highly amusing to me in an almost cathartic way.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Tubi.

20th Century Women (2016) – From my review: “Although 20th Century Women is constructed on the foundation of small, intimate performances, it commands an all-encompassing scope that pulls back to cover topics as wide as punk culture solidarity, what it means to be a ‘good’ man in modern times, the shifts in status of the American woman in the decades since the Great Depression, the 1980s as a tipping point for consumer culture, the history of life on the planet Earth, and our insignificance as a species in the face of the immensity of the Universe. For me, this film was the transcendent, transformative cinematic experience people found in titles like Tree of Life & Boyhood that I never ‘got.’ Although it does succeed as an intimate, character-driven drama & an actors’ showcase, it means so much more than that to me on a downright spiritual level.” Currently streaming on Netflix and for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla & Kanopy.

I Married a Witch (1942) – From Britnee’s review: “It’s very cliché to say that a film is ‘ahead of its time,’ but I can’t think of a better way to describe Rene Clair’s comedy, I Married a Witch. For a film that debuted in the early 1940s, it’s got a very different style of humor when compared to other comedies that came about during that era. When I think of films of the 1940s, I think of Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Meet Me in St. Louis, so watching a film that is about a resurrected witch that preys on a soon-to-be-married man just feels so scandalous!” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and for free (with library membership) on Kanopy.

Streaming VOD

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) – From my review: “It’s difficult to put into words exactly what Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is or what it’s about, so I’ll just tell you how Ebert described the film’s genre: ‘It’s a camp sexploitation action horror musical that ends in a quadruple murder & a triple wedding.’ Does that about clear it up? At times it feels like the only thing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls isn’t is a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, which is what Meyer was initially hired to direct. At least the film warns you of that outright in a prologue that distances itself from the melodrama original. What quickly follows is one of Meyer’s trademark industrial/sex montages, this time combatively pointed at Los Angeles & set to an inane slam-poetry style monologue about hippie culture. The difference is that the montage never ends this time, adopting Mondo Topless‘s frantic energy for a full-length narrative feature. As Meyer put it, he wanted the film to establish “a punishing rhythm, pummeling the audience.” Boy, did he succeed.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Queen of Earth (2015) From Boomer’s review: “As rare as it is to see a film that so unabashedly stares into the face of mental illness, it’s even rarer to see a film that understands and appreciates that, from the outside, the behaviors of an irrational person can be objectively humorous even if they are subjectively heartbreaking, and Queen of Earth manages to tread that line in an insightful and deft way. More than just adding more scenes to Moss’s career highlight reel, this movie is the most honest portrayal of unhealthy bonds I’ve seen in as long as I can remember. It will break your heart and then make it sing, and you’ll be haunted by the images and their emotional resonance for weeks.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Innocent Blood (1992) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “A decade after An American Werewolf in London, John Landis brought the public Innocent Blood, a movie about a French vampire in … Pittsburgh. Marie, the fey French vampire, decides to help herself to Pittsburgh’s criminal element. Mistakes are made, spinal cords are left intact, and before too long Marie and ousted undercover cop Joe are duking it out with a proliferating vampire Mob. There’s something for everybody! Stunts! Grotesque special effects! Gallons of blood! Strippers! Don Rickles! Innocent Blood is entertaining, weird, and a little self-conscious.” A $2 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream at Home This Week 5/14/20 – 5/20/20

For the past couple months, I’ve shifted our weekly “What’s Playing in Local Theaters” report to a list of Swampflix-recommended movies you can stream at home.  This choice was initially a no-brainer, as the governor had ordered the closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  As of this week, cinemas are allowed to operate again as part of Phase One of the state’s re-opening strategy, but I’m personally not confident that’s such a great idea.  So, I’m still going to stick with Online Streaming options as a moviegoing substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Orlando (1992)– From my review: “Initially masquerading as a costume drama with a prankish dry wit, Orlando gradually develops into the transcendent pure cinema hypnosis I’m always searching for in my movie choices. It pulls this off in such a casual, unintimidating way that it’s not until the final scene that the full impact of its joys as a playful masterpiece becomes apparent. This is the exact kind of visual and tonal achievement that could only ever be captured in the form of a feature film, a cinematic reverie that’s nothing short of real world magic.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Mikey and Nicky (1976) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “I was also struck by how well May captured the dirty, pre-Giuliani era of NYC, the type of New York we’re used to seeing in early Scorsese pictures like Mean Streets & Taxi Driver. The late-night setting, funky blaxploitation soundtrack, guerilla-style handheld camera work, and genuine background characters of real life barroom drunks & creeps all afford the film an authentic, unnerving New York City grime. The only film I can think to compare it to in terms of narrative structure & visual craft is the recent release Tangerine, which gives a whirlwind tour of L.A. sunshine similar to the way Mikey and Nicky tears through NYC streetlights. With those two films being released four decades apart and Scorsese’s most similar contemporary works being praised at the time for being the cutting edge, I think it’s fair to say May was in some ways ahead of her time, even if her basic visual aesthetic resembles a general 70s exploitation cinema aesthetic.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and for free (with library membership) on Kanopy.

The Lure (2017) – From my review: “The Lure is a mermaid-themed horror musical that’s equal parts MTV & Hans Christian Andersen in its modernized fairy tale folklore. Far from the Disnified retelling of The Little Mermaid that arrived in the late 1980s, this blood-soaked disco fantasy is much more convincing in its attempts to draw a dividing line between mermaid animality & the (mostly) more civilized nature of humanity while still recounting an abstract version of the same story. As a genre film with a striking hook in its basic premise, it’s the kind of work that invites glib descriptors & points of comparison like An Aquatic Ginger Snaps Musical or La La Land of the Damned, but there’s much more going on in its basic appeal than that sense of genre mash-up novelty.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and for free (with library membership) on Kanopy.

Streaming VOD

My Demon Lover (1987) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “I honestly didn’t expect My Demon Lover to be much different than the other hundreds of campy 80s comedies out there, but it actually does a great job standing out on its own. At first, the film didn’t seem like it was going to be anything but a cheeseball comedy about a fruit burger-eating airhead that falls for a perverted homeless guy who may or may not be a killer demon. Thankfully, things become much more interesting as the film goes on. The monster movie and romcom elements of My Demon Lover come together to create a rare combination that makes for one hell of a memorable flick.” A $2 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) From our Movie of the Month discussion: “Mrs. Winterbourne is a romantic comedy about a pregnant teenager escaping her scummy, abusive boyfriend, surviving a train wreck that kills another pregnant woman and her kind husband, and being mistakenly taken in by the in-laws of the dead woman as they attempt to put their hearts back together. That’s only the first act. In the second act, just as Connie is starting to connect to the Winterbournes and is struggling with the decision of either revealing her true identity or keeping up the charade indefinitely, her slimy ex-boyfriend comes back to blackmail her. There’s singing! Dancing! A makeover montage! Murder! Although I really enjoy Mrs. Winterbourne, the incongruity between the gritty (and bizarre) premise and the lighthearted style in which it is presented makes for a weird movie-watching experience. There’s a lot of whiplash as the film attempts tell a gritty noir story through the lens of a quirky romcom.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Mary and Max (2009) – “The sole feature film credit of stop motion animator Adam Elliot, Mary and Max adopts the visual format & storybook narration of a children’s film, but it’s, at heart, an emotionally merciless drama that touches upon, among other things: mental illness, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy, atheism, war crimes, repressed homosexuality, obesity, and the endless cycle of poverty. It’s likely that the film didn’t do particularly well at the box office because it’s difficult to market an animated feature about heartbreaking loneliness, depression, despair, and the search for human connection among the disenfranchised. I’m getting choked up right now just mulling over the film’s themes, so easy to see why it might’ve been a difficult sell as a comedy (however black) & a fun night at the movies.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream in New Orleans This Week 5/7/20 – 5/13/20

As you likely already know, the governor has ordered the indefinite closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. That decree makes our weekly What’s Playing in Town report something of a sham, but I thought I’d continue to share weekly movie recommendations anyway (all in an effort to maintain the fictional veneer of Normalcy). I’ll just be shifting into Online Streaming options as a substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Schizopolis (1996)– From our Movie of the Month discussion: “The stand-out centerpiece of the film might be the unbroken shot of Soderbergh (as Munson) making goofy Jim Carrey faces in the bathroom mirror immediately after masturbating at work, just because. As big as Schizopolis‘s ideas can be in a larger scope, its scene to scene rhythms function as a series of half-assed pranks, like a highbrow version of Jackass.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)– From my review: “I wish more movies being made in the 2010s, queer or otherwise, we’re half as adventurous or as unapologetic as this transgressive masterwork. It’s not only the best possible version of itself, but also a welcome glimpse of a convention -defiant realm most films would benefit by exploring. To say Funeral Parade of Roses was ahead of its time is a given. In fact, I’m not sure its time has even arrived to this date.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

We Are the Flesh (2017) – From my review: “I’m in love with the way We Are the Flesh disorients the eye by making its grotesque displays of bloodshed & taboo sexuality both aesthetically pleasing and difficult to pin down. The subtle psychedelia of its colored lights, art instillation sets, and unexplained provocative imagery (a pregnant child, close-up shots of genitals, an excess of eggs, etc.) detach the film from a knowable, relatable world to carve out its own setting without the context of place or time. Its shock value sexuality & gore seem to be broadcasting directly from director Emiliano Rocha Minter‘s subconscious, attacking both the viewer & the creator with a tangible, physical representation of fears & desires the conscious mind typically compartmentalizes or ignores (like a poetically surreal distortion of Cronenberg’s Videodrome).” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Streaming VOD

The Box (2009) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “As Kelly put it himself, The Box was an attempt ‘to make a film that’s incredibly suspenseful and broadly commercial, while still retaining [his] artistic sensibility.’ I’d say it’s almost successful in that way, tempering Kelly’s bottomless wealth of bizarre ideas with a familiar realm of cinematic tones that lands somewhere between Hitchcock suspense and the Spielbergian throwback horror of titles like Super 8 & Stranger Things. I honestly believe The Box is his best work to date. However, if Kelly thinks that this overwhelming tale of deadly ultimatums, alien invasions, mind control, interdimensional gateways, and spiritual ascension has ‘broad commercial appeal’ he’s gotta be out of his fucking mind (and I’m sure there’s more than a little truth to that).” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Citizen Kane (1941) From my review: “While I’m not exactly shocked that Citizen Kane‘s radical sea change was misunderstood upon its initial release, I’m thankful that it’s been championed as a pinnacle of the medium in the decades since. We’re extremely lucky to have its massive presence towering over us is a modern audience. It came a lot closer to disappearing into obscurity than a lot of people realize.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Darkman (1990) –From my review: “A comic book-inspired noir riding on the coattails of Tim Burton’s Batman, Darkman is a masterfully goofy work of genre cinema. Its comic book framing, over-the-top performances, and stray Ken Russell-esque freakouts were all perfection in terms of trashy entertainment value, pushing the lowest-common-denominator of trash media into the realm of high art. Darkman is not only the finest Sam Raimi film I’ve ever encountered, it’s also one of the most striking comic book movies ever made … which is saying a lot considering that it wasn’t even based off of a comic book.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet