Streaming Suggestions is a month-by-month series of recommendations for film lovers and those interested in expanding their horizons.
While I assume most readers will have at least one of the popular streaming services, I understand that some don’t, so I have also included excellent free services such as Kanopy (UNSW) and SBS on Demand.
Wake in Fright (1971) – available as of 31 March 2020
Known as Australia’s great ‘lost film’, Wake in Fright is a hallmark in Australian cinema, and an example of plain good filmmaking. The performance by Donald Pleasance as Doc, who seems to be holding a perpetual glass of beer in his hands, is unrivalled. The film covers the journey of a young schoolteacher who travels to the remote outback. Suffice to say, chaos ensues (and a lot of kangaroo killing). The director delivers a surreal journey through the Australian outback, with madness and alcohol being the key drivers. Wake in Fright is one of the essential films to see in the canon of Australian cinema, and although it may be a difficult watch, is worth it.
“You'd think a bloke who'd won a silver medal at target shooting could hit himself in the head at a range of three inches”.
Punch-Drunk-Love (2002) – available as of 31 March 2020
This is the film that roused Adam Sandler from his mediocre comedies and showed that he was capable of turning in a great performance. Paul Thomas Anderson creates a different kind of romantic-comedy, one that has some transcendent style and soundtrack, and despite its often weird narrative context, it is a film that just works so well. Sandler and Emily Watson are wonderful in the film, and are lovely playing off of each other. The film follows Barry Egan, a standard man-child stuck in the throes of arrested development. On the surface, he seems pleasant enough, but underneath, he boils with frustration and anger. He has 7 sisters which seem to be perpetually nagging, and the world seems to be working against him, but the film is sympathetic to his cause, and it seems that the machinations of a cosmic destiny allow him to (maybe) find someone he can love. This film is a treat to watch and a good entry point to Paul Thomas Anderson’s work.
“I don't know if there is anything wrong because I don't know how other people are.”
Jackie Brown (1997) – available as of 31 March 2020
Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated film, Jackie Brown has aged like a fine wine. Free from many of Tarantino’s trademark writing tropes, the narrative is allowed time to breathe, flesh itself out and not be weighed down by the director’s incessant need for over-the-top violence. The characters in this film are its biggest strength, and Tarantino made two of the great casting decisions in bringing back Pam Grier (Blaxploitation goddess and all-round badass) and Robert Forster (king of character actors) out of career slumps and into the spotlight. These two play off each other so coolly and brilliantly, they alone are reason enough to watch the film, but on top of that, the narrative is excellent, well-paced and satisfying as hell. The cherry on top to this is a supporting cast which includes Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro; what more could you conceivably want? Any film that has the gall to completely under-utilise Robert De Niro is a film worth checking out.
“Now that my friend is a clear cut case of him or me. And you best believe it ain't gonna be me.”