Welcome to Flavorwire’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. This week’s new releases are universally underwhelming (you may be tempted to watch Scream 4 , but in the name of all that is Craven, resist that temptation), but we got a look at the titles expiring over the next couple of weeks and were amazed by how many great movies are disappearing — so the theme of this week’s streaming movie guide is, apparently, Watch Them While You Can. Join us after the jump for great stuff from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Ethan Hawke, Robert De Niro, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, James Gandolfini, Marisa Tomei, the Coen Brothers, Mel Brooks, Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman, and Alfonso Cuarón, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
You’ve gotta love the power a big studio hit will get you. When the Coen Brothers scored their highest box office numbers to date with O Brother Where Art Thou, it might have been tempting to make a follow-up that was even more audience-friendly. Instead, the Coens used their momentary capital to make one of their most bizarre and introverted films — in black and white, no less. Nonetheless, there are pleasures to be found in The Man Who Wasn’t There: a hilariously deadpan Billy Bob Thornton performance, a gloriously nonsensical plot, and (most of all) the luminous photography by Coens regular Roger Deakins. Move fast on this one — it expires from Netflix Instant on 4/16.
The late, great Sidney Lumet won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006, and your typical filmmaker might’ve taken that as a cue to call it a day. But Lumet was never a typical filmmaker — and the next year, he proved it. His final film, 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, doesn’t feel like the work of an elder statesman of the cinema; it’s a bleak, nasty, tough, unforgiving little potboiler, and it feels like the work of a director in his 20s instead of his 80s. Before the Devil also expires on 4/16, so better plan on a double feature tonight.
If you took a poll of, say, ten friends, and asked each of them to describe their level of interest in watching a documentary about sheep herders, you’d probably end up seeing that movie alone. In conception alone, Sweetgrass sounds almost comically esoteric (“All right hippies, you think you like documentaries? Try this”). But this portrait of cowboys on a 150-mile sheep drive through Montana — co-directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, of the recent critical favorite Leviathan—has a deliberate, elegiac style, proving the old maxim that the way to get people to listen closely is to speak quietly. (Expires 4/20.)
Dear Zachary is maybe the saddest movie you will ever see. Granted, that description might not be the best way to sell it — not everyone wants to be saddened and horrified and destroyed by the films they watch, and would rather just laugh or watch some things blow up. But this first-person documentary, detailing the brutal murder of Philadelphia father-to-be Andrew Bagby and the stranger-than-fiction aftermath, is beautifully assembled — sharp, pointed, and surprisingly fast-paced for a doc. Director Kurt Kuenne (who also edited) uses overlapping dialogue, repeated phrases, photos, clips, phone calls, and every medium imaginable to create a dizzying mosaic of words and emotion. This is a raw, angry, powerful movie that will make you cry and make you mad in roughly equal proportion. (Expires 4/25.)
We still get a little hot under the collar when a conversation turns to this 2001 indie smash, which finds two hormonally fueled teenage boys (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) taking an impromptu road trip with a sexy older woman (Maribel Verdú). Director Alfonso Cuarón expertly mixes road movie, socio-political commentary, and horny teenager flick — and boldly deals with the kind of sexual subtext that’s often left unstated in the dopier, Hollywood takes on this material. (Expires 4/26.)
You may have caught a glimpse of this one in our recent supercut of Oscar nominees in their early films; yes, that’s a very young Robert De Niro as a streetwise cop, though it’s a decidedly supporting role (which you wouldn’t guess from the subsequent DVD repackaging efforts, which place De Niro front and center). But it’s not just a stargazing curio; this is a gritty, fascinating, and often desperately funny look at heroin addicts trying to hustle their way to their next score. The views of scummy early-‘70s New York are priceless, and George Segal — not the first actor you’d think of to play a scamming addict — is a revelation in the leading role.
We wanted to include this wonderful 1974 film in our recent roundup of “lovers on the run” movies — until we realized that the lovers themselves never actually go anywhere (which is perhaps the point of the thing, ultimately). This Depression-era drama from Robert Altman is the story of Bowie (a terrific Keith Carradine), part of a bank-robbing gang of hoods, and Keechie (Shelly Duvall, never better), the simple girl he keeps coming back to. Thieves was dismissed as a second-tier Bonnie and Clyde upon its release, but it works in a very different way; its style is laid-back, modest, and subtle, a detailed recreation of a world where the radio was always on and there was nothing better than enjoying a cold bottle of Coke with your best girl.
Mel Brooks took on the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock with this 1977 effort, and while it’s not a perfect spoof movie (like, say, Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles ), there’s still some very funny stuff here. Brooks tackles Hitchcock with both affection and vulgarity (his parody of The Birds is as obvious as it is hilarious), and the Brooks company of flawless supporting players — which this time includes Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman — has rarely been better. Plus, good luck getting that theme song out of your head, oh, ever.