It’s not quite Streamageddon, but as you may’ve heard, Netflix apparently had some contracts that end with 2013, and thus we have one of the streaming service’s occasional purges of valuable catalog titles. And it would’ve happened fairly quietly too, were it not for good ol’ Reddit, where someone painstakingly checked out the individual pages for God-knows-how-many titles and came up with a list of nearly 100 movies and TV shows scheduled to disappear from Netflix Instant on 1/1/2014. There’s some genuinely great stuff in here, proving yet again that this whole “phasing out of physical media for ephemeral streaming that comes and goes as it pleases” thing should give us all pause, but there’s no time for that—there’s barely twelve hours of 2013 left, and you’re about to lose some great movies. So if you’re planning on making New Year’s Eve a movie night, here’s a few soon-to-expire suggestions:
This may be the one that has the most devastating effect on Netflix’s users—after all, what other movie will we all turn to in our moments of heartbreak, loneliness, and post break-up devastation? She-Devil ? Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s masterful, inventive examination of memory, loss, and the very nature of love is a film of wicked intelligence and indelible warmth; it’s a tightrope act, and one that gets no less impressive with subsequent viewings.
If the December cold is getting to you, take a trip to Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year, where long-simmering racial tensions finally boil over. Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece remains his defining work, a spicy stew of provocative drama, street-corner comedy, and social commentary—and contrary to its reputation, it’s also an impressively fair-minded and empathetic portrait of modern race relations. Keep an eye out for Samuel L. Jackson and Martin Lawrence in early roles.
Last year, director Rian Johnson and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt knocked out critics and audiences with their genre-busting hit Looper ; they both broke out (from obscurity and kid-stardom, respectively) seven years earlier, with this moody, memorable detective thriller. The “high school noir” thing was hot in ’05 (Veronica Mars had debuted the previous fall), but Brick transcends the gimmick via writer/director Johnson’s hard-boiled dialogue and tone, as well as Gordon-Levitt’s weary, naturalistic performance.
Brick fans, be advised: Here’s the second half of a perfect neo-noir double feature, Robert Altman’s unsurprisingly idiosyncratic take on the private eye movie (which had a bit of a renaissance in the 1970s). Altman’s rather loose adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel casts Elliot Gould as Phillip Marlowe, and while the casting is unconventional, it’s perfect for the director’s quirky approach, which reframes Marlowe as a 1970s everyman, muttering his way through a Los Angeles that seems to have passed him by. Atmospheric, bizarre, and wickedly funny.
When moviegoers get all nostalgic for the Al Pacino of old (usually after sitting through one of his recent, embarrassing shout-fests), this is the guy they’re talking about: a lean, muscular, endlessly convincing cauldron of Method intensity. Sidney Lumet’s 1973 cop drama is based on the true story of a New York cop who looked around at the corruption of his department, and decided he’d had enough. Pacino has seldom been better; Lumet’s streetwise direction has a stage director’s ear but a documentarian’s sense of authenticity.
Thankfully unrelated to the recent megaflop 47 Ronin, this 1998 action drama features one of Robert DeNiro’s last worthwhile performances, a terse and often funny screenplay (co-written by David Mamet, writing under a pseudonym), and one of the all-time great movie car chases, courtesy of its late, great director, John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate). Oh, and this little bit of wisdom: “Everyone’s your brother until the rent comes due.”
Pam Grier goes undercover, shoots thugs, and generally kicks ass in this iconic blaxpoitation extravaganza from 1974. Fast, funny, and totally entertaining, this is Ms. Grier at her finest, fueled by the energetic, anything-goes direction of writer/director (and B-movie legend) Jack Hill. And their previous collaboration, the equally enjoyable (and ridiculous) Coffy , isn’t leaving Netflix just yet, so there’s some consolation, at least.
Another good double-feature idea: watch Grier and Hill’s blaxpoitation classic, and then watch Keenan Ivory Wayans’s uproarious 1988 parody of the era. Wayans fronts a cast of ‘70s legends (including Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, and Antonio Fargas), gloriously sending up their own images while maintaining their effortless cool. Chock full of hilarious bits—most memorably, Chris Rock’s early appearance as a thrifty rib customer.
Rodney Dangerfield’s “no respect” mantra became a self-fulfilling prophecy; he truly didn’t get his due as one of the great screen comedians, and perhaps the purest vehicle for his well-honed persona was this 1985 collegiate comedy, the kind of personality picture you could imagine, without too much stretching, W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx fronting in their heyday. Dangerfield is uproarious as a self-made millionaire who becomes Grand Lakes University’s oldest freshman (and unlikeliest diving champ); Christine co-star (and future Homeland director) Keith Gordon plays his son. Sally Kellerman, Ned Beatty, a very young Robert Downey Jr., and William Zabka (aka The Karate Kid’s leg-sweeping Johnny Lawrence) round out the cast, and the Kurt Vonnegut cameo is a hoot.
It seemed like a new buddy cop action/comedy opened every other weekend in the 1980s, so it’s probably understandable that this modest hit from 1986 has mostly been forgotten (its title was even reappropriated 20 years later for a Paul Walker movie, so any discussion of it requires that little bit of clarification). That’s a shame, because it’s a real treat. Director Peter Hyams (2010, Outland) stages some impressive action set pieces, but the picture is a comedy at its heart, centered on the surprisingly potent chemistry between stars Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. Its ‘80s origins don’t always wear well (how ‘bout that Michael McDonald good-times-in-Florida music video montage?), but there are enough great throwaway lines and funny scenes (Crystal, loudly, to Joe Pantoliano’s sketchy neighbors: “He also has fifty thousand dollars in small bills in a briefcase. As his neighbors, it is your responsibility to make sure there are no suspicious characters or evil perpetrators lurking in the area who would seek to do him harm!”) to carry the day.