Somehow I ended up having an entirely Netflix-centric weekend this past weekend - I did go out to the theater to see some movies but they were all things I had seen before; the new stuff I watched was all on Netflix. I don't watch many movies on Netflix anymore - I usually just turn the streamer on for one of their series - so this was a real anomaly kinda experience. Point being you too can be like me and watch any or all of these movies on Netflix whenever you like, and I'm gonna do a trio of quick review-like things to tell you what I thought. Even quicker: I definitely recommend the first two!
Strong Island -- This doc, which tells the story of director Yance Ford's brother being murdered and the subsequent totally botched police response, finds entirely unexpected ways to be quietly, profoundly devastating - it's not at all preachy with any political agenda (not that there's not a way to do that right, but it's not always the way); it just ingratiates you into this family, see their love and feel their humanity, understand their story, and then just presents you with a portrait of painfully intimate devastation. And in saying these things I keep hesitating because to do so makes it sound like a slog, but it really isn't - Yance has an utterly transfixing face that we watch in close-up, and so much of this story is joy, and life, and family. It's only in the aftermath where the loss truly takes hold. Not to be missed. (Strong Island is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars this year - you should read my friend Glenn's review of the movie, which goes into better depth and which I totally co-sign, over at The Film Experience.)
The Wound -- I'm not one hundred percent sure it sticks its landing - I'm not sure whether the inevitability of what happens is profound, in its inevitability, or whether it was just a smidge too obvious a choice - but the path that The Wound takes to get there felt so singular an experience I'm surely willing to cut it some slack. Set in rural South Africa it tells the story of a possibly doomed gay love affair against a tribal initiation ritual - I guess no one outside of the tribe itself knew about this practice (yes, it involves male genital mutilation) until about a decade ago when Nelson Mandela wrote about it in one of his books? Anyway even against that backdrop The Wound has an arresting and unexpected story to tell that's no doubt a landmark in its own country, and it tells that story in surprising and frank ways.
The Cloverfield Paradox -- This is digging into the Way Back box and a fairly obscure reference but does anybody remember the skit on Mad TV that made fun of the delightfully craptastic syndicated sci-fi series Cleopatra 2525? The main joke was about how the show only had one set, a single room, that the characters would run from one side of to the other side and back again. I thought of that joke watching The Cloverfield Paradox, which spends I swear to god at least a quarter of its runtime having characters run off in opposite directions down hallways.
We watch Gugu Mbatha-Raw run down a hallway one way, then we watch Chris O'Dowd run down a totally different hallway, then we watch Ziyi Zhang run down another, and on, and on, and The Cloverfield Paradox has a really big cast. A really big cast of really excellent actors that spend most of their time... running down hallways. There are some fun, smart ideas buried inside these box, but you really gotta dig around to find them. Mostly, hallways.