Hello, streamers! Our picks for this week should prove to be nostalgic and contemporary, reflective and forward thinking, a look to the inspirational works of the past with a glance at what they've rendered since. Two films debuting in theaters are also new to VOD, while the release of Destin Cretton's much hailed "Short Term 12" encouraged us to take a look at his last feature. And with the opening of Wong Kar-wai's tenth feature film this weekend, we decided to feature the Chinese director quite prominently: some works—"Happy Together," "In the Mood for Love," and "Chungking Express"—are already well known, so we're offering a curated assortment from his early days of writing and directing that you may be a little less familiar with. The Criterion Collection's special presentation of remastered films (care of Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation) on Hulu deserves similar attention, and we have an overview of two of our favorites from that group. Bet you can't wait to find out what they are! Let's get going.
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (2013)
What It's About: When a heist erupts in a shoot-out, pregnant bank robber Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) injures a police officer named Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). Her accomplice and husband Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), in order to protect Ruth and their unborn child, takes the blame for the near murder and is saddled with 25 years in prison. As the years of this sentence persist, Ruth raises her daughter under the guise of another confederate (Keith Carradine) and the ever-present but never-seen Wheeler. However, just as the lawman begins to gather the courage to approach Bonnie, Clyde escapes from jail.
Why You Should Stream It: Set in 1970s Texas, David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is a masterful example of filmmaking, its individually potent parts cohering in a powerful and unique whole; the director's experience in multiple film industries, from cinematography and editing to writing and electrical work, is certainly significant here, affording him the know-how necessary to construct a beautiful and timeless piece of cinema. Bradford Young's pensive, luminous camerawork and Daniel Hart's poignant score are particularly marvelous, and lend the picture much of its brooding soul. Our review extols all the actors, and Foster in particular, calling the film "a wholly engrossing and impressive piece of work that the movie world will be talking about all year long." "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" hit select theaters last Friday, but if it's not playing near you (or even if it is), stream it!
Where It's Available: Cable VOD
"I Am Not a Hipster" (2012)
What It's About: Indie rocker Brooke Hyde (Dominic Bogart) is drifting, leading an existence dominated by apathy despite his ascent in San Diego's local music scene. When his three sisters (Tammy Minoff, Lauren Coleman, and Kandis Erickson) make a sudden appearance, complete with plans to spread their late mother's ashes, Brooke is confronted with a past version of himself, and forced to reconcile the shell he's become since leaving his home in Ohio.
Why You Should Stream It: In this, his first feature, writer-director Destin Cretton (who directed ("Short Term 12") displays his talent for illustrating the nuances of deep human feeling. He delves into Brooke's grieving process with insight and sympathy, intelligently using the creative processes of singing and songwriting as showcases for the protagonist's emotional journey. Our review calls Cretton's work "a tender, beautiful film that eloquently captures the complexities of creativity within those darker moments of life, and the beauty that can come from connecting with those you love. This film is too delightfully earnest and honest to be too overbearingly hip." With a riveting and visceral performance from Bogart, wonderfully gritty handheld camerawork from Brett Pawlak, and a series of first-rate original songs written by Joel P. West, "I Am Not a Hipster" proves itself beyond the ironic title, as a worthwhile examination of grief—how it consumes us, how it changes us, and how we can, eventually, allow ourselves to move beyond it.
Where It's Available: Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, iTunes, VUDU, YouTube
"As Tears Go By" (1988), "Days of Being Wild" (1990), "Fallen Angels" (1995), and Other Wong Kar-wai Films
What They're About: In "As Tears Go By," small-time gangster Ah Wah (Andy Lau) is torn between keeping his best friend (Jacky Cheung) out of trouble with the local crime boss and pursuing a relationship with his cousin (Maggie Cheung). Playboy Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), faced with the fact of his adoption and beginning a search for his birth mother, copes by toying with the affections of two vulnerable women (Carina Lau and Maggie Cheung again) in "Days of Being Wild." And the issue of isolation comes to the forefront once more in "Fallen Angels," which sees a hitman (Leon Lai) forced to admit he must surmount a preoccupation with an invisible partner (Michelle Reis) if he hopes to permanently escape his debased life.
Why You Should Stream Them: An internationally acclaimed auteur, renowned for his visual flair and culturally transcendent narratives, Hong Kong Second Wave writer-director Wong Kar-wai is a seminal force in the modern era of filmmaking. "As Tears Go By," the artist's directorial debut, has received estimable comparisons to "Mean Streets" and, until the release of "The Grandmaster" earlier this year, was Wong's highest grossing domestic film. His first collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle (an exquisite partnership that has marked each of Wong's subsequent features) came in "Days of Being Wild," a darkly ambiguous film that introduced the arthouse aesthetics of the Second Wave to Hong Kong's cinephiles. This specific stylization became further realized with time, as seen in the riotous, neon-tinted, pop-synth-laced "Fallen Angels." For more about these three pictures (as well as his 14 other features and shorts) read our full retrospective on Wong here.
Where They're Available: Netflix