Lately, Netflix has been doing an amazing job of balancing their books in terms of content they offer to subscribers of their immensely popular streaming service. Every time a good movie would leave, one – or sometimes two – equally good movies would make it into their catalog. They’ve kept the exclusive / original content coming and, overall, the monthly fees subscribers pay out to them have been more than worth the excellent content being offered.
Less so, however, this month. It’s not that there’s nothing worthwhile coming in. It’s also not that everything good is absconding at the end of the month. It’s just that, for seemingly the first time in a long time, the incoming titles don’t quite make up for the outgoing ones, and the streaming service will be all the poorer for it by the week’s end.
Casino Royale (2006) – Bond movies have always kind of been a big deal. From the classic, playboyesque version of the character from the 1960s to the darker, gritter version of the character from the more recent films, each new movies takes the character in interesting new directions and exciting new locales. And especially given just how many of these movies there are out in the wild, it’s amazing that Netflix of all places has had such a (relatively speaking) complete collection of them). Tragically, however, they’re all rotating out at the end of the month, meaning that Bond aficionados need to make some hard choices about what movies they are going to prioritize in the coming days.
It’s not like it’s an easy decision either. Sure, most people will be happy enough to skip out on cringeworthy installments like Octopussy (1983), but what about the quintessential Goldfinger (1964)? What about the suave appeal of Diamonds Are Forever (1971)? What about the thoroughly underrated The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)? For my money, however, the one to single out is Casino Royale, the first of the soon-to-end Daniel Craig tenure as 007 that completely reinvented the British super-spy for a new generation after the abhorrent direction of the Pierce Brosnan years ran the franchise into the ground.
Heat (1995) – While I certainly understand the appeal of down-to-Earth, ‘realistic’ (or at least realistic-feeling) action movies, emblematized by the Mission: Impossible franchise, I’ve never been wholly sold on them over the more bombastic, more cartoonish versions that have come to define blockbuster cinema. Yes, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) were incredible works of revolutionary art, but The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and even the widely praised Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) never seemed to rise above simply being okay. When you tone down the inherent ridiculousness of the genre, you are often left with something that’s less than impressive.
Not so with Heat, however, a white-knuckled heist flick that mixes tense scenes of cat and mouse with tense human drama, whose action sequences heighten the dramatic stakes between the characters and whose relationships between characters make the action that much more harrowing. If all similarly-styled action films did likewise, maybe I’d be more excited to see them.
L.A. Confidential (1997) – In retrospect, the 90’s really was a gross decade where predatory men ran rampant with the keys to the kingdom. Not only did you have certifiable creeps like Harvey Weinstein, but you also had the likes of Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer running around and taking malicious advantage of those looking for a break in Hollywood. It has really cast movies like The Usual Suspects (1995) and Shakespeare in Love (1998) in an unfortunate new light; that’s not to say that the movies are, strictly speaking, any worse that they were twenty-odd years ago – no, no – they’re just a cringe-inducing monument to the naked abuses that the vulnerable people of the film totem pole continue to be even to this day.
When it comes to this retroactively unfortunate Kevin Spacey movie, however the inherently seedy storyline – based on a novel by Shutter Island scribe Dennis Lehane – adds a comforting bit of meta-textual weight to all the terrible things that we’d eventually be clued in on regarding their content. This sleezy neo-noir examines institutional corruption, sleezy sex scandals, racism and a litany of other familiar outrages in a slickly-paced, sterlingly acted, show-stoppingly written feature that recalls the nihilism and fatalistic defeatism of the genres bygone heyday.
Raw (2016) – One of the most fascinating developments in the horror genre in recent years was the turn-of-the-century development of the New French Extremity. While these are undoubtedly a bit much for American viewers, movies of this movement within the genre are exciting new takes on the more familiar tropes of horror films and come part and parcel with significant social import for 21st century France.
Although it came late in the movement’s cycle – some might even argue after The New French Extremity well and truly died off – there is no doubt in my mind that it belongs right up there with movies like High Tension (2003) and Frontier(s) (2007). Following the awkward transition of a sheltered, vegetarian Freshman into the exciting new experiences that college has to offer, a cruel hazing ritual – in which Freshman are forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys – awakens a lustful desire for meat inside of her. As her habit rapidly spirals out of control, he realizes that it’s not just animal meat that she’s started to crave.
Se7en (1995) – While Se7en is certainly not director David Fincher’s first movie, I hardly think that it’s fair to count a mangled studio hit-job like Alien 3 (1992) as part of his larger body of work. I say this as somebody who actually likes that movie (at least the Assembly Cut of it), but the film was a production train wreck, was hacked down to the marrow in post-production and never once afforded Fincher to explore the dark, cerebral kinds of filmmaking that defines every other film he made.
Se7en, however, is Fincher’s Ur-text: the platonic ideal of what his creativity is. It’s grim and daunting in the same way that the real world often is (and even has the unfortunate, if fitting, addition of Kevin Spacey as a deranged criminal that drives everybody around him absolutely insane).