Catching up on movies at the end of the year is always frustrating for those not in New York and LA — and it’s especially tricky this year, when even those in the big cities may not be ready to hit the movies yet. . Thankfully, there are now plenty of great 2021 titles available on the subscription streaming services; you just need to know where to look.
Stream it on Hulu.
Nicolas Cage is magnificent in this humble drama from the first feature director Michael Sarnoski. As a respected Pacific Northwest chef who was off the job for 15 years, Cage plays many of his scenes in silence, barely raising his voice when he decides to speak; he turns his character into an enigma, leaving audiences wondering if he chose to remove himself from his comfortable life or if someone (or something) broke him. He returns to civilization when his truffle pig – and only friend – is kidnapped, but “Pig” isn’t the “John Wick” riff the ads promised. This is a rich, structured character study, featuring some of the best works from Cage’s distinguished career.
Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane tells an emotional, complex story of uncompromising performers and the mythology they create as a Hindustani classical singer (Aditya Modak) tries to make herself a performer worthy of his mentors and influences. The classical musician’s path is lonely, avoiding the easy money and success of love songs, film scores or devotional music, and Tamhane’s astute screenplay complicates the simplistic issue of being sold out. The music and filmmaking are perfectly in sync, relaxed and often trance-like, and Modak is a real find.
‘The murder of Kenneth Chamberlain’
Stream it on HBO Max.
Frankie Faison, the great and enduring character actor known for “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Do the Right Thing”, has just won the Gotham Award for Outstanding Lead Role for his heartbreaking work in this gripping drama from writer and director David Midden. . It dramatizes the 2011 murder of Kenneth Chamberlain (Faison), a 68-year-old black man with bipolar disorder who was murdered in his home by White Plains police officers after accidentally activating his medical alert badge. The confrontation with volatile officers builds fear and inevitability – the outcome is in the title, after all – as negotiation and understanding quickly give way to cowboy tactics and inappropriate pride. And the longer it goes on, the more heartbreaking Faison’s performance becomes, as the masterful actor poignantly conveys the terror he feels as the walls draw closer.
‘Killing two lovers’
Stream it on Hulu.
The title of writer-director Robert Machoian’s small-town drama is less of a promise than a threat, as husband and father David (Clayne Crawford) discovers that his wife, Niki (Sepideh Moafi), has begun a relationship during a marital divorce. Machoian’s sparse script captures the quiet desperation of such a period, the uncertainty of a relationship that’s over but still going on, and the logistics of things like shared custody of children become high stakes, life-and-death issues. His claustrophobic framing and unnerving sound design present David as a ticking bomb, with disdain and micro-aggressions played out in long, mercilessly uninterrupted shots, providing an escape route for neither the characters nor the viewer.
Stream it on Amazon.
Val Kilmer is credited as one of the producers of this biodocumentary, so it’s easy to label the results as an exercise in self-mythology. (The directors are Ting Poo and Leo Scott.) But in this case, the self-mythology is instructive; the story the divisive actor chooses to tell, in turn, tells us even more about who he is. “I’ve lived a magical life and I’ve captured most of it,” explains Kilmer — and indeed he captured much of his career with his ubiquitous video camera. Those fascinating images (behind the scenes of movies like “Top Gun” and “Tombstone”) are deftly mixed with home movies, rehearsals, audition tapes and contemporary footage, creating less of a conventional documentary than a scrapbook of memories, reflections, and meditations.
‘Rita Moreno: just a girl who decided to go for it’
Stream it on Netflix.
Rita Moreno is currently winning critical acclaim for her performance in ‘West Side Story’ — a remake of the Oscar-winning film in a different role — so now’s the time to enjoy this celebration of her long, multifaceted career. Mariem Pérez Riera’s documentary is a biography, a valentine and a court session (Moreno doesn’t care about the colorful figures of her past), and while it doesn’t break ground in filmmaking, just wandering around is fun. hanging with the EGOT icon for 90 minutes is irresistible.
Stream it on HBO Max.
The shocking murder in 2006 of actor-turned-filmmaker, Adrienne Shelly, left a sad sense of a career that ended just as it had begun. (Her directorial effort “Waitress” would take Sundance by storm two months later.) This biographical portrait describes Shelly’s tragic death and its emotional consequences from the perspective of someone who would know: the director and narrator is her widower, Andy Ostroy. Understandably, it’s a very personal film (sometimes uncomfortable), as Ostroy and their daughter Sophie continue to struggle with their grief and loss. But it’s also a tribute to a dynamic artist and her fascinating career, navigating the 90s as an indie It girl, on a constant quest to find herself as an artist and person.
‘All light, everywhere’
Stream it on Hulu.
Theo Anthony makes gnarled documentaries, works of slippery non-fiction that tackle gigantic subjects from unexpected angles. The ostensible subject of his latest is body cameras and their current, hapless fashion as a one-size-fits-all solution to the police’s problems. But Anthony broadens his canvas considerably, taking as his subject matter the seeing itself – in person, in the media, in our collective imagination – and comes up with a thoughtful mediation on contemporary culture.