Thank the gods that July 4 is on a Tuesday this year. Only the cruelest employers would make you go to work on a Monday, so you probably have four whole days to burn. Are you really going to spend all of them outside in the glorious sun? No. You have a sick, sick binge-watching addiction, and it must be sated at least a little. But instead of burning entire days on a season (or four) of some TV show, why not catch up with some movies you missed? Movies are short! That’s one reason they’re great!
‘Okja’ (Netflix Instant)
Hollywood would have never sprung for the latest from Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”). For one thing, it would make a vegetarian of anyone who watches it. For another, it’s insane. The tale of a South Korean girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her bestie — a genetically-engineered “super-pig” created by a corporation intent on selling it as meat-stuff — it starts out as a Spielbergian heartwarmer. Then it turns into a Spielbergian thriller. Soon it’s a broad comedy, an angry anti-capitalist satire. But there’s a method to the madness. By the end its message is deeper and more disturbing than simply “meat is murder.” It says we’re all of us, no matter who we are, are complicit in a society that prizes profit over peace, that’s built upon the misery and destruction of others. It’s also a ton of fun.
‘Moonlight’ (Amazon Prime)
Wait, you haven’t watched “Moonlight”? It won the Best Picture Oscar! What are you doing with your life? Even if you have seen it, see it again, and not just so you can marvel over Mahershala Ali or that restaurant reunion set piece again. Besides, how many Best Picture winners run a mere 105 minutes?
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‘I Am Not Your Negro’ (Amazon Prime)
James Baldwin is the most astute and insightful writer to be reading in 2017, and all of his books and essays were written over 40 years ago. Raoul Peck's Oscar-nominated doc isn’t a primer about his life; it’s a film essay that connects his works — including “The Devil Finds Work” and “The Fire Next Time,” lucid and poetic and even witty chronicles of America before, during and after the Civil Rights era — to the turmoil of today. No one articulates what’s wrong with American race relations better than Baldwin. And besides Baldwin himself, no one reads his words better than the film’s narrator, Samuel L. Jackson.
‘Paterson’ (Amazon Prime)
“I Am Not Your Negro” will boil your blood; Jim Jarmusch’s latest will cool it down. Way down. Very little transpires in this look at a week in the life of a poet-bus driver (Adam Driver), who does nothing, really. He gets up. He goes to work. Maybe he’ll write some poetry, maybe not. He’ll spend time with his excitable wife (Golshifteh Farahani) and his adorable pug. He’ll go to the neighborhood bar. Repeat six times. There are minor variations, but every day’s basically the same. And it forces you, in its aggressively unpushy way, to examine what makes a life, what gives it purpose. Lord knows we all need a movie about nothing these days.
‘20th Century Women’ (Amazon Prime)
The heroes of Mike Mills' very funny drama are lucky to live in 1979. There was a Democrat in the White House. Second-wave feminism was still going strong. Christ, they live in Santa Barbara. But they don’t seem to know how good they’ve got it — or that it’s all about to be crushed by the looming Reagan era. Annette Bening leads a terrific ensemble cast, playing the owner of a house that’s become a kind of commune: to her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann), his best friend (Elle Fanning), a cancer survivor (Greta Gerwig) and a 40-something manly man at a crossroads (Billy Crudup). It’s dense and beautifully observed, and it has a killer soundtrack to boot: Talking Heads and Bowie and Neu!
‘Daughters of the Dust’ (Netflix)
Reissued last year after spending some 20 years in copyright purgatory, Julie Dash’s dreamy freak 1991 art house hit has no plot — just a lot of hanging amongst people you’ve never seen onscreen before or since. They’re members of the Gullah community, descendants of African slaves who formed an enclave on Florida’s coast. It’s the perfect movie for a weekend of cookouts and parties. After all, it’s a cookout party movie itself. Set in 1902, it shows a celebration as some locals prepare to light off for elsewhere. There are flashbacks and fantasies and lots and lots of food. Beyonce paid homage to its imagery — black women on the beach in long, white dresses — in “Lemonade,” and if “Daughters of the Dust” is good enough for Bey, it should be good enough for you.
Then there’s the movie where Anne Heche and Sandra Oh beat the crap out of each other thrice over 90 minutes. But there’s more to this OTT comedy than fists of fury. It’s a hilariously dark satire that keeps jumping years into the future, each time showing how everything gets worse — even worse than electing a pussy-grabber as commander-in-chief. Even if it was just two great actresses cold-cocking each other repeatedly, that would be enough, wouldn’t it?