There was a time when Netflix’s American selection was spoken about in hushed tones. A time before everyone trotted out their own streaming service and strapped down everything they had the rights to. In those days, anything could happen on American Netflix — or to those of us in Canada vacationing and discovering, as I did, Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia or what have you.
Those days are definitely over. On Jan. 31, everyone but American Netflix subscribers will be able to stream the Safdies’ Uncut Gems, my personal favourite film of last year. To paraphrase the great Howard Ratner, “This is how we win.”
A bevy of middle-of-the-road (in a good way — sometimes) Oscar hopefuls from years past are being added to the service in time for the Feb. 9 ceremony. That includes Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, which nabbed Gary Oldman the Best Actor statuette two years ago; Gone With the Wind, the epoch-defining epic romance that won no less than 10 Oscars upon release; Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, which pits the two titular figures in a televised debate and garnered five nominations; Steven Spielberg’s thriller Munich, which also earned five nominations in 2006 (his The Adventures of Tintin, which was nominated for Best Score, is also available Feb. 1) and Clint Eastwood’s thrice-nominated period piece Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie.
Feb. 1 also sees the addition of a smattering of modern rom-com classics, including You’ve Got Mail, Crazy Stupid Love, Nights in Rodanthe and PS I Love You. (I guess modern rom-com classics might be a bit of stretch; let’s leave it at “movies some people like.”) Early February is clearly all about solid, dependable catalogue titles since 8 Mile, Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, The Land Before Time, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (starring Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as G-man Melvin Purvis) and Along Came Polly (a mostly terrible movie with an inexplicably all-time comic performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman) are also all hitting on Feb. 5.
In terms of Netflix originals, the biggest news is the last part of the final season of Bojack Horseman. That’s available to stream as of today (Jan. 31).
Otherwise it’s a slow week. There are a couple of specials from comedians Amit Tandon and Tom Papa; a couple of Spanish-language productions that don’t seem to have had much of a festival life; and a new series from India (Taj Mahal 1989). Sundance titles start dropping next week.
Crave, Prime and Criterion
In Canada, for Crave subscribers that have the “Movies” tier (one notch above the basic Crave package), it’s even slimmer pickings. The junky thriller Ma from The Help director Tate Taylor hits the streaming service on Feb. 1, while pre-apocalyptic boomer drama (!) The Tomorrow Man, starring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner, drops on Feb. 5. All Crave subscribers will also have access to the tremendously well-reviewed rock doc David Crosby: Remember My Name, a career-spanning document of the most irascible rock-n-roll Zelig out there.
Amazon Prime streaming typically has a more unpredictable selection. The big confirmation this week is that The Mindy Project will now stream over at Prime. The more interesting titles are coming later this month.
Finally, Criterion Channel has stacked the first week of February with several dense retrospectives. Their Sidney Poitier series showcases 19 films starring the beloved screen star. Titles range from 1951’s Cry the Beloved Country to 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night. On Feb. 3, the Foreign-Language Oscar Winners series is made available, showcasing films that have taken home the statuette starting in 1950 with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon all the way to 2013’s The Great Beauty. Finally, Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the biggest arthouse hit in Chinese history, makes its exclusive streaming premiere on Feb. 6. ■
See what’s new on Netflix Canada here.