by Brian Kelley
The beginning of each month is an exciting time wherein Netflix dumps a large number of new titles onto their streaming service. Comb through those titles as well as others added in the past couple of weeks, and a few great titles bubble to the surface.
Let’s take a look at a documentary about urban design, a drama about adolescent sexual identity, an existential Western from the vaults, and a few more movies worth streaming this week.
The New and Noteworthy
Following his documentaries on typefaces (Helvetica) and industrial design (Objectified), director Gary Hustwit completes his Design Trilogy with Urbanized, a look at urban planning and the design challenges of cities. Featuring interviews with many of the world’ s leading planners and architects, Urbanized pours through an incredible amount of information relating to urban design methodologies and how they have changed through the centuries.
The film is neatly presented by dividing its time between different cities around the world and focusing on the successes and failures in their planning. From cities with roots in the 1100s to those as new as the 1980s, the pitfalls of planning and the deep connection to human psychology become increasingly apparent. It is a film, like the others in Hustwit’s trilogy, that will truly make you think different about your surroundings.
Continuing the exploration of themes relating to development of female sexual identity she started in Water Lillies, director Céline Sciamma crafts a delicate story of adolescence in her second feature, Tomboy. 10-year-old Laure is settling into her new home and neighborhood after her parents move the family to a town outside of Paris. When she is mistaken for a boy by a girl named Lisa, Laure does not attempt to correct the mistake instead choosing to introduce herself as Mikael. She spends the Summer living unquestioned as just one of the boys as she becomes less and less confused about who she is.
Tomboy is refreshing in its lack of agenda, the film unfolds naturally and organically. There are no fingers to be pointed, Laure comes from a loving, vibrant home and her quest is deeply personal. Anchored by the revelatory performance of newcomer Zoé Héran, Tomboy is not at all about the identity into which Laure may or may settle. It is a perfectly observed drama about the importance of the journey.
Other additions of note: We Were Here, The Misfortunates, My Perestroika, Big Bad Mama, Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story, The Black Balloon, Hollywood Boulevard, Cold Sweat, Brain Dead (1990), Eat My Dust, Goon,A Horrible Way to Die, Let the Bullets Fly, Battle Royale
From the Vault
There’s a lot of room for a history lesson when talking about My Name is Nobody. The brainchild of Sergio Leone, it exists both as part of the Trinity series and a direct response to it. Leone was notoriously infuriated with this new breed of Western that sought to actively poke fun at the Spaghetti tropes (and just so happened to wipe its ass with the puny-in-comparison box office receipts of his own classics).
That Terence Hill (the Trinity series leading man) begins to grate on even the audience some time during the second act, that the Ennio Morricone score is completely insane (but, for the record, one of my favorites of his), that the film moves through so many references to widely-known Spaghetti Westerns (not making fun of them but of previous jokes made about them) all seems intentional. It comes off as something like a parody of Western parodies.
Never mind that, though, it’s a flat out fantastic film. Hill is the titular Nobody, a young gunslinger who idolizes Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda), an aging relic of the Old West who still happens to be the fastest shot around. Tired of being challenged by and having to kill young whippersnappers, Beauregard is looking to retire to Europe. However, Nobody has bigger plans for Beauregard – he wants him to die in a blaze of glory while taking on the Wild Bunch gang. Leone (who has an ‘idea’ and co-directing credit on the film) is basically shutting the door on the Western with My Name is Nobody (though he shot himself in the foot by cooking up an ill-advised and terrible sequel).
The way things resolve themselves in the film is not only a kick to the balls of the Trinity series, it’s a firm (but loving) middle-finger “see ya later” gesture towards the audience. Yet it remains a ceaselessly entertaining Western in its own right, a film bred of and about the existential crisis inherent in passing on the reigns. It’s full of laughs, fists, and tremendous performances.
What are you streaming this week?