Need some fresh viewing material for your freeze? Look no further. We've rounded up this week's streaming options below, available through both local theaters and nationwide platforms, from a Hollywood Theatre screening of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog with live commentary from RZA to Hong Khaou's Monsoon to the first installment of the new Steve McQueen anthology Small Axe. Plus, if you haven't heard, the Mercury's amateur porn film festival HUMP! is accepting submissions through January 8, as is the stoner short film fest SPLIFF, through March 5!
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LOCALLY STREAMING: NEW & NOTEWORTHY
When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify certain mugs (those with dark skin and feminine features, specifically), she delves intoan investigation of widespread bias in algorithms.
Northwest Film Center
An unflinching look at the investigative journalists of the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, Collective is a necessary examination of the corruption that can spread unchecked without a robust press to hold it accountable. It takes place following the horrifying fatal 2015 fire at the Collectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. The fire killed 27 people. Widespread government health care fraud, corruption, and greed on all levels would kill 37 more. The film shows footage of the initial fire itself, caused by a pyrotechnic effect that set alight soundproofing foam, and the chaos that ensued. It is a starkly terrible event, which only makes it more horrific that the aftermath saw more preventable death. When the fire was put out, the horror continued for the victims and their families. The focus of the documentary is journalists Cătălin Tolontan, Mirela Neag, and Răzvan Luţac, who head up the team that blows the lid off the entire scandal. It is their reporting that shakes the country to its core. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Touting itself as "America's largest documentary film festival," the online edition of this NYC-based, celebrity-packed annual event (whose special guests from previous years have ranged from Hillary Clinton to Itzhak Perlman to Martin Scorsese to Big Bird) will move online for all to enjoy.
For his latest work, the 88-year-old director Manny Kirchheimer (Stations of the Elevated, Dream of a City) restored 16mm footage that he and his friend Walter Hess (heard of him?) shot in New York between 1958 and 1960, which shows a different version of the city we're used to seeing—one filled with quiet "in-between moments" and architecture around the boroughs.
Warren Miller's new outdoor film will have you longing for the slopes. This *exclusive* online premiere is available only to West Coast-dwellers and includes red carpet events, coupons, giveaways, and more.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
"Background information: When he was young, Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) was saved from a group of street thugs by Louie (John Tormey), a low-level Mafioso who just happened to be passing by. In thanks, Ghost Dog pledged to serve Louie for the rest of his life, as faithful to him as any ancient samurai was to his master. Their relationship forms the core of Jim Jarmusch's 1999 film. Whitaker's Ghost Dog is like Clint Eastwood's “Man with No Name”—coldly professional when it comes to killing, but instead of Ennio Morricone's strings and whistles, he's got Wu-Tang Clan's RZA doing backup. But the movie isn't all guns and bloodshed. Thanks to a relatively simple story, Jarmusch has room to play with some of the characters and situations, often for comedic effect, giving Ghost Dog the same deadpan humor of his earliest films," wrote former Stranger contributor Andy Spletzer. This screening will feature commentary from RZA, who provided the score for the film.
Hong Khaou's latest film stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as a Vietnamese-born Englishman who returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since childhood to reconnect with his roots after the death of his mother. There, an online date with an American clothing designer (Southside With You's Parker Sawyers) turns into something more.
HUMP! Greatest Hits, Volume 2
The HUMP! team is bringing back some fan-favorite amateur porn shorts from years past in the second volume of streamable compilations.
LOCALLY STREAMING: ONGOING
Beasts Clawing at Straws
This sharp new feature from Korean director Kim Yong-hoon follows a group of down-on-their-luck misfits who hunt for the bigger fortune behind a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with cash.
From acclaimed director Frederick Wiseman, who's been making documentary epics for decades, comes another standout. Not to be confused with the 1996 thriller starring Al Pacino, City Hall takes a strictly observational look at the Boston City government and its Mayor Marty Walsh. When I say observational, I can't overstate how much that defines the film. City Hall doesn’t feature the typical talking heads and cutaways that make up most documentaries. Instead, we're a fly on the wall, watching meetings on meetings about the future of the city of Boston. It's often riveting and enlightening though it may not be the type of doc you pop on to unwind after a long day of doomscrolling. This is mostly due to the documentary being over four and a half hours long. WAIT! Don’t let that put you off. If that's too daunting, watch it in segments with breaks. CHASE HUTCHINSON
The Dark Divide
This new documentary starring David Cross and Deborah Messing is based on the true story of renowned butterfly expert Dr. Robert Pyle’s 1995 journey across one of America’s largest undeveloped wildlands.
Hollywood Theater and Northwest Film Center
Ganja & Hess
In Bill Gunn’s classic 1973 Blaxploitation horror, the protagonists combat racist cultural stereotypes through vampirism after Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist (played by Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones), gets accidentally stabbed with an ancient cursed dagger by his assistant. "If horror reflects our terrors and traumas, it can also embody our best hopes—albeit sometimes in a negative cast," wrote former Stranger staffer Joule Zelman.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Just when you thought there was no gas left in the tank of revisionist vampire cinema, along comes A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a tale billed as “the first Iranian vampire western.” Though it’s unlikely to become a crowded field, this black-and-white Farsi-language gem is rich in allusive metaphor (blood-oil-sex-religion) and deep, dark texture. First-time writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour comes by her genre bona fides honestly, via a palette of cinematic and literary influences—Jim Jarmusch most strikingly, but also Leos Carax, Jim Thompson, and Raymond Chandler—not usually seen in horror films of any nationality. And while Amanpour doesn’t deliver the visceral scare factor of Let the Right One In, she does manage to out-Jarmusch Jarmusch’s recent vampire inversion, The Only Lovers Left Alive. In the opening scene, a lean, rockabilly-styled kid rescues a stray cat and walks languidly through the sun-blanched streets of the deserted desert town Bad City. As he crosses a small bridge, oil derricks pumping savagely in the distance, you only casually notice the ravine full of corpses below his feet, and understand that you’re in for a smart, super-creepy film that demands and rewards close attention. SEAN NELSON
Kiddomatic Children's Film Festival
Family-focused films from all over the world fill out this online festival, presented in partnership with the Roxy Theater.
A riot erupts in the suburbs outside of Paris after a young Muslim man is arrested and beaten by police. From there, three of the victim's friends walk around in the aftermath, trying to cope with their anger over the injustice. Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film won César and Cannes awards.
Love in Dangerous Times
Filmed and set in Portland during COVID, writer-director Jon Garcia's romantic comedy follows a playwright who, in the midst of struggling to finish a play (could this be its own genre? seems like it) gets in meaningful cahoots with a woman he matches with on a dating app. Dating during the pandemic is something many of us can relate to, and everyone goes about it differently, so this should be an interesting anthropological study.
Myth of A Colorblind France
The list of Black artists and creatives who have traveled to France (specifically Paris) to free themselves of America's racist bedrock is a long one, and ranges from James Baldwin to Josephine Baker to Augusta Savage. But to what extent was the City of Lights more accepting of people of color than the US? That's at the center of this documentary featuring interviews with French scholars Michel Fabre and Francis Hofstein, as well as contemporary artist Barbara Chase-Riboud, poet James Emanuel, hip-hop producer Ben the Glorious Bastard, and others.
Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte narrate William Greaves's long-lost, newly-restored film about the National Black Political Convention of 1972, where 10,000 black politicians, activists, and artists went to Gary, Indiana, to forge a national unity platform.
When it came to adapting Richard Wright's 1940 novel Native Son into a film, ex-patriate Frenchman Pierre Chenal and Argentinian producer Jamie Prades swooped in when American filmmakers and actors at the time abandoned the project out of discomfort surrounding the deep current of racism in America that the story reveals. With Wright himself in the leading role, it's a noir thriller about a Black man trying to survive in a white world. This is a brand-new restoration.
Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin
There are documentaries, and then there's Werner Herzog turning the camera on himself to muse about all manner of existential concern. And that's what's going on here, with Nomad featuring the director/philosopher discussing his long friendship with travel writer Bruce Chatwin, who shared with Herzog an unquenchable thirst for truth.
Our Time Machine
Looking at the works of contemporary Chinese artist Maleonn, it's easy to see how much his father's former role as the artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater inspired him—Maleonn's conceptual pieces often center subjects in thespian-like costumes, surrounded by props, lit by warm spotlights. In this documentary, Maleonn undertakes a new project to connect with his aging dad through a couple of steampunk-ish mechanical puppets. "I want to use it to show my father how much I appreciate everything he's done for me," says the artist. You will absolutely sniffle and ponder your own mortality.
"Over the long course of her career, RBG repeatedly defended the rights of everyone to live free from bias, but, as Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg says, Ginsburg 'quite literally changed life for women.' With intimate interviews with family and friends, as well as RBG herself, the film captures the life of a woman with a heart none of us wants to stop ticking," wrote Katie Herzog about Julie Cohen and Betsy West's 2018 documentary. RIP, RBG.
Donna Hayes's new film Silent Voices centers nine people of color who have been killed by Portland Police over the years, with each character coming to life to tell their stories. As they speak, a chorus of words taken from comments posted online and news articles about their killings echo in the background.
Laura Dern just wants to go to the mall with her friends and flirt with boys her age to pass the summer months before her sophomore year of high school, but a predatory, deceptively charming older man won't leave her the hell alone. This '80s thriller is based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates.
A human-rights activist and provocative photojournalist decides to run for office in a regional election in his native Kenya, determined to prevail with a "clean campaign" despite his opponents' corrupt practices.
At the Video Store
John Waters, Bill Hader, Nicole Holofcener, and other movie nerds weigh in on the lasting importance of a dying breed: video stores.
Totally Under Control
You don't need us to tell you that the current administration is largely to blame for the miserable failure in controlling the novel coronavirus and potentially avoiding the hundreds of thousands of deaths from the virus. Together with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney explores why the system-wide collapse was possible in the first place.
Northwest Film Center
Has the resurgence of vinyl in the digital age made music fandom more inclusive or more divided? This documentary traces the audio format's history and revival.
The Warner Brothers' fraternal namesake, Yakko and Wakko, and their sister, Dot, are back to causing mayhem and ultimately teaching children valuable life lessons in this reboot of the '90s classic, produced this time by Steven Spielberg.
The short life of Jim Belushi, the comedian/actor who found fame on SNL, The Blues Brothers, and in the college romp Animal House (which was filmed in Oregon) before dying of a drug overdose at 33, gets the spotlight in this documentary that serves as a more loving portrayal of the performer against Bob Woodward's contentious 1984 biography.
Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates's National Book Award-winning epistolary memoir that expresses the realities of being Black in America, addressed to his teenage son, is getting the HBO treatment following its successful stage run at New York's Apollo Theater. It stars Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Alicia Garza, Oprah Winfrey, and other prominent Black figures bringing Coates's words to life through performance while poetic visuals move the story along.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Thanks to a change.org petition demanding that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Sun) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (next month) be aired on broadcast TV (it was slated for Apple TV+ only this year), the beloved Peanuts holiday specials will appear commercial-free on PBS, as well as Apple's streaming service.
PBS and Apple TV+
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion
Will Smith and the rest of the Banks family are chillin' out, maxin', and relaxin' all cool in the living room of the Bel-Air mansion from the beloved '90s sitcom. Hear the actors reminisce about the good old days.
I Hate Suzie
The life of a former teen pop star turned working actress (played by Dr. Who's Billie Piper) living in the English countryside with her husband and child is turned upside down when intimate photos of her with a lover are leaked online. Facing cruel responses from all sides, she enlists the help of her childhood friend Naomi to help her through. The sharp eight-episode series explores Suzie's experience with various stages of grief.
Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas
Benjamin Bradley, an interior designer who really loves the yuletide season (he goes by "Mr. Christmas" and has a dog named Ebenezer) brings holiday cheer to those in need of festive furnishings.
This 2016 historical drama/romance from director Jeff Nichols examines the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial Virginia couple who were jailed for their marriage, and who won a 1967 Supreme Court case that declared any existing laws prohibiting interracial marriages as unconstitutional.
The Nest begins with Rory and Allison, a couple living a happy life with their children in America. That is until Rory makes an executive decision, with no room for objection, to move the family back to his home country of England. Though Rory believes the move will bring new opportunities for him and his family, he couldn't have made a more ruinous miscalculation. Instead, the move brings repressed tension to the surface, consuming the facade the family has built for themselves. Jude Law plays Rory, an entrepreneur and the insecure patriarch of the O'Hara family. As he shifts from being an outwardly loving father to an insecure, domineering child, Law's alarming performance becomes one of his best. Seeing his mask slip is genuinely terrifying. CHASE HUTCHINSON
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Dev Patel takes a starring role in Scottish director Armando Lannucci's (The Death of Stalin) take on Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, which follows a man's life from childhood to maturity in mid-19th century England.
High-camp horror queen Sarah Paulson plays a woman obsessed with controlling and isolating her paraplegic teen daughter, who flees when she learns of her mom's twisted secrets.
Shawn Mendes: In Wonder
Canadian superstar Shawn Mendes, who came to be via Vine, the TikTok of yore, gets his own documentary courtesy of music video pro Grant Singer. "This doc has it all: shots of him singing acapella in an empty bathroom, an inside look at his writing process in the studio, and even adorable moments with his girlfriend Camila Cabello, from kisses during soundcheck to the time where he muses from the backseat of a car that he’s unsure the songs he writes about her and their relationship could ever do it justice because capturing that special something is like trying to take a picture of the moon with your iPhone," reads a review from Lea Palmieri. If you're a Mendes fan, what more could you ask for?
Small Axe: Mangrove
Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave, is hitting Amazon Prime with an ambitious anthology of five films, released every Friday, that center London’s West Indian community over the course of two decades. The debut feature, Mangrove, tells the true story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of Black British activists arrested at a 1970 protest against racist police harassment.