Instant Picks of the Week 11/18/16

Gone are the days of scrolling mindlessly through your queue! No longer will you have to sift through the vastness of what’s coming to the instant viewing wastelands this month! Whether you’re looking for a stellar film or an exciting new show to binge, Instant Picks of the Week brings you the hottest releases in film and television on instant viewing platforms that we know you’ll love, or at the very least not despise.

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BEGINNERS (Netflix)

Whether it’s giving a tour of his apartment or researching what life was like when his parents were wed in 1955, Ewan McGregor’s character Oliver spends a lot of BEGINNERS explaining things matter-of-factly (i.e. “This is the dining room, where people like to eat sometimes,” “This is what smoking looked like in 1955.”) It’s structured in such a way that he’s describing such normalities to a dog he’s inherited from his father’s passing, but by the middle of the film, it’s apparent that Oliver is speaking more to himself than to the audience or his dog in an attempt to stay grounded in reality; Oliver’s life perspective has shifted since his widower father came out to him as gay at 75 years old.  BEGINNERS’s ponderous, disjointed reflection on family and love is coherent only because it stays so close to writer-director Mike Mill’s real experiences. The performances from the three leads pull at heart strings the whole way through, definite iterations of people from Mill’s life. Despite bursting with ideas visually, emotionally, and narratively, the movie remains widely accessible — if you’re willing to forgive minor auteur indulgences. The film might be about people unsure of where to begin a new chapter of their life, but Mills is entirely confident in how he wants to make it. [Phillip Vernon]

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THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (Showtime Anytime)

THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA is one of few films that tackles various subjects and executes all of them well. It centers around Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), an actress who is confronted with her mortality when she is cast in the remake of the same play she did at 18. Only this time she is cast as the older character, who she views as broken and detestable. She rehearses the play with her assistant Val (Kristen Stewart), and as they argue over its interpretation, the boundaries of their own relationship gets called into question. Director Olivier Assayas lives fluidly and comfortably in the gray, and is content to leave questions unanswered so they linger and stir in the back of your brain. He uses time to make a statement, and it’s powerful as the screen fades to black after each part of the film, which is divided into acts like a play. He makes it so what we see and our interpretation of what we did not see are left side-by-side, leaving it up in the air as to where the narrow truth is. It’s a gripping film, different and immensely engaging. And while Juliette Binoche is the lead, its Kristen Stewart’s performance you most remember. For anyone who still thinks she can’t act (not bragging, but I always knew she could) herein lies the proof. She was the first American actress to win a César, the French equivalent to an Oscar for her role, and it is undoubtedly deserved. THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA dares to be thoughtful and complicated at the same time, and it takes its time to unravel with a dexterity few American films execute effectively. [April French]

Crossfader Staff

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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