Film Forum

Streaming Surprises, Volume 24

Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old that our board members are watching. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“The Brand New Testament” (2015)

Submitted by Jefferson Beavers. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

The official poster for Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael’s satiric comedy “The Brand New Testament” gives us a simple idea: God exists, and he lives in Belgium. What the poster doesn’t say, though, is that He’s a big jerk who enjoys messing with humanity by dreaming up “laws” to enact through His all-powerful, late ’90s-era IBM computer. Enter Ea, His pre-teen daughter, who’s had just about enough of her Father’s abuse toward her, her nearly mute mother, and, well, everyone. Ea takes over the computer and releases to the entire world (via text messages!) their exact death dates, setting off chaos everywhere. She then escapes their apartment through a washing machine tunnel into Brussels (think “Being John Malkovich” but outward instead of inward) to round up six apostles who will help her write her own New Testament for a kinder, more loving version of the world. Of course God tries to stop her, but nothing prepares them for what people are capable of when they know exactly how much time they have to live. If you’re still with me though that fantastical plot description, you will absolutely love “The Brand New Testament.” The movie is in turns dark, joyous, blasphemous, and laugh-out-loud funny, and its writer/director is in full command of this cinematic feast.

“Easy” (2016-19)

Submitted by Linda Garcia. Streaming on Netflix.

In May, Netflix released the third and final season of its anthology TV series “Easy.” It’s a dramatic comedy, a collection of the devastating, joyous, awkward, and humorous moments that make up dating, love, and life in the 21st Century. Creator and director Joe Swanberg moves adeptly from comedic to dramatic; the juxtaposition is never jarring. I have both laughed out loud and furrowed my brow in agonized, familiar understanding while watching “Easy.” The show is not judgemental, and it dismantles the perspectives of its characters as much as it makes a case for them. Despite my overall enjoyment of the show, I must give a few warnings. There is a sex scene in nearly every episode, so that means plenty of nudity. The characters are primarily millennials and middle class. It’s set in Chicago, but really just the gentrified Chicago of artists, activists, and craft beer enthusiasts. The series can be unbalanced at times. Some of the relationships feel flat and less fleshed out than others, but in the best episodes there’s a quiet intensity between characters that shoots you right in the heart. The final season does not offer dramatic resolutions for its couples, but rather gives us a final glimpse into their lives. There is not a traditional ending. As in relationships, there is not always a clean break, and we do not know how things will work out; the future is uncertain, and this is frustrating and exciting, painful, and wonderful.

“Suspiria” (2018)

Submitted by Cassandra R. McGuire. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

First, a warning: This film contains intense violence, blood, and gore. The “Suspiria” of 2018 looks and feels completely different than the “Suspiria” of 1977. What Dario Argento’s technicolor opus lacked in coherent narrative, it made up for in dazzling B-movie horror splendor. Conversely, while Luca Guadagnino’s film certainly lacks Argento’s obsessive style and flashy colors, the adaptation more than makes up for it in its clear contemplations, criticisms, and relevance. The plot is nearly identical: When doe-eyed American dancer Susie arrives in 1970s Berlin, she joins a renowned dance company and quickly rises to lead dancer despite her lack of formal training. Meanwhile, a dogged psychotherapist haunted by his past and Susie’s roommate Sara, frightened by the mysterious disappearances of other dancers, try to uncover the secrets hidden within the depths of the studio. What helps this adaption excel is its greater inclusion of historical context. Instead of alluding to feelings of cultural guilt, dissatisfaction with false matriarchal empowerment, creative exploitation, and religious anxiety, Guadagnino brandishes these topics at every opportunity. Tilda Swinton’s dual performances as the psychotherapist and Madame Blanc were each spectacular, and the dance performances were some of the best I’ve seen in film. And a note for the queasy: The violent scenes, while thematically relevant, are not overly relevant to the plot and can be safely skipped without sacrificing much.

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