“Good Morning”: When it comes to comedy, Yasujiro Ozu isn’t just farting around

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Sorry, “Cries and Whispers.” Too bad, “Breathless.” There’s only one film in the Criterion Collection that inspires a movie critic to use the word “fartiest,” and it’s Yasujiro Ozu’s 1959 comedy “Good Morning.”

“Good Morning,” recent re-released in a new Blu-ray edition from Criterion, earns the honor of being Ozu’s “fartiest” film honestly and loudly. In the 1959 comedy, flatulence is like fingerprints, with each character’s toots providing a different tone. In what I guess is the Japanese version of “pull my finger,” the boys in the village press each others’ foreheads, eliciting a variety of high-pitched squeaks. (One boy has trouble providing the required sound, and often has to run home to change his underwear after getting his forehead pressed.)

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Netflix Movie of the Week: “Shimmer Lake” is a solid thriller from end to beginning


Netflix has been buying up and releasing a lot of original movies, which is great news for indie filmmakers looking to get good financing and get their work seen. But it may not be so great for viewers, who have to rely on Netflix’s algorithm to even know the movies are available. “Netflix Movie of the Week” is an occasional feature highlighting a new original Netflix movie you may not have heard about.

For those who like to skip ahead to the last page of a thriller to find out what happens, there’s Oren Uziel’s “Shimmer Lake.” Uziel begins the film on a Friday, at the end of the story, when a desperate man (Rainn Wilson) is trying to escape his small town with a bag full of cash. Then, day by day, Uziel works his way back to Tuesday, and the bank robbery that netted the money in the first place.

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Instant Gratification: “Moonlight” and four other good movies new to streaming


Pick of the Week: “Moonlight (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. I still can’t quite believe that Barry Jenkins’ exquisitely observed drama won an Oscar for Best Picture. Because of the whole weirdness at the Academy Award ceremony, obviously, but also because it’s just not the sort of movie Oscar voters cotton to, telling the story of a gay black man in three stages of his life with such specificity and humanity. The film gives just a glimmer of hope at the end, but the fact that films like these could be seen and celebrated by the mainstream — could be a HIT — provides way more than a glimmer.

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Netflix Movie of the Week: Brad Pitt cranks up the “War Machine”

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There’s been a lot of talk among film critics lately about how, while Netflix TV shows get a lot of attention, the original movies released every week seem to fall through the cracks. And that’s a shame given that Netflix has been busy buying up a lot of good indie movies at film festivals like Sundance and Toronto.

So, I want to contribute in my own small way to highlighting the original movies that Netflix (and, to a lesser extent, other sites like Hulu and Amazon Prime) premiere each week. The “Netflix Movie of the Week” will showcase a worthy original streaming film that could use your attention. The rest is up to you.

Although, you may have actually heard of this week’s Netflix Movie of the Week, “War Machine.” It is by far the biggest movie Netflix has ever released, a $60 million fact-based satire of the war in Afghanistan starring none other than Brad Pitt. It’s clearly Netflix’s attempt to show it can compete with the big studios, not just the indie distributors.

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Gone in an Instant: “This is Spinal Tap” and four other good movies leaving Netflix in June


Netflix giveth, and Netflix taketh away. The start of a new month means a whole mess of new movies and TV shows premiering on the streaming service. And it inevitably means that a few movies and TV shows are leaving the service for unexplained reasons.

At least Netflix is starting to spread the pain out a little in June, yanking a few movies every week rather than ripping the Band-Aid off entirely on June 1. But, unless otherwise noted, you have 48 hours to watch or re-watch these movies before they leave Netflix.

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Instant Gratification: “Manchester by the Sea” and four other good movies new to streaming


Pick of the week: “Manchester by the Sea” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Kenneth Lonergan justifiably won Best Original Screenplay for this achingly sad, acutely observed drama about a blocked-off man (Casey Affleck) who returns to his hometown and the scene of an immense tragedy that he can’t get past. What saves the viewer from total despair is the humanity of the performances and Lonergan’s writing, which offers empathy and forgiveness even to those who don’t deserve it or can’t accept it.

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“Things to Come”: Isabelle Huppert finds freedom is a beautiful and scary thing


The books look like a fortress. The Parisian home of philosophy teacher Nathalie Chazeaux’s home are filled almost wall-to-wall with shelves of books. It’s the sort of library you can tell has taken a lifetime for her and her husband to accumulate.

About halfway through Mia Hansen-Love’s “Things To Come,” the shelves are half-empty, a signifier for both the turmoil and the opportunity that Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is dealing with. She has lost some of her favorite books. But now she has room to buy new ones.

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