Instant Gratification: “Other People” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix


Pick of the Week:  “Other People”My full review is here. It sounds like every other indie movie ever made. A gay comedy writer comes home to his repressed suburban family to take care of his dying mother. But “SNL” writer Chris Kelly’s debut is wonderful, focusing on the little moments between the big moments that matter. Molly Shannon is terrific as the mom. And, believe it or not, it’s also very funny.

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“Heart of a Dog”: Laurie Anderson remembers fallen companions, both two- and four-legged


What other artist would put, in the same film, both remembrances of living through 9/11 and footage of a rat terrier playing Christmas carols on the keyboard?

It’s Laurie Anderson, of course, the “multimedia artist” (she’s not wild about that label) who for decades has mixed music and spoken word, images and stories, metaphysical musings and bad jokes, comedy and tragedy in her live performances. Caveat: I’ve been a fan of hers for ages.

She hasn’t made a movie in 30 years (since the terrific concert film “Home of the Brave”), which makes the new “Heart of a Dog” welcome. Even if the circumstances surrounding its creation are less than happy.

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Gone in an Instant: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and four other good movies leaving Netflix in January


If you’re looking for movies to stream over the holidays, it might be good to focus on the ones that will be gone with a wink and a nod on January 1. Just as Netflix kicks off each month with a bunch of new movies, it often quietly drops others. Sometimes they go to other streaming sites like Hulu and Amazon Prime, sometimes they resurface back on Netflix a few months later, sometimes — well, who knows where they go?

Here are five good movies that are confirmed to be leaving Netflix on Jan. 1. Watch them while you can:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — Bummed to see that one of my oldest daughter’s favorites will be leaving Netflix, with Blake Edwards’ sparkling and a little sad comedy about a New York party girl (Audrey Hepburn) embodying the romance and the possibilities of the Big Apple — even if you’re faking it till you make it.

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‘Howard’s End’ shows the rich, the poor, and the rest caught in the middle


Thank goodness Britain has such a rigid class system, or else its novelists and playwrights (and filmmakers) wouldn’t have such rich material to work from.

That’s certainly the case with “Howard’s End,” the Oscar-nominated 1991 adaptation of E.M Forster’s  panoramic 1910 novel that goes up and down the rungs of England’s social strata, from the top to the bottom and back again. We see how each class views the other. The top looks down (“The poor are poor, one is sorry for them, but there it is,” remarks wealthy industrialist Henry (Anthony Hopkins)) and the bottom looks up (“If one is rich and fails, one can simply try another profession,” says destitute clerk Leonard Bast (Samuel West). “For the rest of us, if you lose a position by the age of 20, you’re done for.”)

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“The Monster”: Old-school horror meets modern family drama on a deserted road


“The Monster” is now playing at AMC Desert Star in Baraboo. R, 1:32, three stars out of four.

You’d be forgiven for thinking initially that the title character in Bryan Bertino’s horror film “The Monster” was a mother. Kathy (Zoe Kazan) is a spectacular trainwreck of a single parent, channeling her frustration and anger with her situation into substance abuse and screaming fits at her 12-year-old daughter Lizzie (Ella Bellentine).

In the opening scene, we see Lizzie listening to a sad country song as she cleans up the wreckage of one of Kathy’s benders, picking up beer bottles and pouring out ashtrays. Kathy is supposed to drive Lizzie to her father’s house for an extended (perhaps permanent) visit, but she oversleeps, and the bickering duo gets a late start on the road.

That turns out to be a very serious mistake.

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“Punch-Drunk Love,” the Paul Thomas Anderson cult classic that should have been


Why isn’t Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” his cult classic? His 2002 curveball take on the romantic comedy seems like a perfect candidate for midnight-movie showings, Twitter bio quotations, and Threadless T-shirt designs. I’m surprised we don’t see more millennials getting married with the groom in a royal blue suit.

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Instant Gratification: “Boyhood” and four other good movies new to Amazon Prime and Netflix


Boyhood” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Richard Linklater’s wonderful cinematic experiment was shot over a 12-year period, charting a boy’s growth into adulthood and his parents’ growth from crazy kids in love to sadder, wiser middle-aged adults. Linklater uses time as his canvas, focusing on the little moments between the so-called big ones, to show how we change over the years without even realizing it’s happening to us.

The Lobster” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Greek writer-director Yorges Lathimos’ first English-language film has a premise that might seem like an SNL skit, in which single people are forced by a dystopian society to gather at a hotel for bizarre speed-dating rituals, and if they don’t find a soulmate, they get turned into an animal. But the film is both ridiculous and deadly serious in using its surreal premise to examine modern love, and what people will give up of themselves to get it.

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