Although it is increasingly seen as just “the adult-catering wing of Disney’s streaming apparatus,” Hulu nevertheless offers a rather robust catalog of films in its own right: more, certainly, than most people these days seem to be willing to give it credit for. It is the exclusive streaming home of Neon’s numerous features, meaning modern-day masterpieces like Parasite (2019) and Pig (2021). It is where you find the more mature offerings inherited from 20th Century’s various production arms, so movies like The Shape of Water (2017) and Deadpool (2016). They integrate beautifully with a number of other streaming services, which allow you to combine Hulu’s offerings with the likes of HBO Max. Plus they have plenty of their own content besides that, making for a well-rounded streaming experience (to say nothing of a lot of hard choices in narrowing this month’s set of highlighted offerings down to a mere list of 5).
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Over the last couple of years, there has been an incredibly welcome resurgence of Nicholas Cage at the box office. One of the most under-appreciated actors of his generation (whose hard-earned Oscar win people seem all too eager to overlook), he has one of the most fascinating – to say nothing of well-rounded – filmographies of any actor still working today. The last few years alone have given us the likes of Mandy (2019), Color Out of Space (2019), Pig (2021) and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022), which easily rank among the very best movies that the man has ever done. A humbler offering from earlier in his career, and directed by his legendary uncle Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married is a quirky little time-travel movie where Nicholas Cage plays a wanna-be (and, later, washed-up) pop singer who is married to (and soon-to-be divorced from) the titular Peggy Sue. Putting in a far darker and more deceptively deranged performance than you would expect from the premise, the film remains one of his most memorable turns in front of the camera… at least for those of us who’ve actually seen this largely ignored gem.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The final film from the great Stanley Kubrick, this off-puttingly sexual film starring the then-married Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman is understandably overshadowed in a career that includes the likes of Doctor Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987). Long, ponderously paced and intensely difficult to parse through, Eyes Wide Shut is certainly not for the faint of heart. It demands a considerable amount of your time and, even more importantly, your attention before you can really get a grasp on the comings and goings of its inner workings. But those that meet the film on its level are greeted with a mesmeric experience that is endlessly rewarding on the rewatch, with enough densely-packed details to keep the cinematic sleuths busy for a lifetime.
With the devastating reversal of Roe v. Wade leaked ahead of the actual ruling this week, it’s small wonder than reproductive healthcare is weighing heavily on a lot of people’s minds over the past couple of days. It’s a subject that the movies have been handling for a long time, from coming of age stories like Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) to devastatingly realistic dramas like Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020). But while those treatments of the issue can oftentimes be extremely daunting to sit through, writer Diablo Cody’s breakout dramedy Juno is a mature, considered treatment of the issue that nevertheless manages to remain a very entertaining, accessible entry-point to the world of pregnancy and pre-natal healthcare. And maybe later you can progress to more harrowing features (something like 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days or Swallow), but even if you don’t, Juno is an excellent window into a world that will be devastated by this paradigm shift in American politics.
When it was released in 2019, Hustlers proved to be a shockingly abrasive watch for many moviegoers. Many balked at its depiction of sex workers-turned-criminals, with a few anonymous Oscar voters going so far as to express some extremely disgusting, retrograde opinions about the actresses at the heart of the film. Now that the dust has settled, however, I hope that many who dismissed it out of hand three years ago will give it a second chance. Acting somewhat like a gender-swapped version of The Big Short (2015), the film explores how the subprime mortgage crisis affected a group of working class women who had a mind to fight back against the economic injustices they saw every day while working in a strip club. Grounded in one of the most amazing supporting performances of the year / decade / century, Hustlers remains one of the definitive portrayals of its moment in time.
In the Earth (2021)
The Coronavirus pandemic took its toll on all of us, and in many ways that we are only now starting to fully understand. We are certainly years away from the definitive takes on the period, but a few films have started to emerge to set the stage for more considered takes to come: ranging from pre-Covid movies that now hit a little harder in the pandemic’s aftermath (e.g., It Comes at Night) or post-Covid movies whose themes of loss and loneliness echo powerfully in the space that the pandemic provided (e.g., Pig). Taking on the subject of a 2020’s virus more directly than most movies to come out this decade, In the Earth is quite little Neon horror film that seems like the prototype for many similar movies to come. More arthouse than something like Outbreak (1995) or Contagion (2011), in fact being more in-line with the kinds of horror movies being released by A24, In the Earth hits a little closer to home, and a little harder, than many will likely be comfortable with, but those willing to stick out the eerily familiar-feeling premise will be rewarded by a powerful, movie piece of genre filmmaking.