Tonight marks the beginning of Halloweek, when everybody who wants to throw a Halloween party knows that, like with birthdays, even one day after actual thing feels like a huge sad lie. If you're not partying Friday night, then you better carve some pumpkins or shit this weekend! But if you resist the power of Hallowe'en, either because you are in a monogamous relationship and as an adult have no use for it, or simply because you are lazy but not interested in what's coming up, why not use this hallowed we'ekend (wee'nd? Weeknd?) to catch up on your streaming?
THERE ARE NO OTHER STREAMING OPTIONS
THERE IS ONLY HULU
If you like Veep, which you do, travel back along the lines of that liking to a movie by show-creator Scotsman Armando Iannucci called In the Loop. It had Gandolfini in it, did you see that? You would have liked it. Now travel even farther backwards, all the way across the Atlantic (if you want to go the short way) and you will end up here: With The Thick of It, the first Iannucci show, which did the same thing that Veep is doing now, but in Britain where everything is backwards and upside down and even the water going down the drain has an accent.
I will tell you that it is four seasons long, but that's kind of a mean trick because some of them are like, three episodes long. Better to say it's 24 half-hours, so, basically as long as any show. It's a very funny show, you get to learn things about other countries and their dumb way of doing things, and it also provides a new way to get to know the current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, and watch him say bad words with a funny accent! If you love British things the way certain kinds of people love British things, you have already seen this show. But if you like British things the normal amount, I say check it out!
NETFLIX THE HORROR
- You're Next (2011; also on Prime) suffers from the generic title that would have you believe it's just like any other home invasion/slasher but the truth is, it's actually a lot like most smart horror movies that slide under the radar. This one's politically on point, with an eye toward the generational differences between members a very tense family that not only figures into the viscerally spooky plot, but tells a larger story about American life under pressure.
- Cabin in the Woods (2011; also on Prime) is one of those you have probably seen, but if you haven't you're probably so sick of hearing about it you'll never give it a shot at this point anyway, so why even mention it? Because I didn't like it that much. Or specifically, I hated the ending so much it retroactively took some enjoyment out of the story: It's smarmy and scolding and way more retrograde (and sexist) than it thinks it is. But otherwise, fun ride! I really do recommend it.
- V/H/S 2 (2013) is a grand experiment that transcends the shitty first one's (available on Prime) in every way. While V/H/S 1 had moments of brilliance, they were few, and easily faded into the background of drearily dumb, self-impressed, lazy film-school attempts at cleverness. While some of the scenarios—these are anthology films, low-budget, tied around haunted video tapes, it's very cool actually—are greater in scale or scope (a visit to a Indonesian cult compound is particularly breathtaking), it's more just the quality of storytelling and refusal to accept first-draft concepts and dialogue that sets this one apart. Honestly, I'd say skip right to this one—you might end up giving V/H/S an easy shake that way.
- All Cheerleaders Die (2013) is no Jennifer's Body, but it is a worthy followup to May, Lucky McKee's 2002 lady-Frankenstein masterpiece (whose star, Angela Bettis, was also fantastic in McKee's Masters of Horror short "Sick Girl," which is available right now on Hulu and is great.) The plot goes to some insane places so I will just briefly say that zombie cheerleaders can still be sexy, that Jennifer's Body damn well should be a genre, and that this would make a nice double-feature with the 2000 Canadian feminist werewolf classic Ginger Snaps.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is... one of the best television shows I have ever seen in my life. But to explain why, I have to do something I never, ever do, which is say some things I hate. Here's some things I hate: Kid cartoons, I hate American "Orientalist" fetishism, I hate "collect 'em all" procedurals from Pokémon, to Yugiruto or whatever those are called, to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The illusion of movement is not movement. I hate violence for kids. I hate slapstick comedy. I hate anime and Japanese imports of impenetrable million-year mangatoons and all of those whatever things. You don't have to hate any of them, we'd probably get along, especially if they're your favorite things, but I have no interest in any of that.
Great news for both of us! Avatar is none of those things. It's Buffy for kids, a most humble and far-ranging messianic roman à clef, a Jungian masterwork. Presenting a coherent mythology that's been thrown out of balance, the show's three seasons take its child-Buddha protagonist around the world, dealing with questions of regime destabilization one week and the personal impulses behind imperialist movements the next, all without losing an essential joy or compassion that is another reason it's one of the most powerful and healing stories you can ever hear. Multiple times, honestly.
It's got it all: Meta-episodes with puppet shows within the story telling the story, island getaways where the show's teen villains drift about in anomie and clamdiggers, exploring their parental issues and sibling rivalries; an all-girl military force in kabuki makeup; a teen antihero who spends his days pursuing the Avatar in a mindless hunt for vengeance but at night becomes a justice-obsessed Batman figure. A little blind girl who is a total bitch but also a karate master. Spooky old ladies, a very terrible spider demon I can't even talk about... It's a show about everything, in a very real sense. It takes you over; it alters your DNA. This show—essentially a checklist of shit I hate, remember, and for that matter continue to hate—has not only broken but renovated my heart, on more than one occasion.
Not to mention the very cool thing that its now-airing sequel, Legend of Korra, takes place eighty years later and presents a Siddhartha Buddha (as opposed to Avatar Aang's Gautama) who is a female jock celebrity that has to walk away from about ten kinds of privilege in order to get on with the hard work of becoming an avatar of the divine. The comparisons between the shows (Korra's now into her own season four) are as fruitful as either in isolation, and the connections between them reward longtime viewers like very few shows are able to do. The rule in our house is, if you don't cry during a given episode of Airbender you probably weren't paying attention. But all that means is you get to watch it again.
SPOOKY HBO GO!
The following films are available on HBO Go, and probably On Demand depending on who you are and what you willing to do, for the next month. (The month of November.)
The Witches (1990) is a great Roald Dahl adaptation, probably second only to the original Willy Wonka. Off-putting, nasty witches, a seaside resort town, and a terribly moving and sad ending make this tale, in which a child takes the form of a mouse and attempts to understand and contextualize mortality, is exactly as scary and cruel and hideous as it needs to be. Dahl was gross in a lot of ways, but one thing he understood was the imaginational resilience of children, whom we often end up training into performative meltdowns about the darker fantasies that, left alone to understand, they'd accomplish on their own. The movie does enough contrasting the absolute cruelty of the over-the-top Witches with the similarly irresistible forces of death, illness and time, and thereby draws connections most of us are still trying to internalize. Love this fucking movie.
The Conjuring (2013), which began the news cycle as a cautionary tale about Vera Farmiga's career choices, has since won out in the court of public opinion as one of the handful of good-but-profitable horror films to come along in a while. Horror franchises have a particular arc where they start so low automatically, which is dumb, and then they swing through the forked-tongue smarmy faint-praise of "anything that makes a bajillion bucks is good in a way" (which with horror comes with an added racial/class element, just for extra bullshitting around) and then finally, once everybody who doesn't "like horror" sees the movie, it becomes... Just a movie. I hate that the legacy of Gen X is that we have to do so many goddamn backbends and clear so many security checkpoints with these invisible imaginary authorities, but anything that makes it out of that fucked up mental prison deserves a hand, and this movie is one of them.
Poltergeist III (1988) is another thing entirely, of course. The first movie was never in the lowered-expectations horror ghetto because of its pedigree, and those who survived filming it went on to the sequel, which in turn murdered many of its costars and crewmen as well. The second one is more "horror" in that pejorative way (just like Aliens, every bit as smart as Alien, is classed on the same tier as Predator for whatever reason), but also there is a fucking scary zombie preacher in it, and a Native American stereotype who can fix cars by chanting, and those are marks of quality for sure.
Having said all of that, my favorite is still the third one, because it takes place in a high-rise apartment building, which to 1988 Jacob was the fucking height of glamor: The Westing Game, Eloise, the Girl Called Al books—which were like, the only thing secondary to Anastasia Krupnik in my life—and even Harriet the Spy spent some time up an elevator, visiting Sport. The idea of spookiness in that hallowed space was always thrilling to me, ghosts and superintendents being equally real in my personal experience, and I remember my parents being like, "Wait'll you see Rosemary's Baby. In about a hundred years when you're allowed to see that one." But P3 got there first, and I have to respect that.
Previous editions of the Weekend Stream are here. You live in the future now! Almost any media you can think of, you can find from the chair you're sitting in. Even if you can't, take comfort in the fact that the amount of things you can't find online will never go up: Only down. In that spirit, Morning After asks: What are you streaming this weekend?