Every month, Netflix churns up its selection of offerings with new TV shows and movies—adding even more to what feels like a veritable ocean of material to watch, while adding deadlines to those things you’ve promised to yourself to watch later. So here, our critic makes his recommendations about the best and most bingeable things that are coming out this month, and flag the series or film on the way out that you should see before it’s too late. For the rest of what’s coming and going in September, click here.
Ahead of The Irishman dropping on Netflix, Casino is well worth revisiting. Though overlong, it features another terrific performance from Robert De Niro, who portrays Ace Rothstein, the Jewish manager of Las Vegas’s largest casino in the 70s. Raging Bull’s Joe Pesci, similarly explosive, plays his volatile sidekick. Sharon Stone plays the femme fatale who comes between these fiery friends. It’s quite far from Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or Goodfellas. But Casino has its marvellous moments, like the arresting opening scene, scored to Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion”. Director Martin Scorsese again chooses ace collaborators. Robert Richardson (photography) and Thelma Schoonmaker (editor) are especially dynamic, building an involving visual weave. Casino is the eigth partnership between Scorsese and De Niro; here’s hoping they still have more to come post-The Irishman. Casino comes to Netflix on Sept. 4.
With The Return, Leviathan, Loveless and Elena, Andrey Zvyagintsev is one of the great contemporary Russian directors. (Only The Banishment disappointed.) Like Loveless, Elena is an atmospheric and compelling portrait of Moscow’s middle-class malaise. Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) is an elderly Moscovite who seems to have acquired his wealth through dubious means. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is his former housekeeper, since upgraded to spouse. It’s far from a a banner relationship. Vladimir’s home is rather opulent, but there’s not a lot of human warmth here. The duo’s children are parasitic on their parents, too. At once spare and tight, Elena is impressively written, acted and directed. From its marvellous opening image, Elena is gorgeously photographed and edited, with long shots that linger in your memory. Phillip Glass is also on form with a moody, melancholic score that heightens the tensions. Elena comes to Netflix on Sept. 1.
IN: Aziz Ansari: Right Now
The creator of the excellent series Master of None had to step away from the entertainment spotlight for a while. Recently, Aziz Ansari came storming back with a new special Aziz Ansari: Right Now. Ansari riffs engagingly on the sex controversy that laid him low; white people woke Olympics coming across as silly and obvious; and how social mores have changed quickly in recent years. As in Master of None, Ansari’s take on diversity is wise and real. It’s all smartly and stylishly lensed and directed by Her’s Spike Jonze. As someone who also has a grandparent with dementia, I found Ansari’s sequence on the importance of spending time with elderly relatives and living in the moment very moving. Aziz Ansari: Right Now is streaming on Netflix now.
IN: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Following the potential suggested in Spy and Bridesmaids, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Melissa McCarthy’s best, weightiest role, and it’s based on a true story. She plays obscure biographer and journalist Lee Israel. When her uncommercial style of writing goes out of fashion in early-nineties New York, Israel makes a packet forging letters of literary icons such as Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. Israel is very funny; she is also thoroughly misanthropic, preferring the company of cats to people. A rare exception is her dandy gay friend, Jack Hock, a hilarious and willing man who knows how to enjoy New York. Hock is played by Richard E. Grant, with the flamboyant wit one expects from Withnail and I’s star. “Maybe she [Julia] didn’t die? Maybe she just moved to the suburbs? I always confuse those two. No, that’s right. She got married and had twins.” Marielle Heller directs this idiosyncratic bohemian rhapsody with grit and gusto, crafting a potent sense of place and period. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is, like Seinfeld, a paean to the old Manhattan where curious artistic types could afford to live and create. Fine queer cinema, and one of my thirteen faves of 2018. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is streaming on HBO Canada now.