FIELD OF STREAMS celebrates films of color this February
Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What are the best unknown gems on Hi-YAH? What does MUBI have going on this month? What are the most exciting things streaming on HBOMax and Kanopy? We’re here to help guide you towards the best and brightest streaming today. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.
MALCOLM X (HBO Max)
Starting with Malcolm X not only because it depicts a fascinating period of Black history, or that it stars the inimitable Denzel Washington. It gets top billing because of my person history with it.
In 1993, while I was a freshman at Texas A&M University, Spike Lee came to town for a screening of Malcolm X. (Shout out to Paul Alvarado-Dykstra for making this happen.) Seating was limited, but I pulled all the strings I had to get in the room. As prep work, I also read The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the first time. Both experiences shaped my thinking on race to this day.
Back to Denzel. He’s amazing in this film. Peak Denzel, to be sure. “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!” It’s an important film, an engaging film, and ultimately a heartbreaking film as history allows no feel good ending to cap this story.
This documentary based on an unfinished manuscript by seminal American writer James Baldwin turns out not to be as much about the author as about three key figures in the civil rights movement that he chose to write about: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Seeing this slice of history through the eyes and intellect of Baldwin is riveting affair. In some ways, this film gets at the history of race in the United States even with its particular focus. Viewers will be astonished by the wit of Baldwin if he’s a new find for them, and for those already fans, he’ll just be appreciated even more.
JUST MERCY (HBO Max)
From my previous review:
Just Mercy tells the tale of an early case in the career of Bryan Stevenson, now well known for his work on behalf of the wrongly convicted but back then just an aspiring attorney wading into the muddy waters of race, poverty, and justice or at least the hope of it.
Killing people as a means of achieving justice is as old as civilization, but in these “advance” and “civilized” times in which we live, this could have been something we out grew. We didn’t. We still want that eye for eye, and we want it badly.
From a review by Jon Partridge:
Loving is based on a true story and after it’s viewing, it’s unclear what is more disconcerting: That it was a little over 50 years ago that such backward laws were in place, or that the film’s themes of oppression, fear, racial prejudice, and equality are issues that resonate through our society today.
To use a current political phrase, love trumps hate. Despite the fear and bigotry, the Lovings and many others like them followed their hearts despite the hardships that were before them. Embracing the better parts of our nature can be a force for change, even if we don’t realize it. Loving honors that, and all those who pursue it.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Hulu)
If there’s one contemporary director who can be expected to get at the Black experience in both innovative and disarming ways, it is Barry Jenkins. His last two features have been game changers, with Moonlight walking away with the Oscar. (His next work, a television adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad looks to continue this trend.)
Moonlight is movie making of the highest order. Set in three different periods of a young man’s life, it harbors pain, joy, and perseverance in every frame. Its being awarded Best Picture was justice done on the biggest stage.
If Beale Street Could Talk didn’t get the same respect of its predecessor, but this movie is a delight, yet powerful in primal ways. Just to point out one, the sound design is so moving that I had a physical response to its flute-laden melodies playing over the burgeoning love of Tish and Fonny.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.