Do you feel like you’re drowning … but you haven’t even left your couch? Welcome to the Great Content Overload Era. To help you navigate the choppy digital waves, here are The Globe’s best bets for weekend streaming.
What to watch in 2023: The best movies (so far)
I’m already on the record as to whether the new biopic Nyad is an altogether thoughtful film. But the narrative-feature debut of documentarians Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin is saved – in a big enough way that it makes the whole shaky endeavour worth watching – by its stars, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. Especially if you can now do so in the comfort of your own home, as the film quickly makes its way from select theatres to Netflix. Playing competitive swimmer Diana Nyad and her amateur coach Bonnie Stoll respectively, Bening and Foster are absolute delights from beginning to end, giving the pair’s friendship – sometimes combative, sometimes supportive, always unbreakable – real emotional weight that the film’s script or direction simply do not otherwise provide.
Being selected as the closing night film for the Toronto International Film Festival has long been a dubious honour. By the time the festival wraps its customary 11 days of screenings and soirées, the big stars have flown the coop, the international press contingent that’s left is exhausted and most of everyone else in the city has moved on. But by most accounts – not all, but a decent majority – the new documentary Sly (as in Stallone) is a slight cut above most TIFF closers, as well as most celebrity vanity doc projects. I can’t give any Cliffhanger-sized guarantees, as director Thom Zimny’s film wasn’t made available to view before its streaming release this weekend – and I, like many of my local colleagues, was in recovery mode by the time the film played the fest two months ago. But even if Sly is just two hours of Stallone rhapsodizing about his genuinely fascinating and still-sturdy career, there are far worse ways to spend an evening. Like by, say, watching Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, which I can only assume gets a lengthy dissection here.
Ostensibly a story about a group of families who gather for a Junior Stargazer convention in the 1950s municipality of the title, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City opens with a hall-of-mirrors framing device: The comedy we’re about to watch is actually a televised production of a play written by the famed Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), whose life and development process becomes another layer of the narrative. This means that characters are doubled, sometimes tripled, and occasionally cross divisions of mediums and realities. Think of it as the Anderson equivalent of the Marvel multiverse, except entertaining and inventive.
The Royal Hotel (on-demand, including digital TIFF Lightbox)
In the first few minutes of Kitty Green’s new thriller, young American backpackers Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) are buying rounds of beer (“Foster’s!”) in the dark of an Australian nightclub. But after Liv’s credit card is rejected, she exits the pounding blur of the club to reveal that the pair are actually onboard a gigantic party boat, one sailing under the bright daytime Sydney sky. The night-for-day disorientation will repeat itself later on, when Hanna and Liv have reluctantly taken jobs at a seedy bar deep in the Outback, where the booze-soaked “fun,” such as it is, runs from dusk till dawn – and continues to linger, like the stench of a squashed cigarette, long after the sun has crept back up into the horizon.
Based on the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, Green’s film – which too quickly made its way from the fall festival circuit to the video-on-demand world – continues a tense and important conversation that the Australian director began with her feature-narrative debut, 2019′s The Assistant. While that film – also starring Garner – focused on the million small aggressions that poisoned a workplace led by a Harvey Weinstein-esque movie producer, The Royal Hotel explores the toxic power dynamics that men can hold over women on a grander scale.
Searching for Satoshi (CBC Gem)
There could be – and probably is – an entire documentary subgenre devoted to tech-finance scandals. Some of which may have even been partially financed by bitcoin. But director Paul Kemp’s new film, Searching for Satoshi, might be at the top of the crypto-coin heap. Playing like a detective story amped up with Reddit-fuelled intrigue, the film attempts to trace the origin of Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of bitcoin who vanished two years after the “digital gold” launched. Is he dead? Alive? Just an alias for the Winklevoss twins? As ever, the maddening fun is on the journey, whose twists and turns are as volatile as the value of bitcoin itself.