1. At its best, streaming video offers the potential for discovery — the chance to track down and reappraise a hidden gem which you’d never have seen otherwise. For the month of August, I’ll be counting down movies that were panned by critics when they were originally released, and arguing that they’re actually worth a second look.

    Only God Forgives has been polarizing from the very beginning, when its 2013 premiere at Cannes earned both a chorus of boos and a standing ovation. With just 40 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a plurality of critics dinged Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn “failing to add enough narrative smarts or relatable characters to ground its beautifully filmed depravity.” 

    When the film hit theaters in the United States, my own take was more or less in line with that consensus. My original review called Only God Forgives ”stupid, needlessly gory, and generally unpleasant,” while acknowledging that I was very happy I had seen it — once.

    I would stand behind all of the negative charges I leveled against the film — but more than a year after its release, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Only God Forgives' mesmerizing style and rhythm. Coming on the heels of Drive — his biggest hit, both critically and commercially, by an enormous margin — Nicolas Winding Refn fearlessly exploited his expanded cachet to deliver a blood-drenched, almost perversely uncommercial movie that pulses with its own dark vision.

    Drive star Ryan Gosling re-teamed with Refn to star as Only God Forgives' Julian, in a role that requires him to speak just 17 lines over the course of the film. Julian — an expat drug dealer living in Bangkok — winds up at the center of a nightmarish revenge spiral that begins when his brother Billy rapes and murders a 16-year-old girl. In retaliation, a stoic, brutally effective police lieutenant (Visthaya Pansringarm) allows the girl's father to seek revenge, and Billy winds up dead. In retaliation for that crime, Gosling’s grieving mother — a crass, sadistic egomaniac played beautifully by Kristin Scott Thomas — demands that Gosling seek revenge on everyone she deems complicit in Billy’s murder.

    Despite its bloody, twisty-sound narrative, Only God Forgives is less of an action movie than an arthouse movie. The film takes place in a lurid, neon-drenched vision of Bangkok, and its brutal and unsparing acts of violence are punctuated by long, languorous walks down hallways or karaoke performances.

    Only God Forgives will not be for everybody. At first, I didn’t think it was for me. But daring films can take some time to settle on the palate, and Only God Forgives' strengths have gradually eclipsed its flaws in my mind. Maybe it'll be to your taste too.

    Your weekly streaming recommendation: Only God Forgives


  2. So Hollywood is dead because you’re just too cheap to pay for it? Hardly. If the popularity of Netflix is anything to judge by, users are happy to pay for content they deem to be fairly priced and worthwhile. … In regards to Hollywood’s current summer slate, customers voted with their wallets.

    Internet piracy isn’t killing Hollywood

    Hollywood is killing Hollywood


  3. Can sci-fi save the romantic comedy?

    Pretty Woman's famous love story shows that the genre was never really grounded in reality anyway


  4. Even in the most masculine moments of Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Graham and John are powerless. They have their own particular techniques to assert their superiority — Graham’s seductive curiosity, John’s roaring sense of entitlement — and each is easily defeated… They both push the women to a new understanding of themselves, and suffer the results.

    The true cultural legacy of Sex, Lies, and Videotape

    Twenty-five years after its release, the film that sparked the indie boom still has plenty to say about gender dynamics


  5. The key problem with The Giver is that setting a story without emotion makes all the characters boring.

    The Giver: A frustrating, toothless adaptation that comes 20 years too late

    Lois Lowry’s YA novel still packs a punch — but its diluted film adaptation can’t stand up to its cinematic rivals


  6. In reality, no single breakthrough will ever break the norm. What it really takes is many smaller advancements coalescing into a larger movement. It’s only when we see distinct and palpable change in Hollywood’s subtler bad habits that we’ll know progress is truly being made.

    5 things that need to happen before Hollywood will ever truly change

    If these changes happen, then we’ll know Hollywood is finally moving in the right direction


  7. Hollywood can’t know audiences want something different if we don’t show that desire. We’ve reached the point that it will take effort to fight the blockbuster rabbit hole. It will continue getting harder to find anything diverse at the theater, and on shelves, if we don’t make the effort to see them when they come out now.

    Why audiences are responsible for the future of cinema

    It’s easy to succumb to Hollywood’s multimillion marketing campaigns — but cinephiles need to resist


  8. Jesse and Celine have lost the essential element that made them fall in love in the first film, and drop everything to be together in the second. They have lost the ability to listen to each other and connect. More than a romance between a man and a woman, the films were about the romance of communication. That the writers and audience both forgot this simple fact makes what could have been the most important cinematic love story of all time into the norm it once skewered.”

    Why Before Midnight is a failure


  9. We remember Philip Seymour Hoffman through his eclectic, iconic filmography.

    Listen and subscribe to The Week’s podcasts on SoundCloud here, and on iTunes here.


  10. Monica Bartyzel, in Girls on Film:

    Frozen only vilifies the Prince Charming fantasy as it currently stands: The idea that Prince Charming can be recognized in a moment, and that true love can come from a single kiss on dead lips or a perfectly sized shoe. In Frozen, Kristoff is the one because he falls in love with the girl he’s taken the time to know — for her attitude and resourcefulness, and for her spirit and candor. If Kristoff offers her passionate, respectful, and reciprocal love, how can Hans’ villainous twist shame girls’ fantasies? The fantasy remains, but in a more worthwhile form.

    How Frozen killed Prince Charming


  11. Laurence Olivier:

    Between 1939 and 1978, Laurence Olivier was nominated for 10 Oscars, with a Best Actor win for the title role in 1948’s Hamlet and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony in 1979. Just two years later, he won a Razzie for playing General MacArthur in the critically maligned Inchon, beating out the likes of Willie Aames in Zapped! and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. When asked why he had agreed to star in a film like Inchon in the first place, Olivier gave this now-legendary response: “Money, dear boy. I’m like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour.”

    8 Oscar-winning actors who have also won Razzies


  12. To commemorate the polar vortex, we’ll be recommending a different movie set in the snow each week in the month of January. This week’s icy movie: Let the Right One In, an unconventional horror/romance set in snowy Sweden.

    2008 was a pivotal year for the vampire. That September, HBO premiered True Blood — a massive hit that paved the way for a still-thriving subgenre of erotic horror. Just a few months later, the first film based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series hit theaters, launching a billion-dollar franchise that attracted countless tweens and continues to reverberate through Hollywood today. 

    But between those two blockbuster landmarks, the arthouse set was treated to their very own vampire story: Let the Right One In, an unconventional Swedish genre-bender based on John Ajvide Lindqvist [ASH-vide LIND-ka-vist] novel of the same name. When it arrived in limited release in the United States in October, Let the Right One In happened to hit theaters on the same day as both Saw V and High School Musical 3 — and it turned out to be both a more affecting horror movie and a better coming-of-age story.

    Let the Right One In follows Oskar, a 12-year-old misfit living in a Stockholm suburb. Life isn’t going so well for Oskar; his parents are separated, he doesn’t have any real friends, and he’s constantly tormented by bullies. But things start looking up when Eli, a girl who appears to be about Oskar’s age, moves in next door. The duo reluctantly strike up a friendship, bonding over Morse code and a Rubik’s Cube. Everything would be perfect — if Eli wasn’t a vampire.

    Let the Right One In is a strange, fascinating blend of horror and young romance that feels utterly unlike anything you’d normally see in a Hollywood release. The film is unusually quiet, which makes its few graphically violent scenes feel unnaturally eerie. Director Tomas Alfredson leaves lots of room for ambiguity, which makes Eli’s true nature a question that viewers will need to puzzle out for themselves. And the two young leads, who are required to carry the vast majority of the movie on their shoulders, were untested and virtually unknown, which makes their performances feel uniquely naturalistic. It’s a truly distinctive film that shows how every genre, no matter how hackneyed, can feel fresh again if it’s handled with the right touch. For anyone who’s written off the vampire genre altogether: Give Let the Right One in a try, and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

    Listen to all of The Week’s weekly Netflix streaming recommendations here.


  13. In fact, though we see no physical embodiment of Samantha — and glean just a bit of her existence outside Theodore — she is the one who instigates the relationship and uses it to evolve. Nathan Rabin at A.V. Club has said, “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely…to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” But in Her, the situation is reversed. Theodore has taught Samantha. He is a quirky guy who plays videogames, wears high-waisted pants, and loves to cry. He’s the strange paramour easily titillated by running through a crowd, and the man amused by a raunchy doodle. “I want to discover myself,” she says, and he answers: “I want to help,”…