Another Friday arrives, and with it, the question of what you’ll stream this weekend. There are plenty of lists that’ll give you a rundown of what’s arriving on the various services, of what’s hot and what’s not. But the biggest problem with streaming is that there’s too much choice. To help cut through the noise, we’ve hand-selected a few films, each chosen deliberately.
Something New: Diego Maradona (HBO)
Whether you know everything or nothing about Diego Maradona, one of soccer’s all-time greats and sports’ all-time polarizers, you’ll get a solid kick out of Asif Kapadia’s (Amy, The Warrior) new documentary. The footage of the Argentinian in his prime, especially with Napoli and his national team, is electric (to quote a teammate, Maradona was “Great! Like a fish!”). The depiction of the ‘80s—the cars, the clothes, and the hair (oh the glorious hair!)—is a hoot. And Kapadia manages to be thorough, while also moving things along at a good pace (it clocks in at 2 hours, 10 minutes).
But Kapadia seems most interested in celebrity, and that’s where the film really flourishes. We spend more time watching Maradona be mobbed by invasive press and obsessive fans than by opposing defenders. Kapadia shows him for all his warts—he cheats on his wife with prostitutes, cavorts with mobsters, develops a cocaine habit, and flatly denies a woman’s claim that he fathered her son. If he were playing today, you imagine he’d probably be canceled.
By no stretch does Kapadia excuse Maradona’s behavior. But what he does do is extend the culpability—to us. When Maradona led Napoli to a championship, his Italian fans elevated him to god status. His misdeeds were largely known, but the public looked the other way. And it was only after he helped defeat the Italian team in the 1990 World Cup that the authorities and fans vilified him for his crimes, precipitating his public and athletic demise. The textures and aesthetics are decidedly of the ‘80s, but Maradona’s story continues to play itself out today.
Something to Quench Your Banderas Thirst: Puss in Boots
Though more refined, Antonio Banderas is like Flaming Hot Cheetos in two ways: He’s zesty, and also, the more you get, the more you want. Banderas plays prominent roles in two films currently in theaters: Steven Soderbergh’s lively Panama Papers comedy, The Laundromat, and Pedro Almodovar’s intimate, autobiographical drama, Pain & Glory. It’s enough Banderas for a double feature... which, if we’re being honest, probably still isn’t enough Banderas.
Fortunately, the various streaming services are plenty stocked with Banderas. You can watch Gun Shy or Life Itself on Prime, The 33 on HBO NOW, or The Legend of Zorro on Sony Crackle. But, c’mon, if your thirst for Banderas will never be quenched… we all know what Banderas you’re going to choose (on HBO NOW).
Something Old Worth Reconsidering: Mr. Jealousy (Amazon Prime)
Every artist’s path is unique. But for many great filmmakers, there’s a similar starting template. The first film marks the imperfect yet thrilling—or, thrillingly imperfect—emergence of a new voice, and then the second marks the refinement of that voice. There’s still an excess of ideas and fresh energy, but there’s also deeper control. Often, those sophomore efforts are the ones we most associate with the filmmaker’s early work: Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction, Lost in Translation, Stranger Than Paradise, Rushmore, Big, Se7en, the list goes on.
Noah Baumbach is part of a different tradition, though: that of filmmakers who hit home runs in their first at-bat, and then disappoint by merely getting on base their next turn. Baumbach’s first feature, Kicking and Screaming, was a generational touchstone. It came midway through the ‘90s, just after Reality Bites and just before Swingers, and, like those films, was all about coming of age (as a middle class white person) during that era. Its characters were bright and witty ("Prague! You'll come back a bug!"), but also listless, verging on pathetic. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin wrote that Kicking occupied “its postage-stamp size terrain with confident comic style” and that Baumbach displayed a “keen recollection of what it's like to be smart, promising and temporarily adrift.”
Ironically, after Kicking, Baumach again found himself adrift. He no longer had the benefit of rookie bluster and first film naiveté. “I think there was kind of a built-in self-consciousness going into the second movie, that I think I struggled on that one,” he said during a 2017 Tribeca Film Festival panel. “The first movie kind of had this hang-out quality, which I really was actually truer to me than maybe I even let on. The second one, I was trying to do something more structured and almost more traditional, and I think it wasn’t as personal.”
That second film, Mr. Jealousy, is currently available on Amazon Prime, and at a time when it’s mostly been lost within Baumbach’s impressive oeuvre, it’s worth revisiting or simply discovering. It stars Eric Stoltz (who played Chet in Kicking) as Lester Grimm, an early-30s substitute teacher with literary ambitions and an awful jealous streak—mostly in relationships, but also in his idling career.
Though it may have felt less personal than Kicking to Baumbach, with its explicit exploration of jealousy and its New York setting, it was arguably a greater precursor of his work to come. Mr. Jealousy is sweeter and less cynical than Greenberg or While We’re Young, but in Lester you can make out bits of Ben Stiller’s characters in those movies. And though Baumbach’s camerawork isn’t as dynamic as in Frances Ha or The Meyerowitz Stories, there’s similarly a palpable affection for, and a deep understanding of, New York City.
And actually, a lot of what may have been disappointing about Mr. Jealousy when it was first released is endearing today. You can clearly see Baumbach stealing from his heroes to find his own voice. It’s narrated (by Baumbach) in the style of Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim. And the oddball premise—Lester joins the therapy group of his girlfriend’s ex—is that of an early Woody Allen comedy.
Still, amidst all the references and stolen devices, there are unmistakable bits of Baumbach—Vince’s memorable offhand remark about people spitting in the coffee creamer at diners, all the self-analyzing and the rhythmic banter. Mr. Jealousy is caught between being a next chapter to Kicking and Screaming (it features many of the same actors playing characters at a slightly later station in life) and a prelude to Baumbach’s next films. But it deserves to have a second life on its own.
The actor talks about his 2017 heart attack, his relationship with director Pedro Almodóvar, and why his role in Puss in Boots is so important to him.
Based on what we saw at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Originally Appeared on GQ