If you have nothing better to do—or even if you do—stream these two films while you can

If you’re the kind of person who cares about exactly what is and isn’t available on Netflix at any given time, you’re probably not reading my blog, because I’m not the kind of blogger who writes about such things. But for a moment, I’m going to adopt the persona. I just stumbled across a list of movies and TV shows that can now be streamed from Netflix but that will soon be withdrawn, and two of the films are worth a nod. Both will become unavailable on June 1.

Darkman (1990): Anyone who thinks it either odd or wonderful that Liam Neeson has become an action hero in recent years, in such films as the Taken series and others, should be aware that he became an action hero years ago, in this caped-avenger horror thriller crime fantasy drama (most of those are taken from IMDB’s attempt to classify its genre). That the screenplay is credited to five writers suggests, and I won’t disagree, that the result is a bit of a hodgepodge, but the director is Sam Raimi, who imparts a good deal of visual style to the film.

The appeal of any revenge fantasy is that it allows us (or, in some cases, requires us) imaginatively to do what we cannot or would not do in real life. Here, we’re treated to the spectacle of Darkman putting the screws on a bad guy; when the miscreant protests, “Don’t! I’ve told you everything I know,” he responds, “I know you did. But let’s pretend you didn’t.” In my recollection, the much-discussed, usually decried torture sequences in 24 were never so carefree as this.

Velvet Goldmine (1998): Why is Sandy Powell one of my favorite costume designers? Partly because of this film. It may be that any designer worth the name could come up with at least one approach to the extravagant, glitter-and-feathers theatricality of the glam-rock era, but Powell’s the one who got the job. I can’t help thinking there’s a tricky challenge whenever a designer engages the historical, the fantastic, or the elevated, as Powell has repeatedly done (see her credits here): to put it simply, you have to go big but not too big; you have to take the viewers somewhere (as well as the performers—a large part of costuming is making the actor feel the character and the period), but you can’t take them out of the film altogether; you have to achieve a sense of excess within some form of control and coherence. Powell does this, time and again.

She was nominated for an Academy Award for this film and also, in the same year, for Shakespeare in Love; she received the Oscar for the latter. According to this blog post, she remarked in 2014 that she won for the wrong film. Velvet Goldmine is admittedly a bit clumsy, a bit strange, a bit forced in its Citizen Kane angle—“so much less than one had hoped for,” in David Thomson’s view. But just look at it!

For what it’s worth, the current edition of David Thomson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Thomson is always thoughtful if often contentious) seems to have few entries for costume designers; for instance, Colleen Atwood isn’t listed. Edith Head and Sandy Powell are. Head is described as “a marvel and a kind of genius,” but Thomson speaks simply and directly of “Sandy Powell’s genius,” and he too favors her work in Velvet Goldmine over Shakespeare in Love.

The full list of what’s leaving Netflix in June is here. Though the post barely manages to say so, these are titles currently available for streaming but soon to leave. This isn’t the same as rental.


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