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    Mar 29, 2020

    26 Amazing Films Streaming On Hulu Right Now

    It's the only service already streaming Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

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    In these dark times, you might be asking yourself: “Should I sign up for another streaming service?” If the steaming service in question is Hulu, then the answer is yes.

    Annapurna Pictures

    Contrary to popular belief, Hulu is not just a source for original TV programming (although you should certainly check out Rami and Shrill once you’ve joined!). It also offers a generously sized catalog of films new and old. Below are what I believe to be the 26 most essential movie streams on Hulu right now:

    1. Shoplifters (2018)

    Magnolia Pictures

    If you must pick one movie to queue up from Hulu's catalog this month, make it the 2018 Palme d’Or winner (and Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee!) from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. It follows a group of big-hearted scam artists existing together on society's fringes and will probably make you rethink the conventional notion of "family." Life-affirming, slow-burning, and tear-jerking (so do ration your paper products accordingly!).

    2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

    Neon

    Can you tell I wrote the blurb above before Hulu's surprise announcement that it'd be exclusively streaming Céline Sciamma's recent Valentine's Day release? (Incidentally, Valentine's Day 2020 now feels like ages ago — the late 18th century, even). Well, the streaming tides have certainly turned and I guess you are now required to watch this one, too — an essential French period film about a professional portraitist, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who is commissioned to paint Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). I also urge you to clap back at anyone who makes fun of you for liking what is, yes, a very pretentious film on paper.

    3. Sorry to Bother You (2018)

    Annapurna Pictures

    I'm sorry to bother you but do yourself a favor and fire up this important send-up of modern-day capitalism, too! LaKeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, an Oakland-based telemarketer whose sudden realization that he can pass as white enables him to climb the corporate ladder at turbo speed. What follows is a dizzying and colorful journey into greed and frivolity with a noteworthy appearance by a sarong-wearing Armie Hammer as a CEO straight out of your Silicone Valley nightmares.

    4. Plus One (2019)

    RLJE Films

    Anyone who has experienced wedding-season fatigue or a bit of existential dread around the idea of a "plus one" will be poet-snapping their way through this hidden gem from PEN15 writers Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer. In it, two long-time friends played by Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid vow to be each other's wingmen in order to make an impending wedding marathon feel more manageable. Can you guess what happens next? Probably! But the magic of this rom-com is that it somehow feels brand spankin' new.

    5. Booksmart (2019)

    Annapurna Pictures

    When two straight-laced seniors (played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) realize they've wasted away their best years polishing their college applications with AP courses and extracurriculars, they resolve to make up for it by packing a whole lot of shenanigans into one night. This debut film from Olivia Wilde was an undisputed bright spot in summer movie-going last year and might be exactly what you need during these grim times.

    6. Honeyland (2019)

    Neon

    This foreign language documentary from Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska is the culmination of three years spent with a Macedonian beekeeper studying her labor, and it's an unexpected environmental plea to all. It's a rarity for a documentary to collect Oscar nominations in both the Documentary Feature category and International Feature Film (North Macedonia) category, but these accolades will probably make sense to you once you've given it a watch.

    7. Good Will Hunting (1997)

    Miramax Films

    This beloved film from Gus Van Sant hardly needs an introduction. Twenty-plus years later, the story of a secret genius working as a janitor at M.I.T. (and an all-knowing therapist [Robin Williams] who whips him into shape) is still the go-to pick-me-up for those who prefer their Cinderellas to have floppy blonde hair and thick Boston accents.

    8. Wild Rose (2019)

    Neon

    Robbed of an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (and I demand answers, Academy), this Jessie Buckley vehicle is a tale of a flawed Glaswegian woman with dreams of getting out of the country and making it big as a Nashville country star. It's packed with memorable original music and covers of classics alike that might just send you down an unexpected rabbit hole of listening to early '00s Wynonna if you're anything like me. A panacea for these times!

    9. Minding the Gap (2018)

    Hulu

    The best kind of documentary IMO? The kind that takes a seemingly narrow focus like, say, skateboarding, and finds a way to turn it into something universal. That's the gist of Bing Liu's masterwork from 2018 which starts off simple enough — a document of three boys and their love of skateboarding — and then plunges into heavier topics of masculinity, class, and race before you know it. This is all to say: Mid90s wants what Minding the Gap has.

    10. A Quiet Place (2018)

    Paramount Pictures

    While you anxiously await the (delayed) sequel to this unexpected box office smash about a dystopia that has forced its survivors into total silence, how about diving back into the original and seeing if it lands differently mid-pandemic? Things were different then. We could step outside without fear for our safety — and Noah Jupe had not yet discovered dangly earrings.

    11. Meek's Cutoff (2010)

    Oscilloscope Laboratories

    Maybe you had a chance to see First Cow before your local theater shut down and are anxious to explore the rest of Kelly Reichardt's Pacific Northwest ouvre. Meek's would be a logical place to start — an accomplished western built on a shoestring budget that, like First Cow, is written with Jon Raymond and slowly builds into a timeless fable.

    12. Annihilation (2018)

    Paramount Pictures

    Alex Garland's adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy is a haunting story of a biologist (Natalie Portman) who joins a group of women on an expedition into "Area X" to survey a logic-defying force field that's cropped up in a Florida marshland and, more privately, to gather information about the disappearance of her husband (Oscar Isaac). If this all sounds like a confusing mess of plot to you, you are not entirely wrong — but I challenge you to find fault in Garland's directing or in the bone-chilling sound editing that accompanies every frame.

    13. A Simple Favor (2018)

    Lionsgate

    Would you like a side of Paul Feigian humor with your Gone Girl escapism? Then you've come to the right place. Anna Kendrick is the cringe-y suburban mommy vlogger raising a young son. Blake Lively is the enigmatic "Amy" type working in fashion PR with enough three-piece suits to leave Annie Hall utterly shook. When their lives converge? Well, prepare yourself for more twists and turns than a Six Flags coaster!

    14. Border (2018)

    Neon

    Strange, unsettling, and deeply profound. Those are just three words among many I could use to describe this Swedish film from Ali Abbasi. Tina, our protagonist, works in airport security and possesses the dog-like ability to sniff out anyone toting illegal substances. Weirder, she can quite literally sniff out guilt. When she meets a man physically and behaviorally much like herself, it forces her to re-examine the truth of her identity. That's about as much as one can say without entering "spoiler" territory. Get ready for some jump scares and a handful of images that'll be imprinted on your brain for life.

    15. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

    Columbia Pictures

    No streaming list would be complete without a classic Nora Ephron flick represented somewhere. And here it is: the essential, Reagan-era Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal rom-com that asks us to consider the age-old question of whether a single man and woman can ever really be just close friends.

    16. Diane (2019)

    IFC Films

    While some will react to the pandemic by seeking out happy escapism in their streaming, others will find necessary catharsis in burrowing deeper into a pit of despair. Let that pit of despair be Diane, the small (but sweeping, thematically speaking) debut film from Kent Jones starring Mary Kay Place in her best role to date. Jones' interest is in documenting the grimmer side of the middle-aged years as friends vanish, children grow old, and health declines. For what it's worth, Obama loved the flick!

    17. Tangerine (2015)

    Radium Cheung

    The film that made the wider public aware of Sean Baker and tricked so many into thinking they could direct the next great piece of independent cinema using nothing more than their iPhone 5s. Tangerine, like Baker's other work in The Florida Project and Starlet, is a deceptively layered work of filmmaking — not to mention, a tender and empathetic look into an underrepresented community. Here, we follow Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), two transgender sex workers on the hunt for revenge in Los Angeles.

    18. Ingrid Goes West (2017)

    Neon

    Much like Bling Ring, another low-budget film with its eye on influencer culture, Matt Spicer's indie starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen has only gained relevance in our digital age. What first seems like a familiar story of the #blessed girl who uses social media to hide her true suffering actually ends up laying bare more interesting truths of the Internet: that we are all, in some ways, trapped within this content ecosystem whether we like it or not.

    19. Little Men (2016)

    Magnolia Pictures

    A delicate little story of childhood friendship threatened by the backdrop of an evolving and gentrified Brooklyn. Even those allergic to precocious child acting will want to stay in the company of these two leads — Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) and Tony Calvelli (Michael Barbieri) — for as long as possible. In classic Ira Sachs fashion (Love Is Strange, Keep the Lights On) it's not the plot or even a specific detail that sticks with you — it's the feeling of being immersed in this world.

    20. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

    Miramax Films

    With the Renee-ssance upon us, maybe you've been curious if Zellweger's first-ever Oscar-nominated role as the fumbling but determined heroine Bridget still holds up. The answer, of course, is yes, but in a post-#metoo era, Daniel Cleaver's predatory workplace antics are bound to land a bit differently. If you find yourself desperate for more blue soup, both of the follow-up films, Edge of Reason and Bridget Jones's Baby, are also available for streaming. (Though be warned: none of them compare to the original.)

    21. Support the Girls (2018)

    Magnolia Pictures

    In his most "accessible" work to date, Andrew Bujalski zooms in on a Texas sports bar called Double Whammies and the workers — including its general manager Lisa (Regina Hall) and the bubbly young hostess Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) — that keep its lights on. Its most affecting moments come when Bujalski detours into the lives of these devoted employees outside of the sports bar and we can see exactly what hinges on that steady pay check.

    22. Up in the Air (2009)

    Paramount Pictures

    Did someone say "economic crisis"? Jason Reitman sure did in this Oscars-y recession pic that hit hard with audiences when it was first released over a decade ago. In it, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is contracted by companies that don't have the backbone to do their firings and layoffs themselves. His junior colleague Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) introduces a new approach: all firings are to be done virtually. Fast forward to our modern age, with an increasing number of horror stories about people learning of their termination through Slack. Let's just say this should be an interesting one to revisit.

    23. BPM (2017)

    The Orchard

    Recently, Mark Schoofs wrote about the parallels of living through the AIDS epidemic and the coronavirus. To that end, watching Robin Campillo's "process"-heavy film about a group of young French AIDS activists that make up Paris's "Act Up" chapter might help contextualize our current moment. Or, if nothing else: watch because it stars Adèle Haenel, your new favorite actress from Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

    24. Nobody Knows (2004)

    IFC Films

    Long before Shoplifters (#1), Hirokazu Kore-eda directed this brutal and true coming-of-age story of a neglectful mother (played by You, who you might be familiar with from Terrace House) who abandons her four children, forcing them into a life of independence in Tokyo.

    25. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

    Annapurna Pictures

    Barry Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight is an adaptation of James Baldwin's enduring novel set in the '70s about Tish and Fonny, young lovers with a promising future ahead of them. All of this is quickly squandered when Fonny finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is sentenced for a crime he didn't commit by a belligerently racist police officer. Beale Street showed up on countless Top 10 lists from critics the year of its release and earned Regina King her first-ever Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Now is your time to find out why!

    26. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

    Oscilloscope

    Much like Diane, this is not the film for you if you're looking for some levity or comfort amid the global turmoil. It is the film for you if you'd rather inhabit someone else's nightmare for an hour or so. Here, Lynne Ramsay directs Tilda Swinton in a chilling adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book about a mother who must come to terms with her son's sociopathy (and her own parenting) after he commits a mass school shooting.

    For $5.99 a month (or $11.99 if you don’t want ads) you can now have access to all of these movies on Hulu. Not ready to commit? You can test it for free for 30 days. Ready to cut your cable cord? You can have access to Hulu and Live TV for $54.99. Happy binge-watching!

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