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Last "Instants:" Watch These Movies While You Can

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 20, 2011 9:00PM

2011_04_slapshot.jpgHere's a scene playing out with alarming regularity: "Hey what's out that's worth watching?" someone will ask us, and before we finish rattling off an optimist's litany of new releases and revivals worth going out to take in, they interrupt us. "No, I mean something I can download or stream at home tonight," they say, and look at us if we'd given directions to Western Union when asked to borrow our cell phone. Look, we get it. Proper springtime weather has hit the snooze button again and nobody wants to make a trip out while the down payment on all those May flowers is being deposited. But if you're going to be lazy, be lazy with a purpose. Those Netflix titles available for instant streaming aren't on the list forever; those contracts expire. If you notice the total number of titles in your instant queue has mysteriously decreased overnight, it's because you waited too long. So we'd like to inaugurate a Chicagoist public service: Last Instants, a handful of movies that you only have a few more days to stream for free if you are a Netflix subscriber.*

(*NOTE: We'd love to include Hulu, Amazon and Mubi titles in this account, but can't find a way to easily browse those libraries for expiration date.)

  • Amélie. It's taken ten years for us to forgive Jean-Pierre Jeunet's surprise hit for ruining the Paris neighborhood of Montmartre, but then this just-shy-of-cloying blend of feel good fantasy is designed to counteract any bitterness the viewer brings to it. Audrey Tatou is an overly sheltered café waitress whose acts of spontaneous and creative generosity furnish a theatrical and portrait of Paris as a habitable Rube Goldberg machine of romantic fatalism. This film's quirky vibe rubbed off, like so much glitter, on a generation of Indie films. Expires April 21.
  • 49 Up. If it is safe to say that few believed in 1963, when a British TV company commissioned a documentary about a group of children born seven years prior with the plan of following up with the same group every seven years, that the Up series would be going strong in 2011. But it is, with an eighth installment planned for next year. In the hands of director Michael Apted, this project has become a life's work, and unequivocally essential viewing. There is no documentary with a longer continuous time frame nor anything near to these seven films' as an analytical portrait of growing up and growing older. Any installment is a safe entry point, and with all four of those available for streaming about to expire, now is the time to get hooked. This is the original, and best, reality show. Expires Thursday, Apr 21
  • The Orphanage is only four years old, but the Spanish horror movie already looks better with age. Its genuinely creepy vibe was acknowledged as a throwback to horror classics at the time, but as what passes for horror at the cineplex becomes ever more synonymous with the torture porn of the Saw era, The Orphanage's restraint looks that much more remarkable. Laura and her husband Carlos purchase her childhood orphanage with the best of intentions, but you don't have to have watched a lot of haunted house movies to know that this was a really bad idea. Director Juan Antonio Bayona may take things a twist too far, but if you are looking for something to both scare and stick with you, this is just what the parapsychologist ordered. Expires April 22.
  • Johnny Got His Gun may have been introduced to many of us as "The Movie from the video for 'One' by Metallica," but Dalton Trumbo's anti-war classic deserves to be watched on its own. The tale of a soldier Joe Bonham got his arms, legs and face destroyed by an artillery shell, an apparent prisoner of his own consciousness, a consciousness the Army doesn't even think exists. As Joe's mind undergoes a complete narrative arc showcased by flashbacks and reveries the resulting tale remains as resonant as ever. Expires April 28.
  • Slap Shot is the hockey movie, full stop. It's also a strong candidate for the title of "most enjoyable" in the category of "sports movies about plucky minor league underdogs achieving redemption," in which there is plenty of competition. Paul Newman stars as the past-his-prime player-coach who'll stop at nothing to motivate his Charlestown Chiefs and finds a way to turn around his club's season when he discovers the true talents of the bespectacled Hanson brothers. No, not those Hanson brothers. To say the film takes on the issue of hockey violence is to understate the point: the film is a two hour systematic dismantling of every potential argument against fighting in hockey. Expires April 30.