Reel Reviews: The Netflix phenomenon

By on November 6, 2019

There’s a lot of recent Oscar chatter surrounding Eddie Murphy. Yup. You heard that right. Eddie Murphy. Oscar chatter.

‘Dolemite is My Name’

The noise is all about his role as Rudy Ray Moore in “Dolemite is My Name,” the based-on-a-true-story movie detailing the rise to stardom of the entertainer. The film picks up as Moore fears his chance at stardom has passed him by until he discovers a character he and his friends, Ben (Craig Robinson), Toney (Tituss Burgess), and Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), can rally around. Comedy records turn to stand-up road trips. The successful tours turn into a movie, and “Dolemite” (1975) is born.

This movie is hilarious, raunchy, and stacked with some great acting by a hilarious cast. The problem with “Dolemite is My Name” is the only place carrying this movie was the Midtown in Harrisburg …or your living room. “Dolemite is My Name” hit theaters — kind of — on Oct. 4 and pushed out a Netflix release 21 days later (as opposed to the industry standard 90-day period of exclusivity).

‘The Laundromat’

Also recently stoking the dual release debate was “The Laundromat,” directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich”), which premiered in theatres on Sept. 27 and hit Netflix on Oct. 18.

It’s been a long time since Soderbergh hit the reputable radar, after punching out flicks like “Magic Mike” and “Behind the Candelabra” over the past couple years. Not since “The Informant!” have I been so excited to write about a Soderbergh film.

In another true events story, Soderbergh tells the tale of shell corporation masterminds Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) as relayed in the book by Jake Bernstein, “Secrecy World,” which details the history of Panama Papers. Brilliant, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, this movie should be required viewing for every American (along the lines of “The Great Hack”). Soderbergh takes the movie from history lesson to moving art with a blinding finale created by the master herself, Meryl Streep.

The great Netflix debate

I know there are a lot of people that think Netflix should not be given consideration when it comes to Academy Awards. I love the movie theater and I will always support it, but when you have directors like Soderbergh and Craig Brewer (“Dolemite is My Name,” “Hustle & Flow”) dual releasing movies on the big screen and on a streaming platform, it is time to rethink how we define media, genre, and popular consumption.

Martin Scorsese has. The famed director’s newest film, “The Irishman” opened in select theaters over the weekend, but not until after coming to an agreement with theater chains that will hold the Netflix premiere of the movie off until Nov. 27. As of press time, no local theaters have advertised showing the film.

This topic is larger than this column allows. While Scorsese sees Netflix as a way to distribute the movies he wants to make, fellow film-god Steven Spielberg calls all Netflix movies “TV movies.” The 2019 Netflix cinematic releases are just the shot across the bow in a discussion that will stay heated for many years.

I’ll see you at the theater …and on my couch!

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