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Streaming Movies: Finding Gold in a Sea of Dreck

There's so much to stream, how do you find the really great films? We make it easy for you. Here's our top picks on HBO Max.

The Boss complained 30 years ago that there were 57 channels and nothin’ on.  Today we have a streaming bonanza, yet you still might find yourself scrolling endlessly, searching for entertainment that feeds your mind, heart, and funny bone.  

In this column, hopefully the first of a series, I’m going to help you find what the majority of movie cognoscenti consider the most satisfying, memorable movies you can stream today. Later, we’ll tackle the subject of TV shows, and what might merit committing all those hours to watching a season of a TV series.

Everyone’s taste in movies is different, so who knows if you’ll love them. I can only promise that these are well made, provide lots to feel and to think about, and aren’t stupid, obvious, trite, or demeaning. That cuts out at least 98% of the films that have ever been made. See how much time you’re already saving?

Today we’ll look at movies on HBO Max, because it has the best content of any streaming service (though, unfortunately, the most annoying user interface).

Comic Dramas

The Daytrippers – A smart indie comedy about a dysfunctional family excursion to the city. Great cast, great characters.

The Fisher King – The most human and touching of Terry Gilliam’s films. How long must you pay for forgiveness when you’ve committed the unforgivable? Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges are electric.

Juno – Adorable, horrible, and real. HBO also has the nastier, revealing follow-up, Young Adult, with Charlize Theron.

Moonstruck – How long since you last watched this one? One of the best romantic comedies ever.

George Carlin’s American Dream – A recent documentary about the great standup’s simultaneous fall and rise.

Thoughtful and Dark

Eraserhead – David Lynch’s breakout film is suspenseful, stylish, creepy, funny, unforgettable, and never lets up.

Nightcrawler – A thoughtful, disturbing drama that shows Los Angeles in a true light.

Entertaining, Older Foreign-Language Films With Soul

I Vitelloni – A fun early Fellini film that most haven’t seen. The other Fellini films on HBO are all excellent, too.

Pépé le Moko – A great French 1930s gangster film set in the Casbah. See why Jean Gabin was the overseas Bogart.

Umberto D. – A 1952 Italian neo-realist film you might like even more than Bicycle Thieves. An old man and his dog. Spirit-lifting and heart-breaking. 

If you need more, HBO Max sports a quarter of the films on this highly recommended list: AFI 100 American Movies

And if you want more, let us know. Next time, we’ll explore great films and TV series available on Netflix, Prime, and AMC.  

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David Tausik
David Tausik has written and directed feature films for indie companies and major film studios. Aside from rewrites, he sold 25 original scripts of which 6 have been made which, strangely, is a good batting average. He has been an avid film student since the age of 9, when he started frequenting double features at the many revival theaters that populated Greenwich Village. Making 8mm films throughout high school, David showed his work at The Kitchen and the Anthology Film Archives. At 14, he worked at New York's then premier movie bookstore Cinemabilia on 13th Street (with coworkers Rich Meyers and Tom Miller who later changed their last names to Hell and Verlaine and formed the punk band Television). Frequent customers were Francois Truffaut and Patti Smith. Deciding he preferred to make narrative entertainment, he moved to Los Angeles where he embarked on a successful career in film.

 

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