Labor Day could be the last chance Americans have to relax and take a breath in 2018, before we reckon with everything coming up on our national calendar. The kids are heading back to school, the midterm elections are looming, the baseball playoffs and the new football season are arriving almost simultaneously and fall TV and awards-bait movies are just over the horizon.
So to help you transition between the long, idle summer days and the heady months ahead, here are some good streaming options for this holiday weekend.
If the midterm elections have put you in a political frame of mind, you might want to see “Burn After Reading,” currently streaming on Netflix.
Given the current anxiety about “deep state” shenanigans and Russian interference in the political process, there’s probably no more prescient recent spy thriller than the Coen brothers’ bloody 2008 farce, with Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt as D.C.-area gym employees who stumble on an ex-spy’s secret memoirs. As the Coens ruthlessly mock the pretensions of men and women who think they’re more powerful than they actually are, they also show how even dopes can be dangerous.
If you loved this summer’s big crowd-pleasing docs “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” you might try “Step,” currently streaming on Hulu.
Though it was a hit on the festival circuit last year, this uplifting documentary about hopeful Baltimore teens didn’t get as much attention as it deserved when it finally made it to theaters. Set in the world of high school dance competitions, “Step” combines elaborate, stirring performances with a sensitive behind-the-scenes look at how young ladies try to overcome the poverty and violence of their neighborhoods, to move on to college and a better life.
If you were a fan of “Pose,” stream “Paris Is Burning,” on Netflix.
Even the creators of FX’s excellent historical drama would gladly admit that their depiction of New York City “drag balls” in the late ‘80s borrows liberally from Jennie Livingston’s landmark 1991 documentary. The costumes, the categories, the catty insults, the concept of “realness”… It’s all here in this doc, which introduced a lot of middle Americans to the vibrancy and daily perils within black and Latino gay and transgender communities.
If the new “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” revived your appetite for Tom Cruise, check out “American Made,” streaming on Amazon Prime Video (with an HBO subscription).
Cruise proved his action star bonafides yet again this summer with the latest pulse-pounding “M:I.” But last year, he reminded fans of his formidable acting chops, via the snappy “American Made,” the exciting and outlandish true story of a cocky pilot who became a smuggler for both drug dealers and the U.S. government. Cruise subtly satirizes his own “Top Gun” swagger, revealing what happens to affable rogues after their time has passed.
If “BlacKkKlansman” has you wanting to see more from director Spike Lee, watch “She’s Gotta Have It,” on Netflix.
Lee’s 1986 debut feature is a sexy and stylish romantic comedy about an artsy, independent young New Yorker and the three very different boyfriends she juggles. The gender politics are dated (which is partly why the director recently revisited the premise for a TV series, also made for Netflix), but the film’s humor, creativity, and pure aesthetic beauty established Lee right away as one of our most vital filmmakers.
If you’ve the playoff chase has given you baseball fever, then “Bull Durham,” on Hulu, is for you.
There’s a reason why this picture routinely tops the lists of the greatest baseball movies ever made. Writer-director Ron Shelton’s mature, richly detailed tale of an aging minor leaguer (Kevin Costner), a rising star (Tim Robbins) and the devoted fan (Susan Sarandon) who loves them both is full of literal “inside baseball” humor, with jokes and observations about the art of the game. But the quietly poetic “Bull Durham” also follows the pleasing rhythm of the sport’s long season: beginning in hope and ending in reflection.
If you’re ready for some football, Netflix has the movie version of “Friday Night Lights.”
The original adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s non-fiction best-seller divides its focus between Texas high school football as a sport and as a culture. Though it didn’t have the running-time to develop its characters as magnificently as the TV series later did, the big-screen “Friday Night Lights” expertly conveys how the pursuit of gridiron glory can give a community a common purpose, even as it distorts values.
If you’re getting your older kids ready for school, “The Edge of Seventeen” is on Amazon Prime Video (with a Showtime subscription).
One of the smartest and funniest movies ever made about teen angst and the high school doldrums, “The Edge of Seventeen” is anchored by an outstanding Hailee Steinfeld performance, as an obstinate junior who’s been adrift ever since she started feuding with with her best friend. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig keeps this story simple and relatable, capturing the wild emotional swings of adolescence so adeptly that even older viewers will feel like kids again — whether they want to or not.
And if you just want to catch up with some of 2018’s best…
It’s been a strong year for movies so far, and many of the spring and summer’s most popular and acclaimed films are already available to rent or own via the major digital retailers including Amazon, Vudu and iTunes: from blockbusters such as “Black Panther” and “A Quiet Place,” to kid-friendly fare such as “Paddington 2” and “Isle of Dogs,” and arthouse favorites such as “First Reformed” and “The Death of Stalin.” Start watching now, so you’ll be ready when awards season hits.