Do you feel like you’re drowning … but you haven’t even left your couch? Welcome to the Great Content Overload Era. To help you navigate the choppy digital waves, here are The Globe’s best bets for weekend streaming.
Whistler Film Festival (watch.whistlerfilmfestival.com)
The in-person portion of this year’s Whistler Film Festival has already wrapped by the time you read this, but that doesn’t mean audiences who couldn’t make it to “Canada’s Coolest Film Festival” cannot get in on the fun. From now through Jan. 3, the WFF will make 100 festival titles available to stream through its virtual platform.
With a wealth of Canadian titles, best bets from the snow fest include Deco Dawson’s drama Diaspora, about a Ukrainian immigrant who lands in Winnipeg’s north end; Jason Priestley’s documentary Offside: The Harold Ballard Story; Kenneth Welsh’s final film, Midnight at the Paradise, in which the late actor plays a film critic facing his last days; the offbeat comedy The 12 Tasks of Imelda from Martin Villeneuve (brother of Denis); and the world premiere of Exile, a thriller starring Adam Beach as an ex-con trying to escape his deadly and tragic past. As is the case since the WFF launched its virtual platform in 2020, all online revenue will be split 50/50 between the fest and filmmakers.
Emily the Criminal (Netflix)
If you cannot get enough of the wonderfully sardonic Aubrey Plaza on the second season of HBO’s White Lotus, then the new thriller Emily the Criminal should satiate you long enough to stave off a marathon Parks and Recreation binge. A small but sturdy study of working-class American anxiety, the film – released theatrically earlier this year to few notices – would be thoroughly fine were it not for Plaza’s central performance, which elevates the entire endeavour. Playing a Los Angeles wannabe artist who turns to small-time credit-card fraud to pay her staggering student debt, Plaza trembles with a nerve-rattling sense of what-now exasperation. As Emily gets in over her head, Plaza carefully ratchets up the desperation in her eyes, body language and voice until she is desperation personified.
Confess, Fletch (Paramount+)
Three months after it made its whisper-quiet on-demand debut, one of the year’s best comedies becomes that much more accessible this week as Confess, Fletch starts streaming on Paramount+. Directed by Greg Mottola (the even-better-than-you-remember comedies Adventureland, Superbad) and starring Jon Hamm as the titular detective, this adaptation of Gregory Mcdonald’s cult novel is one of the more charming and surprising efforts in either of Mottola and Hamm’s impressive careers. Before you ask: No, Chevy Chase isn’t involved. Although Hamm does share some drinking scenes with former Mad Men co-star John Slattery, which is more than enough compensation.
Something in the Dirt (on-demand, including Apple TV and Google Play)
One of the more ambitious, endearingly strange efforts to come out of pandemic-era lockdown filming, this no-frills head-trip experiment by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Synchronic, Marvel’s Moon Knight) is akin to spending two hours locked in a room with the most intense, entertaining conspiracy theorist who you might know. Perhaps you’re already running in the other direction, which, fair. But there is a smart, sharp pleasure in digging into Something in the Dirt. In addition to writing and directing, Benson and Moorhead star as two L.A. neighbours who try to figure out why their apartment complex is ground zero for supernatural phenomena. There’s something admirable about watching two filmmakers fall down a rabbit hole of genre tropes, not caring whether they come out the other end at all.
Tehranto (on-demand, including Apple TV and Google Play)
Sometimes (okay, often) ambitions get trumped by resources in the world of Canadian film. Take Tehranto, the debut feature film from Faran Moradi, who comes equipped with a nifty and admirable pitch: Take the meet-cute mechanics of the rom-com, apply them to Toronto’s Persian community and add in a healthy amount of politics that echo today’s headlines. Made under Telefilm’s microbudget Talent to Watch program, Tehranto’s low budget ensures that it just doesn’t quite have the polish its genre of choice typically demands. But there are charms in the margins – this has to be the first film to ever take place largely in the suburb of Richmond Hill – and I cannot wait until Moradi is given a budget that matches his vision.