across the streaming-verse

What to Stream This Weekend on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon: The 2013 Catch-up Edition

This Labor Day weekend, as you search for a movie to watch, you can either go out to see Getaway (jokes! — you’re not going to see Getaway), or stay home and pick one of approximately 14 billion options available to stream over a variety of services, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or other sites. Every Friday, Vulture tries to make life easier by narrowing it down to a handful of heartily recommended options. This week, we take a look back at the past eight months of 2013, picking out the highlights before we’re hit by the tidal wave of new TV shows and movies arriving this fall.

Inside Amy Schumer
Sketch comedy is a saturated market thanks to YouTube. Everything you think might have been done has been done, often by 14-year-olds with a smartphone. The current climate makes comedian Amy Schumer’s foray into the format a bit of a miracle. In season one, she taps her brain and lets the insanity flow forth. Even when a sketch comes in for a bumpy landing, it’s unadulterated and fresh. Oddities abound: Schumer turns buying rounds into a full-on addiction, she finds a perspective in a “2 Girls 1 Cup” joke that’s worth indulging, and “Clown Panties”… well, watch that one for yourself. With Judd Apatow knocking at her door, watch Schumer’s evolution unfold with the first ten episodes of Inside Amy Schumer. (Available on Hulu)

Sound City
Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl thinks modern music is missing its soul on account of digital technology. (What art form isn’t?) But Grohl wisely avoids a solo act in the documentary Sound City, rounding up rock legends to trace back the history of L.A.’s greatest music studio. Nirvana cut Nevermind in the all-analog Sound City, giving Grohl a personal investment in this story. He also knows a thing or two about music, which helps when folks like Tom Petty, Rick Rubin, Stevie Nicks, and Paul McCartney enter the picture as interview subjects. (Available on Amazon)

It’s Such a Wonderful Day
As 2-D is bumped out of the spotlight by bubbly CG animals, cartoonist Don Hertzfeldt continues to toil away on his forties-era animation style, hand-drawing the oddities from our nightmares. Our funny kind of nightmares. Having worked on morbid shorts for the past decade, Hertzfeldt completed his first feature film this year. It’s Such a Wonderful Day is an existential stick figure triptych concerning Bill, a regular joe who witnesses his mental state slowly slip away. It’s Tim & Eric by way of Terrence Malick, a tale that would give Tim Burton the willies and make Michael Haneke giggle. (Available on Vimeo)

Don Hertzfeldt's IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (trailer) from Cinefamily on Vimeo.

My Boyfriend’s Girlfriend
After putting Sleepwalk With Me, the film adaptation of his popular one-man show, in theaters, Mike Birbiglia went straight back to work. Like Sleepwalk, My Boyfriend’s Girlfriend is a tale ripped from the stand-up comedian’s past, this time broadened to a rumination on relationships — and why they may be humankind’s biggest mistake. Maybe? Birbiglia toured with My Boyfriend’s Girlfriend for two years, rewriting and honing the material along the way, and eventually committing it to tape earlier this year. It’s newly released and already among the best of 2013, thanks to Birbiglia’s seemingly effortless storytelling skills. (Available on Netflix)

Sirens may go off in your head when phrases like “Nazi” and “Germany” pop up in the description for Lore, but director Cate Shortland’s coming-of-age tale isn’t retreading stomped ground. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, with Hitler dead and the Third Reich crumbling, a 14-year-old German girl is faced with a 500-mile journey to her grandmother’s home. Her parents, influential SS officers, are missing, her younger siblings are in despair, and Lore acts with do or die instincts. This mesmerizing portrait of the aftermath twists conventional sympathies to profound effect. Clearly, fall isn’t the only season sporting top ten contenders. (Available on Netflix, Amazon)

Upstream Color
It took director Shane Carruth seven years to follow up his cult time-travel indie Primer. The creative meditation allowed him to sidestep the demands of Hollywood and piece together a science-fiction drama that movie studios wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The uncompromised vision is apparent in the first frames of Upstream Color. Whereas Primer relied heavily on words, Carruth takes a poetic approach to the relationship-driven sci-fi. He explores themes of love and godly forces by following the life cycle of symbiotic worms and what might best be described as “pig avatars.” Upstream is like a Brian Eno soundscape manifested into tangible objects (with the right soundtrack to match). While many screamed “pretentious” when it debuted at Sundance, most were absorbed, lost for hours in conversation over the film’s many threads. Not a bad way to spend a three-day weekend. (Available on Netflix)

Best of Netflix, Hulu: 2013 Catch-up Edition