Above: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in David Fincher's "Zodiac." (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
Some of us grew up when television consisted of three major networks and maybe 10 other selections of distorted fuzz. In those days, movies playing on our home screens was a big deal.
This was long before even VHS machines made seeing movies outside of a theater a common occurrence.
But in the 1960s, TV producers were looking for more product, film producers were looking for ways to resell the product they had in abundance following their theatrical runs, and so we started getting to see big-screen releases on our – in many cases – massive Zenith, RCA and Magnavox sets.
The movies tended to be heavily edited, and the ads that kept popping up were irritating. But there they were, major movies screening right in the comfort of our homes. What a treat.
These days, of course, we’re accustomed to such luxuries. Whether you stream your films through Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube or any number of other companies, you have access to pretty much everything.
That material, though, tends to come and go. Netflix, for example, will drop a number of worthy films as of Nov. 30. So if you are a Netflix customer, and you’re interested in any of the following movies, you still have a few days to take advantage:
“Moneyball” (2011): Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill star in this based-on-real-events story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Pitt) and his adoption of a computer-based system of choosing suitable, affordable players for his small-market team. Directed by Bennett Miller, and adapted by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin from the nonfiction book by Michael Lewis.
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Oceans Thirteen” (2007): Three films directed by Steven Soderbergh, all takeoffs of the 1960 Frank Sinatra film about a group of guys robbing Las Vegas Casinos. George Clooney and Brad Pitt lead the crews, which include the likes of Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts (at least in the first two).
“West Side Story” (1961): Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins co-directed this adaptation of the Broadway musical, based roughly on Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” and with music provided by Leonard Bernstein. Though Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer were the leads, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris won Best Supporting Oscars.
“Y Tu Mamá También” (2001): Long before he won a Best Directing Oscars for “Gravity” (2013) and “Roma” (2018), Alfonso Cuarón earned critical acclaim for directing this little Mexican character study of two young guys (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) and the mature woman (Maribel Verdú) they accompany on a coming-of-age road trip.
“Zodiac” (2007): One of the best directors without an Oscar on his resumé, David Fincher directed this based-on-real-events study of the killer who haunted the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. star as newspaper reporters (Gyllenhaal a political cartoonist) who investigate the crimes, while Mark Ruffalo plays their police officer counterpart.
By the way, if you owned DVD copies of these films, you could watch them whenever you wanted. Ah, but such is the way of progress.
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