In roughly reverse chronological order, the movies watched in January on Netflix:
Hyde Park on Hudson. An interesting, fun movie when it focused on the relationship between FDR and the King and Queen, not so interesting when the focus was on his complicated relationships with the women in his life. And Daisy had to be more interesting in real life than Laura Linney made her seem.
Blue Jasmine. Very good, but I wouldn't put it in the category of top-tier Woody Allen. And setting the movie in San Francisco was a waste, unless he was trying to make the point that the city by the bay can't match New York City in sophistication. Both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins deserved their Oscar nominations, but the men were pretty good too (Andrew Dice Clay!? Who would've thunk it?) - although they didn't seem like any San Francisco dweller I've ever met.
No Direction Home. Very well made Scorsese biopic of Dylan, beginning with his earliest days and ending with the first time in his long career that he disappointed his more conservative fans by trying something new - going electric, in this case. The clips of angry fans from his famous 1966 tour of England alone are worth the price of admission. And kudos to Scorsese for coaxing Dylan into sounding very comprehensible.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Really interesting documentary focusing on Jiro, an 85-year old master sushi chef and owner of a 3-star Michelin restaurant with 10 seats, where reservations are made months in advance and the meals cost $300 a plate. The sections of the film about the restaurant and how the fish is selected and prepared are interesting enough, but there's also quite a bit of meaty material about Jiro's relationship with his sons and the honor of working hard every day of one's life.
Ordinary People. I've written about this before, and don't really have anything more to add. Just wanted to catch it once before it cycled off of Netflix streaming at the end of the month.
Jack Reacher. OK, so Tom Cruise isn't anywhere close to 6'5", but he still manages to be a credible Reacher. No matter what one thinks of him, it's hard to argue with his ability to produce and star in well-made if mostly unspectacular genre exercises.
The Place Beyond the Pines. Probably wins the title for the most misleading trailer of the year, but I'd read enough about it to know that it was essentially two movies in one, with the Ryan Gosling character featured at the beginning and the Bradley Cooper character starring in the second half. Although it's a bit of a narrative mess, it's also very clear that Derek Cianfrance knows how to make a movie, and even in its most melodramatic moments, it's well worth watching.
Much Ado About Nothing. I probably need to see this again, because the night we watched it I was having a little trouble staying awake (old man's disease), but what I did see I enjoyed a great deal. With me and Shakespeare, it's always the same - up until a certain point I have trouble understanding the dialogue, and then all of a sudden everything clicks into place.
Blackfish. Sad and sometimes haunting documentary about the treatment of Orcas at SeaWorld and other, similar parks, with a focus on one particular Orca with a tragic history. Nothing spectacular in the film-making, but it achieves effectively what it sets out to do.
Zoolander. A tad uneven, like most Ben Stiller comedies, but pretty damn funny throughout, with more than its share of laugh out loud scenes.
To the Wonder. In a cruel twist of fate, the HD on Streaming was not working well the night we watched this, and the cinematography is really the only reason to see it. I get that Terence Malick is a visual genius and all that, but this was practically unwatchable, unless you made fun of it a la Rocky Horror or Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it had its fans, most notably Roger Ebert.
Shame. The first Steve McQueen-directed movie I've seen, and even with the massively depressing storyline, it's easy to see that McQueen is well on his way to becoming a master. Kudos also to Michael Fassbender, who in what could have been an entirely thankless role, turns a sad and somewhat disturbed man into someone who feels real.