The Great Stuff Coming To Hulu In May 2023

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As old school “Sesame Street” announcers would have said, May’s Hulu programming is brought to you by the letter “C.”  In this case, that letter stands for concerts (Elton John, U2’s Bono & The Edge), classics (Meryl Streep as a Holocaust survivor, Robert De Niro as a Jewish gangster), cult films (Wes Anderson’s debut featuring Owen and Luke Wilson as inept would-be criminals, Michael Fassbender as a would-be rock singer who wears a papier mache head) and critically acclaimed works (a courtroom drama involving a Medea-like murder, baby brokers trying to score a big adoption).  

Whether you’re in the mood to see character actor Harry Dean Stanton’s last film or watch Inuit teens use horror film knowledge to fight monsters, the cream of Hulu’s programming will have something to intrigue you.

May 1

Best In Show–In Christopher Guest’s star-studded satirical mockumentary,  offbeat humans bring their dogs to vie for top prize at the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show.  The eccentric humans include: a mild-mannered salesman (Eugene Levy) and his wife (Catherine O’Hara), a shop owner (Guest), a pair of upwardly mobile attorneys (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), and an ecstatic gay couple (Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins).  What will provide the bigger drama: the canine competition or human jealousies and intrigues?

Best In Show on Hulu in May

Bottle Rocket–Wes Anderson made his directorial debut in this offbeat crime comedy film starring Owen Wilson.  Dignan (Wilson in his acting debut) “springs” friend Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) from a voluntary psychiatric unit.  Dignan’s big 75-year plan involves their pulling off several heists and then connecting with part-time criminal Mr. Henry (James Caan).  However, these heists fall short in one ridiculous way or another.  In addition, life keeps intruding on the friends realizing a dreamed-of life of crime.      

Frank–Struggling songwriter Jon thinks he’s found his big break by offering to fill in a spot on the aspiring band Soronpfrbs.  However, the nuttiness of his bandmates soon makes Jon reconsider his decision.  Theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) hates Jon’s guts from the word “go.”  Baraque and Nana speak English only when they feel like it.  Lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender) constantly wears a giant papier mache head.  Add to this situation months of working on new songs that never seem to produce anything and Jon starts to wonder what he’s doing there.  When an opportunity arises for Soronpfrbs to play SXSW, will they head for the next career level or spectacularly screw things up?

The Meddler–Recently widowed 60-something Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) moves from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to her screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne).  However, Marnie is one of those mothers who drive their children crazy with their relentless need to be in constant contact with their spawn.  When Lori can’t take Marnie’s attention, the older woman turns to mothering strangers and near-strangers.  Yet underneath the widow’s activities is her difficulty in processing her grief over her husband’s death. 

Once Upon A Time In America—The version of Sergio Leone’s American gangster epic being shown on Hulu is unlikely to be the 6-hour cut envisioned by the director.  But the director’s cinematic swan song is still worth watching even with the studio butchery visited upon it over the years.  Leone’s epic juggles together three different time periods in the life of Jewish gangster David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro).  In 1918, teenage Noodles puts together a gang of punks to do favors for the local strongmen and finds a best friend in Maximilian “Max” Bercovicz.  In 1930, the adult Noodles joins forces with Max (James Woods) to become big-time bootleggers.  But Max’s increasing flakiness and tempting Mafia offers threaten to bring everything crashing down.  In 1968, a now old Noodles returns from exile to New York City to settle things once and for all.    

May 2

Lucky–Veteran character actor Harry Dean Stanton’s last film finds him starring as the titular long-retired World War II veteran living alone in the Arizona desert.  Lucky has a daily routine which includes visits to the local coffee shop, sitting at his favorite seat at the bar, and arguing with friends including tortoise-owning chum Howard (director David Lynch) who’s distressed his pet President Roosevelt has gone missing.  Yet even though Lucky seems to have lost the ability to make new friends, he’s surprising himself by suddenly opening up emotionally to younger people.

A Small Light on Hulu in May

A Small Light–Fun-loving 20-something secretary Miep Gies (Bel Powley, “The Diary Of A Teenage Girl”) works as Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber)’s secretary.  But the World War II occupation of Amsterdam by the Nazis sets Gies’ life on a far different course.  Frank has asked his secretary to hide him and his Jewish family from the foreign occupiers in a secret annex, lest they be rounded up and sent to an extermination camp.  This is the story of how Gies and several other ordinary people watched over the Franks…and how Gies discovers and preserves the famous diary of Otto’s daughter Anne.

May 4

Both Sides Of The Blade–Acclaimed director Claire Denis directs this romantic drama which reunites her with stars Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon.  Sara (Binoche) and Jean (Lindon) are a blissfully contented married couple.  Sara hosts a current events radio interview show while Jean struggles to find work despite his criminal past.  Their marital bliss gets upended thanks to Sara’s chance street encounter with Francois (Gregoire Colin), an old friend of the couple…and Sara’s former lover.  That encounter opens up a previously unknown emotional abyss in the interviewer’s heart, which in turn undermines her previous contentment.

Children Of The Snow–This documentary mini-series recounts a still-unsolved series of child murders from more than four decades ago.  Between February 1976 and March 1977, four children between the ages of 10 to 12 from Michigan’s Oakland County were abducted and murdered.  Can contemporary science, the author of a book on the killings, a local detective, and the victims’ families finally find the answers that can bring closure to this cold case crime spree?

May 5 

Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium–From the “Neener Neener Don’t You Wish You’d Subscribed To Disney Plus” Dept.: A rebroadcast of the final North American stop on Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.  In 1975, Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium served as the venue for two memorable sold-out Elton John concerts that would cement his legend globally.  Now the rock superstar uses this musical send-off to come full circle by performing selected hits from his decades-long career.

Taste The Nation With Padma Lakshmi Season 2–Award-winning cookbook author Lakshmi returns with a new season of travels across the United States to try the foods of various American communities.  She also teases out the links between food, humanity, and history.  This season, the series travels to such places as Puerto Rico (on ketchup and its link to Puerto Rico’s fight for independence), Houston (a thriving Nigerian community and the spice known as fufu), and Daly City (Filipino American traditional recipe disruption in the form of sour sinigang and sweet spaghetti).

May 8

To The End on Hulu in May

To The End–Rachel Lears’ (“Knock Down The House”) new documentary follows Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, activist Varshini Prakash, climate policy writer Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and political strategist Alexandra Rojas over the course of four years as they struggle to shift public discussion around climate and work to pass the bill known as the Green New Deal.  Ignore the low IMDB score for this film because it’s the product of childish right-wing review-bombing.

May 10

Class Of ‘09–In this suspense mini-series, a class of FBI agents are followed over the decades across three distinct points in time as artificial intelligence changes the U.S. justice system and these agents must personally deal with the practical consequences.  Among the class members are the very unorthodox Tayo (Brian Tyree Henry) and successful undercover agent Poet (Kate Mara). 

May 11

Bono & The Edge: A Sort Of Homecoming with David Letterman—Yes, this is another “aren’t you sorry you’re not subscribing to Disney Plus” offering.  And yes, it’s partly a glorified record advertisement.  Finally yes, it features U2 members Bono and The Edge, which might shave off coolness points for some viewers right then and there.  Still, for those interested in checking it out, this is partly the chronicle of a Dublin concert supporting a new record featuring the titular duo deconstructing songs from U2’s extensive catalog.  But there’s also David Letterman touring Dublin, a look back at U2’s formative years, and conversations with such friends of the band as singer Glen Hansard.

May 12

The Great Season 3—This dramedy based on the life of Catherine the Great returns for a new season of history and intrigue.  Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) are determined to make their marriage work despite, er, Catherine attempting to off Peter as well as her having all of Peter’s friends imprisoned.  But Peter’s attempts to be a good First Husband get undermined by the awareness that he’s not living up to the legacy of his father Peter The Great.  Meanwhile, Catherine’s fame starts extending beyond Russia’s borders and she’s soon inspired to set up a conference where peasants, nobles, and merchants can discuss how to create a new Russia.  But even the best political leaders benefit from knowing when to compromise…

The Last Unicorn–Fantasist Peter S. Beagle adapted his titular novel for this animated feature film directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass.  The art comes from animators who would later work for Studio Ghibli.  It’s the story of a quest undertaken by a Unicorn to find out what happened to the others of her immortal kind.  Along the way, she’ll encounter everything from a village with a shameful secret to the cynical outlaw Molly Grue to the ultimate threat of the fearsome Red Bull (n0, not the drink).

Slash/Back on Hulu in May

Saint Omer–France’s Academy Award entry is this first fiction feature film from documentary filmmaker Alice Diop.  Novelist and mother-to-be Rama travels to the town of Saint-Omer to attend a murder trial taking place there.  Laurence Coly, the accused, is being tried for deliberately killing her 15-month-old daughter.  As the trial proceeds, Rama’s thoughts go from using the trial as raw material for her book on Medea to discovering just how much she shares Laurence’s sense of outsiderdom in French society.  The film’s story and dialogue heavily relies on the transcripts of a similar real-life trial.  One of this month’s must-see films.

May 16

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping—Andy Samberg writes and stars in this cult musical mockumentary.  Musical prodigy Conner Friel (Samberg) forms pop rap group “The Style Boyz” with childhood friends Lawrence Dunn and Owen Bouchard.  The group’s meteoric success is soon matched by its epic breakup.  Egotistical Conner embarks on a solo career as Conner4Real and gains further success.  This “documentary” is intended to celebrate Conner’s life in the spotlight.  But when his second solo album turns out to be a disastrous flop, a far different film gets made.

May 18

Slash/Back—Alien invasion stories are a familiar cinematic staple.  But when was the last time an alien invasion story was set in Pangniturang, Nunavut and starred a group of Inuit teenage girls?  That’s what happens in Nyla Innuksuk’s debut feature.  Teenaged Maika may have been trained in traditional Inuit hunting methods by her father.  But she and the three friends in her posse are more interested in leaving Pangniturang as soon as they can do so.  That is, until the remote community gets invaded by an alien menace out of “The Thing.”  To save their community, these four girls must rely on strategies from their favorite horror movies, improvised weapons from their kitchens, and the traditional Inuit skills they were taught. 

May 19

Sophie’s Choice—Alan J. Pakula’s memorable adaptation of William Styron’s novel of the same name features Meryl Streep in her Academy Award-nominated performance as the titular character.  It’s Summer 1947, and Sophie (Streep) lives with her crazy romantic lover Nathan (Kevin Kline) in a Brooklyn boardinghouse.  Stingo (Peter MacNicol) is their downstairs neighbor, a kid from the South who’s come to New York City to become a great writer.  As the trio become friends, Stingo will ultimately learn Sophie’s tragic backstory regarding her World War II experiences.

May 20

The Secrets Of Hillsong–This investigative docuseries is based on a Vanity Fair expose about the titular megachurch.  Justin Bieber, Kevin Durant, and Selena Gomez may have been among the celebrity congregants of this religious organization.  But when church pastor Carl Lentz admitted to an extramarital affair, that admission would open up the church’s decades-long history of covering up misconduct as a means of self-preservation.   The church’s long record of misdeeds would include bullying, sexual assault, and double standards for congregants who happened to be POC or queer.

May 24

Broker on Hulu in May

Broker–Another of this month’s must-see films is this feature from acclaimed Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”).  His first Korea-set film concerns a young woman named So-young, who drops off her unwanted baby boy Woo-sung at a church’s Baby Box in the expectation that the country’s care system will take care of him.  Adoption brokers Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho, “Parasite”) and Dong-soo swipe Woo-sung from the Baby Box with plans to sell the child on the baby black market.  When So-young discovers the brokers’ plans, she demands a cut of the action.  However, the trio’s dream of a big payday might be scuppered by a pair of female police detectives hoping to catch Baby Box thieves red-handed.

The Clearing–In this Australian psychological thriller, Teresa Palmer plays a woman who’s trying to stop a religious cult known as The Family.  The cult’s members believe its leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne (Miranda Otto) is the reincarnation of Jesus and has come to Earth to help humanity.  But surely that offer of aid shouldn’t require kidnapping children and erasing their original identities.  Unfortunately for Palmer’s character, her own psychological problems complicate her task.  Based on an unfortunately true story.    

May 31

The Square–If “Triangle Of Sadness” has put you in the mood for watching further cinematic provocations by director Ruben Ostlund, try this dark comedy set in the contemporary art world on Hulu in May.  Christian serves as curator for Stockholm’s X-Royal Art Museum.  He’s trying to promote a new art exhibition whose centerpiece is the titular work, which is intended to create a small emotional “sanctuary of trust and caring.”  However, the curator’s chaotic personal life suggests he’s in need of such a sanctuary himself.  As is, he has to deal with such crises as a stolen cellphone, a casual sexual relationship that he doesn’t want to see get serious, and a media firestorm resulting from a viral video misrepresenting The Square’s purpose.  

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.