Noovie's Alt. Movies: 'Happiest Season,' 'Ma Rainey's' and Others

Here's the latest on what's new, what's next, and what you should watch this Thanksgiving weekend from across the indie scene. Stay safe out there!

By Matthew Lissauer

The cast of "Happiest Season."

© Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

Wind down from your big turkey dinner and take in a quality film this Thanksgiving weekend, with these fresh, lo-fi movie picks that you can watch right now.

  • Noovie's Alt. Movie Pick: Happiest Season

    © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Based on her own personal experiences, and written out of a complete lack of the kind of rom-coms that she would like to see, Clea DuVall's directorial debut is the perfect holiday treat for right now. The comedy follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) as she meets the uptight family of her long-time girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) for the holidays. Soon, she finds out that Harper never actually came out to her family.

    • Where to watch: Hulu

Happiest Season

Comedy / 2020 / PG-13

A young woman agrees to go home with her girlfriend for Christmas, but discovers she hasn't come out to her conservative parents.

  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Over the course of an afternoon, tensions rise as legendary blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) gathers musicians for an intense recording session. Based on August Wilson's play of the same name, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" has the unfortunate circumstance of being late actor Chadwick Boseman's last film. But, if early reviews are any indication, this will be one legendary final performance from an equally legendary actor.

    • Where to watch: In select theaters (coming to Netflix Dec. 18th)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Drama / 2020 / R

Tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927.

  • Zappa

    © Magnolia Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

    After reprising his most bodacious role as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in this summer's "Bill & Ted Face the Music," Alex Winter goes back behind the camera with this in-depth exploration of singer, songwriter, and progessive rock improvisational master Frank Zappa.

    • Where to watch: In theaters (coming to VOD on Friday)

Zappa

Music / 2020

An in-depth exploration of Frank Zappa's private life and his rich, often controversial musical career. Featuring unfettered access to the Zappa vault and a deep cache of archival footage.

  • Hillbilly Elegy

    © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Based on the memoir of conservative author J. D. Vance, Ron Howard explores generational strife in an Appalachian family as young Vance (Gabriel Basso) confronts the growing pains of living with his drug-addicted mother (Amy Adams). Leaning heavy on biopic tropes, and never really going deeper than the surface of the issues, "Hillbilly Elegy" may struggle at times with its portrayal themes and characters, despite the best of intentions from Howard and the cast.

Hillbilly Elegy

Drama / 2020 / R

A Yale Law student drawn back to his Appalachian hometown reflects on his family's history and his own future.

  • Stardust

    © IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Following the shocking death of rock superstar David Bowie in 2016, it was inevitable that Hollywood would explore his story for a biopic. "Stardust" takes us behind the rise of Bowie (Johnny Flynn) and his transformation into his famed glam rock persona, Ziggy Stardust. Without the family's official blessing, the movie might seem to miss a beat by not being able to feature any of the rocker's iconic songs. However, the movie itself is not so much about Bowie's music as much as it is about the man he was at a particular time in his life and the invention of the icon he was to be.

    • Where to watch: In theaters and on VOD (Apple, Vudu)

Stardust

Biography / 2020

Singer David Bowie reinvents himself as Ziggy Stardust while touring America to promote his new album "The Man Who Sold the World."

  • Uncle Frank

    © Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

    When the family patriarch passes away, literary professor Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his 18-year-old niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) take a road trip from Manhattan to South Carolina to attend the funeral. Along the way they are unexpectedly joined by Frank's lover Walid (Peter Macdissi). You may feel like you've seen this kind of movie before (see: "As Good As It Gets" and this year's "Jungleland"), but it's Bettany's performance that is a standout; and a good way to whet your appetite before he jumps back into the MCU in Disney+'s "WandaVision." "Uncle Frank" had its premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Uncle Frank

Drama / 2020 / R

Accompanied by his teenage niece, a gay literature professor reluctantly returns home to attend his father's funeral.

  • Black Beauty

    © Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Anna Sewell's best-selling 19th century novel about the indelible bond between a horse and a youth has seen its fair share of adaptations, including the most familiar versions from 1971 and 1994. Disney's turn – the first to feature the main characters as female – updates the tale to modern times and moves the setting to a Wyoming ranch. There, a young girl (Mackenzie Foy) develops a lifelong kinship with a wild horse (voiced by Kate Winslet).

    • Where to watch: Disney+ (debuting on Friday, Nov. 27)

Black Beauty

Drama / 2020

Born free in the American West, Black Beauty is rounded up and brought to Birtwick Stables, where she meets spirited teenager Jo Green. Black Beauty and Jo forge a bond that carries Beauty through the different chapters, challenges and adventures.

  • Hot Indie Trailer: Our Friend

    © Roadside Attractions

    When couple Matthew (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) are faced with dire circumstances, their friend Dane (Jason Segel) moves in to help them out. "Our Friend" premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

    • In theaters and on VOD January 22nd

Our Friend

Drama / 2019 / R

A caring man puts his own life on hold to help out his friends, a couple who is facing a devastating crisis.

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