Whatever your opinion of Netflix, it does have its virtues. Among them are the ability to access films you may not have heard of:
- GOOD: Timer
- BAD: Neo Ned starring Jeremy Renner and Gabrielle Union;
or to follow along a television series in a continuous manner; or better yet, to OBSESSIVELY follow a series from beginning to end (a la Battlestar Gallatica).
In the midst of this, every now and again I like to take a ‘state of the state’ of my Netflix queue, which seems to grow exponentially.
Recently I have decided to practice a little ‘organization’ when it comes to watching some of these films; so I have created a mini Netflix Festival for myself.
The result means that I will be programming blocks of films to watch in succession. The one criteria being that I can not have previously seen the film. So far it is early days but here are a couple of the blocks that I have come up with (all synopses are directly from Netflix):
While she has gotten a lot of buzz in the past 18 months, I would like to still see a bit more of her body of work. This means unearthing a smattering of Brit-indies that would not have seen the light of day if not for Netflix.
The studious life of Oxford-bound Beth is turned upside down when would-be novelist Emelia takes a job at the seaside hotel owned by Beth’s family. But things get dicey when the free-spirited Emelia begins a fling with Beth’s feckless father.
Chalet Girl (2011)
Ex-skateboarder Kim Matthews is transplanted to the world of alpine sports, an environment she finds foreign … until she tries snowboarding. When her Finnish friend Mikki offers to coach her, Kim is on her way to being tops in a new event.
When French courtesan Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates) sets her pampered son, Chéri (Rupert Friend), up with middle-aged fellow courtesan Lea de Lonval (Michelle Pfeiffer), she wants to ensure that he learns everything he needs to know about lovemaking from the very best. But the affair lasts for years, creating problems when it’s time for Chéri to marry a wealthy woman. Stephen Frears directs this romantic drama, based on a novel by Colette.
Cemetery Junction (2010)
After taking a new job to escape a bleak existence as a working-class stiff in a small English town, Freddie Taylor gets involved in more drama than he bargained for when he runs into his former flame in this inspired coming-of-age tale.
These are essentially films that as a cinephile, I am ashamed to admit I have yet to see; the time is now, darnit.
Metropolis Restored (1927)
In the year 2026, when the populace is divided between workers who must live underground and the wealthy, who enjoy a futuristic city of splendor, a man from the upper class abandons his privileged life to join oppressed workers in a revolt. Perhaps the most famous & influential of all silent films, German director Fritz Lang’s masterpiece has now been magnificently restored to include the original 1927 orchestral score.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
While on her way to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is haunted by a bizarre apparition. It compels her to an abandoned lakeside pavilion, beginning an eerie and macabre chain of events. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece, while made on a modest budget, has gained a cult following on late-night television.
The Gold Rush (1925)
Charlie Chaplin’s comic masterpiece centers on the hardships of life on the Alaskan frontier. The Little Tramp plays a pathetic, lonely prospector who journeys to the Klondike hoping to discover gold and make his fortune. Instead, he gets mixed up with some burly characters and falls in love with the beautiful Georgia (Georgia Hale).
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919)
In this silent 1920s masterpiece, an insane asylum inmate explains to his psychiatrist how he came to the institution, telling the shrink the story of the evil hypnotist Caligari (Werner Krauss) and his unwitting pawn, the sleepwalker Cesare (Conrad Veidt). This stark expressionist film from German director Robert Wiene astonishes with the power of its sets and visuals, and the creepy plot easily raises hackles on the back of one’s neck.
I have only started getting acquainted with the genre a little deeper and here are a few to watch in my game of catch up.
Food, Inc. (2008)
Drawing on Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, director Robert Kenner’s provocative, Oscar-nominated documentary explores the food industry’s detrimental effects on our health and environment.
The September Issue (2008)
Director R.J. Cutler’s documentary offers a rare look inside Vogue as the fashion magazine’s influential editor, Anna Wintour, and creative director, Grace Coddington, produce the highly anticipated September issue.
This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006)
Kirby Dick’s provocative documentary investigates the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films, revealing the organization’s underhanded efforts to control culture. Dick questions whether certain studios get preferential treatment and exposes the discrepancies in how the MPAA views sex and violence. Interviewees include John Waters, Darren Aronofsky, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan and more.
American: The Bill Hicks Story (2010)
Since his tragic death from cancer at age 32, comedian Bill Hicks’s legend and stature have only grown, and this unique documentary tells his story, blending live footage, interviews and animation to fill in the details of a life cut short. A comic’s comic and unflagging critic of hypocrisy and cultural emptiness, Hicks was one of a kind, a Lenny Bruce for the late 20th century, and few are more deserving of this in-depth biographic treatment.
Man on Wire (2008)
Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath.
A showcase of French film.
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Amelie’s Audrey Tautou stars as Mathilde, a young Frenchwoman who vows to find out what happened to her missing fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I. He appears to have died after a court-martial, but she needs to know for sure. As she looks for the truth, she discovers unexpected things about herself and the people she meets along the way. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directs this foreign-language adaptation of Sebastien Japrisot’s novel.
As Pierre (Romain Duris), a young cabaret dancer sidelined by a heart condition, awaits a risky transplant surgery, he and his sister, Élise (Juliette Binoche), closely watch the streets of Paris, their lives gradually intersecting with a diverse array of strangers. Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch, this visually striking tribute to the City of Lights co-stars Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel and François Cluzet.
A Pain in the A** (2008)
Staking out his next target, professional hit man Ralf Milan (Richard Berry) finds his patience severely tested when suicidal stranger François Pignon (Patrick Timsit), who is staying next door at the same hotel, manages to keep botching the assignment. As Milan struggles to shake off Pignon’s pestering presence, the two men land in one embarrassing situation after another in this French farce from writer-director Francis Veber.
Alex (Romain Duris) and his sister, Mélanie (Julie Ferrier), and her husband, Marc (François Damiens), earn money by breaking up relationships. But when Alex falls for a client’s (Jacques Frantz) daughter, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), he has to decide if he’ll bust up her wedding to Jonathon (Andrew Lincoln), who’s truly perfect for her. Pascal Chaumeil directs this romantic comedy filmed in Monaco.
Certified Copy (2010)
In Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s captivating meditation on art and love, British writer James Miller meets a beautiful gallery owner in Tuscany and begins — or possibly continues — a romance with her.
Love Crime (2010)
French director Alain Corneau delivers a chilling tale of two ambitious women — a senior executive and her eager young assistant — whose professional appetites grow dangerously personal as they jockey for power.
That is all I have (a bit ambitious), but it looks like way more than enough to get started, especially if I plan on doing this on a regular basis.
Now the challenge will be to set aside the time to actually watch these as part of a larger series. I am tentatively targeting late June/early July.
Will keep you posted.