Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (September 14-16)

Of all the weeks that 2012 has or will have to offer, this may be the biggest, especially if you are a fan of cinema. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master arrives in limited release this week, and while it may be a bit of a hike for those outside of a major market to find a theater showing this masterpiece of American cinema, this writer urges you to make that trek. However, there are limitations, and for those in smaller markets out there, there are a handful of fantastic options for those interested in immersing themselves in film and film history. The heat is still on outdoors, theaters will be packed with fans of the Resident Evil franchise (if there are any) so while Anderson’s film will be a few weeks out for a majority of the country, there are a few films that are readily available right at your finger tips.

5. The Grey (Netflix)

Looking for a way to chill out this weekend? The Grey will do it. Directed by the underrated action auteur Joe Carnahan, the film stars Liam Neeson as a man who, along with a handful of others, is stranded in the Alaskan tundra. More a meditation on human nature and the existential fear that is inherent within the mind and soul of any human being, Carnahan’s film is best described as a modern-day action film take on a Bergman film looking at many of the themes found within that legend’s films, but shoved inside of the skin of a modern thriller/action film. Neeson gives arguably his greatest performance of this new era of his career, taking a similar character as seen in a film like Taken, but instead opting for far more depth and feeling than that man of many trades. It’s a beautifully cold and deeply icy film both visually and thematically, ultimately making this film one of this year’s most surprising and genuinely great pieces of work.

4. Sunrise (TCM; Friday 8pm EST)

When it comes to silent cinema, save for a certain Joan Of Arc film, it truly does not get better than F.W. Murnau’s era-defining Sunrise. Recently being tossed back on the tips of people’s tongues thanks to Sight And Sound and their rank of the greatest films of all time, Murnau’s masterpiece is airing on TCM this Friday, and should be just about the most must-see thing on television over the weekend. The film had inspired generations of filmmakers since its release near the end of the silent era, 1927, and to this day is one of the most important silent films of all time. With a simplistic narrative, simply following the story of a man who is led by another woman into attempting to kill his wife only to fall back in love with her, the film is one of the most affecting romance dramas in cinema, and the film’s Oscar winning cinematography is some of the greatest black and white photography you’ll ever see. It’s simply one of the greatest films ever made, and will be shown as part of TCM’s Essentials series this Friday.

3. Three films from Lina Wertmuller (Fandor)

With Kino recently releasing a collection of films from iconic director Lina Wertmuller, Fandor has just added three films from the director, all of which are also available for the first time stateside on Blu-ray. Including The Seduction Of Mimi, Love And Anarchy and All Screwed Up, this trio is now available to stream online thanks to the service, and should be seen immediately. Wertmuller is one of the film world’s most underrated auteurs, one with a love for the darkest of comedy and some occasionally biting satire. Her films are visually inspired and unlike anything you’ve seen before, looking as good as they ever have given the new transfers. Using her films as true self-expression, much of her work is politically minded, using the camera to shine a mirror upon not only herself, but the fascist world she sees surrounding her. The films right at around 90-120 minutes, so to see them all will be a tad cumbersome, but there is no better threesome of newly added films to any major streaming outlet more worthy of your time and appreciation.

2. Way Down East (Hulu)

While he may be best known for this highly controversial and yet equally influential drama The Birth Of A Nation, director DW Griffith was also a director of a handful of equally fantastic efforts, foremost being Way Down East. Now available to watch on Kino’s Hulu page, the film isn’t as antagonistic as Griffith’s masterpiece, but it’s visually stunning and with its source material being one of the era’s greatest plays, there is a great blend of compelling narrative and breathtaking aesthetics. The film stars Lillian Gish, the film’s lead performances are very much ‘silent film performances’ in that they are quite over the top, but they also add a great deal of melodrama to a film that oozes it like a Douglas Sirk film.   I had the honor of reviewing the film’s recent Blu-ray release last year from Kino, available to read HERE, and if you watch and enjoy the film, buy the Blu-ray, because Kino is not only doing top notch work with their releases, but this transfer is especially awe-inspiring.

1.Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Netflix/Fandor)

Clocking in at 157 minutes, Anatolia is not going to likely be one of the easiest watches one has this weekend, but if there is one new film that has been recently added to any major streaming service to watch right now, it’s this. One of 2012’s greatest and highly regarded features, the crime drama directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the most thrilling and tense who-done-it dramas you’ll see all year. Aesthetically muted and absolutely arresting visually, the film is one of the greatest procedurals that we’ve seen come onto a screen in years. Far from a crowd pleaser, the film will likely challenge even the strongest of focused watchers, but for those who give themselves entirely over to this masterwork, will be rewarded with one of the best films 2012 has to offer.