Every day, more and more films are added to the various streaming services out there, ranging from Netflix to YouTube, and are hitting the airwaves via movie-centric networks like TCM. Therefore, sifting through all of these pictures can be a tedious and often times confounding or difficult ordeal. But, that’s why we’re here. Every week, Joshua brings you five films to put at the top of your queue, add to your playlist, or grab off of VOD to make your weekend a little more eventful. Here is this week’s top five, in this week’s Armchair Vacation.
5. A Trip To The Moon (Fandor)
You may be asking yourself, what more could possibly be said about one of the greatest and most influential pieces of cinema ever made? Likely a film you’ve had the pleasure of watching a dozen or more times already, the last few years have seen an even greater rise in interest in Georges Melies’ iconic sci-fi masterpiece, A Trip To The Moon. With the success of Scorsese’s Hugo re-introducing the filmmaker to a new generation, an even bigger bump was given to the re-release of this very film, but with beloved indie rockers Air bringing their acoustic brilliance to the soundtrack. Commissioned for a new score, the film with this said score has been relegated to a minor home video release itself paired with an actual copy of the much longer soundtrack, inspired by the film. However, Fandor is now streaming the film in its entirety with the new restoration from a once lost color print of the film. With a process of over 12 years in the books for this restoration, it’s one of the most talked about restorations in recent time, and is easily one of the most astonishing pieces of cinematic caretaking this writer has ever seen. It’s truly a sight to behold.
4. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Warner Archive Instant)
I’m on the record as a rather vocal fan of this film, and now, it’s available to stream in HD no less thanks to the geniuses over at the Warner Archive. While I have requested the film to be part of Criterion’s slate as the film has yet to arrive on Blu-ray stateside, one has to imagine that a Blu-ray now seems inevitable from this company, and thankfully so, because it’s a minor masterpiece in a filmmaker canon that is chock full of them. Driven by a performance from Ellen Burstyn that is unlike anything we’ve really gotten from her since, if only occasionally at all, the film is a breathtaking character study that takes a realistic aesthetic breathing a sense of vitality and life into a film that sounds relatively mundane. Violence is brutally percussive and the narrative is melodramatic all culminating in a film that is a perfect blend of heightened drama and a neo-realist aesthetic that Scorsese hasn’t really had the interest in mining since.
3. Prohibition (Netflix)
Ken Burns may get a lot of flak for his monstrous documentary epics looking at everything from jazz music to the American West, but there is no doubting either the impact the man has had on documentary film, or his ability to make any topic just about the most interesting topic you’ll ever learn about. One of his more recent works is one of his very best. Looking at the lead up to, duration of and the following repercussions of Prohibition, the film is a thrilling look at this period in American history, and just how influential it was and has been since. With the rise of the Temperance movement playing into the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment, the film also looks at the enforcement of the law, the rise of organized crime and everything in between in what is truly one of the more interesting documentaries currently on Netflix. With very few better ways to pass a weekend, this and a handful of other Ken Burns documentaries are currently available on the streaming service, and this is more than a worthy starting point for those who may not be familiar with Burns as a filmmaker entirely.
2. Touki Bouki (Hulu Plus)
One of eight films currently making their way to Criterion’s Hulu Plus page (and hopefully the Criterion Collection relatively soon), and the first of two I’ll be talking about here, one of African cinema’s greatest films and most experimental has finally been released for consumption stateside. Touki Bouki is now on Criterion’ Hulu channel, and it’s an absolute triumph of experimental cinema. Telling the story of a pair of lovers bent on getting out of their situation and moving to Paris, the film has tinges of French New Wave energy that ditches the normally plaintive nature of African cinema and injects some Godardian playfulness into its bloodstream. Not as aggressive as a later Godard film or a Truffaut film, Djibril Diop Mambety’s film is as beautiful and truly odd an African film as the continent has ever given us.
1. The Housemaid (Hulu Plus)
It takes a lot for a film to jump instantaneously into a person’s top 10 all time list. Sure, those lists themselves may seem momentary anyways, given a person’s mood, current interest or the like, but a film needs to have a resounding impact to jump that high that fast. And frankly, saying Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid does that is still not doing that film quite enough justice. A breathtaking, genre-defining melodrama about man’s weakness for lust, the film follows the story of a composer who finds a housemaid for his over worked wife, only to be seduced by her turning his life upside down. With unforgettable images and a score to absolutely die for, Ki-young’s picture is a stunningly composed piece of cinema that ratchets up the tension to a height never truly seen before, or since. Playing out like any man’s nightmare, this brilliant masterpiece of a melodrama is truly and honestly one of the greatest films ever made, and stands as one of the better films Criterion has ever had the rights to. Ever.