Armchair Vacation: 5 Films To Watch At Home This Weekend [July 6-8]

With this year’s celebration of our nation’s birthday behind us, but a full on heat wave in front of us (at least here in the mighty mitten known as Michigan, where we’re seeing 100 degree days), the theaters will once again be hopping, as I think the kids say these days. A certain web-head has made his return to the big screen, as will director Oliver Stone this weekend, so if drug trafficking anti-heroes or nerdy comic book-based icons don’t get your blood boiling, here are a few other options for ways to spend some time beating the heat this respective weekend.

5. American Animal (Now available on Netflix)

While not over the moon for this attempt at catching what amounts to nothing more than a self-indulgent bit of performance art on film, this visually arresting bit of filmmaking from director Matt D’Elia is both a fine independent film, as well as being a film unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The picture debuted at SXSW 2011, and with characters named Blonde Angela and Not Blonde Angela, you should fully expect as to what you are really in for. An existential dark comedy, the film is as pitch black as they come, but while it may be aggressively heady, it’s not without its reasons. Well made, percussively performed, and utterly enthralling, this may be a tough sit for those looking to beat the heat with something that lets you turn your brain off and the air conditioning on, but this will make for an experience you’ll be hard pressed to soon forget.

You can read my full review from last year HERE

4. Norwegian Wood (Now Available On Netflix)

In continuing the focus on films that we here at the CriterionCast have been championing since their release, the brand new film Norwegian Wood, has made its way to the web streaming juggernaut (we’ll look at one of the new kids on that block here in a second), and it’s a must watch. Directed by Tran Anh Hung, the film is an adaptation of the beloved Haruki Murakami, and is one of the more emotionally moving films you’ll see all year. With a top notch score from none other than Jonny Greenwood accentuating each and every emotional beat, the film is a gorgeous meditation on loss and how we as humans deal with that very thing and is easily one of the best recent independent films. With the year now half way over, this one is definitely in the discussion for one of the best films 2012 has to offer us up to this point.

Read my full review of the film HERE.

3. TCM’s The Essentials looks at the films of cinematographer Jack Hildyard (TCM; Saturday starting at 8pm EST)

Now, while the director, writer or cast may get much of the praise for a film’s success or the blame for the opposite, the director of photography also has a rather arduous duty ahead of him or her. However, there are just some DPs who make it look oh so very simple. Jack Hildyard was one of those photographers. He gets his own spotlight this weekend when TCM airs a collection of films that he shot, with The Essentials focusing on two films, David Lean’s Summertime (a proud member of The Criterion Collection) and The Sundowners starring Robert Mitchum. A true unsung hero of the film world, Hildyard’s filmography is a hell of a lineup. Summertime is a personal favorite, particularly when taking in the overall context of Lean’s filmography, as it plays like some sort of cousin to one of this writer’s favorite films of all time, Brief Encounter. It’s an utterly gorgeous film, with stunning sun dreanched photography, so it will be a real thrill to see a series of his films, within the context of focusing on one of the great photographers of all time. I mean, it’s hard to argue with a run of films including Criterion entrants Hobson’s Choice, Henry V, Pygmalion and Hulu Plus film The Divorce Of Lady X, as well as the classic Bridge On The River Kwai, which also airs that very evening.

2. The Bank Dick (TCM; Sunday 8pm EST)

Easily one of W. C. Fields’ most iconic comedies, The Bank Dick joins two other money-focused films as part of TCM’s Jr. version of the aforementioned Essentials series, including The Steel Trap and Crime Wave.   Comedy has always been a genre that I’ve had a huge problem truly falling for, but Fields and his brand of laugh out loud yuks is contagious. A well made film focusing on a local city’s town drunk and his inane ability to stop robberies, the film is a pitch perfect starting point for people looking to see what type of film truly isn’t made any more these days. Funny, gorgeous, and utterly enjoyable, this will make for one hell of a Sunday night with the kids.

1.Grandma’s Boy (Now Available On Fandor)

No, don’t worry, Adam Sandler isn’t anywhere near this film. A 1922 film directed by Fred Newmeyer, the piece stars Harold Lloyd, and is now available to stream on the tiny, but definitely growing, arthouse tinged Netflix killer, Fandor. Joining films ranging from new independent features to a cavalcade of Buster Keaton-starring shorts, Fandor is slowly becoming the go-to spot for classic and arthouse cinema nuts who have a penchant for streaming their films on their devices or home entertainment systems. Grandma’s Boy is a brilliant Lloyd film, one of his funniest and most endearing, and also one of his most moving and poetic. I’m a firm believer that Lloyd may very well be the best of the Chaplin/Lloyd/Keaton trinity, making some of the most intriguing and affecting silent comedies in the history of film. Also, the worst thing one could do is give Fandor a shot, as it has one of the best collections of films offered amongst any major film streaming service.

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