Armchair Vacation: 5 Films To Watch On Your Television This Weekend [June 29-July 1]

Roughly half way through the year, 2012 has come to the point where beating the heat has become the number one priority. Now, with theaters set to be packed for the foreseeable future (with a certain web-head swinging his way into theaters in the middle of next week) Seth McFarlane’s new film, a Steven Soderbergh-directed male stripper film and a few indies expanding into bigger markets may leave the theaters this weekend a tad cramped. So what is better to remedy that than some stay-home options? We have just what the heat-exhausted doctor ordered.

5. Dancer In The Dark (Friday, 10:00am EST)

Easily director Lars Von Trier’s best feature film (even though this writer thinks his most personal may be Melancholia), this kinda-sorta-musical is unlike anything the auteur has made since, or made prior. The film is Von Trier’s third in his proclaimed Golden Hearts trilogy, and stars Bjork as an immigrant who tries to make her life work while balancing a job, a child, and a friendship with a local made played by Peter Stormare. Featuring brilliantly made musical sequences, Dancer is a beautifully crafted little film that proves that while the women in Von Trier’s films go to hell and (sometimes) back, he doesn’t truly have hatred for his characters. It’s a tough watch, but the production numbers are so brazen and well crafted (the director used around 100 cameras to shoot the numbers), that it’s easily the provocateur’s most engaging and enlightening feature. Bjork also proves that she’s more than just a radical siren, she’s one hell of an actress.

4. TCM’s The Essentials: Preston Sturges (Saturday)

Running from 8pm EST to 530am EST, TCM will be making Saturday night Sturges night, as the network will be spending it’s Essentials block to air six of the iconic director’s beloved films. Including Sullivan’s Travels, Christmas In July, The Great Mcginty, The Lady Eve, Hail The Conquering Hero and The Palm Beach Story, viewers will be getting a masterfully curated block of film history, as these are often considered (including in the eyes of yours truly) some of the greatest comedies ever made. McGinty is a personal favorite of mine, as the narrative is so brilliantly crafted, and the premise itself is great (following a hobo who ends up becoming the mayor of his town), that it’s simply a breath of fresh air. Eve is an all-time great film, as is Travels, both of which are members of something we all have come to know and love as The Criterion Collection. Sturges is an iconic filmmaker, one that many of this generation may not know much about, so nothing sounds better than plopping down on your couch or cuddling up in your bed and spending the evening laughing your rear end of with your loved ones.

3. The Earrings Of Madame de’¦ (Hulu Plus)

A Criterion Collection favorite, this film has been on various streaming outlets (now available on Hulu Plus) for some time now, but there has come a special meaning to this film now following a recent death in the film world. With the passing of late film critic Andrew Sarris, a new light has been put onto this film, as this has been long publicized as the critic’s favorite film. A huge proponent of both the Auteur Theory and particularly the films of directors like Madame de‘s Max Ophuls, this is not only Sarris’ favorite film, but it’s easily one of the director’s most brilliantly crafted feature. Along with the likes of films like La Ronde, if there is one good thing that could possibly come from the truly sad death of Sarris, it’s that more people will be moved to see his most beloved film. (A list of his favorite films can also be readily available at Mubi)

2. Heartburn (Netflix)

And the mood isn’t about to get lifted. The next two picks are honorary choices, as yet another beloved member of the film world passed away, just early this week. Writer/director Nora Ephron passed away early this week, and again, if there is one good thing to come from her passing, it would be that more people would get the drive to revisit her work. As a mult-hyphenate, the first choice here is one of her most interesting scripts, for the film Heartburn, for director Mike Nichols. Starring the dynamic duo of Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, this is one of her unsung pieces of work, and yet it’s one of the most endearing works of her career. At the time one of the most original and moving looks at divorce (looking at her own dissolved marriage from Carl Bernstein and based on her novel of the same name), the film is a perfect example of the levels of truth that Ephron was able to put into the heart of her works. Toss in two top tier performances from the leaders of the pack acting-wise, and you have one of the most interesting films of the era.

1.Sleepless In Seattle (Netflix)

And while she’s best known for her writing work, directorially, she wasn’t a filmmaker to scoff at. Arguably her best work is also available to stream on Netflix, as Sleepless in Seattle is available to queue up as soon as you get home from work Friday night. Easily this writer’s favorite directorial feat for the filmmaker, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks star in the film, and giving two career defining performances. Both have been better, but rarely as charming, and Ephron’s style bleeds so perfectly from pen to screen that it’s easily her most distilled piece of writing and filmmaking. The era-defining romantic comedy, the genre has rarely been as original, as full of life, and as truly enjoyable as this absolute blast of a ride. If you do one thing this weekend, revisit this gem.