Armchair Vacation: Five Films To See At Home This Weekend [August 10-12]

With July 2012, the hottest month in the history of the US, officially well in the books now, the weather isn’t letting up much, making trekking out into the outside world relatively unappealing. Sure, it has much-needed air and sunlight, but with highs nearing triple digits still, it is slowly becoming almost too much to handle out there in the good graces of Mother Nature. So, what is one to do if the theaters don’t seem to be calling his or her name? Here are quite a few more than reliable options to make the dog days of summer a tad less sweaty.

5. Boatloads of new classic films added to Hulu Plus

Over the past week or so, a handful of new films have apparently been dumped, relatively silently, onto Hulu Plus, with a search of recently added films reading like a who’s who of modern beloved feature films. Be it Danny Boyle’s iconic Trainspotting, Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita (a really underrated gem) or the fantastic Almodovar film, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Hulu Plus is continuing to be the absolute best outlet for web-based streaming for those looking to dig deep into the film world. Toss in the ever present presence of both Criterion and now Kino Lorber, and you have the first true opponent to take major stock out of the grubby paws of the almighty Netflix. Seriously, turn on Hulu Plus and attempt to turn it back off. It’s a Pandora’s box. Wait. Pandora’s Box is on Hulu. Oh no, it’s already started.

4. The Films Of Peter Greenaway

In a search of most talked about directors through the Criterion Forums, one name continued to pop up; Peter Greenaway. Best known for his avant-garde pieces of art, the surreal filmmaker currently has a total of ten films on the outlet known as Fandor. Ranging from features like A Zed And Two Noughts to really quite enigmatic shorts like Windows, Greenaway’s films have been revered to his day, and are some of the most often discussed films when it comes to things like The Eclipse series or even Criterion proper. I’ve seen a couple of his films, particularly the latter short, and find his work to be absolutely breathtaking. Very much in the experimental frame of someone like Hollis Frampton, but slightly less obtuse. Focusing heavily on the ideas of sex and death, his films are really some of the most interesting pieces of experimental film that you’ll find readily available.

3. Lolita (TCM ‘“ Saturday, 8pm EST)

As Kino preps their pending release of Kubrick’s first feature film, Fear And Desire, one of the director’s most underrated gems (if any Kubrick can be ‘underrated’) is getting the TCM treatment once again. Lolita will be airing along with The Desert Fox during TCM’s weekly The Essentials series, this week, focusing on James Mason. One of the most beloved and distinctive actors of his generation, Mason put in a series of brilliant performances, including the Kubrick classic. An adaptation of the Nabokov novel, this has since become, along with something like Barry Lyndon, one of Kubrick’s lesser talked about works, but is still an absolute wonder. The film features one of Mason’s best performances, and some truly beautiful black and white filmmaking. Also Kubrick’s first time working with the incomparable Peter Sellers, the film is both moving, and also absolutely hilarious. Toss in some great context found thanks to TCM’s Mason-focused Essentials programming this weekend, and you’ve got some must see TV.

2. Marie Antoinette (IFC ‘“ Sunday 7am EST and 3pm EST)

While most conversations involving the name Sophia Coppola often times start and end with mentions of her iconic last name, with films like Marie Antoinette, it is becoming increasingly difficult to not find the much talked about director as her own true entity entirely. One of today’s foremost filmmakers, Coppola has crafted fantastic feature after fantastic feature, with Antoinette fitting perfectly into that canon. While slightly less inspired as her previous films, particularly this writer’s favorite The Virgin Suicides, Antoinette is an absolute staple of her canon, arguably one of her most auteur-like. Acting like perfectly distilled Sophia, the film is thoughtful, playful in moments, iconoclastic, distant, cold, beautiful and features one hell of a soundtrack, all wrapped up in a candy colored shell that is simply one of the best feature films of the past few half decade or so.

1.Arsenic And Old Lace (Netflix)

There are very few stamps of high quality than the one attached to films directed by Frank Capra. Recently added to Netflix is the director’s beloved adaptation of the Joseph Kesserling play, ‘˜Arsenic And Old Lace,’ starring the impeccable trio of Cary Grant, Josephine Hull and Jean Adair.   One of the most entertaining films of Capra’s filmography, the film is also extremely well made and features Grant, in one of his most lively performances. The film is one of a cavalcade of recently added classics (including a personal favorite of yours truly, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof) that have joined the ranks of Netflix, becoming the latest members of the ever rotating door of films joining and leaving the outlet. Arsenic is directly near the top of the must see list for recent editions, if only for performances from everyone ranging from stars like Grant to supporting characters like none other than Peter Lorre, all of whom are top-notch.   What better to beat the heat with than a Capra film?

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