Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (Sept. 7-9)

With September now firmly upon us, and the festival circuit in full blow, this can only mean one thing: Fall is here. Hell, for many youngsters and drunk college students, it means a return to long days stuck in a classroom, which is as tell tale a sign of the season as any. Football is upon us this week, and baseball is nearing its playoff run. Simply put, this is the best time of year.

And then there are the films. The weather is slowly starting to change, leaving one truly cold and while the prestige films of the fall and winter may leave one wanting to head out into the wild for a day of movie watching, the world of streaming and cable television has made it less appealing. And this week is no different. Here are this week’s picks for the five best viewing options to spark up the fireplace in honor of.

5. The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes (Fandor)

Despite the kick-ass title, the film is not a Chuck Norris action film from the eighties involving a piano tuner who must save his family during an apocalyptic earthquake (note to studios: you’re welcome for the pure gold just uttered), but instead quite the opposite. A masterpiece from the team known as the Quay Brothers, the film is a blend of live action and their patented brooding stop-motion animation, and follows the story of Felisberto. A piano tuner, he is brought to a villa by a doctor to take a look at his musical pieces. At the center a ‘diabolical opera,’ the film is every bit as dark and breathtaking as anything the pair has made before and since, often drawing comparisons to something like Pan’s Labyrinth. While I find this film to be both far greater than that admittedly solid Del Toro picture and also quite different, the comparisons are in many ways apt. It’s an experimental work, taking a fairytale like premise and perverting it into something far darker, and far more frightening. This writer’s favorite film of 2005, it’s easily one of the most underrated films of this generation.

4. Marley (Netflix)

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, the life of Bob Marley is depicted in this long and expansive documentary, a film that took SXSW by storm back in March. That is where I had the pleasure of viewing the film, and while I did find it quite long winded (it’s nearly three hours in length), a life as intriguing and singular as that of Marley’s deserves no less. A moving portrait of a man, a myth, an artist and nowadays a legend, Marley is a stylized portrait of a man who died far too young, despite the mythic status that he was afforded. Featuring footage that has rarely been seen all the way up to iconic concert video, the film is just the type of documentary that a man of Marley’s iconic status deserves, and it is in these vastly different moments that you discover that he was as much a performer as he was a pure and untouched human being.

3. The Devil Came On Horseback (Hulu Plus)

Following the continuing conflict in Darfur, the moving and brilliantly made Devil Came On Horseback is as vital and important documentary as has hit theaters in quite some time. Joining films like Wasteland and Last Train Home as some recent documentary gems that have made their way to Hulu recently, Devil is truly the best of the lot, giving us a brilliant look at a conflict not talked about enough, through the eyes of an outsider, which we all truly are. It’s a moving feature that has gone, as most documentaries do, unseen by a vast majority of the public. Hopefully, with the film’s new accessibility on Hulu, that will be changing with the seasons.

2. House On Haunted Hill (TCM ‘“ Saturday; 4:00am EST)

With Fall come the scares. October being just a handful of weeks away, Halloween isn’t far off, and to get you all in the mood, TCM has gone ahead and decided that they will be airing a true masterpiece of the ‘˜50s horror generation. 1959’s House On Haunted Hill will be playing before dawn on Saturday, and while it may be a tough watch for those with a penchant for actually sleeping, this may be one to stay up for. If you haven’t seen it, it follows a group of strangers who are asked by a millionaire to stay in a haunted house, only to have their lives flipped upside down by what happens next over the span of 75 minutes. It’s quite a fantastic, if insanely campy, picture from the king of those qualifiers, William Castle, but it also has some great scares and some really fun sequences. Definitely one to toss on while setting up the fall decorations.

1.Happy Birthday Werner Herzog! (Netflix)

Yup, that’s right. This Wednesday, the mad man himself Werner Herzog blew out the candles on his 70th Birthday, and for those unfamiliar with his iconic work, Netflix offers up four of his very best. Housing four of his most recent features, the streaming outlet offers users their pick of Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Into The Abyss, Grizzly Man and the underrated Encounters At The End Of The World, four films that are as must-see as any you’ll find anywhere online or on television this week. All four giving us a glimpse into the artistic mind of Herzog as well as insight on the man’s infatuation with obsession, Man is arguably his strongest and most important feature in this collection, while Cave is arguably his most singular. While it may cap off with a final epilogue out of nowhere, the film is fantastic, as are all three of its contemporaries found on Netflix. While it may not make for the most uplifting weekend watch, these are easily the four best features you’ll find anywhere this weekend.