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. Lyle (Vimeo)
Thanks to director Stewart Thorndike, his latest film, the Gabby Hoffman-led hour long “sinister ode to Rosemary’s Baby” entitled Lyle is now available for you to watch at your own volition. A rather haunting film given its brisk runtime, this solid and entrancing neo-re-imagining of Polanski’s masterpiece is a gorgeous thriller that makes quite an impact. Led by a near perfect lead performance from Hoffman, this subversive horror picture is a briskly paced horror picture that doesn’t waste a damned second in weaving its bleak and dread-soaked tale of a woman on the edge. The hour long runtime is a bonus, certainly, but its more so the film’s unconventionally energetic pacing that makes this feel about half that in actuality. With beautiful photography, this is a horror film that shouldn’t be missed, as it is available to stream in its entirety.
4. The Spoils Of Babylon (Netflix)
It’s not often that yours truly gets into a mood to actually sit down weekly and put time into getting involved in a television program. However, it’s hard not to find a new comedy from the network that has given us shows ranging from The Whitest Kids U’Know to Portlandia an extremely interesting potential watch. Entitled The Spoils Of Babylon, the series is ostensibly a riff on classic melodramas of generations long gone now, and stars a who’s who of actors including Jessica Alba, Tobey Maguire, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment, Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen and Kristen Wiig. Following the story of the fictional Morehouse family, and is said to be based on the work of the enigmatic, fictional Orson Welles-esque creative mad man and wine hound Eric Jonrosh, himself played by Will Ferrell. The series comes from Matt Piedmont, the man behind Casa De Mi Padre, and is a really entertaining and wonderfully made romp in melodrama, a genre that is ripe for this type of skewering. As a fan of melodramas, I find a bevy of gags here to be absolutely riotous, and it is now available to see in its entirety on Netflix. Just the perfect type of light comedic viewing to make a summer night just a pinch cooler.
3. Hey Bartender (Netflix)
A festival darling from last year, director Douglas Tirola’s look at the ever growing cocktail culture that has swept cities all over the country, Hey Bartender is now available to be seen on Netflix, and is an absolutely perfect way to pass the weekend. Much more than your run of the mill documentary, this gorgeous piece of non-fiction filmmaking gets some rather superb photography from DP Charles Poekel, all with the hopes of engrossing the viewer in the lives and drink-centric art of our lead characters. Digging deeply into the art of cocktail creation as the craft beer and cocktail scene is exploding, bars seemingly opening on every other street corner, the film is both timely and absolutely engaging. Mixology is a growing and expanding world, and this is just the perfect entrance into a world that seems to be only starting its never ending rise.
2. Coffee And Cigarettes (Netflix)
It’s hard to argue when a top notch, near masterpiece from director Jim Jarmusch arrives on a streaming service. And thankfully, Netflix has had that very thing happen. Jarmusch’s best film (at least in this writer’s eyes) has hit the streaming service, and this collection of short films following two or more people talking over coffee and cigarettes is an absolute must-watch. Gorgeously shot in black and white, this film features performances from beloved thespians like Alfred Molina and even rock legends like Jack White and the duo of The RZA and The GZA from The Wu-Tang Clan. A stunning bit of low-fi filmmaking, this quiet and really quite comical film is often scoffed at when discussing Jarmusch’s canon, but is undoubtedly his most esoteric and oddly enjoyable work. Each vignette is poignant and oddly full of depth, and while some performances lack in ways others don’t, each actor and actress really gives enjoyable and resonant work. Names like Tom Waits and Steven Wright turn in rather remarkable work and while the film may seem a tad slight and scattershot, each vignette is in its own remarkable way quite powerful. A must-see, this picture.
1. Manakamana (VOD)
As we make it to the back end of this year, the film world is slowly starting to see the very best of the best hit theaters and VOD. Oscar season is right around the corner and as the Summer movie season slowly wraps up, its about time to dig into the very best of the best of the films that everyone may have missed in the summer action film haze. The best film of the bunch? A documentary entitled Manakamana. Set solely inside a cable car high above a jungle in Nepal, the film is a collection of single takes (all running roughly the exact length of time one can shoot on a single reel of film) set inside the car, focusing on the men, women, children and even animals that enter, on their way to and from worshiping the goddess Manakamana. A film where its theme is almost explicitly in its premise and aesthetic, this unforgettable meditation on the battle between modernity and deeply rooted tradition is arguably the very best film of this year, and is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring bits of documentary filmmaking I’ve ever seen. A difficult watch for some, due to the single takes and slow pace, but for those that take this journey they will never forget it. A thrilling look at a world on the brink of complete cultural change, this is a film that is not to be missed.