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. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (VOD)
In yet another year chock full of documentaries looking at the world of music, few have been as well loved and truly entrancing as this picture from directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori. Entitled Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, the film is a beautifully paced look into the career and the recent re-evaluation of the said career, of cult pop outfit Big Star. Featuring a cavalcade of interviews with band members, label mates and most interesting a handful of critics who wrote about the music in the first place, the film looks at the creation and destruction of one of the most influential bands of their generation. A celebration of not only a legendary band and their music, but the joy found in discovering this once maligned group, Big Star is a real unsung gem of a film looking deeply into the unsung gems made by one of music’s most underrated collectives.
4. Russian Ark (Netflix)
Best known as the Alexander Sokurov film shot entirely in one take, this film (shot over the span of one day where only four hours of sunlight would be available, making only two takes possible) is as breathtaking a piece of pure cinematic craft as there has ever been. However, the film isn’t just style over substance. A breathless meditation on Russian history, Russian Ark is a film where the aesthetic directly speaks to and adds to the overall themes and narrative. Flowing as if you’re a ghost sent back through the annals of Russian history, there are moments where the character, and the camera, are acknowledged by characters on screen, and others (like possibly the best shot in the film, involving a group of girls running through a long hallway) simply pass by as if you don’t exist, culminating in the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a real dream on the big screen. The film itself could have been 100 shots as opposed to just one, but while it may have been just as beautiful, it would have never come close to being as powerful or as stimulating a drama. That, my friends, is the definition of aesthetics aiding narrative. And now, you can see the film on Netflix.
3. All The Light In The Sky (VOD)
A full-length review is coming on Friday, but with the film now available through various VOD outlets, it is time to really put this picture into the conversation. The newest film from director Joe Swanberg, this intimate and quiet meditation on aging in the 21st Century may very well be both Swanberg’s smallest, and most entrancing, bit of work to date. With a brilliant lead turn from Jane Adams, the film follows an aging actress as she maneuvers an ever shrinking job market and an even smaller romance scene all while coming to grips with the ever-increasing number that is her age. With great performances and as muted an aesthetic as we’ve seen up to this date from the mumblecore auteur, All The Light In The Sky is both one of 2013’s most aesthetically intriguing pictures and also one of its most intellectually stimulating. Charming and dripping with palpable melancholy, Swanberg’s film is the indie darling at his most expressive, and at his most brazenly mature.
2. Who Took The Bomp? (Fandor)
Have you had the pleasure of seeing the great 2013 documentary The Punk Singer? Can’t get enough of Kathleen Hanna and her ever powerful voice and the infectious dance-punk stylings of her beloved Le Tigre? Well, Fandor has you covered. Looking directly at the band and their world tour in 2004-2005, the film is as energetic as the superb and shockingly deep pop punk it put on screen, and is a perfect companion piece to the previously mentioned documentary. This one includes its own collection of archival footage and live performances, all to show just how lively and truly groundbreaking this group truly was. A startling blend of pop aesthetics and political lyrics, Le Tigre may very well be the perfect manifestation of its lead singer, and Riot Grrrl pioneer, Kathleen Hanna.
1. Post Tenebras Lux (Netflix)
At both aesthetically bewildering and bewilderingly opaque, Post Tenebras Lux is unlike anything you’ve see all year. A fever dream, or better a nightmare out of the collective mind of a family on the brink, this film is one of the most visceral cinematic experiences of recent memory, without having anything resembling an emotional backbone. Simply one of the oddest motion pictures of 2013, Post Tenebras Lux may also its most must see art film. A conflicting picture, this is one that won’t be forgotten, or one that won’t be easy to stop talking about. With fine performances and a director at the very height of his experimental powers, this bewildering meditation on familial decay is not only an unforgettable piece of pure visual cinema, but with it now being available on Netflix, it’s without a doubt one of the most intriguing films you’ll find on any streaming outlet this week.