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. Ernest And Celestine (VOD/iTunes)
Few animation houses have proven to be as strong and deep as animation distributor GKids. One of their newest masterpieces, Ernest And Celestine, is now available on VOD and is one of the year’s best films, animation or not. From directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar comes this adaptation of a beloved Belgian book series from writer Gabrielle Vincent that is absolutely gorgeous. A tale about two friends from opposite sides of the tracks, this is a perfect film for the whole family, despite being in a foreign language. Painterly in its style and color scheme, the voice performances here are superb, and the direction is as playful as it gets. Overall a charming tale of friendship that knows no bounds, this animated gem is a 2014 release worth catching up with.
4. Teenage (VOD/iTunes)
Sure, teenagers have, ostensibly, always existed. However, them being denoted as those years between being a child and an adult is a relatively modern idea. Really coming to light near the middle of the 20th Century, we as a society have now fully merged this section of one’s life into our ideas surrounding the human experience and our development as a society. That’s where the new documentary Teenage comes in. Matt Wolf’s documentary about the sociological birth of the teenager as a cultural entity, the film is now available on VOD and iTunes, and is one of the year’s better non-fiction works. Brisk and delightfully experimental in structure, the film feels like the opening chapters of a massive cultural encyclopedia, but it’s one of the more charming and breathlessly insightful pieces of cultural discussion you’ll ever see.
3. Tiny (VOD/iTunes)
In a world of excess and economic recession, the idea of “living small” is as thrilling and ultimately popular as any among the youth movement and those looking to lower their footprint on this world’s environment and economy. And now they have a documentary. The new film from the pair of Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith, Tiny: A Story About Living Small follows the story of a couple looking to build a new “tiny house,” and overall the movement of “tiny houses” within culture. But what is a “tiny house?” In a time where houses are hitting thousands of square feet in size, these houses combat minimum home size laws by often times being built on wheels, and in the low hundreds when it comes to square footage. Clocking in at only a little more than an hour in length, the film is beautifully made and for those looking to find a voice against the growth of extravagant homes in a time where a majority of the population is living paycheck to paycheck, and has arrived on VOD and iTunes.
2. Happy Christmas (VOD/iTunes)
Seemingly every week director Joe Swanberg gives the film world a new nugget of lo-fi independent filmmaking while not all are perfect, there isn’t any voice out there quite like his. He’s back with his newest film, a comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey, entitled Happy Christmas, and it’s one of his best yet. One of his most insightful, and ultimately rewarding, films to date, Swanberg’s latest is a mature and nuanced outing from a director not always given the credit he truly deserves, and while it feels very much like his lower budget masterpieces, it has a certain truth and raw energy to it that is unmistakable. I’ll keep this short as a full review is coming soon, but let’s just say that this is one of the most interesting and moving films from one of the film world’s most interesting filmmakers.
1. Life Itself (VOD/iTunes)
This is, and will always be, a tough film for yours truly to watch. As an avid reader (read: superfan) of the film’s focus, Roger Ebert, this isn’t so much a film as it is a love letter. Not to the legend or the myth. Not to the written word or his tv presence. Not to the man who fought through various health issues and not the man who forever changed the world of film and film criticism. Just the man. Roger Ebert. Flaws and everything. A loving, moving and bewilderingly charming look at the life and work of Ebert, the film is beautifully crafted by director Steve James, and turning away from being a manipulative meditation on the glorious aspects of Ebert’s life, the film is shockingly forward and frank. A touching masterpiece, this is the best film you’ll be able to watch this weekend.