Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (June 28-30)

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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. Hercules (Netflix)

Made near the end of Disney’s animation hot streak, the 1997 release Hercules is now available on Netflix, and is more than deserving of a re-evaluation.  Forgotten over the years due to the rise of fan favorites like Mulan, this take on the iconic Greek legend is the epitome of what a great Disney animated feature should strive to be. Comedic without being gimmicky or pandering to its admittedly younger demographic, the animation is absolutely superb, and the film has genuine thrills and laughs. With a voice cast that (save for the odd casting of Danny DeVito) fits the character instead of feeling like stunt casting, an issue of later Disney films, Hercules is a truly entrancing look at one kid’s search for acceptance and most importantly, family. An unsung gem of Disney animation, hopefully its appearance on the streaming giant will allow for people to take a second look at what may be the best Disney film from this latter age of Disney’s modern Golden Age.

4. A Street Of Love And Hope (Hulu)

One of the many recent additions to Hulu through Criterion’s 101 Days Of Summer series, Nagisa Oshima’s first film is thankfully back in the spotlight on their Hulu Plus page. The film, a relatively short watch at just 62 minutes, follows the story of a young man who, to help his family, sells his pet pigeons on the street. A rather stark portrayal of class struggle that would ultimately become one of the many political touchstones of Oshima’s cinema, the film is a beautiful black and white picture that is as brooding as it is absolutely moving. With as assured a lead performance as one could ever imagine getting out of a young lead actor like the one garnered here from Hiroshi Fujikawa, Oshima marks this film as a truly auspicious and bombastic a debut as you’ll find from this time period.

3. Free Radicals: A History Of Experimental Film (Netflix/Fandor)

With names like Hollis Frampton getting some more time in the spotlight thanks to companies like The Criterion Collection, experimental film has become something of a hot button topic within the world of film. This feature length documentary offers up a relatively deep look into the works of directors like Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage and Hans Richter, all while painting a picture of just what the evolution of avant-garde filmmaking has been throughout the history of film. From a ghetto housing radical filmmakers to a breeding ground for some of today’s most interesting film artists, experimental cinema is as relevant today as it has ever been, and while the film clocks in at under an hour and a half, it more than does the job of painting a powerful picture of just how important experimental film has been throughout film history. Now seen as the home of some of cinema’s greatest “free, radical artists,” this film is one of the more interesting documentaries you’ll be able to check out this weekend.

2. Spring Breakers (iTunes)

Available ahead of its July 9 debut on home video, iTunes currently offers users the chance to purchase their own digital copy of the year’s best film, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. I’ve talked about this film about as much as one could possibly talk about a film without needing psychiatric help, so I’ll keep this a little short, but to call this film brilliant is an understatement. A breathtakingly bleak perversion of the American Dream, the film is a thrilling meditation on that very dream, and how it has been corrupted by a generation fueled by pop culture and image. Korine takes a hint aesthetically from fellow director Gaspar Noe, and turns a Godardian eye for provocation on today’s youth. With top notch performances, particularly from James Franco who should have a supporting actor Oscar nomination locked up, but likely won’t, this film is as exciting an American film as we’ve seen in years. A Badlands-esque meditation on corruption-by-image, Spring Breakers is Harmony Korine’s crowning achievement, and simply the best film 2013 has offered us up to this very moment.

1. Before Sunrise / Before Sunset (iTunes)

There has, over the past few weeks, been a lot said about Richard Linklater’s masterful Before franchise, and thankfully, with Before Midnight still making its way through theaters across the country, iTunes has added both previous films to their ranks. Able to be streamed in HD (could Blu-rays be on the way soon?), these are the two best films you can watch this weekend without needing to leave your house. Two genuinely great romantic dramas, these are the definitive roles for both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and will likely (with Midnight brilliantly capping it off) go down as one of the greatest film series of all time. There are truly not enough superlatives to go around with regards to this film, so simply watch these two films, and bask in a generation defining franchise.

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