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. Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton (Netflix)
More often than not, a documentary about a specific genre of music, a singular musician or a record label is not the most energetic of non-fiction feature. They are some of the more stilted and lifeless films, offering up cartoonishly self important glimpses at entities that have much less impact on the overall state of music than the film would have one imagine. And then there are films like Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton. A beautiful and absolutely vital look at the legendary alt-label Stones Throw, the film introduces us to DJ Peanut Butter Wolf, aka Chris Manak, and the independent music haus that would ultimately become a mecca for the greatest independent artists in rap, and beyond. Best known for giving the world records like J Dilla’s Donuts (which itself may very well be the best album released in the last, say, 20 years), Stones Throw is the type of label that the world desperately needs. Not afraid to give us glimpses at artists at the very outskirts of the music world, they seem to actually revel in introducing the universe to artists who push the boundary as if their entire existence would be wiped off the map if the don’t get their art out of their system. Kinetic and lively in its execution, this is one of the most enjoyable documentaries in ages.
4. Force Majeure (Netflix)
Very much rooted in the same ground as its fellow skewering of masculinity from 2014, the David Fincher joint Gone Girl, Ruben Ostlund’s latest film is arguably a more naturalistic and troubling look at one man’s journey to regain his masculinity as a family’s patriarch. With breathtaking performances from leads Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli, the film introduces us to a bourgeois Swedish family on vacation in the French Alps, only to be caught in an avalanche while having lunch at a mountainside cafe. When the husband is sent running only to discover his wife and children standing firm, this moment forever changes the relationship between the husband and wife, culminating in a story that is as haunting as it is magnetic. Sweden’s official Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year, Ostlund’s film is a naturalistic masterwork that finds the director at his most stayed, never opting for any real directorial flourishes, instead using a relatively static camera to linger on the central performances, and this tale of one man’s fight to regain his manhood. And now, this brilliant piece of work is now available to stream on Netflix.
3. Lola (Hulu Plus)
From 1961 comes director Jacques Demy’s first feature length film, a wondrous piece of work that is both dedicated to, and delightfully inspired by the legendary filmmaker Max Ophuls. Entitled Lola, this breathtaking piece of black and white filmmaking is not only a superb piece of work, but also a shocking look into the work of a director who would constantly evolve into one of the most singular filmmakers of his day. Not often discussed as part of the French New Wave, this dream-like, earthy feature has an energy and vitality to it that is absolutely akin to other New Wave staples, and the photography is ripped right out of its contemporaries. If the filmmaker’s later work is the only experience one has with this director, this will seem like a child born entirely of a different creative parent. Beautiful and evocative, this tactile film proves that it’s no shock that Demy would go on to wed a mother of the New Wave in Agnes Varda.
2. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (Crackle)
There are documentaries, and then there’s this Michel Gondry-helmed masterpiece. Set around a block party held by the legendary comic, the film both gives us a glimpse at the block party itself, but also the journey that Chappelle went on to make the event happen, and while the musical performances here are some of the more lively performances you’re bound to see in any music documentary, it is these moments outside the actual event that make this the masterpiece it is. Gondry as a filmmaker is at the top of his game here. While the usual charm and child-like charisma that he usually brings in his camerawork and photography is instead manifested here in Chappelle himself, he has a vitality and a fly-on-the-wall style here that feels both rough around the edges and yet just as lively and tactile as Chappelle’s intimate energy and charm. The music performances here are lively and unforgettable, and Chappelle proves to be one hell of a host as well. It’s a fantastic piece of documentary artistry, and a film that is as underrated as they come.
1. Life Of Riley (Netflix)
While we all find a great deal of things to take away from a filmmaker’s debut film, what can be said about one’s last piece of work? Sadly, that’s an insight we can now have with regards to the work of the late auteur Alain Resnais, as the filmmaker’s final piece is now available to stream on Netflix. Entitled Life Of Riley, this is one of the filmmaker’s most lively and vital pieces of work, a web like narrative about love told in as absurdist an aesthetic as we’ve seen from the director. A far cry from some of Resnais’ earliest work, this is not the director’s greatest work or even his most inventive late-career piece, but what it is is a look into a director who, despite his vintage, was as full of vitality and life as any other filmmaker half his age. A bombastic piece of art from one of cinema’s greatest artists, this is a must see piece of work that’s now available to stream on Netflix.