CriterionCast

Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (May 24-26)

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May is on its way out, and while most people will trap themselves in doors this weekend catching up on the month that has been so far in home video releases (as I, myself, write this I’m recovering from the gorgeous piece of work that is Fox’s newly released Blu-ray of Cleopatra, but more on that next week) or at the theaters seeing the sixth film in the Fast and Furious franchise or the third in the Hangover series, there are still a bevy of options for those with a streaming preference. TCM just wrapped, on Thursday, an evening spent looking at the work of Harold Lloyd, and with Netflix/Hulu Plus only growing stronger in their catalogue as the days pass, it’s a tough thing to try and sift through every possible picture one could thrust upon his or her screen. And that’s why we’re here now. Here are five films to watch, streaming, right now:

5. A Girl In Every Port (YouTube)

As I’ll talk about more in a moment, Howard Hawks is one of the greatest American filmmakers of his day. With classics abound like The Big Sleep and even underrated gems like the ever great and charming I Was A Male War Bride, Hawks is an all-time great filmmaker. And yet, he’s rarely talked about as such. One of the director’s greatest early works is currently available on Youtube, and it should be prime viewing for this weekend. Entitled A Girl In Every Port, this silent comedy features some of Hawks’ great early direction (particularly in two sequences involving some truly great comedic work), but while his work may be great, this picture holds something entirely different historically. The film that truly ushered in Louise Brooks, the film finds the Pandora’s Box actress adorning her iconic bob and bangs, in what is the performance that got her what would become her most legendary job. It’s a fun and charming comedy, and with Hawks working out his craft behind the camera, it is often a sight to behold.

4. Winning Time (Netflix)

I’m a cinephile at heart. I love cinema more than I love just about anything else, and I wouldn’t be writing this very sentence if that weren’t true. However, I’d be lying just as much if I didn’t mention that we are embroiled in the NBA playoffs, and it’s mighty hard to choose between nail biting basketball games and anything else. As a life-long basketball fan, and a person who has found the resurgence of Indiana’s professional basketball team, The Pacers, to be absolutely thrilling, one documentary has been as entertaining to re-visit and as vital to today’s basketball landscape; ESPN’s Winning Time: Reggie Miller Vs. The New York Knicks. As part of the network’s 30 For 30 series, the film has become one of the best outings involved with that exciting documentary series, and with the recent Knicks/Pacers series wrapped, it’s pertinent even today. Giving a great backstory not only to this rivalry, but to the idea of rivalries and what makes a great one truly great, this documentary is a must watch not only for those finding entertainment out of this year’s NBA Playoffs, but for fans of non-fiction cinema as well.

3. Zazie Dans Le Metro (Hulu Plus)

Now a member of The Criterion Collection for a good while, one of the company’s most intriguing releases has been Louis Malle’s Zazie Dans Le Metro. Coming alongside Malle’s great Black Moon and during a time where the director seemed to have quite a resurgence (his Vanya On 42nd Street also saw a Blu-ray release relatively close to those two films), this is one of the filmmaker’s greatest and yet most unsung works. Based on Raymond Queneau’s novel, the film follows the story of Zazie, and her two days in Paris with her uncle Gabriel. Now, the film was released in the same year as Godard’s Breathless, and yet feels very much like a blend of Tati-style comedy and Godardian absurdity. Take the charismatic playfulness of A Woman Is A Woman but through the lens of a child in the vein of The 400 Blows, and you have something resembling, at least aesthetically, Zazie. Oozing energy out of every pore, the film is one of the most entertaining and truly thrilling bits of cinema that Malles had given us, and is an anarchic French New Wave masterpiece. The neon photography here is fantastic, and while the dream way to view this is via Criterion’s infallible Blu-ray release, the company is currently streaming the picture on Hulu Plus, and even that print is an absolute doozy.

2. A Kid for Two Farthings (Hulu Plus)

Whereas Criterion has given us a breathtaking Blu-ray of Malle’s picture, Carol Reed’s A Kid For Two Farthings is a different beast entirely. While many point to a film like Odd Man Out as the Collection’s next Reed release, this is more than worthy of a standalone release. A sweet tale of a small boy who believes that a goat he purchases is actually a wish-granting unicorn, Reed’s film is a beautiful and heartfelt picture with gorgeous photography from Dirty Dozen DP Edward Scaife, with hope to spare. Come the film’s final moments, the picture becomes a moving picture that wears its heart on its sleeve, and in the great performances it gets out of its entire cast. Not as much a masterwork as Reed’s Third Man or Fallen Idol, the film holds its own as one of the more underrated films that Criterion currently has the rights to.

1. Sergeant York (TCM; Saturday @ 10:30pm EST)

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and with that, TCM is turning its sights directly upon those classic pictures looking at war and the men who fight it. Among the truly great pictures the network is spotlighting is a personal favorite of mine, the Howard Hawks classic Sergeant York. Of all the great directors, Hawks is one that The Criterion Collection hasn’t given the real support he deserves, and this film would be a perfect place to start. Set during WWI, the film gets a top notch performance out of its star, Gary Cooper, and is one of Hawks’ most beautiful films. With a supporting cast to die for and a script worked on by people like John Huston, the film is a real gem from a canon that deserves to be discussed in the ranks of the true greats.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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