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. Blackfish (VOD)
One of two documentaries on this list, this 2013 release is heads and shoulders above much of this year’s admittedly high class documentary slate. A look at a series of deaths of SeaWorld trainers at the hands of the animals they try to show off, this film is a damning look at a company whose practices of capturing and training these killer whales to perform have led them to put lives on the line numerous times, without as much as a thought to change their ways. Featuring a host of interviews with everyone from former trainers to scientists, this film is a truly breathtaking and unforgettable account of a company, the way we as humans treat animals and ultimately what one is willing to do to be entertained. A masterful documentary, this is a film that needs to be seen right away.
4. Only God Forgives (Netflix)
One of 2013’s most underrated gems, this is a film that will be impossible to forget for those who give this Nicolas Winding Refn-helmed thriller. Scorching aesthetically and utterly frigid narratively, this meditation on violence finds a narrative becoming far richer for those who stick with it through the final act (there are a few really intriguing narrative threads involving Julian’s father that play into the picture’s Oedipal conceits), and for visually-centric viewers, this will be the closest thing to “porn” you’re likely to see all year. Possibly set to become this year’s Beyond The Black Rainbow, Refn’s film features a score from Cliff Martinez that could become a contender for best of the year, and a style that is as brooding and angry as anything the director has ever done. Polarizing for good reason, this film will definitely be one you won’t want to miss. And it is one that you will not ever be able to forget.
3. Great First Features (TCM; Saturday, starting at 8pm EST)
What do Jean-Luc Godard, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese all have in common? They all made great debuts. TCM will be honoring this fact on Saturday night as part of their Essentials series, showing the three director’s first features, Breathless, Sugarland Express and Who’s That Knocking At My Door respectively. Three truly great films, Breathless is admittedly the film I’m most interested in re-watching, as it is firmly this writer’s favorite film of all time. A groundbreaking bit of punk rock filmmaking from cinema’s greatest provocateur, Godard’s film is a masterpiece, and both of the films following it are great in their own right. I’m partial to Sugarland because it’s such an interesting start for Spielberg who released his actual first film, the TV movie Duel, previously, really launching his career off with a bang.
2. Meet Marlon Brando (Fandor)
What is better than a documentary about Marlon Brando? How about an experimental documentary featuring Brando from the Maysles Brothers? Entitled Meet Marlon Brando, this short documentary finds Brando in the middle of a series of interviews in the hopes of promoting his 1965 film Morituri, with this film as a final culmination. A brazen look at a star in the middle of trying to be just that, a movie star, despite his lack of interest in the promotional machine, this gives the viewer a thrilling insight into one of the cinema’s greatest thespians. Proving, also, in the Maysles and their skill as a documentarian duo, this is a truly great short film that needs to be seen by as many people as humanly possible.
1. Frances Ha (Netflix)
With its Criterion release now available for purchase, the latest film from director Noah Baumbauch is available to stream on Netflix for subscribers, and should be seen as soon as possible. Starring Greta Gerwig as a 20-something lost in New York, this black and white stunner of a comedy/drama is one of 2013’s greatest films. A powerful look at a generation seemingly lost within the world, Baumbauch’s film gets a triumphant performance out of star Gerwig, and with a Whit Stillman-esque screenplay this comedy is as entrancing and wonderfully paced as any this year, and while it may not be saying much new about a generation as talked about as there has ever been, the method in which it says it is as thrilling and evocative as we have seen this year.