Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch This Weekend (May 17-19)

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As Iron Man 3 runs its way to a billion dollars worldwide, the summer movie season is in full swing. The sun is out in full, exhausting force and the movies are slowly getting bigger, bolder and more bombastic visually, culminating in what should be this weekend’s number one new film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Abrams’ second entrant into this new era of the Trek franchise, this film will have everyone and their mothers piling into their cars, and flocking out into theaters starting this Thursday. However, what about before and after you see the film? Here are five pictures to watch this weekend, that will be perfect for those coming home from the theaters or the first yearly trip to the beach.

5. Brewster McCloud [Warner Archive Instant]

Coming off of the hit film MASH, director Robert Altman gave us what many consider one of his most underrated (if not his best) pieces of work. Thanks to The Warner Archive, you can now stream (in HD no less) the filmmaker’s beloved 1970 MASH follow-up, Brewster McCloud. Starring Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Michael Murphy and a cavalcade of others, the film tells the story of a hermit living within a fallout shelter found inside the Astrodome in Houston, a man hell bent on making a pair of wings that would allow him to take flight. Without a doubt one of the director’s lesser known pictures, the film actually arrived the same year as the filmmaker’s aforementioned classic, and is as far from that film as possible. It’s a darkly comedic picture that is as much a satire as it is a straight comedy. With the satire fully biting, this is one of Altman’s most intriguing films thematically and also one of his most stimulating structurally. Brewster features superb performances from across the cast, so overall, this is one film that should not be skipped, particularly now that it’s available to stream in HD.

4. Just Another Love Story [Netflix]

With his last film, The Possession, firmly among the ranks of the last few year’s oddest and most intriguing horror pictures, director Ole Bornedal may not have crafted a breathtaking masterpiece in that ultimately unsatisfying but absolutely surreal horror picture, but he’s not without his gems. Originally catching most eyes with the 2007 film, Just Another Love Story, the film is currently available to stream on Netflix, and should be seen by any and everyone. Inherently a crime thriller that is as interested in the car crash that is at the film’s core as it is the blurring of the line of reality that follows, the film is an interesting drama that gets top notch performances out of actors like Anders W. Berthelsen and is a truly superb modern day neo-noir. I had the pleasure of finding a DVD at a local brick and mortar shop around the time the release hit shelves, and it instantly became one of those pictures, for me, that I’d try extremely hard to champion to anyone and everyone that would listen. And now it’s your turn. Check this damn thing out.

3. America America

As I have just begun reading Richard Schickel’s biography of the legendary and controversial Elia Kazan, I can’t help but have this film on the brain constantly. Possibly Kazan’s most personal and intimate work, this film is currently available to stream, in full, on Youtube and while it’s not the best way to see the film (there is a DVD that’s relatively easy and cheap to find), if you have no other choice, spend three hours in front of the computer and watch quite possibly the best film you haven’t heard of. An Academy Award winner (Best Art Direction), the film was also a Best Picture, Best Screenplay and even Kazan garnered a Best Director nomination for this film, telling the story of a young Greek and his dream of going to the United States of America. A heartbreakingly powerful and personal film, the picture is one of Kazan’s most beautifully crafted pictures, and features a collection of performances that the filmmaker would ever get out of his actors. Best known as an actor’s director, the film is one of Kazan’s most inspired visual works, and should be his next entrant into The Criterion Collection. It’s a tad long for those with things to do, but then again, it is the weekend, right? Turn off the lights, grab a blanket and a loved one, and watch a master at his very best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrpVNLPcYq4

2. The American Soldier [Hulu Plus]

Firmly a part of Criterion’s (thankfully) newly announced Eclipse Series box set, “Early Fassbinder,” this (you got it) early Fassbinder picture is one of this writer’s most well loved. Currently available on Hulu with a few other members of that box set (all worth viewing), this gangster film is as far from that genre’s trappings as one could imagine. A full blown experimental crime thriller, the film is an early experiment by the auteur who would later make a name as one of cinema’s most interesting scientists. Featuring some stellar black and white photography, the film’s use of light and shadow are firmly rooted in the world of film noir, but just about everything else found within this picture (especially the last shot) couldn’t be further from classical film noir. Inarguably one of the most exciting and vital experiments coming from this period in Fassbinder’s canon, The American Soldier is one of the most must-see films currently streaming on Hulu Plus.

1. Ride The High Country [TCM; Saturday, noon]

Nearly as much as Elia Kazan, yours truly has been as enthralled, recently, with the work of one Sam Peckinpah, as I have been by the aforementioned auteur. Digging back through his canon as of late has been a truly exciting experience, and thankfully, TCM thinks its about time to do that too. The network will be, this Saturday, airing Peckinpah’s earliest masterpiece, Ride The High Country. Featuring the final performance of beloved thespian and long time Cary Grant right hand man Randolph Scott, the film is one of the earliest example of the revisionist Western, of which Peckinpah would become the leader of. A breathtaking look at masculinity, the death of the old west and honor, Ride The High Country is as close to perfectly distilled Peckinpah as the director ever got. A far cry from the angry and pitch black dramas like Straw Dogs, this is a truly great Western that is as much a love letter to the old west as it is a tell tale signifier of that genre’s death in the modern cinematic landscape. Great picture.