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. Heaven’s Gate: The Butcher’s Cut (Vimeo)
Oh, Steven Soderbergh, how we love you, let us all count the ways. Whether it be his attempted retirement but apparent disinterest in taking a break or his uncanny ability to jump from blockbuster Hollywood pictures to bewilderingly intimate independent dramas, there are few cinematic voices quite like the enigmatic director. Hell, the guy even attempted to edit both Hitchcock and Gus van Sant’s takes on Psycho into one picture. The guy is unlike anyone we’ve ever seen. And now he’s done it again. Over at his blog Extension 765, the director has taken his scissors to a film he’s been admittedly infatuated with, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate and in a dramatic way. Cutting it directly in half from 216 minutes to 108, the filmmaker has put his new cut up on Vimeo for the world to enjoy, and it’s a doozy. Right from the get go you realize this isn’t Cimino’s take, as the entire prologue is dumped, and what follows is a really entrancing take from an outside voice on one of the most talked about epic pictures we’ve ever seen. Obviously a must for film fans, this may not be anyone’s most watched video this weekend, but this is an absolutely brazen curio for anyone interested in Soderbergh, the film, or cinema as a post-modern “thing.” It’s a hell of a cut, too.
4. Deprisa, Deprisa (Hulu)
Director Carlos Saura is a filmmaker not enough people are truly familiar with. A Criterion-approved auteur (whatever that’s worth), Saura is a filmmaker that has seen a handful of his films hit the Collection and ultimately land out of print (yes, I’m looking at you his hard-to-find Eclipse box set), but with a few currently on the company’s Hulu Plus page, that will hopefully change. In the case of his film Deprisa, Deprisa, it’s one that will hopefully be hitting Criterion proper sooner rather than later. A brilliant and vibrant meditation on youthful existential angst set during a time period of complete social and political upheaval, the film follows a group of young men and women as they rob and steal their way through their lives. Owing a lot to the films of Nagisa Oshima, this film feels very much like Oshima’s angrier films, with a vibrant aesthetic all Saura’s own. Beautifully shot and carrying with it a punk-esque sense of energy, Saura’s picture is an unflinching look at a generation lost and left without any direction. A timely picture today, this very much feels like a precursor to a film like, oddly enough, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. It’s an odd comparison, but those who see this picture will be hard pressed to find a way to argue against it.
3. From One Second To The Next (Netflix)
If there is one thing plaguing this generation, it’s the uncanny connection the youth have to their technology, primarily mobile devices. Be it constantly checking Twitter during a night out or in the case of this documentary from director Werner Herzog, texting while driving, there is a need felt by many of today’s youth to constantly have their devices within arm’s reach. And as this documentary shows, that can possibly be the difference between life and death. A short documentary looking at the repercussions felt by various people who have had their lives changed forever as a result from someone texting while driving, Herzog’s short documentary is a harrowing meditation on something that is truly plaguing this entire generation. Be it an actual text or even just a glance down at a phone after hearing a ringtone, a life can change, a person’s world can forever be altered, by even the slightest moment, and this proves it. A breathless short documentary from one of today’s greatest documentary filmmakers, this is an absolute must see in a world where this isn’t seen as the true danger to public safety that it very much is.
2. Insidious: Chapter 2 (Netflix)
Few genre filmmakers are, today, chugging along at such a high clip as director James Wan. Be it his work in this franchise, or dating back to his game changing Saw, save for a few bumps in the road, Wan has become a gold standard in today’s world of genre film. And now, one of his newest films is available to stream on Netflix. The sequel to his fantastic Insidious, the film once again tells the tale of the Lambert family, this time in an entirely different predicament. Once again sending horror cinema into narrative left field, this is a supremely chilling supernatural thriller that heightens the drama here into the world of melodrama almost, all in the guise of a genuinely scary and terrifying horror picture. Breathtakingly made by Wan, a director at his most assured here, even a simple use of a zoom can become the most chilling and gut wrenching moment at the drop of a hat. Thanks to Wan’s breathtaking handle of tone, atmosphere and mood, the film not only becomes a real wonder of supernatural surrealism, but a nightmare inducing ghost picture. With a great score from Joseph Bishara, the film, and Wan, mix humor with real familial drama and a sense of terror that builds with such a beautiful pace that, with the reveal of a set piece involving a murderer’s victims, becomes a film that once again proves that James Wan is not only a great horror director, but one of today’s most interesting filmmakers.
1. Meek’s Cutoff (Hulu)
Nothing says perfect weekend viewing quite like a meditative, oppressively bleak neo-Western from one of today’s most beloved autuers. From filmmaker Kelly Reichardt comes Meeks Cutoff, a tale of the early days of the Oregon Trail. Set in 1845, the film follows a wagon train of three families that hire a man named Stephen Meek who seems to know more than the problems that befall this group would have them think. A beautiful and lyrical anti-Western and road drama, this is easily one of the most singular piece of filmmaking around, from an absolute master filmmaker. Chock full of top tier performances, the film may be a bit of a slog for many, but those who go along for this perfectly paced gem will fall heads over heels in love with this picture. Unforgettable, this film.