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. Wild 90 (Hulu)
Quietly a handful of days ago, Criterion finally took to their Hulu Plus page to add a handful of new pictures for users to stream at their leisure, and it’s one Hell of a list. Leading the way are two films from avant garde filmmaker and overall raconteur Norman Mailer. The best of the bunch is his debut film, Wild 90. A bewilderingly unique experience telling the story of three gangsters stuck in an apartment, Mailer’s film is more an experience than an actual narrative feature. Profoundly experimental and brazenly off the cuff, this base level motion picture is driven by an improvised “screenplay” and a handful of performances that are as raw and kinetic as film has ever seen. Not one for those looking for deep emotional catharsis or the mining of any dense themes, Mailer’s picture is a time capsule from an age where cinematic experimentation was not only a normal sight, but at its very highest qualitative clip. The definition of film in the freest of its forms, Mailer’s picture is an uncanny experience that may leave many cold, but will turn those who go along for the ride into life long fans of this true gem of experimental cinema.
4. The Thick-Walled Room (Hulu)
A bit more straight forward but no less brilliant, one of the most interesting films from this new crop of Criterion Collection additions to Hulu Plus comes thanks to Masaki Kobayashi. Part of his new Eclipse series box set, “Masaki Kobayashi Against The System,” the film is entitled The Thick-Walled Room, and tells the story of a group of Japanese soldiers who have been put in jail for “crimes against humanity” in the midst of World War II. Left on the shelf for three years due to studio worries revolving around its content, this seething meditation on the ghosts of war is a breathtaking piece of world cinema, an angry look at the repercussions of a war still fresh on everyone’s minds. Based on a collection of diary entries from real prisoners, the film is gorgeously made in black and white, and brimming with an intense energy that is truly unlike anything you’ll ever see. A topic covered throughout the history of Asian cinema, this is a tour de force motion picture that has the brain of a Kinoshita picture, the brawn of an Oshima film, and the overall emotional power of something wholly its own. A masterpiece, this film.
3. Anatomy Of A Murder (Netflix)
From director Otto Preminger comes this breathtaking and beautifully crafted courtroom drama finding James Stewart in the role of a Michigan-based lawyer taking on the case of his life. When a local army man is accused of murdering a bar owner, he takes on his defense, only to discover that the alleged murder came after the owner himself was accused of raping the man’s wife. With a tour de force lead performance from Stewart and a pair of supporting turns from stars Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick, the film is inarguably one of Preminger’s best known works, and features one of the greatest film scores ever made. Tapping Duke Ellington to do the film’s music proved to be Preminger’s greatest stroke of genius as his percussive compositions have since become some of the greatest and most influential film compositions ever made. For a director who had the uncanny ability to jump from one genre to the next, this is Preminger at his most assured and at the very height of his powers. One of the greatest American films ever made, this film is now available to stream on Netflix for the world to enjoy.
2. Don Jon (Netflix)
The debut directorial outing from star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film is one of 2013’s lesser talked about gems, and is now thankfully available to stream on Netflix. Co-written by and also starring Gordon-Levitt, the film finds the star in the role of a New Jersey tough guy with a penchant for loving his family and friends about as much as he loves his faith, and oddly enough, the adult videos that seem to get him through his day. A story of a man attempting to find palpable human contact in a world so hell bent on breaking that apart, be it pornography or simply the rise of social networking, the film may not be quite as smart as that would have you imagine, but what it most certainly is is well made, uproariously funny, and ultimately an interesting statement from one of today’s most beloved young thespians. With a fun supporting cast including Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, the film never quite goes to many unexpected places, but if you’re looking for a bewilderingly charming comedy to get you and a loved one through a rainy weekend evening, it’s hard to be this little gem of a comedy.
1. Her (iTunes)
One of the best films of this still young decade, this film is the movie of an entire generation. I’ve said my peace about it before. Her has been described by many as one of the great post-modern romances, arguably the definitive yarn, but it is equally as much a film excited by the idea of what may be the beginnings of a post-death world. With stunning lead performances and Spike Jonze working at the absolute top of his ability, this is simply one of the best films in ages. HERE are more thoughts on it but just watch the damn thing