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.
- Wild River (Hulu)
There are very few things more worthy of your time during any given weekend’s viewing schedule than a masterpiece from director Elia Kazan. And thanks to Hulu, one of the filmmaker’s many great pictures can be streamed right this very moment. Starring Montgomery Clift, this picture finds Clift in the role of Chuck Glover, a new arrival in a small town looking to clear land that is going to be flooded by a pending dam on the Tennessee River. When he gets some brush back from an elderly woman, the film becomes one of the earliest looks at some debates that would become prevalent over the next decade or so, both environmentally and also racially. With superb lead performances (particularly those of Clift and romantic co-star Lee Remick) and some gorgeous direction and photography, this is one of Kazan’s greatest pictures, and while it may be in the shadow of a picture like On The Waterfront this is very much in the vein of the auteur’s greatest works. Performance focused and full of life and vitality, this is a film not to be missed, especially since it is now available for free to Hulu Plus subscribers.
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (Netflix)
While most people have, by this point in their lives, seen this legendary Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, it’s hard to think of a more enjoyable and provocative way to spend two hours during your weekend. With a collection of iconic turns from star Peter Sellers, this surreal and absurd farce of a film is a scathing look at nuclear proliferation and the absurdity of war, all in the guise of one of the funniest films ever made. With an endless stream of quotable lines and unforgettable moments, this definitive Cold War comedy is both a laugh riot of a film, and also one of the most wonderfully crafted pictures in all of Kubrick’s canon. With gorgeous black and white photography, really highlighting Kubrick’s love of light and shadow, and some wonderfully surreal production design, this is truly one of the greatest films ever made, and a comedy that is imminently watchable.
- Shortbus (YouTube)
Originally a lightning rod for its use of “real” sex when it hit the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, this breathtaking film does use sex in a real and palpable manner, showing anything and everything one could possibly imagine seeing. However, instead of simply settling for this titillating use of sexuality or instead of becoming something overtly explicit, this is not only life affirming and beautiful, but itself becomes as important to the film’s narrative and themes as one could imagine.That’s where the real beauty in this film lies. Writer/director John Cameron Mitchell turns this film from something that could be seen as nothing more than a shock director’s attempt at showing the world how chaste it is, into something that tells this chaste world that it’s okay to be a bit shocked, but get rid of the fear. Set in a dreamscape resembling New York (the city itself only really comes into view during animated miniature sequences hinting itself at the film’s playful tone, but it does feel like a decidedly New York picture. 9/11 hands heavy over the proceedings, a melancholic comedy/drama that takes these fears and ideas being discussed following that tragedy and instead of mining it for xenophobia or some sort of faux documentary action picture, Mitchell’s picture turns them into the source for one of the funniest and most heart wrenching comedies of this generation.
- Moonrise (YouTube)
From director Frank Borzage comes this brooding film noir, a noir completely unlike any you’ll find within that genre. Taking the noir out of the city and throwing it into the rain soaked swamps of the south, this Southern Gothic take on the film noir follows the story of Danny Hawkins, a murderer’s son who can’t quite shake his father’s haunted past. Picked on starting at the youngest of ages, he begins to fall in love with his only friend, a gorgeous girl named Gilly Johnson. However, when Hawkins kills a bully who attacks him, he goes on the run fearing that he may fall the same destiny as his late father. A devastatingly emotional meditation on fate and redemption, Borzage’s last great masterpiece is one of the more underrated noirs in the genre’s canon. Opening like a bullet shot out of a gun with bad intentions, Moonrise has become inspiration for various filmmakers, most notably Wes Anderson whose Moonrise Kingdom shares more with this film than just a title. A tale of love through adversity, Borzage’s film is both noir and romance, blending the two into a potent roller coaster of a film. Concluding with one of the best chases of all time, this is a true masterpiece that deserves much more respect these days than it ever actually gets.
- Get On The Bus (Hulu)
Recently the focus of a For Criterion Consideration post here on The CriterionCast, Spike Lee’s underrated gem is currently available to stream on Hulu, and should be streamed right away. Following a collection of African-American men as they make their way from LA to Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March, this breathtaking play-like piece of cinema is one of director Spike Lee’s most esoteric and yet oddly moving motion pictures. Following various threads over the film’s two hour run time, the film looks at various social issues plaguing this country, and does so by blending an experimental aesthetic brought on by Lee’s camera, some truly great performances, and a script that feels more like a Jazz musician’s composition than a filmmaker’s screenplay, all into the body of Lee’s most underrated masterpiece. Admittedly heavy handed and not afraid to delve into melodrama, the film feels entirely of its own and unlike anything outside of Lee’s canon you’ll ever see. More along the lines of a Bamboozled or Red Hook Summer, Bus is a truly evocative piece of art from one of film’s greatest provocateurs. Read more about the film HERE.