Updated: Feb 27
I have an old-fashioned Netflix DVD queue that is 429 films deep. It is a wonderland! Let's explore.
A few years ago, Netflix tried to kill off its DVD division. They literally wanted to kill the golden goose, the thing that made them what they were and do away with the indelible brand that you inevitably think of when talking about this media company that changed the film landscape forever. The dip-shits quickly realized that their customers were not having it. Yes, it is true that many people, once they got the familiar Netflix mailer envelope, like an unexpected Christmas present brightening a day that might have otherwise gone to shit, they often left their copy of "All Quiet on the Western Front" sitting there by the old-fashioned DVR player for MONTHS. That's true. You, those of you who have Netflix queues, YOU KNOW that you'll never get to the bottom of that queue. But, my friends, it is not the destination that matters, but the journey! To me, that red Netflix mailer was a kindly reminder, every day, that a great film was sitting RIGHT there and you could do other things with your time besides taking on Lewis Milestone's 1930 classic about World War I. But that red envelope sat there like a friend reminding you. And, you know? To this day that brand and that image means something. Netflix killed the Video Store. You could have that movie for months and never pay a dime in late fees. That was the secret that did in your Blockbusters and other large video store chains. They fucking murdered you with late fees. Even my favorite local store in Philipsburg, Pa., Adventure Video? Movie cost me at least $20 in late fees every time I rented one. If libraries did this with late fees, they'd have much more extravagant libraries... and, eventually there would be a company called Netbooks, I suppose. But here's the other thing. Standing in a video store? People never took advice on films. Never. Nope. You've just told 'em about the latest Palm d' Or winner and they acted like they were with you on that before they went home with their copy of "Jackass 4." The only time people would take advice - from me anyway - on a film was when I wrote about it in the old Video Vault column in The Progress. If they read it in the paper... remember newspapers?... they would hurry in to Adventure Video and rent the film that won at Sundance. They would not listen to you if you TOLD them, but if they READ your recommendation it was authoritative. So I'm thinking, if you're still with me at this point, you might be interested in the random ten of old-fashioned DVDs I'm going to talk about. There is charm in it. Some people wanna hold a book in their hands and take a while. Some people want a DVD with special features and the whole damn Criterion treatment just waiting for them. It is a throw-back in the streaming world, which often rotates films so you can't get instant gratification right now. You can get any movie in the world on dvd any time. It's fantastic. So on to the Star Channel previews... Anyone who gets that reference needs to chime in below in the comment section. My queue, like I said, is 429 films deep. And by the time a film gets to #1, I generally have forgotten why years ago I added it. So these random films are widely disparate, but, as the title assures you, are likely worth watching. Have a look and see if anything catches your fancy. Click on the hot links for trailers and clips if you like. Let's talk about movies!
2004 - Rated R
D: David Mackenzie
This suspenseful crime drama was added to my queue on March 30, 2004. As of today, almost 19 years later, it has risen to the top. Time to take it in. Joe, A young drifter (Ewan McGregor), finds work on a barge traveling between Glasgow and Edinburgh when a young woman's corpse is found in the river. Making things messier is the unspoken attraction that develops between Joe and and barge owner Ella (Tilda Swinton). Emily Mortimer and Peter Mullan co-star.
1955 - NR D: Alain Resnais French with English Subtitles You can watch the entire film at the link on YouTube, but my Criterion copy will be coming to a mailbox near me soon. Employing haunting images, such as a hill of human hair or a pyramid of shoes, Director Resnais contrasts 1955 footage of Auschwitz's quiet, empty buildings with black and white footage shot there in 1944. This landmark documentary - one of the first cinematic reflections on the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust - is as lyrical as it is graphic, and has influenced contemporary films such as Schindler's List.
2004 - Rated R - 104 mins D: Lone Scherfig
In this darkly offbeat comedy, the titular Wilbur keeps trying to kill himself, but his saintly brother always saves him. Their bleak routine is soon disrupted, however, by a cleaning lady -- whose arrival creates unexpected changes for all of them.
2004 - NR - 90 minutes D: Katy Chevigny
On January, 11, 2003, in a gesture rare in the annals of jurisprudence, outgoing Illinois governor George Ryan granted clemency to all 156 inmates on the state's death row. Death sentences previously imposed on almost all the inmates automatically became sentences to "life in prison without the possibility of parole." This documentary addresses the literal issue of "life and death" that Ryan faced and how he came to make his historic decision.
2004 - R - 106 minutes D: Jon Crowley
First off, I love the Irish outlook on life, as you'd know if you attended The LaunchPad production of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillow Man." So, this collection of 11 comic stories set in Dublin stems from one circumstance; how the breakup of one couple's relationship can have unexpected repercussions on the lives of people around them. Plus, it's got a young Cillian Murphy and McDonagh favorite Colin Farrell. The link above shows a funny clip of Murphy hitting a rather different kind of night club. And, let's be honest, the Irish, in a fine twist of justice, have taken the English language thrust upon them and made it more beautiful than anywhere else on Earth. So... take it in just for the lilt of it!
2003 - R - 112 minutes
D: Roger Michell
While visiting their grown children in London, suburban grandmother May's (Anne Reid) husband dies unexpectedly. When May moves in with her daughter, she begins to lose her grip on her identity, stripped of her wifely duties and lost in the modern world. But as she struggles to connect to her children and surroundings, she meets Darren (Daniel Craig), a young man who's bedding her daughter, and her life takes an unexpected and complicated turn.
1929 - NR - 82 minutes D: Carl Theodore Dreyer
Considered director Carl Theodor Dreyer's finest achievement and one of the greatest movies of all time, this stunning, emotional drama recounts the events surrounding Joan of Arc's 1431 heresy trial, burning at the stake and subsequent martyrdom. The film's original version, thought to have been lost to fire, was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981. maria Falconetti turns in a haunting performance as the young French saint.
1971 - R - 88 minutes D: George Lucas
In a dystopian future that mandates drug use and outlaws sex, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) rebel against the status quo. But when LUH winds up pregnant and THX is jailed, only a fellow prisoner (Donald Pleasence) can help THX escape. George Lucas based this futuristic love story -- his first feature film -- on an award-winning short he licensed while he was still in college. For me, this film rings of cool 70s sci-fi like "Silent Running," "Logan's Run," or "Soylent Green."
2002 - PG-13 - 91 minutes D: Stacy Peralta
Legendary skateboarder Stacy Peralta directed this fast-paced, award-winning documentary that focuses on the Z-Boys of Venice Beach, California, who revolutionized skateboarding in the 1970s when they infused surfing techniques into the sport. Credited with founding skating culture as we know it, these young, innovative guys became legends in the field, and the depth of their influence is still felt in a variety of sports - and society - today.
2003 - NR - 1 season
D: Mike Nichols
Tony Kushner's groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play about love, loss and loneliness -- the basis for this six hour HBO mini-series -- took more than 10 years to make it to the small screen. Starring Al Pacino (as real-life legal counsel Roy Cohn) and Meryl Streep, the drama examines the first few years of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s, set against the moral absolutism and unresponsive backdrop of the Reagan Administration.