Well, I’ve already warned you about 24. I wanted my next post to be either a review (finally) of The Act of Killing, or I was going to give my list of the top 50 or 100 movies available on Netflix. As far as the latter option goes, after searching around on the Interwebs, that list is getting a lot shorter come April 1st, when Netflix goes through its monthly purge of streaming titles, some which are quite good. I’ll highlight a few that might have made my top 100 list, plus other noteworthy titles. I’ll list whatever others I know about at the end of the post.
Tragedy has already fallen upon us, however. The great Gerard Butler’s immortal performance in Machine Gun Preacher is lost forever to the streaming universe, as soon will be the comedy classic A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (I hope your sarcasm detectors are working).
Pi (1998) is still Darren Aronofsky’s best work. (I liked Requiem for a Dream a lot, but thinking about it now, I can only remember its lack of subtlety: the sight of Jared Leto’s heroin junkie sticking a needle in an infected track mark, or the double-sided dildo shot of Jennifer Connelly’s rock-bottom heroin junkie). Pi looks low budget, but it works for this film in which ideas are the special effects. It’s like a feverish dream, and in its own way a horror film. While it’s very cerebral, it’s not as hard to follow as your Algebra class was.
Sunset Boulevard (1950) has always been a film that I felt was overrated. I adore Billy Wilder, but I’m sure that Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, Witness for the Prosecution and The Apartment would rank far above this movie in my top 100 list. Sunset Boulevard is regarded by many as Wilder’s best. It’s hard to argue against the film, but it’s been so often imitated that it’s hard for me to enjoy it as much as his others. But had Netflix allowed me more time, I was going to give this every chance to make the list, as I haven’t seen it in about 15 years.
The African Queen is the only other John Huston film on streaming. It’s the obvious choice for a top 100 film, because hey, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the same film! But to me it’s not a great film, and may not even be in my top 10 John Huston films. The Dead (1987) is the other John Huston film. It was his last film, and it’s based on my favorite short story, which was written of course by James Joyce. So the source material is great, but if you know the story, it doesn’t seem enough to make a feature film. Making a great short story into a bad film is easy to do (see The Box, based on Richard Matheson’s excellent “Button, Button”). But Huston drew on his 40 years of experience to create a film that stayed true to the heart of Joyce’s tale, while expanding the universe Joyce created (much like Spike Jonze did with Where the Wild Things Are). The African Queen is not leaving the service, so be sure to check out The Dead while it still lives.
Peter Weir is another director that is woefully underrepresented on Netflix streaming. The Truman Show (1998) really deserved an ad campaign that didn’t give away what would have been a really great surprise. I hope that there are some younger viewers out there who will give this a try before it leaves Netflix, and can experience the film without knowing what to expect prior to watching it. It still is an enjoyable film in any case.
OTHER FILMS OF NOTE
From Alejandro González Iñárritu the master of interweaving storylines that come together somehow in the end to floor the viewer comes the most depressing Sean Penn movie ever (which is saying a lot), 21 Grams (2003).
I was going to review Play it Again, Sam (1972) as part of a Woody Allen post, which would have also featured Woody Allen: A Documentary, Manhattan, and Antz. But then Woody became the focus of distasteful accusations, and I questioned the timing of such a post. I did get to watch this film however. Woody Allen’s film can be broken down into 3 categories: a handful of his films are classics or near classics; the large majority of his films are mediocre and frankly forgettable (most of his work in the last 20 years); and then slightly more than a handful are just awful. Play It Again, Sam fits into category 2, but it is actually only written by Allen. It was directed by Herbert Ross, of Steel Magnolias fame. The script follows the usual Allen arc- Allen plays a neurotic divorcee who is friends with a married couple. Will he fall in love and have an affair (of sorts) with the wife (played by Diane Keaton)? Of course he will. Humphrey Bogart appears either as an apparition, a ghost, or a figment of Allen’s imagination at odd times, and it is the only aspect of this film that is distinctive from other Allen films. Well, there is the unfunny rape jokes that really seem dated, but besides that, you will remember Bogart as this film’s defining characteristic. Unfortunately, Bogart appears at random and not too frequently, seeming more like an afterthought than a driving force for the film. The Bogart-Casablanca tie-in does provide the film with a nice ending however.
My IMDB rating: 6 out of 10 My Netflix Rating: 3 out of 5
The Hunt for Red October (1990) unleashed a torrent of Clancy films for the next decade. Most of these were quite good for what they were, and a far better experience than trudging through the tedium of a Clancy novel. Alec Baldwin looks really young in this film. John McTiernan also directed other classic 80’s films, such as Die Hard and Predator.
Kicking and Screaming (1995) would be easy to overlook. I did. It is a Noah Baumbach movie, who directed some excellent films. Seeing how this one predates his breakout film The Squid and the Whale by ten years, I wouldn’t count on this being a sure thing for Baumbach fans.
Old Boy (2003) is sure to make Maury Povich viewers go “Damn! No he d’i’n’t!” Actually, it made me say that, so what does that say about me. Love it or hate it, you’ll probably say “Damnnnnnn!” yourself at the end.
Other films going bye-bye:
American Gigolo (1980)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Baby Boom (1987)
Blue Hawaii (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Dark Blue (2003)
Dead Again (1991)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Farewell to the King (1989)
The Good Thief (2003)
The Impostors (1998)
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)
Mommie Dearest (1981)
My Tutor (1983)
Racing with the Moon (1984)
Rare Exports (2010)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Staying Alive (1983)
The Thing Called Love (1993)
Who’s Minding the Store (1963)
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)