Working on my best 100 movies on Netflix

Working on my best 100 movies on Netflix

With the time it takes to write posts, my ambitions to post a top 100 list on movies on Netflix, and review some of the titles, would be difficult in the WordPress format. This is due to the fact by the time I post and write something, it may no longer be on Netflix instant. This happened when I thought about doing it at the end of last month. Sure enough, one of my top 10 choices, Some Like It Hot, left at the end of April.

I will get to this project, but in the meantime, I’ve made a quick list at Listal of the top movies currently on Netflix. I haven’t had time to order them, or actually narrow it down to 100 (it’s at 102). But it’s far quicker to edit this list than to post and re-post the list here. Listal is a fun site, you should check it out.

Coincidentally, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) probably would be my #1 choice at this time. I look forward to the day when I have nothing but free time to go back and watch all these movies to compare and confirm my rankings. But until then, it’s still fun to make lists. Please post a comment if you feel there are titles I’m overlooking, or ones that I’ve overrated and should reevaluate.

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Review of Room 237: Random People Driven Mad by Kubrick’s “The Shining”

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From the people who brought you the homeless guy on the corner rambling on about how the contrails of planes are a government conspiracy, comes Room 237, a “documentary” about the hidden meanings that lurk beneath the surface of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Various theories about the meaning of the film are discussed by anonymous people as we look at various scenes from Kubrick’s underrated and misunderstood horror film. Unfortunately I think this documentary will mean the film will be more misunderstood, but there are some interesting discussions from those participants who have not suffered some sort of brain damage from years of drug abuse (roughly half).

 

Whether or not you like this film will probably depend on whether or not you agree with the statement made by one of the anonymous film “critics” towards the end of the film:

 

“One can always argue that Kubrick only had some, or none of these (theories proposed in Room 237) in mind, but we all know that from post-modern film criticism that author intent is only part of the story of any work of art, and those meanings are there regardless of whether the creator of the work was conscious of them.”

 

We don’t all know that, in my opinion. The first problem with this statement is that it comes after about eight different mutually exclusive theories about the film’s true meaning are presented. They can’t all be right, or equally valid. Secondly, this statement seems to say that stretching to find meaning and clues in scenes says as much as what the film is about as the script does. Certainly in a Kubrick film there are subtexts and careful attention to detail, but Kubrick chose to make a film about a man losing his grip on reality. That’s what the film is about, you don’t have to create a new story as if the film is a painting that leaves itself open to interpretation.

 

To play the devil’s advocate with this theory, if you say any film is a work of art (which is a stretch but you could make that argument, because with this theory anything you say is valid), then I could say McG is an artist and Charlie’s Angels is a work of art. Rather than being a story about ditzy girl detectives, I could say that McG is commenting on the historic struggle of women to earn the right to vote. But we all know that McG is an idiot who made the only mediocre/bad Terminator movie. Saying that such a meaning is there regardless of whether McG was conscious of it is ridiculous, and not in any way true just because someone says it is.

 

Now I know this might burst some bubbles here, especially for those who believe everything they read on the internet. But if you can listen to the theories without getting angry, it’s actually a fun film to watch. If they don’t make you angry, some of the observations these people make will make you laugh. But they will also point out details the casual viewer might miss. One guy sees phallic symbols everywhere (although this may have been Kubrick’s idea of a joke). In the midst of some overbaked theories about latent homosexuality, the same guy points out that Jack is reading a Playgirl in the lobby, something I would have never caught. So while you may not buy their theories, most every person will point out something that you may have overlooked before.

But of course, noticing these details is one thing. Claiming they are hidden clues is another. It’s all good to point out that the Indian imagery and a German typewriter in the lobby; building upon that to say the film is really about genocide might be too much (outside evidence points to Kubrick reading about both the Holocaust and American Indians during the making of The Shining, so I was at least convinced it informed some of his choices as to what props to use in the film). Other details noticed are just silly (such as someone superimposing the film playing backwards on top of the film playing forward and commenting on how the images line up), or seem to excuse continuity errors. But I enjoyed hearing their theories as to why these were intentional and not mistakes.

 

The centerpiece of the film is straight conspiracy theory. One guy claims that The Shining was really about Kubrick’s role in faking the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the relationship between Jack and his wife mirrors Kubrick telling his wife and how it affected their relationship. Even amidst this lunacy, there is a detail that lends just the slightest amount of credence to this interpretation (as is the case with any good conspiracy theory). Just look at this kid’s sweater, for god’s sake:

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As crazy as this theory might be, I mean, c’mon! What is up with that sweater? If it was a mass produced t-shirt, I would think nothing of it. But this looks like Kubrick’s grandma knitted it herself, so there had to be a reason that it was an Apollo 11 sweater and not a Starsky and Hutch shirt or something. I have my own theory on this, but I was unable to find evidence for this on the internet. Again I think Kubrick was “taking the piss” out of conspiracy theorists, yanking their chain a bit. But in order for me to be correct, the conspiracy theory would have had to have to been out there before The Shining came out. I was not able to find out the origin of these rumors, or when they started. If someone knows, let me know. It seems like they might have originated with this movie, but I’m not sure.

 

Every theory presented in the film is entertaining, but the best discussions revolve around the use of space in the film. The rides the kid takes on his big wheel go from showing us the lay of the land (of the hotel) the first time through,  to taking a sharp turn into the physically impossible during the last ride. These rides mirror the mental state of Jack, and there are details that Kubrick surely meant to be part of the film. The passion of the anonymous critics comes through in the maps they construct to show how certain aspects of what we see in the hotel are not possible, and what that might reveal about Jack’s character, and his relationship to his wife and son. There is also an interesting observation made about the rug pattern you see in the movie poster for Room 237. 

 

Although I certainly didn’t buy most of it, Room 237 was for the most part intriguing, definitely entertaining, and at times considerate of Kubrick and his design for this film. Would I watch this again? Probably not, but it did make me want to watch The Shining again to come up with my own wacky theories.

 

My IMDB rating: 7 out of 10

 

My Netflix rating: 3 out of 5

 

Review of Dirty Girl (2010)- Leaving the state of Netflix May 9

I’m trying something new with this review. I’m linking it to the trailer, because why explain a movie’s plot when a trailer (like a lot of trailers these days) tells you everything you need to know about the movie?

Dirty Girl (2010) stars the likable Juno Temple in the title role, and “introduces” Jeremy Dozier as the “dirty” girl’s gay friend/road trip companion ((I hate when movies use the term “introducing”; it implies that there is some high level of acting skill that demands we know that this is their first role in a major film. It is rarely warranted, and definitely is not necessary for this actor or this role). It’s directed and written by Abe Sylvia, who has not really directed or written much of anything else (directed one episode of Nurse Jackie and written several more episodes of that series). I’m getting really tired of watching movies that are mediocre at best and discovering that they’re directed by a first-timer. It’s like going to a baseball stadium hoping to see the Yankees and ending up seeing the Toledo Mudhens. But anyhow, like the previously reviewed Stand Up Guys, it left me wondering how this first timer could pull in established actors such as William H Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, and Milla Jovovich in supporting roles.

The first half of the trailer basically nicely summarizes the first 30 minutes of the film, with the added benefit of providing the viewer of the trailer the same emotional involvement in its characters in a minute and 20 seconds as watching the film. So according to my math, you can save yourself 28 minutes of your life by watching the first half of the trailer instead of the first 30 minutes of the movie. As far as the remaining hour of the film, the trailer basically gives you a good idea of what happens in the end, but doesn’t give away too much. Perhaps that is due to the setup being more promising than what the film can deliver.

Dirty Girl does have its share of supporters here on the Interwebs. I would suspect most of those people don’t really consider themselves critics, and also give into the charm and faux sentimentality of the film. Reading reviews and message boards, however, there are people who attempt to defend the film’s mistakes and/or give the director too much credit. Like the soon to be reviewed Room 237, you shouldn’t read more into the film than is there, especially in the case of Dirty Girl, which was not directed by a Kubrick level talent. The first critique of the critics (this film has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes) is that they didn’t understand why it was called Dirty Girl. Supporters say the title is ironic, that she’s not really a dirty girl at heart. Reading some reviews on RT, there are some critics who don’t get that. But besides a brief introduction at the beginning, where Temple is having sex in a car in the school parking lot, and she asks the teacher an inappropriate question during an abstinence talk (wow, what an original way to show that these townspeople are so repressed!), we don’t really get the feeling that she’s much of the dirty girl that the film wants her to be. There’s literally 3 minutes of the “Dirty Girl” before that concept is almost completely abandoned by the film. Her supposed reputation has little to do with the film besides provide her a way to meet her gay outcast friend and road trip companion.

The other big topic of discussion surrounding this film concerns the setting and anachronisms involving the hairstyles, music and clothing in the film. The film clearly states that it takes place in 1987, starting in Norman, Oklahoma. Yet the Farrah Fawcett style hairdos and fashion on display scream late 70s. One person on IMDB argued that this was a deliberate choice by the director, as a way to indicate that the people’s attitudes and beliefs were old fashioned and out of date. Puh-lease. If that were true, why are the heroes of the film, Danielle (Temple) and Clarke (Dozier) similarly dressed? (And why do they listen to schmaltzy ’80’s pop instead of something edgy for 1987?) Since they are not backwards in their thinking, they should not be backwards in their fashion, but they are. You could argue that fashion takes longer to get to certain parts of the country (I had a laugh in Ohio in 2001 watching the news reporting on this “new” trend of “sagging” jeans- apparently Ohio had slept through the ’90’s), but not that long. Especially since Norman is a college town. Nope, it’s just pure laziness on the director’s part.

The wardrobe choices for the film point toward the larger problem with the film- despite the cast being up to the task of making this mediocrity watchable, everything feels false, slightly off, and borrowed from other movies. A third character, a male stripper they pick up on the road, seems to come from another movie. He’s in it for maybe ten minutes, but you think he’s going to be someone of importance. I guess he was just there to help with Clarke’s sexual awakening, because I’m sure the director saw something like that in other movie somewhere, and figure he needed that in his film. The stripper character is less than one dimensional. Being a road trip, of course at one point they run out of money, and Danielle starts to strip for money at a bar. But only after she starts does Clarke realize it’s a gay bar, and HE strips for money! Boring! So unimaginative. It’s labeled as a comedy and drama on IMDB, but the only time I laughed was at a throwaway line about going to the beach when they get to Fresno. Her search for her father ends predictably and quickly. The one point where I thought there might have been something different and interesting about the film is when Danielle’s mother is repressed by Mormonism rather than some non-descript fundamentalist Christian religion or Catholicism. But that angle is not explored beyond some lame jokes.

You have a few days if you want to watch this anyways if it still sounds good to you.

My Netflix rating: 2 out of 5

My IMDB rating: 5 out of 10

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Quick Review of Lockout (2012)- It’s Getting Locked Out from Netflix May 7

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Lockout (2012) leaves Netflix May 7, so you don’t have much time to watch it. Since you don’t have much time, I won’t spend so much time on this review. If you decide to watch it, you basically have about 24 hours to do so.

Starring Guy Pearce, he of regal desert adventures, tattoos of memories, and brief cameos as the guy who gets blown up in Oscar winning movies, and Maggie Grace, she of the one death of a major character on Lost that you really didn’t care about, and the 25 year old masquerading as Liam Neeson’s 18 year old daughter in Taken, this film instantly reminded me of another film that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It took all of ten minutes to figure it out though. This is basically the same premise as Escape from New York, without the skill of John Carpenter at the helm, or the charisma of Kurt Russell as Snake Pliskin in the lead.

Instead of Snake, we have Pearce as “Snow.” Instead of the inescapable island of Manhattan serving as the penal colony, you have the inescapable space station where prisoners are kept in “stasis” or deep sleep. Instead of the president’s plane being shot down over Manhattan and the president being the captive by the Manhattan prisoners, Maggie Grace plays the president’s daughter being held hostage by the prisoners when they escape their hatches. Instead of an experienced Carpenter at the helm, we have a director duo with no experience with a major film.

Although it wasn’t in anyway all that bad, it will not hold a place in my long term memory like Escape from New York did for my 8 year old self when I first saw that movie. I do recognize that if I had first seen Escape as a 39 year old, it probably wouldn’t have made the same impression on me or hold the same place in my heart. But on the same hand I really can’t imagine the movie or Pearce in the lead role having the same impact on an 8 year old today.

It is an adequately done film, which I know doesn’t sound like high praise, but if you’re just looking to pass time, without having to think too much, this will do the job without offending your inner film critic. The only thing that I thought was really a bad idea was making one of the prisoners who was given A LOT of dialogue have a thick Scottish accent. It gave me flashbacks of when I was first trying to understand Trainspotting.

My Netflix rating: 3 out of 5

My IMDB rating: 6 out of 10

Also, I am going to create a Youtube channel for the trailers of all the movies I review on Netflix, plus any trailers for Netflix exclusive content. You can find that Youtube channel here.