Friday, June 11, 2010

Best Netflix rentals of my last few years, part the first.

A few years back I did a post about interesting things I'd gotten from Netflix. It is just about the only thing anyone Googles across my blog for, so here's an update on my last few years of viewing.

In 2008 I was busy falling in love, so I spent less time in front of the TV, but I did see:

Stalker: A gloomy Russian Christian arthouse darling's bleak science fiction view of the present in future drag. The imagery of industrial wreckage is Ballardian, beautiful. The bald guy goes on a rant at the end which is a thing to behold. Slow and cheerless, it's like a bad dream. Watch it instead of actually having bad dreams.

Suspiria: Revolutionary Girl Utena as a live action slasher flick, only that makes it sound awful. A stylish and berserk vision of what a horror movie can be in a stylist's hands. And by stylist, I mean hairstylist. Or maybe shop window arranger for Macy's. Essential.

The Last Temptation of Christ: clever but a bit dull. Mixing up honkeys with non-period accents and genuine middle easterners in authentic locales is a gamble that didn't work for me, but I was in tears by the end, because the film isn't playing; it really wants to glorify Jesus in a way that makes sense for Scorsese. The protesters fixated on the honeymoon fantasy when they should have been focusing on Harry Dean Stanton's breathtakingly blasphemous turn as Paul of Tarsus.

Eraserhead: Like a bad dream after watching too many 80's sitcoms. Takes me to an unsettled spot as advertised.

Gummo: Overrated yet not without merit, this is a bit like watching a slew of homemade Youtube videos back to back, with all the trash and treasure that implies. Both the fanatical fans and the fanatical detractors look a bit drama-queenish by now.

The Saddest Music in the World: all I remember now is the style. It felt a bit like my ideal Grim Fandango film adaptation, if that clarifies anything (no.)

Galaxy High School: an 80s saturday morning cartoon that starts with a male and female protaganist going to school in space, with gloriously toony aliens. The girl gets lost in the shuffle because in the 80s everyone in the cartoon biz knew girls were icky. Ignore the dreadful plots and enjoy the colorful background aliens and spaceships and such. Or don't.

Eyes Without a Face: One of many animal-testing-reframed-as-human-testing horror movies. Austere, chilly. A doctor commits atrocities to give his injured daughter a rather less grotesque face, and while she'd really rather he didn't, defying the fat old patriarch ain't exactly her strong suit. She manages in the end though, boy howdy.

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. My kind of comfort food. Animation with a jolly Brit sensibility, like Wodehouse joining forces with Rankin-Bass.

Inferno: a companion piece to Suspiria, less coherent (if that's possible) but with bits of delightful creepiness. A little too glamtastic near the end, but enough like my nightmares to get a thumbs up.

Black Narcissus: This drama about Nuns in the Himalayas starts slow and is marred by colonialist racism, but has such enchanting acting, costumes and photography that we stuck with it. Besides the brilliant camerawork the highlight is the MAD NUN. We gasped repeatedly during the last twenty minutes of this overripe MAD NUN fever dream. If you like MAD NUNS this is the flick for you.

The Big Combo: a noir that looks like it was made for a hundred bucks but still looks way better than any self-conscious attempt at noir revival ever. The villain does some terrific villainous speechifying.

One, Two, Three. Jimmy Cagney and Billy Wilder deliver a tour de force of corny old-fashioned cold war spoofery. If you thought The Seven Year Itch was a hoot you should see this; if not, then not.

The Rules of the Game: I'm scared to say anything about this except that it bored me stiff in college but enthralled me in 2008. I was doing my first for-real professional acting job (also my last) and trying to rediscover a naturalistic yet dazzlingly skilled approach to acting. This helped.

And that was about it for 2008. My wife also introduced me to a few TV series, to whit:

Big Love: Bill standing in the kitchen, arguing with his wives: yay! Trying to be 24: boo!

The Wire: I came in midway through the last season and instantly knew I had to watch the whole thing from the start.

Heroes: reminded me of reading old issues of X-Men, which is a bit like eating Cheetos.

The L Word: The transition from single to married can be best explained by my married reaction to this show: "When are all these hot women going to stop taking their clothes off and making out? Boring."

Battlestar Galactica: I came in near the end and was totally confused. Pretty spaceships but I was more of a Roger Dean fan than a Chris Foss fan. If you know what I'm talking about you have misspent your life.