The great thing about Netflix is that it gives you a lot of TV and movie watching options. The bad thing about Netflix is that it gives you…a lot of TV and movie watching options. To cut down on your Netflix search and discover time, Netfix aims to ease the process of parsing the good from the bad. The great from the not so great. From action films to foreign dramas, we’re raked the catalogs to offer only the finest that the preeminent streaming service has to offer. So settle in, get your remotes ready and prepare for the red wave of Netfix to wash over you.
ZERO MOTIVATION (Talya Lavie, 2014)
A hit in its home country and winner of the Best Narrative Feature at last year’s Tribecca Film Fest, Zero Motivation went on to be seen by virtually no-one in America. The widest U.S. release it saw only had it open in 7 theaters where it barely scraped past the 100,000 dollar mark (pulling up well short of seven figures at $116,044). Considering how unequivocally great the film is, all I can say is: what a shame. An Israeli take on Joseph Conrad‘s seminal novel “Catch 22″, Zero Motivation looks at the hijinks of a female unit inside a Tzahal military base. Directed with zany aplomb by female Israeli director Tayla Lavie, this chaptered saga of woman in uniform vs. ennui is characterized by a soaring sense of voice and sees stars Dana Ivgy and Nelly Tagar face down the clock as they Minesweep their way through their deafeningly dull military assignment – paperwork. A dark comedy with as many barbs as points, Zero Motivation is a delightful and original vision, percolating with purpose and full of laughs.
FAULTS (Riley Stearns, 2014)
Faults is the one entry on this list that netted essentially nothing in the theater (its post-festival VOD release didn’t assist here) and it’s a crying shame that audiences missed out on this gnawing black hole of ego in filmic form. Faults tells the story of a disgraced cult specialist (played perfectly by character actor Leland Orser) who in his heyday hosted a small-time television show and now squabbles with impatient waiters over the cost of a cup of coffee. Approached by two desperate parents who will try just about anything to rid their daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is especially great here) of her associations with a cult called Faults, Orser’s Ansel Roth begins to question his methods, his motives and his succumbing madness. It’s a rabbit hole as deep as it is thought-provoking and done up with two pitch-perfect performances, Faults proves ready to captivate at every turn in the road. Now if only people would watch it…
THE ONE I LOVE (2014)
Another film with a depressing shallow total domestic gross ($513,447; the highest grosser of all on this list), The One I Love featured indie star power in Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss at the height of their respective careers but still went on to be largely shuffled to the sidelines. Like stepping into a long-form Twilight Zone episode, a journey into The One I Love questions whether we would trade out our loved ones for their more idyllic versions. Duplass and Moss occupy the entirety of the film (with a brief appearance from Ted Danson) with palpable magnetism, fleshing out two sides of the same coin that is a human being: the bumbing and the suave; the bitchy and the demure. The mechanisms are left intentionally vague so that our focus is left on the characters, and not the how or the why of it all. This thrifty little indie film might not fit easily into a box, but that’s what makes it all the more special. For those seeking mystery, intrigue and a good tall glass of WTF, The One I Love is a one stop shop and one that should make a cult comeback.
GIRLHOOD (Céline Sciamma, 2015)
Girlhood digs deep both in terms of its cultural breadth and emotional truth. Its domestic payout, on the other hand, was amongst the lowest on this list, pulling in only $60,765 to date across U.S. theaters. Céline Sciamm‘s portrait of the hard knocks in the dead-end district of Parisian projects breathes life into corners that don’t often get their moment in the spotlight and for it is both illuminating and heartbreaking. Girlhood follows Marieme’s 16th year of life as she contents with low grades at school, an abusive brother, a troop of new, older, “badder” friends and, ultimately, the alluring prospect of taking the easy route out. Sciamma’s tale is rousing and pure – accented by her fine-tuned ear for musical numbers (including a near-breathtaking sequence to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”) – and most certainly one that was undeservedly ignored by far too many patrons. Do yourself a favor and discover this diamond in the rough… before it’s forgotten forever.
THE DOUBLE (Richard Ayoade, 2014)
If Terry Gilliam had made Fight Club, it probably would have looked a lot like Richard Ayoade‘s The Double. Set in a steampunk dystopian tomorrowland, Jesse Eisenberg lays down august double duty, first as Simon James, a meek, nay spineless, employee in a dungy, Orwellian basement cubicle maze. When James Simon, his carbon copy in the looks department but his exact social opposite – James is an exceedingly debonair social-climber – moves in, Simon’s small world is irrevocably jolted. Grubby set design and hallucinatory foley work, set against the motif of closing doors and characteristic-less cultural nowhere, aid Ayoade’s prevailing sense of cautious pessimism in this thrilling, darkly comedic romp. Ayoade’s last endeavor, Submarine, won a small cult following but The Double found trouble producing the same spark. Its domestic cull ($200,406) was less than half of Ayoade’s prior flick, even with the double starring power of Eisenberg. Help bring it out of the shadows ASAP.
THE GUEST (Adam Wingard, 2014)
I’d be lying if I said that my affection for The Guest is not somewhat accented by the fact that I have a poster of it featuring my original Sundance review [which can be found here] sitting above my desk. It serves as daily inspiration: write well enough to get the studio to print a poster of said writing. Self-aggrandizing aside, I couldn’t be happier to put my stamp of approval on any criminally under-seen movie last year. The Guest is not only rich in mood, tension and back-breaking thrills, it’s a sharp-tongued throwback by way of casserole. It rolls a bevy of wonderfully divergent ingredients – thriller, slasher, horror, super-spy – into one deliciously tasty entree of death and destruction. Sparked by a slew of killer performances (Dan Stevens is monstrously good here) and set to Steve Moore’s offensively awesome soundtrack, The Guest is a movie party in rare perfect form and one you’ll want to invite back over and over again. Regardless of its excellence, The Guest couldn’t even manage half a million dollars at the domestic box office as its final numbers tallied up to a somewhat disheartening $332,890.