Halloween is just around the corner so I decided to torture myself with doing a little listicling for all you wannabe scared-to-go-to-sleepers out there. And Sweet Satan was this process painstaking! Like poking flaming needles in my eyes while my ankles were hobbled by a split ax. Or something like that. I flipped, back-flipped, see-sawed, hemmed and hawed.. etc. As a horror movie aficionado, whittling an entire decade of my favorite genre down to a mere two-hands-worth of selections was Sophie’s Choice after Sophie’s Choice. With no Meryl Streep to help! Which is probably why the last time I did this, I ended up with 13 entries. And though some of these may seem like obvious entries or redundancies that you’ve seen before, I really haven’t seen anyone nail the best of the decade, so this is me putting my feet to the fire and throwing the cards out there. Read More
Obviously Netflix is choke full of classics like Pulp Fiction, comedy gold like Zoolander and my favorite movie of all time Apocolypse Now. Also Once Upon a Time in The West, The Avengers, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Y Tu Mama También, Bottle Rocket, Midnight Cowboy, Being John Malkovich, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Braveheart, Memento, Punch Drunk Love. But we’re not here to talk movies that you’ve already seen or know. However if you’ve missed any of them, I implore you to get on the saddle and get to queuing because none of those films are to be missed.
But for every movie that you know you should have seen, there are two that you’ve never even heard of. This list covers those diamonds in the rough scattered throughout Netflix Instant. So do yourself a favor, grab a bag of popcorn and settle in for some hidden gems of the film world.
An absolute knockout, Bellflower opens like a cheaply made indie romcom and evolves into one of the darkest looks at a relationship ever to grace the silver screen. Beyond the absolutely devastating third act, Bellflower amazes with its paltry budget and DIY filmmaking approach. Made for a figure shy of $17,000, Bellflower squeezes more bang for its buck than any other movie I can think of. If you’ve got a strong stomach and want to experience a film that will rip your heart out, throw it on the floor and set it on fire with a flamethrower, be sure to pop on Bellflower immediately. But don’t be deceived by the first flowery half-hour or so, once you peel back the shades, Bellflower is one of the most grim and bluntly devastating films ever made.
HUSTLE AND FLOW
Everyone seems to know that this movie scored an Oscar for Three6 Mafia but much fewer have seen the actual movie. If you had, you’d understand exactly why that Oscar was earned. And you would helplessly start chanting, “Whoop that trick (get ’em)” in your head. A powerhouse film that showcased a host of America’s “underbelly”, Hustle and Flow made us care about a pimp and his hoes. Like Terrence Howard‘s Djay we awaited the American Dream and were just as crushed and uplifted by his uphill journey to a mystical pot of gold.
Darren Aronofsky‘s first film is also his least seen, but there’s no good reason for it. Filmed entirely in black-and-white (not for artistic purposes but for budgetary reasons), Pi follows a troubled mathematician coming to head with his own fleeting sanity. Lean in scope but full of challenging intellectual hurdles, Pi set the table for Aronofsky’s career tailor made of mental deterioration and bleak cinematic landscapes. Pretty much everyone has seen Black Swan by now (or at least the beloved Portman on Kunis scene) but most have overlooked this early gem in the true auteur’s career. If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to delve in. Just make sure you don’t have any power tools on hand.
Nothing cinches a movie like a great ending and Bullhead is perfect evidence of that fact – it’s filmmaking 101 on how to stick your ending. It may be Belgian and may not feature any actors you’re familiar with but this story of corruption and crime packs an unforgettable punch that’ll linger long after it’s rock hard finale. Chartering the nature of violence and the inescapable shadow of childhood, Bullhead explores the dire notion that we do not control our destiny. Instead, it is irrevocably pieced together from our experiences – the tide of nurture overtaking nature. Though it is often hard to watch, it is eerily sincere in its frankness and surprisingly affecting.
A criminally underseen tale of two estranged brothers who meet in the Ultimate Fighter arena, Warrior only pulled $13 million on a $25 million budget, making it all but a financial failure for distributor Lionsgate. But for however unsuccessful Warrior was monetarily, it garnished near universal praise from critics and for good reason. With showstopping performances from stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte, Warrior continued the streak of movies centered on men in the ring striking gold (for further evidence of this fact look to The Wrestler and The Fighter). However borrowed some of the story elements may have been, Gavin O’Connor‘s film does them the right way, proving the continuing power of the sports epic.
When I reviewed Blue Valentine in 2010 to the tune of an A, I called it a “taxing but worthwhile study of the ups-and-downs of a rocky relationship.” Having seen it a number of times now, I can stand by that statement wholeheartedly. One of the most powerful and intimate looks at a relationship I can remember seeing on the screen, Blue Valentine unleashes the acting prowess of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as they tear up each and every scene. Falling in and out of love with each other on a dime, their relationship is a train wreck that we can’t help but stare at. But don’t think of this as a “date movie”, the hard-hitting conclusion probably won’t leave anyone into lovey dovey mode.
A frothy French rom-com that’s sure to delight even the surliest of humbuggers, Popularie turns typewriting into sport and transcriptions into an allegory for women’s rights. Starring a bunch of people from France that you’ve never heard of, Populaire is insta-artistry and you’ll be that much more likeable for having seen it. Next time you’re at a dinner party and are trying to impress a lady fella, mention that you saw and loved Populaire. Mission accomplished. Netflix has a great tendency to scoop up little independent gems like these barely after they’ve hit theaters and Populaire is a great example of this media giant helping out the little guy and bringing something that otherwise wouldn’t reach a huge audience to the legion of at home viewers. Now do yourself a favor and pop it on your list.
A jet black comedy that gently reminds you to love Colin Farrell, In Bruge has heart, wit and tension in spades. Following the exploits of two bumbling hit men hiding out in a quiet Belgian village, Farrell and co-star Brendan Gleeson are certainly an onscreen odd couple but their pitch perfect chemistry works wonders. Whether they’re bickering or sharing heartfelt moments of manlove, this mismatched duo speaks to the broken dreams in all of us. From unforgettable one-liners (“You’re just the rudest man, the rudest man”) to the shockingly gruesome showdowns – all of this plus a dour midget whacked out on hallucinatories – In Bruges is full of unexpected surprises. Director Martin McDonagh went on to make Seven Psychopaths but it failed to reach the crazy highs of In Bruge.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Forgive me if you’ve already seen Cabin in the Woods but considering how new it is, I felt it demanded an inclusion on this list. If you have seen it, you most likely already love it though so won’t mind seeing it recommended to others. As a send up to the genre, Cabin in the Woods is a witty deconstruction of horror tropes, lambasted through the lens of comedy. While the first half of the film tries to convince you that it’s just the same old cabin in the woods story you’ve seen a million times before, the last bombastic act flips the genre on its head, offering heady satire in spades. Joss Whedon of The Avengers co-wrote the script with director Drew Goddard and by the end of the writing process liked it so much that he wanted to direct it himself. Even though Whedon got shut down, Goddard managed to handle the material with wily perfection. Cabin in the Woods reminds us of all the reasons why we love and hate horror, doubling as a love letter and a reminder to shake things up every once in a while. Top all that off with a merman with a blood blowhole and you have yourself a truly delightful experience.
Before Looper, director Rian Johnson debuted to the film world with a hard-boiled high school noir the likes of no other. Before becoming a household name, Joseph Gordon-Levitt rocked shaggy hair and spectacles as he saunters through a silky script that perpetually tipped its hat to Chinatown. Tactile, greasy, and totally compelling, Brick is imagination gone wild – the unicorn of independent cinema. For every hundred movies made, there is only one like Brick and appreciating its eccentricity is half the fun. Combining elements of 50s noir with a high school setting sounds unnatural but the result is a thing to behold. A film that challenges the intellect and keeps you on your toes to keep up, Brick is something of a stunner. Whether you like your detective yarns fresh squeezed or not, this one’s spilling over with extra pulp.