Each week, dozens of new movies and television shows are made available for free to Netflix subscribers to watch instantly on their PCs as well as select game consoles and DVD players (And, apparently the Iphone.) This column highlights new or noteworthy streaming selections. For a full list of new “watch instantly” selections, check out the Web site instantwatcher.com.
Recommended “Watch Instantly” Additions for the Week of July 11-17, 2010
Jackie Brown, 1997, Director Quentin Tarantino’s follow-up to Pulp Fiction, was highly anticipated at the time of its release. I remember not being too blown away the first time I saw Jackie Brown in the theaters. Maybe the plot was too convoluted (On repeat viewing last night — yes … it is kind of hard to follow.) Maybe it wasn’t as snarky or self-referential as Pulp Fiction. It’s not. I would say it’s more sincere. More likely my problem was that, as a well-meaning but slightly clueless high school kid, I was more into Tarantino the personality and Pulp Fiction the phenomenon than I was cognizant of Tarantino’s abilities as a filmmaker.
Funny thing is, as time went on, it was Jackie Brown that really grew on me while my relationship with Pulp Fiction fizzled. That’s because Jackie Brown is one of those movies that you appreciate more each time you watch it. I love the opening credits, set to the theme to Across 110th Street, bringing to some of the great blaxploitation classics of the 1970s — many of which starred Pam Grier, Jackie Brown, herself. I love Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell — his Kangol caps and that nasty rat tail he has hanging off his chin (Side note: Anybody remember a late 90s SNL sketch that aired when Samuel L. Jackson was host, where he played Ordell on an episode of Judge Judy? I have a vague recollection of it.). I also love (spoiler alert) the scene where Ordell shoots Chris Tucker’s character, Beaumont, dead — a scene that shows there’s a mean motherfucker behind Ordell’s goofy grin and questionable fashion sense. I love the relationship that Tarantino develops between Jackie Brown and Max Cherry, Robert Forster’s bail bondsman. Jackie and Max are two characters who couldn’t be any different from each other in many ways, yet alike in others. I suppose the biggest way that they are similar is in the place they find themselves in life. Both are middle-aged and despondent about their dead-end careers, the pitfalls they’ve encountered in life and the desire to dig themselves out. In that way, there’s a parallel that can be drawn between the actors and the characters they play. Maybe it’s because of this that the connection between Jackie and Max is 100 percent believable. Jackie Brown revived both the careers of both Grier and Forster. Forster was nominated for an Academy Award. I love that the cast of the movie also includes Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro — just an amazing set of actors and actresses.
Sure, Tarantino made quite a number of missteps after Pulp that soured his relationship with the critics. First, there was the anthology film/vanity project Four Rooms with Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell, a movie I love but that most critics consider too quirky for its own good. Perhaps the bigger “oops,” however, was Tarantino’s foray into Broadway theater, not as a director but as an actor — with Wait Until Dark, the revival of a starring opposite Marisa Tomei. Tarantino’s Broadway acting career was short-lived. The headline for the New York Post’s Review sums up the general attitude of the press: “Turn Out The Lights On Wait Until Dark.” With Jackie Brown, however, Tarantino showed he was more than just an overnight sensation that would come and go like so many of the other “hot, young” directors who were his peers (I’m looking at you, Rob Weiss). Jackie Brown showed Tarantino was a real talent that could create real art, not just a collection of catch phrases for 16-year-olds to recite to try and impress their friends. Am I saying that Pulp Fiction is not as good as it’s made out to be? God no. I love Pulp Fiction. That doesn’t mean it’s not over-rated. If that’s the case, that Pulp Fiction is over-rated, Jackie Brown is under-rated. Maybe you’re like me and saw Jackie Brown when it was released and have forgotten about it. Well, now’s a good time to give it a second look. (Add this to my queue!)
8 1/2, (1963), I’m about to ruin any kind of indy cred I might have by admitting I’ve never seen this Frederico Fellini classic. Now I have no excuse — and if you haven’t seen it before, neither do you. Not that I really had an excuse to begin with. I’ve had a VHS copy of 8 1/2 lying around the house for about 3 years now. For some reason though — probably laziness — I’ve never gotten around to watching it. Maybe if Netflix offered 8 1/2 in HD, I’d be more inspired to watch it. From what I know, 8 1/2 about a film maker (apparently based on Fellini himself) who begins reminiscing about his past loves in order to distract himself after running into a creative rut. That’s about all I’ve got to say about that. (Add this to my queue!)
Anatomy of Hell, 2004, French director Catherine Breillat’s film about a woman who picks up a gay man at a bar — played by Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi — and pays him to stay with her and watch her most private activities (If you’re familiar with any of Breillat’s work, you probably have a pretty good idea what kind of activities we’re talking about.) Eventually the relationship between the two begins to develop into something more intimate (sexual). I like Breillat. I thought Fat Girl was pretty good and I’m interested in seeing A Real Young Girl, another of her films that seems to be similar in theme to Fat Girl. I’m perfectly aware that Breillat likes to push boundaries. This movie, however, was just … ick … and not in a good way. It was also pretentious and boring. (Add this to my queue!)
Antichrist, 2009, It’s a Lars Von Trier film, so I’ll say the same thing about him that I usually say about Catherine Breillat. If you’ve seen any of Van Trier’s films before, you probably know what you’re in for. Antichrist concerns a married couple dealing with the grief over the loss of their infant son, who dies in a horrible accident at the start of the film. They go on a retreat to a cabin in the middle of the woods and all hell breaks lose. Antichrist is similar to Anatomy of Hell. It’s just as pretentious, but I would argue not as boring. The sex is just as explicit, but there’s less of it. In its place is some pretty gut-wrenching violence — including a scene involving a pair of scissors and a certain part of the body (and it’s not the part of the body you’re thinking of.) I’m probably in the minority, but I thought this movie was pretty good. It was intense. It was scary — and not much scares me anymore. For that reason, Mr. Von Trier gets my respect. (Add this to my queue!)
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, 2008, Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne made this documentary film as a tribute to his murdered childhood friend, Andrew Bagby. The film documents a battle between Bagby’s parents and his mother of Bagby’s son over custody of the child. Complicating things more is that the mother of Bagby’s son may or may not be Bagby’s murderer. It’s compelling stuff. Then, about 3/4 of the way through the movie, something happens that changes everything. It may be one of the most shocking moments in a film ever. (Add this to my queue!)
Other noteworthy new releases
It Might Get Loud,2008
The Killing, 1956
This Film Is Not Yet Rated, 2006