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cinematic relics of the ’90s

It’s been a while, but I have returned. (I think that’s what bloggers always say when they come back from hiatus and want to reclaim their place in the blogosphere- just following suit).

Despite Netflix’s policy change that only allows one viewer to instantly watch a flick at a time, my Netflix devotion has not wavered. (I’ll admit that I have been, one by one, guilting all the 11 people that use my account to spend their own $10.89/month on this wonder of the internet).  At the moment, I’ve decided to step back from my voyeuristic yet educational documentary kick and grace you all with a list that most likely (unless you are one of my supportive middle-aged family members who reads this blog) will bring you back to your formative years: the ’90s.

Here are 10 movies from a decade not too far gone that you’ve probably seen and want to see again, or haven’t seen and should, according to me. I hope you trust my judgement.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Who would have thought that Mr. Hopkins, cannibalism and Jodie Foster who would be such a great combo? Don’t watch this one if creepy movies or “Faustian relationships” (got that from the Netflix blurb- had to look it up on Wikipedia) don’t get your goat. Otherwise you’re missing out on a classic.

The Big Lebowski (1998): Jeff Bridges, White Russians and Bowling, oh my!

Being John Malkovich (1999): John Cusack  and Cameron Diaz bring you on an overpriced tour of an actor’s mind through a filing cabinet portal. Totes surreal with a sort of depressing undercurrent, therefore not for everyone. As for me, I say that as far as Spike Jonze’s directing goes, this wins over Jackass: Number Two.

Clerks (1994): I shamefully admit that I’ve never seen this, but it appears everyone else has, and I soon shall.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Oh, just give it a shot, will ya? When else do you have an opportunity to witness Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise swept up into the whirlwind an “upper-crust orgy”? And considering I abhor Tom Cruise, it’s saying something that I put this one on my list.

Pulp Fiction (1994): Duh. Now for a fun fact: rumor has it that John Travolta requires a clause in all his movie contracts where he dances.

Like Water for Chocolate (1992): Based on one of my favorite books (gracias, Laura Esquivel!), the sexy Mexican magical realism here is definitely worth having to read subtitles, for all of you subtitle-complainers (you know who you are).

Barton Fink (1991): Another one I haven’t seen, and maybe you haven’t either, but apparently we’re supposed to, NOT in The English Patient kind of way. It’s a Joel Coen movie, which should be enough to sell you on it.

Groundhog Day (1993): Another duh.

Resevoir Dogs: Tarantino’s debut film. ‘Nuff said.

So, those are the 10 films from the pre-Y2k years that I’m most impressed with on Netflix Instant. Do you have any to add to the list?

Also if you’re looking for some guilty pleasures, you can check out My Best Friend’s Wedding, Jerry Maguire AND Apollo 13, however I respectfully request that you don’t mention to anyone that you got those recommendations from me.

Be back soon, hopefully with a review of Dogtooth!

and the winner is…

In the spirit of Academy Awards season, in conjunction with my own personal goal to see every movie nominated this year before February 27- Oscars night- (excluding Harry Potter, simply because I’m not one of those.  Nor do I plan to watch anything animated OR the Best Makeup nominees, just because I don’t want to spend my precious hours sucked into a SNOOZEFEST. I already watched a pirated copy of The Kids Are All Right on my laptop on the Chinatown bus on the way back to NC, and that combination was painful enough…uhh, Best Picture- WTF??!! So no, I’m not going to watch How to Train Your Dragon or The Wolfman  just for the love of the sport. But besides that, I “gotta catch ’em all,” as they say in Pokemon).

I’ve done my research, and as far as the nominees come, there appears to be only four out of the several dozen nominees that are available to watch on Netflix Instant:  Dogtooth, I Am Love, Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop. Dogtooth and I Am Love are both nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Dogtooth (Kynodontas) is a Greek film which appears to be a little creepy but is classified by Netflix as “cerebral” and “romantic” and  I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore)  is an Italian “romantic” and “steamy” drama, which I guess may be implied in the title.  Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop are nominated for Best Feature Documentary. I plan to watch (and write posts about) each of these four instantly watch-able nominees, but so far I have only seen one: Banksy’s clever, intriguing and generally humorous inside look at the world of contemporary street art, Exit Through the Gift Shop. (Pssst…Click that link on Banksy if you don’t know who he is!)

The film is narrated by a sort of inherently charming male British voice, spending a lean 87 minutes exploring the identities and creative works of potentially idiotic street artists (the exception being Banksy himself) who have risen to fame in the Western world. The film totes the viewer along on a trip to acclaimed street artists’ brick and concrete canvases, including some of Banksy’s sacred spots. Exit exposes the egocentric musings of one artist in particular and expectedly preserves Banksy’s elusiveness- in a good way. This film is a delightful way to get a better peek at a whole bunch of street art,  as it simultaneously provides biting and witty commentary on the relationship between art, consumerism and the idea of celebrity. I don’t know if you are trying to watch every Oscar nominated movie this season, which I’m not so sure I will do myself, but Exit Through the Gift Shop is undoubtedly worth checking out.

these are my top 10. what are yours?

In my humble opinion, these movies (in no particular order) are the brightest of the Netflix Instant gems- that I have found so far!

1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Edward Albee’s irreverence coupled with Elizabeth Taylor’s alcoholic rage may not sound like a pleasant way to spend over 2 hours watching black and white BUT TRUST ME- YOU’LL LOVE IT. The acting, the lighting, the writing, the directing, blah, blah, blah- I could go on. A must must must see.

2. The Lady Eve: If you like movies from the 1940s, then you’ve probably seen it. If you don’t, well maybe you’ll start liking movies from the 1940s by watching this one. A comedy that keeps the viewer interested mostly because Barbara Stanwyck is so sexy and gets so sassy.

3. Easy Street: Small scale documentary made in 2006 depicting the lives of several homeless folks in St. Petersburg, Florida. Provides an honest interpretation of the realities of homelessness- including the roles that addiction and mental illness play.

4. Sin Nombre: This is a emotionally intense and aesthetically beautiful thriller that pieces together the story of several characters trying to make it from Central America to the good ol’ U.S. of A. In Spanish with English subtitles. Definitely was a tearjerker for me- more because it is such a vivid reminder of how heartbreaking the tales of immigration often are.

5. Fargo: I don’t think I’m qualified to write a review on this movie. Dad, can you help me out?

6. The Messenger: Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster LAY IT DOWN in this unforgettable movie about two current-day U.S. soldiers whose job is to notify families of killed soldiers. Definitely not a date night movie, but don’t let that stop you. Emotionally sophisticated, poignant, thought-provoking. Oh yeah, and Steve Buscemi’s cameo doesn’t hurt.

7. Tarnation: Another one that definitely shouldn’t be put on the “date night” list- unless you like your dates really disturbing. Tarnation is a documentary filmed over the course of almost 20 years, made up of a mixture of home videos, voicemail messages, early short films and snapshots–all depicting the life of filmmaker Jonathan and his oh so schizophrenic mother. The music is really great as well. Overall very powerful, although the pacing is a little strange. But I give him credit- he made it on a budget of $218.32, editing the entire thing on iMovie on his Mac. And now you can rent it at Blockbuster. Or watch it on Netflix Instant as the case may be.

8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Hmm, if my audience is who I think it is, you’ve probably seen this. Now you get to watch it again on Instant.

9. Amelie: If you all haven’t figured it out yet, that tiny little icon next to the site address for this blog is actually an image of Amelie’s head from the part of the movie where she is at the movie theater glued to the screen. ANYWAY, the film Amelie is such an aesthetic experience so my words probably won’t do much good. So go have a look-see.

10. Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic: Not for the easily offended, for those who don’t appreciate/understand satire, or for those who think offensive satire perpetuates societal ills. Sarah jam packs her absurd stand-up comedy/spontaneous musical numbers with the most taboo of topics- and looks cute while doing it! AND IT’S HYSTERICAL. I think she’s a genius.

What are your Top 10 Netflix Instant finds?