Netflix Recommendations – Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True (1)
I have conceded to the fact that Netflix and the other online streaming services are the future. Personally, I grew up going to video stores, and when I grew all the way up I worked at one for over four years. But with the recent closing of the last remaining Blockbuster chains, it seems that convenience will always prevail over comprehensiveness. Now the new corporate mega store is Netflix, a terribly organized, and inconsistent cluster-library of titles, where one week a movie’s there,another week it’s gone and then back again! Worst of all, at Netflix you don’t have any knowledgeable staff who can answer your questions or who can give you good recommendations. Sure, they can aggregate what you might like based on what you have already watched, when you decided to turn it off, and if you bothered to give it an arbitrary star rating, but a good video-clerk will look past your obvious tastes to recommend something you might have not thought of on your own.
With this new segment, consider me your Netflix video-clerk. I’ll be spotlighting four movies every month for you to check out based on a slightly modified version of the old wedding adage ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True.’ (I know, I know, the last one is supposed to be ‘Something Blue’ and I toiled for days trying to think of ways to make it fit. I thought should it be movies that are sad? Movies involving the word blue? Should I slip in just one Blu-Ray recommendation to further my agenda of forcing people to invest in physical media? I decided a solid rhyme seemed like a less restricted option. Obviously some titles may disappear, so check often, check back and check regularly.)
Here’s how it will work; ‘Something New ’ will mean something relatively new. It could be a recently released title, within the last year or so, or it could be new when compared to the other recommendation. Same thing goes for ‘Something Old’. One month the 1980’s might stand-in for old, the next month it could mean new. With the limited selection Netflix offers one has to improvise. ‘Something Borrowed’ will be a recognizable adaptation, a sequel or a remake. And finally, with ‘Something True’ I will include one documentary recommendation every month. So, without further ado, let’s get started. Here are four recommendations, now available on Netflix instant streaming.
Something Old – Broadcast News (1987)
This perceptive romantic comedy, written and directed by acclaimed television producer James L. Brooks, is unfortunately not as well recognized by the millennials my age or younger, despite its recent addition to the Criterion Collection. Many have written about its bold gender dynamics and its prescient outlook on the future of media journalism. With both of those aspects considered, of course, what’s most important to remember about this film is that it’s really damn funny and insightful.
People like to pretend that good dialogue didn’t exist until Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith awoke the blabberwocky in the mid 90’s, but Brookes has always had a great ear for classical banter and the exchanges between Holly Hunter as the tightly wound news producer, Albert Brooks as her neurotic best-friend and colleague, and William Hurt as the dim-whited but big hearted pretty-boy anchor is every bit as bouncy and frothy as anything Smith or Tarantino ever penned.
Something New – Drinking Buddies (2013)
This is another film about a complicated love triangle, with a mulch-layered female character at the center of it. Years ago I predicted that Olivia Wilde would be more than just a pretty face and that if given the right material she would eventually prove herself. In Joe Swanberg’s mumblecore swansong, she does exactly that.
Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson play Kate and Luke, two 20-somethings who carry on a flirtatious but innocent work relationship at a local brewery. When they take their significant others (Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick) out to a cabin for some R&R, the lines between these four begin to blur and Kate and Luke are forced to reevaluate their feelings.
Drinking Buddies is a film that never goes for the easy answer or the predictable outcome, despite its soap-opera set up. The entire cast is spectacular but it’s Wilde’s brave instincts, embracing both her character’s sexual strength and her wishy-washy weaknesses, that really stands out. Seen as something of an indie film guru, here Swanberg’s use of organic hand-held and improvised dialogue gels in a much more disciplined and watchable way that some of his earlier, more primitive work severely lacked.
Something Borrowed – Double Dragon (1994)
Okay, call this one the ringer if you like, but this bizarre, crazy, 90s-tastic video game adaptation fails in exactly the right ways. Traditionally speaking, most video game adaptations are pretty tacky. They’re usually both underwritten and overproduced but before CGI kind of ruined the fun, giving us soulless output like the Resident Evil or Silent Hill movie franchises, it was extremely interesting to see how cynical, out-of-touch studio producers would try and visualize the often-times surreal game mechanics of side-scrollers like Double Dragon and Super Mario.
Without trying to oversell this, let me just explain the plot. It’s 2007 post-apocalypse in the radiation-heavy Los Angeles, where a bunch of costumed gangs, such as The Clowns and The Mohawks—not unlike Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1981)—are controlled by a nefarious business man turned magician played by Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick, looking a little bit like a cross between George Michael and a white Arsenio Hall. Brothers and martial-artists Jimmy and Billy Lee, played by Party of Five’s Scott Wolf and that one dude from Brotherhood of the Wolf, find a broken medallion that, when pieced together, give the duo mystical ninja powers. Alyssa Milano is in there as well with a bleached, pixie-cut hairdo and wearing hot pants. The production design is totally weird and phony looking, pitched somewhere between Mad-Max Beyond Thunderdome and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, by way of Beverly Hills: 90210. You’re welcome.
Something True – Paris is Burning (1990)
Jenny Livingston’s exploration of Harlem’s drag culture in the late 80’s is a completely fascinating glimpse into a marginalized pocket of the universe. Yes, we now have RuPaul’s drag race to familiarize us with terms such as ‘realness’ and ‘throwing shade’. However, before this movie, that now-appropriated language, as well as the Madonna-popularized Vogue dance-craze was used as coded shorthand between the members of this tight-knit group of cross-dressers and transsexuals.
Hailed as one of the first films in the so-called ‘New Queer Cinema’, Paris is Burning shows both the struggle for acceptance by the urban, multiracial queer society, but it also depicts the overarching struggle for economic and class integration by the city as a whole. As captured in the film, drag isn’t just limited to feather boas and glitter lipstick, as we may think of it now. Almost as a performance of Wall Street cos-play, this art-form extends out to gay squatters who steal Armani suits and exhibit themselves as straight business men as they walk the runways of these Harlem congregations.
This documentary is not only an entertaining and enlightening look into a pocket of gay history; it is also a significant time-capsule of American idealism and urban yearning at the end of the Regan years.
So there it is. I hope these picks will keep you occupied for the next few weeks and next month I will be back with four more selections from everyone’s favorite digital video store.