Time for a Binge
Where does the time go? It’s been 12 months to the day since Filmcache first launched and I introduced myself with ten of my favorite films. What initially began as a personal “diary” of movie commentary has grown into an outlet of reviews, predictions, and holiday-themed lists. A year ago I would have never imagined reaching this far and while my editorial voice has much room for improvement, I owe it to my small but loyal viewership to persevere and continue fighting the good fight. Balancing a full-time job with creating and curating vibrant content has not been easy. But I see it as my responsibility to everyone who has supported and continues to support the site to deliver on the promise I made to myself exactly one year ago. In thinking of ways to mark this very special occasion it felt right to go back to the beginning of my “Netflix Navigator” series. So in honor of the site’s one-year anniversary, here are five films currently streaming on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.
Happy Birthday to us!
1. Barton Fink (1991) – dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
Barton Fink tells the story of a malaised writer who secludes himself in a drab hotel to find his voice. And that’s all you really need to know in terms of plot. John Turturro (always spectacular) plays the titular playwright Barton Fink, commissioned by a major Hollywood studio to write motion picture scripts for them on the heels of his first Broadway play. In this hotel he meets a kind stranger named “Charlie” played by the jovial John Goodman. Seemingly a source of inspiration for Fink, Charlie is the “common man,” in tune with the daily toils that Barton is so desperately trying to capture on the page. But just like all common men, Charlie has some secrets that Barton must discover the hard way. The story of Barton Fink in many ways mirrors its creation. When the Coens first began writing the script that would eventually turn into Miller’s Crossing, they reached a point in the process familiar to all writers…they felt blocked. Barton Fink is the result of the Coens working through this mental blockade. Abandoning the script they had worked on for four months, the brothers wrote a draft for Barton Fink in just three weeks and suddenly their creative spirits were rejuvenated. The time away did them well and you can see it on screen.
2. Upstream Color (2013) – dir. Shane Carruth
Few names in the industry conjure more mystery and intrigue than Shane Carruth. With only two features to his name (the other being the low-budget time travel film Primer) Carruth has crafted a tone and expectation for his committed fanbase of a smart, interestingly told narrative that challenges the audience with more questions than it answers. A one-man band, Carruth often serves as director, producer, writer, actor, cinematographer, editor, and composer on his films. This may seem arrogant on the surface, but he seems to juggle multiple roles on set out of a sense of frugality and dedication to the “independent spirit” of moviemaking if ever there was one. His camera is economical and his editing choices precise. His acting is minimal in the best sense and his musical compositions are as clean as his framing technique. With his second film, Carruth has created an interwoven spiritual drama centered around the nature of life cycles and the interconnectedness of our lives to things we have no control over. To attempt to explain the meaning behind Upstream Color beyond that would be to strip it away of all joy and beauty and frankly, devalue its charm. Sit back and let your soul go for the ride.
3. Frank (2014) – dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Before reaching mainstream heights with last year’s breakout Room, Lenny Abrahamson helmed the set of a quirky, odd-ball black comedy about a bizarre musician and his strange band, the Soronprfbs (never pronounced in the film). Michael Fassbender plays “Frank,” the leader of this eccentric ensemble whose lyrics are as experimental as his outfit – which consists of an oversized papier-mâché head that he never removes under any circumstance. It is the source of his odd yet charming creative talent, allowing him to almost magically conjure lyrics and melodies from the most mundane of inspirations (see: carpet tuft). Domhnall Gleeson (pronounced Donal) plays an aspiring musician who stumbles into becoming the new keyboardist for the Soronprfbs and becomes the band’s de facto road manager as they rise to internet stardom. Frank is hilarious, weird, dark, and at times sweet. It also has one of the funniest soundtracks I’ve ever heard. The songs that Frank write are ridiculous and non-nonsensical but damn are they catchy! As Frank would say to describe his non-visible facial emotions out loud, I’m smiling right now.
4. Sing Street (2016) – dir. John Carney
From outlandish experimental rock, we go to something a little more palatable. I’m talking about Sing Street. It’s 1980s Dublin where the music scene is dominated by the likes The Cure, A-ha, and Duran Duran. Conor is a teenage loner, about to move from his expensive private school to a more rambunctious public school after his parents announce their divorce to him and his older brother Brendan. Conor soon meets an older girl Raphina, and in an effort to impress her, lies and tells her that he’s in a band. When Raphina informs him of her burgeoning modeling career, Conor digs himself in a deeper hole and invites her to be in his band’s first music video. Of course at this point, Conor has neither a band nor video equipment to back up any of his claims. But the power of infatuation shall overcome. He quickly teams up with a few more the outsider types at the conservative school and they actually manage to scramble together songs to perform for live audiences. The film is tenderly told and doesn’t mine any of its inherent cheesiness for sentiment. It also has some great original songs. John Carney is once again in familiar territory, expanding on his repertoire of musically-themed dramas like Once and Begin Again. Sing Street is one of his strongest efforts to date, if not his most accessible.
5. Into The Inferno (2016) – dir. Werner Herzog
Last but certainly not least we’ve reached the mountaintop of filmmaking, or should I say, the volcano. Werner Herzog is a man who needs no introduction. One of the most prolific and gifted storytellers we have, Herzog has continually produced works that tackle a wide range of subjects that genuinely amaze and inspire him. His passionate infusion of worldly philosophy and humanistic portrayals of the everyday have cemented his film legacy among the very best. His latest documentary (and second this year) Into The Inferno investigates the creative and destructive power of Earth’s mightiest volcanoes, often from a vantage point directly above them. But he doesn’t just look at their physical dominance on this planet, he digs deeper into their cosmological purpose – how their myths are at the center of various belief systems across cultures and nations. This is yet another fascinating entry in the Herzog canon that is not to be missed.