Netflix has single-handedly upped my hipster IQ and given me another reason to sit on my butt for untold hours. Here’s some of my latest faves:
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Lars and the Real Girl — A sweet, quirky film about a delusional, socially dysfunctional man who falls in love with a sex doll. For reals! The film teeters on the edge of disturbing (if not implausibility), but despite the weirdness, goodness wins out. It’s ultimately about relationships, their fragility, and their repair. Lars also contains some notable, non-stereotypical portrayals of Christians, as the local church grapples with how to embrace this most fragile of person. Maybe it’s why Christianity Today labeled it one of The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2007.
No Direction Home — Directed by Martin Scorsese, this fascinating 2 pt. documentary traces the early, formative influences of one of rock’s most enigmatic, gifted personalities. In the early 60’s, Bob Dylan went from obscure folk singer to the “voice of a generation.” This film charts the artistic and cultural forces that shaped him. As much a window into the volatile sixties as the ever-shifting musical landscape. Some intriguing interviews with Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg. The media’s inability to grasp Dylan and futile attempts to label him are laughable. Equally bizarre is the response of die-hard folk fans who branded Dylan a traitor when he transitioned to electric. Lotsa good tunes along the way.
Year of the Dog — An unassuming indie about a lonely 40-something whose life is changed after her dog dies. The crisis leads her to confront both her ineptness with humans and her love of animals. She becomes a vegan, an animal rights activists, and barrels toward the deep end in the process. Some could call this a PETA primer, but I found its address of the subject of “animal rights” genuinely humane without being didactic. Also, a great cameo by Laura Dern as the prissy, perfectionist mother.
Sunshine — A sci-fi flick whose heart is its head, not its CGI effects. That’s not to say there aren’t great special effects. But Sunshine is a lot more like Kubrick’s 2001 (intentionally or unintentionally) than, say, Star Wars or Aliens. The plot is established early on: The sun is dying and needs a kick start. Okay. . . And this crew is carrying a nuclear warhead the size of Rhode Island to help it. But, as you can imagine, internal and external forces are at work to thwart them. A surprisingly fast-paced film (I stayed up well past my bedtime to see how it ended). And is there any type of movie Danny Boyle cannot direct?
Breach — Based on the true story of veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen, arrested for treason in 2001, versatile character actor Chris Cooper plays the cold, complex Russian spy behind what’s been called the “the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.” At least 50 agents were murdered as a result of Hanssen’s actions. Interesting interplay between Cooper and the neophyte agent assigned to spy on him (actor Ryan Phillippe), as well as Hanssen’s devout Catholic beliefs and his inevitable confliction. The facts behind the film are pretty amazing, and I found myself wanting to know more about this agent’s real-life descent into deceit.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters — I puzzled over this film long into the following day. It’s a documentary that follows Steve Wiebe as he attempts to achieve the high score for the arcade game Donkey Kong from the reigning champion. Sure, it sounds trivial. But the film immerses us in the world of videogamers, and their near obsessive pursuit of perfection. Lying. Cheating. Posing. It’s not just the NFL’s problemo. These nerds can scrum with the best of them. Many critics called this the best docu of ’07.