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January 21, 2009

{     Netflix + XboxLive     }    


I never fucked with the "Watch Instantly" feature on Netflix until they unleashed Xbox compatibility. Now I am an unrepentant video junkie, and I've found myself wasting hours of my life on some truly repugnant shit (Wild Things: Diamonds In the Rough, anybody?)

Amongst all the straight-to-dvd National Lampoon's titles, 30 year-old made for TV dramas and several thousand hours worth of every flavor of Law & Order and CSI there are actually some worthwhile flicks available to stream at no additional cost to Netflix subscribers. Here's a few:

Inland Empire - Perhaps Lynch's strangest film to date, you'll either love it or hate it but either way will likely be happy that you didn't have to pay to see it. If you're looking for lighter Lynch fare you can also peep The Short Films of David Lynch, or see where it all started with Eraserhead.

Fame Whore - I was happy to see Netflix carried Moritsugu at all, and you can watch this and Scumrock instantly. I picked Fame Whore because I adore the vignette starring Amy Davis, Moritsugu's prescient meditation on Paris-Hilton-esque celebrity status.

In the Realms of the Unreal - A fascinating look at Henry Darger, one of the most well-known Outsider artists (savor the irony of that phrase) of our age, the film is equal parts documentary and celebration / homage to his work.

The Road Warrior - Arguably one of the best post-apocalyptic genre films to date, this sequel to Mad Max retains the gritty ultraviolence of the original without falling prey to the loquacious cheek of the third film. My parents took me to the drive-in when I was 10, expecting I would fall asleep after watching the main feature before this came on. I did not fall asleep. For days.

Fitzcarraldo - I have yet to watch this Warner Herzog flick, a dramatization of events in the life of rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrold, but apparently it involves dragging a 320-ton steamboat over a mountain in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. And this being 1982, and the film being directed by Herzog, he insisted that they rely not on special effects to tell this part of the story, but that they needed to drag an actual 320-ton steamboat over an actual mountain. Klaus Kinski stars as the lead, and was apparently such an asshole on set that one of the Amazonian tribal chiefs who worked as an extra told Herzog he'd be happy to murder Kinski in his sleep if the director would only say the word.

Tales of the Rat Fink - A look back at Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's profound influence on the custom-culture hot-rodding scene, this piece uses some inventive animation (voiced by an interesting cast of celebs and car-lovers from John Goodman to Tom Wolfe) to bring the 50's and 60's scene to life. You'll get an eyeful of the monsters and mutants that made Roth the go-to-guy for imaginative, fun and subversive design.

Welcome to the Dollhouse - Todd Solondz has mastered the art of elucidating the most uncomfortable moments in life. This early flick plumbs the depths of middle-school pubescent awkwardness to a degree that approaches Degrassi Jr. High to the millionth power. You can also add Storytelling and Palindromes to the mix, though sadly Happiness remains un-Watch-Instantly-able.

Persepolis - Remember when you were all pissed about how Ratatouille beat this for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature last year, even though you hadn't actually watched this yet, but you could just tell it was the better film based on it's animation style and that trailer you watched that one time? Well now you can confirm your anger by actually watching this rather amazing bit of personal revelation.

Sukiyaki Western Django - Takashi Miike's half-breed Spaghetti Western can be a bit of a hit-or-miss affair (gunslinger pun ahoy!), but it's hard not to enjoy just how goddamn weird and beautiful it all is. The CG can be rather cartoonish and lends an air of unbelievability to the violence, but this ultimately works well given the outlandish cast of characters we're presented with and the often less-than-perfect special effects of the source material to which this film pays homage. And if you're not already laughing at Quentin Tarantino's performance in the frame story, then you're just not in on the joke to begin with.

Straw Dogs - The Dustin Hoffman you meet at the beginning of this film is a lot like the Dustin Hoffman you've come to know in many of his other films: Bookish and a little emotionally withdrawn, he's a bit of a nebbish and the quiet sort of wimpy elitist who considers himself a step or two above the Average Joe. The Dustin Hoffman you encounter at the end of the film is an entirely different Dustin Hoffman altogether. The fact that this is a Peckinpah film may clue you in as to what sort of Dustin Hoffman we're talking about here.

Bukowski: Born Into This - Every guy I've ever known has gone through a Bukowski phase. This film helped me kick mine, while still respectfully allowing me to place those thoughts and beliefs in their proper context.

Clash of the Titans - Despite how cheesy much of it comes off now (thanks a lot Harry Hamlin's chest hair...), it's hard to deny the scope and intensity of this epic fantasy feature. There's so much here, from the pantheon of Greek Gods to a host of wicked-looking monsters and bad guys. This was Ray Harryhausen's final large-scale effects job prior to retiring, and it showcases a lot of his finest work. The Kraken scared me so thoroughly as a child that I actually covered my eyes during those scenes. I think I was 18 before I realized how Perseus actually defeated the damned thing.


Great list and great list idea! Already thinking on my own... And thanks for the heads-up on Fitzcarraldo and Tales of the Rat Fink, didn't know they were available.

Also, I've watched 'Realms' both on DVD and now streaming twice more.... Highly recommend that film to anyone reading this...

Posted by: Garrett at January 21, 2009 9:43 PM

Excellent list. As I wrote in my Netflix review: "Death Metal: A Documentary" is worth a watch in this vein for the Peter Steele interviews alone. Totally deadpan, totally hilarious. The music videos are shit but a young Hegg of Amon Amarth talking about balancing his day job with band duties is good too.

Posted by: Aaron at January 22, 2009 11:44 AM

I'm addicted to Watch Instantly - so many movies, so little time!

I remember seeing Clash of the Titans on the big screen. While I didn't cover my eyes when the Kraken appeared, my 18 yo uber-christian cousin did cover my eyes during Judi Bowker's brief nude scene - though not quickly enough.

Posted by: sexualharrison at January 28, 2009 3:43 PM

Persepolis was just brilliant.

Posted by: A.J. at February 5, 2009 1:11 AM
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