Netflix Picks is a feature with a list of seven films currently available for streaming on Netflix and the reasons for why you should watch them.
Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) -
Off beat, whimsical, and lovely, Amélie is a feel-good movie unlike any other. Following a shy faced Parisian waitress who was raised in relative seclusion, she spends her days with the earnest imperative to change the lives of the people around her for the better. Few films are as warm, kind, or life-affirming, yet it never shies away from the melancholy life can sometimes bring. Visually sumptuous and lead by the beautiful Audrey Tautou, it’s essential holiday viewing and deservingly critically acclaimed.
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957) -
A rare film that’s at once one of the best war pictures ever made and one of the best courtroom dramas ever made, Kubrick’s first famous film is a heartbreaking indictment of war. Paths of Glory is a masterpiece divided down its middle, and its mix of genres not only separates it from other movies, but each half is a bitter reflection of the other. Also unique is it shows Kubrick at his most tender and features a humanist ending that Steven Spielberg famously showed to guests soon after Kubrick’s passing. A crushing, beautiful movie.
Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho, 2014) -
Sure, many of you have already seen it; you know it’s great. But too many of you haven’t yet, so this entry is for you. Captain America and Avengers star Chris Evans leads this high-concept South Korean sci-fi actioner about a winterscape future where the only remaining civilization is on an elite train that runs on a track around the world. The rich are at the front; the poor in the back. Cue REVOLUTION. It’s one of the best films of 2014, combining amazing, gut-punch action with great performances and visual design. A must watch, and not just for Tilda Swinton's wonderfully off-kilter performance.
Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973) -
I recently rewatched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, and the Serpico poster decorating the wall of Dirk Diggler's bedroom leaped out at me. Often left in the shadow of Lumet’s other ‘70s classic, Dog Day Afternoon, this gritty New York crime drama, lead with the expected bravado of an Al Picano in his prime, set the gritty standard for undercover cop dramas. It’s gripping and hardnosed, and holds up spectacularly today.
Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979) -
Amongst the first, if not the first, major American films to tackle the weighty topic of divorce, this best picture winner is the rare tearjerker that doesn’t feel sappy. In a role swap, we follow a work-obsessed father, played empathetically by Dustin Hoffman, trying to win a custody battle against his wife who one day took off for 15 months. He’s the hero. Hoffman and Meryl Streep as the wife both won well-deserved Oscars for their respective roles, and Kramer vs. Kramer still packs a relevant wallop today.
Nymphomaniac Part II (Lars Von Trier, 2014) -
Nymphomanic Part I is a comparatively lighthearted affair, full of effective comedy usually driven by Stellan Skarsgård’s excellent performance. Part II is dour, emotional, but all the more powerful because of it. As a refresher, Von Trier’s latest is an epic reflection of sex, using the topic of eroticism as a springboard for all things philosophical, societal, and personal across the middle-aged life of a self-described nymphomaniac woman named Joe. Charlotte Gainsbourg leads this half following the older years of Joe’s life, and if you need an extra incentive, even Shia LaBeouf turns in a good performance.
Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2014 ) -
Okay, so it’s a black-and-white foreign language film with little dialogue and most shots have a static camera. I understand. It is resolutely not the accessible moneymaker Paramount or Warner Brothers might crave, a fact Pawlikowski jokes about in interviews. But Ida is sensational moviemaking by every standard, and this story about a beautiful soon-to-be-nun and the dark past she seeks to uncover grabs you from the first beautifully composed frame to the last. I normally crop the images, but Ida's amazing visuals deserve the full 1.33 frame. It’s also 80 minutes. You have no excuse. Watch it. It’s one of 2014’s best.
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