Four recent Netflix picks you might not have seen…
A self-absorbed young American traveling in Chile plans a journey with his pals to find a legendary hallucinogenic cactus. But when he invites the free-spirited Crystal Fairy along, they find themselves locked in a battle of wills.
Workmates at a small Chicago brewery, Luke and Kate are romantically involved with others but also the best of friends — on and off the clock. Things get complicated, however, when the couples spend a weekend together at a lakeside retreat.
Determined to make it as a modern dancer in New York, Frances pursues her unlikely goal with more enthusiasm than natural talent. The rest of the time, she and her sardonic best friend, Sophie, put off growing up for as long as they can.
While repainting traffic lines along a burnt-out stretch of rural highway, a mismatched pair — straightlaced Alvin and his girlfriend’s harebrained brother, Lance — form an unlikely bond that builds upon their differences.
Aging hipster Swanson is inured to his life of privilege in New York, where he will inherit his father’s wealth. Instead of doing anything meaningful with his time, Swanson engages in meaningless games of casual cruelty with his equally numb friends.
Despite the title, this is not really a funny movie. While there are some humorous scenes, the tone is actually pretty melancholy. Deep down, it’s about the inherent emptiness that accompanies a life lived bathed in irony. Most people will probably not enjoy this film, but for those who can relate to its too-cool-for-school ethos, it provides a valuable depiction of what it means not to take the world seriously.
Edit: Just a heads up – the opening scene involves sweaty men with beer guts wrestling in their underwear. It’s pretty disturbing.
Fascinating doc about a group of over-educated young men who all work as parking attendants at a lot in Virginia. Putting up with monotony is a large part of most jobs, so it is easy to identify with their plight (as well as their disdain for rich bitches in luxury SUVs).
The long hours they spend alone lead them toward enlightenment as they have little to do besides contemplate their own existence. Watching this film is like sitting through a philosophy lecture given by a dozen different slackers.
As a cinephile with an insatiable curiosity, whenever I find myself with a free hour or two, I scan my streaming Netflix queue for a documentary to absorb. Non-fiction films seem to me a better product than most of the rubbish Hollywood churns out for the sake of entertaining the masses. While I’d never consider sitting in front of the TV to be a productive use of one’s time, documentaries at least provide us with food for thought. Here are a few gems you might want to check out the next time you’re feeling blasé:
Brother’s Keeper (1992)
This acclaimed documentary from filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky explores the odd world of the four elderly Ward brothers — illiterate farmers who have lived their entire lives in a dilapidated two-room shack. When William Ward dies in the bed he shared with his brother Delbert, the police become suspicious and arrest Delbert for murder, penetrating the isolated world that left “the boys” forgotten eccentrics for many years.
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
A family in crisis is “captured” through home video in this searing documentary about the Friedmans, an upper-middle-class family who found their world turned upside down when father and son were charged with child molestation in 1987. The media inundated the airwaves with coverage of the alleged crime, but some of the best footage — seen here publicly for the first time — was shot by the Friedman family members themselves.
Cocaine Cowboys (2006)
This penetrating documentary from director Billy Corben pulls out all the stops to explore the many dimensions of Miami’s cocaine-trafficking boom of the 1980s, as told by the smugglers, cops and average citizens who were there. The film is an unflinching study of Miami’s most notorious and lethal vice — from how the drug was moved and its financial impact on the city to the havoc and violence that followed in its wake.
In an avant-garde soliloquy, investigative journalist Michael Ruppert details his unnerving theories about the inexorable link between energy depletion and the collapse of the economic system that supports the entire industrial world. Helmed by filmmaker Chris Smith (American Movie), Ruppert’s monologue explains how the lies and political propaganda fed to Americans by big business will eventually lead to human extinction.
Touching the Void (2003)
Mixing interviews with dramatic re-enactments of the event, this gripping docudrama retells the mountaineering trek gone awry of Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron) and Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey), who falls and breaks his leg while climbing in the Andes. Yates, who’s tethered to him, attempts to lower him to safety but fails, forcing him to make a pivotal decision that may or may not save both of their lives. The question is, was it the right one?