School’s out! It’s summer and beautiful so you’re probably not spending a lot of time inside. All that wonderful green needs water sometime though and it almost always happens when you least expect. Cheer up! You have netflix! You have Hulu! You have Amazon Instant! On the odd rainy day you might be looking for something fun, funny, beautiful or stimulating. Here are 5 picks that you can enjoy from your couch:
Kingsman is not a James Bond movie, It’s more than a James Bond movie. The Bond franchise is filled with heightened and cartoonish classics, but Kingsman one-ups them so spectacularly and so comprehensively that I’ll never see a Bond film the same way ever again. From the go for broke bloody kinetic stylized violence to the world’s cutest tea cup pug, Kingsman hits all the right notes. There’s a genocidal lunatic villain with lots of money played by a lispy Samuel L. Jackson and a slicing and dicing knife-legged ballerina who is his minion. Colin Firth is deadly and dapper in his incredible suits. Newcomer lead and revelation, Taron Egerton is an underclass guy who’s never realized his potential until he’s inducted into a secret society of tailors who are really spies. There is just so much to love and even a little to hate. Some of the gender-politics and politics-politics towards the end are a bit icky. There is literally a rescued princess who is used as a sexual reward and *spoilers* President Obama’s head explodes. Kingsman is this list’s fun but generally not entirely stupid blockbuster. You can rent or buy Kingsman on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/
Sriracha, it’s a hot sauce. That hot sauce has inspired hilarious comics and even one crowd funded documentary. Everybody knows someone who loves Sriracha. This person might seem normal but whenever their sauce is around they become a True Believer. “You must try the sauce!” They insist. Even if you don’t like the sauce you’ll enjoy this humanizing look at the devotion to something seemingly silly. The small but passionate 1300 kickstarter backers made this beautiful short little piece possible. If you are interested in how independent documentaries and films do financially and logistically you can check out the filmmaker’s write up of lessons and figures here where he details how generally putting out an independent film is a tough gamble even with all that built in kickstarter backing. He says that vimeo is the best revenue sharer for artists especially struggling ones like him. This film is bright, optimistic, soft and even short. It clocks in at around 30 minutes. Sriracha is this list’s beautifully shot upbeat indie. You can find Sriracha at your friendly Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/
One of the great things about the film Boyhood was that it occurred in a semblance of reality. It was shot over a series of years and the central actors really were the ages they were supposed to be in the film. One of the joys of film is how it carves up time giving it slopes and curves, cutting some things and leaving other things in. The Up Series tries to catalog the human existence in a project of even larger scope. It’s an iterative interrogative nonfiction experiment. It follows a bunch of kids born around 1957 every seven years for their whole lives. The films are titled after the age of the participants. 7 Up, the first installment when they are seven years old can be watched amazon for free here. It is short and sweet. All the other documentaries build on it though and the series gives more depth and dividends the more you watch. The image above is from 49 Up showing the many sequential moments in time that the films capture. At 8 films, the Up Series is this list’s critically acclaimed introspective marathon time sink recommendation. You can buy the whole set here:
Advantageous is another kickstarter flick made on a shoestring budget. I’ve written before about films like Robot and Frank, or Her, or Primer that bring the lofty ideas of science fiction down to a human level. These films speak to something more fundamentally human than the mere cerebral exercises of lesser films. My love of this emerging pedestrian scifi type film makes me the ideal audience for Advantageous which focuses on the relationship between a mother and daughter in a world not too different from our own. It takes place in an unspecified near-future city with eerily similar exaggerated social and economic pressures. These pressures aren’t fictional, they are real and with us now. This connection to our existence is the pedestrian part I fell in love with. The central science fiction premise is that an aging cosmetic technology company representative, the mother, gets put into a newer younger body as both a test case for her company’s new line of anti aging technology and as a way to keep her job. She spends most of the film as herself preparing and contemplating this procedure, living her life. Although the film is slow, and awkward at points, which is sometimes the point, it gets really weird in the last 20 or so minutes when we are introduced to the mother we’ve gotten to know in her next body. But it’s really the long build up of this aging beauty and her daughter beset by the pressures of a fast encroaching future that sell that last tragic bit. I’m not an expert on the female or asian perspective but others have said that it is strong and fair in its portrayal. Advantageous is this list’s unique personal statement film. You can see Advantageous on Netflix.
I was 4 years old when Seinfeld stopped airing new episodes. It’s a big gap for me. What is a soup nazi? What is a Kramer? Why is the guy from Bee Movie rich??? These are all questions I had answered last week when I sat down to watch every episode of Seinfeld, now streaming at Hulu. I only got through a season and a half but I’m hooked. Friends over 30 are going to have to forgive me but you deserve a fair warning, there’s a lot of moments that feel like when they use pagers in the first season of The Wire. “Oh that’s how they did that” old people anthropological moments might rub you the wrong way but I found them to be essential parts of the texture and character of the show.
Seinfeld is this list’s comedy recommendation because Seinfeld is funny. This needs to be said. It is very funny. As a genre situational comedy never quite did it for me not like a good stand up comic or some borderline academic insufferable book of witty quotations. Like the humor of Jerry Seinfeld himself, the show that bears his name is straightforward and polished comedy, the jokes are cut from marble. It doesn’t rely on hyperactive cutaways or time bending meta post modern stuff. It’s clear and observational.
I have warm memories of The Fresh Prince/My Wife and Kids/Bernie Mac Show block and the Different Strokes/Cosby Show block of programming that played after I came home from elementary school. I never considered the space to be high art or even that varied. Rather I showed up as a bright eyed kid looking to learn what grownups were like with a few giggles here and there. Before Seinfeld I saw the whole genre as some sort of delivery system for “very special episodes” about social issues or easily consumable educational lessons. Seinfeld has some pretty atrocious people. Atrocious in the way that modern people can be though. The show doesn’t talk down to the audience like we’re not people who can’t make our own decisions or have our own thoughts. It’s not going for broad in the way that family sitcoms do, but in its own specific way it ends up reaching wider than any pandering could.
When people talk about sitcoms they seem to measure things by Seinfeld and now I know why. Like some sort of pinnacle of situational comedy Seinfeld represents the best possible thing that is now being inverted and played with in today’s more experimental landscape of cheap indie shows on Comedy Central, FX, or (god forbid) Yahoo! Screen.