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30 Days Of Netflix

January 23, 2012

Netflix has launched in the UK with a catalogue of streaming movies and TV shows. On the surface that catalogue isn’t massively exciting, what with it not being particularly big or filled with a great amount of very new things.

But then most new things are shit, and quality doesn’t need company. For whatever reason, the current Netflix collection has plenty of ‘90s US independent movies (well, Miramax) and a few choice picks from United Artists and ‘70s New Hollywood.

The service is currently offering a 30 day free trial, so here are 30 things that I would describe as “amazing” without too much thought. That’s one a day! If you’re useless enough not to have seen any of them so far.

Day 1: The 39 Steps (1935) 

Alfred Hitchcock’s best British film, about a man who goes on the run even though he’s innocent because of a girl and a train and a man who remembers things and oh, it’s amazing and you should just watch it.

Day 2: The Ipcress File (1965)

Doggedly British and bureaucratic spy drama with Michael Caine as the obstinate Harry Palmer. It’s designed as a sort of anti-Bond (producer Saltzman and composer Barry worked on both), with a rain mac and getting beaten up instead of Aston Martins and sex with booby ladies from the sea.

Day 3: Network (1976)

A raging media satire which, sadly for everyone who isn’t a fucking moron, is more pertinent and powerful than ever. Peter Finch is the unstable newroom anchor whose dignity is stripped away as his network (a pre-Fox fourth major) abandons integrity for sensation.

Day 4: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

In the ‘60s and ‘70s United Artists had a near-miraculous run of fresh, compelling and important films that showed the kind of artistry possible after the fall of the studio system. Schlesinger’s sleazy-but-innocent tale of loneliness in New York is among the very best. And makes you want to hug Dustin Hoffman, even though he’s probably covered in piss.

Day 5: The Conversation (1974)

This is the best movie on the list, and maybe just the best movie. Between knocking out Godfathers, Francis Ford Coppola made this beautifully cold Watergate-era thriller about surveillance and paranoia. Gene Hackman is extraordinary, and Walter Murch’s combination of sound design and editing is masterful. Plus, like every film contending for the title of ‘best ever’, it features John Cazale.

Day 6: Rumble In The Bronx (1997)

Jackie Chan’s best movie, in which he beats up 58,003 guys, jumps off a bridge that’s three miles high, and saves all the orphans in America.

Day 7: Firefly (2002)

If you’ve been on the internet longer than 15 minutes there’s a very good chance you’ll know that it’s very angry about Firefly not being alive any more. And with good reason – Joss Whedon’s Western-in-space was warm and full of adventure, and had a cast of characters that you wanted desperately to be your friend, even when they were cancelled.

Day 8: Clerks (1994)

One of the first movies acquired by Miramax after they’d been bought by Disney, apparently because its dialogue-heavy style and black and white photography bolstered their indie credentials. Ironically the rest of Kevin Smith’s career showed he was just trying to make a shit ‘80s comedy but didn’t have the budget. Nevertheless, this remains excellent.

Day 9: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Magic black comedy with John Cusack as the coolest man on earth who happens to be a hit man going home for the first time in ten years to a small town of angst, regret, and all those other things you feel when you hit 30.

Day 10: Swingers (1996)

An impossibly young and thin Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn play NHL 93 (the greatest hockey game of all time) and are painfully useless with women. Funny and full of a repressed yearning, which is the best kind.

Day 11: City Of God (2002)

Intense drama set in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro that feeds off the energy of its young cast to be by turns soaringly exuberant and gut-punch brutal.

Day 12: The Lives Of Others (2006)

Stasi drama set in East Germany in the 1980s which explores power and corruption under totalitarian rule. Also the lead character owns an incredible anorak. Take that, capitalism!

Day 13: Das Boot (1981)

Don’t be put off by the fact this German TV series is 16 hours long and subtitled and set entirely on a dirty metal box full of filthy Nazis. It’s amazing!

Day 14: Videodrome (1983)

An extraordinary hybrid of video-nasty splatter horror with a sharp intellectual (if metaphysical) analysis of the impact this kind of new media experience has on audiences. So – expect to see really fucking disgusting things happening, and then an explanation of why, that you won’t understand. Fucking brilliant.

Day 15: Blue Velvet (1986)

The counterpart to David Lynch’s disastrous, dead interesting Dune, which is also on Netflix if you’ve forgotten what Kyle McClachlan looks like wearing special water trousers and pretending to ride a giant worm. Both films were made for Dino De Laurentiis, Blue Velvet coming after the failure of Dune and giving Lynch the space to find a recognisable voice – one that deals with obsession, dream sensuality and the darkness of ordinariness.

Day 16: Dazed And Confused (1993)

Suburban high-school nostalgia done excellently – avoiding sentimentality, not falling back on trite life lessons, and featuring Ben Affleck as an idiot bully with a giant paddle.

Day 17: Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen’s best film is a playful love letter to three things: New York, Diane Keaton, and European intellectualism. If nothing else it’s worth watching for a dazzling opening ten minutes during which Allen seems not to have simply broken through the fourth wall, but taken it down and made it into a jaunty hat.

Day 18: The Lookout (2007)

Tidy crime drama with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high school athlete-turned-amnesiac pulled into a bad crowd. Director Scott Frank is a man familiar with the angled set-ups of Elmore Leonard having adapted Get Shorty and Out Of Sight, and Isla Fisher’s character is inexplicably called Luvlee Lemons.

Day 19: Twin Peaks (1989)

The first seven episodes of David Lynch’s murder-in-a-small-town serial represent the best of television. Kyle McClachlan is FBI Agent Dale Cooper, a Trump Card of a man slowly peeling away layers of suburban normality to reveal startling, malicious evil. It is a world of its own.

Day 20: Brief Encounter (1945)

A beautifully restrained romance of two married people who fall in love in glimpses and snatched moments on a train station. It’s careful and touching, and made all the more painful for the fact that Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are so repressed it seems at one point like their heads might actually pop off.

Day 21: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Routinely listed as the best American comedy of all time (writer-producer-director Billy Wilder apparently not content with making some of the best war films and crime thrillers). Essentially comes down to Marilyn Monroe looking incredible, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dressing up as women, and it all being brilliant.

Day 22: In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

A backdrop of Hollywood on the verge of revolution and the civil right movement combine to give this a murder investigation drama a charged atmosphere, thick with Southern state racism, the ugliness of discrimination and, somewhere in Sidney Poitier’s impossible dignity, a kind of hope.

Day 23: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Back when Miramax was a real independent they had a capacity for marketing controversial issue movies like this meticulous Errol Morris documentary into cosmopolitan causes. The insistent case for justice made in the film had a direct impact on the questionable murder conviction it investigates.

Day 24: Fargo (1996)

Typically perfect Coens – a screwball thriller with an outlook of general absurdism punctuated with moments of great and sudden emotional heft and tragedy. Mostly, though, it’s really funny, with Frances McDormand a refreshingly female, refreshingly pregnant hero.

Day 25: The Bicycle Thief (1948)

Post-war Italian masterpiece of social injustice and making you feel really fucking sad. Antonio is the would-be-worker who has his bike stolen and trawls Rome with his young son looking for it. At one point it rains really heavily.

Day 26: Primer (2004)

There’s a diagram “explaining” the plot of Primer online which looks like if I tried to illustrate the theory of relativity using my teeth. So don’t worry too much about the story details of this micro-budget time-shifting drama, but enjoy the imagination, the low-key style and the character conflicts the sci-fi premise is designed to draw out.

Day 27: There Will Be Blood (2007)

An unconventional monster of manners and brutality that demands to be viewed on its own terms. Which is fine, because its terms mostly consist of looking beautiful and having Daniel Day Lewis storm around like a furious force of nature who forgot to have his nap.

Day 28: Capricorn One (1977)

Another ‘70s conspiracy thriller, this time involving a botched mission to Mars, a faked landing, and a murderous cover-up. Damn you, Nixon! And you, space guys!

Day 29: Internal Affairs (1990)

Bad Richard Gere is an order of magnitude better than good Richard Gere, and in this bent cop thriller he’s an utter bastard, reacting to Andy Garcia’s internal affairs investigation by putting his cock in all the women and shooting all the men he can.

Day 30: Gone Baby Gone (2007)

It was a toss-up between this, Requiem For A Dream and Demetri Martin’s stand-up special for the last slot, but this wins because any movie that salvages the career of Ben Affleck following the awful E! Bastard roundabout it had become is pretty special, and unlike Requiem it won’t leave you wanting to die in a puddle.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 11:02 am

    A fine list and one I definitely plan to take inspiration from!

    Quite a few of the films I hadn’t discovered through browsing around Netflix so it’s handy to have them listed.

  2. January 24, 2012 11:27 am

    Arrested Development is also worth watching, a great comedy I had heard about, but only started watching through the free trail

    • January 24, 2012 5:05 pm

      Yeah, totally agree – there’s a whole series of it I’ve not watched yet on there.

  3. January 24, 2012 11:34 am

    Is After Hours on Netflix? If so, that should be on your list.

    • January 24, 2012 5:07 pm

      I don’t think it is – The Last Waltz is the only Scorsese on there, I think. Not sure I’d have put After Hours ahead of this lot anyway…

  4. Olga permalink
    January 24, 2012 11:52 am

    Looking forward to checking some of these out. I watched Mysterious Skin on netflix the other night too. Pretty disturbing but a great movie, delicate subject notwithstanding.

    • January 24, 2012 5:08 pm

      I have a shameful list of about 12 things that I’ve never seen but always planned to that are in the catalogue, and Mysterious Skin is on that list…

  5. January 24, 2012 12:04 pm

    Great list.

    However, I would rank City of God as the best film in the list, and I’ve always thought Blue Velvet was a piece of over-rated Emperor’s new clothes pap. Twin Peaks too. But hey ho, I don’t think I like anything Lynch has done and I’m sure he cares about that as much as I do. 🙂

    Either way though, thank you for this. I’ve been wondering where to start with Netflix and now I’ve got some ideas!

    • January 29, 2012 12:48 am

      Tough to argue with City Of God, it’s extraordinary. But Lynch though! I’m hardly going to convince you suddenly, but I love his embrace of mystery. People are always drawn to hidden meaning or complex explanation with his films, but that tantalising sense of not quite knowing is the thing he sets out to create, I’m sure. I think his work is rich with symbols and icons, but the feeling of intrigue and mystery is what I love about watching it.

  6. Rob permalink
    January 24, 2012 12:08 pm

    @glinner sent me here. Nice work!

  7. Rob permalink
    January 24, 2012 1:14 pm

    Splendid list. Which for some inexplicable reason does not include Breaking Bad seasons 1&2. Takes a few days up though.

    • January 24, 2012 5:09 pm

      Thank you. And you’re right! I’m watching Breaking Bad for the first time using the trial, and I kept this list to things I’d already seen.

  8. Ian permalink
    January 28, 2012 10:53 pm

    A truly brilliant, hilarious and honest assessment of a lot of films. Certainly the ones I’ve seen on the list I can agree with, the others I’ll seek out.

    Oh and the synopsis of primer is perhaps one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

    • January 29, 2012 12:49 am

      Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I might blog on the things on Netflix I’ve not seen yet, and am catching up on. Once I’ve caught up, that is…

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