Friday, August 16, 2013

Netflix This Movie! Vol. 38

Sure, we love owning movies. But we're ok with streaming them sometimes, too. Here are the ones you should stream this weekend.

Adam Riske: Best Worst Movie (2009, dir. Michael Stephenson) I used to really love Best Worst Movie (the documentary about the fandom around the alleged worst movie of all time, Troll 2), but on this most recent viewing I began to notice a lot of things that bothered me. I am recommending the movie because I want to make a point about dishonesty among documentary filmmakers. There's a scene about mid-way through the documentary where an actor from Troll 2 is interviewed and they show him writing a blog titled "Random F**king." The shot is held for about a second and meant to get a big laugh. But if you pause the movie when it's on the blog and read the first few lines, it's really sad and not meant to be a joke. Then I started to think about this whole hipster thing that the documentary is clearly celebrating and the whole documentary was put into context -- hardly any person in Best Worst Movie is sincere. The fans of Troll 2 shown in the documentary never say they like that movie because it makes them happy or its fun. They only like it becuase it's bad and they can make fun of it. The character we are meant to sympathize with the most is actor George Hardy (who the movie deifies), but I saw him as an egomaniac who basically bullies people into giving a sh*t about his movie. I was especially turned off at his vanity and desperation at the autograph conventions. My point being, don't take documentaries at face value. Look deeper.
Heath Holland: Deathstalker (1983, dir. John Watson) First off, I'm not exactly sure that I'm recommending this movie, so take this with a huge grain of salt. Second, Deathstalker is a really bad movie. So why in the world am I writing about it for Netflix This Movie? Because I watched it for the first time this week and it really freaked me out. When a movie freaks me out, I take note.

Deathstalker is one of those movies that I would have stayed up late at night to watch on cable (if my parents subscribed to the good channels) and that could very well have launched me into puberty 5 years early if I'd seen it in the '80s. There are approximately 213 bare breasts in this movie and several simulated scenes of naughtiness. This is not what disturbed me, though. What disturbed me was the extensive use of rubber masks and silicone prosthetics to create some truly freaky creature effects. Computer-generated monsters will never scare me because they'll never be close enough to real, but old rubber make-up effects freak me out like few things can, and this movie is full of them. It's also full of weird little puppets that might be even creepier than the masks. If you want pig-men and deformed people and lizard creatures, this is for you.

I'm not sure what it was about the '80s that made these movies so successful and ubiquitous. For about five years the world feasted on Conan and Dungeons & Dragons and high fantasy in a way that I don't think we've seen since then. Deathstalker is badly acted, extremely low budgeted, mostly generic and incoherently plotted. At times it takes on dream or nightmare qualities because it doesn't seem to follow any sort of logic or plot. But since watching it I can't stop thinking about it. It really did a number on me, and I like it all the more because it got to me. If that sounds interesting to you, watch it and let me know how it goes.
JB:  Upstream Color (2013, dir. Shane Caruth) Patrick wrote a wonderful review of this earlier in the year. I bought in on Blu-ray; the next week it became available on Netflix Instant Streaming. You all realize that this WOULD NEVER have happened UNLESS I BOUGHT IT, RIGHT?

You are welcome.

This is shaping up to be one of my favorite films of the year. It has a lot to say about what we all give to be in a relationship,  and a lot to say about what we get. It is the rare film that works as allegory and as fiction equally well. I love how much this film is its own thing, and how unclassifiable it seems at first viewing: Abstract? Surreal? Science Fiction? The Craziest Lifetime Channel Movie of All Time? David Lynch Goes to the Pig Farm? None of the above?

You need to see this film. Stay with it.
Mark Ahn: Kings of Pastry (2009, dir. Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker) There's a competition in France called the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (or "the M.O.F.") to determine the very best pastry chefs in the world in a grueling 3 day marathon. I don't know anything about pastry or desserts, but the visual aspects of culinary art are truly magnificent here; I did not know that sugar could be made to look like fine glassware. Also, there were a surprising amount of moments where the slow tension was akin to a horror movie or a good thriller, but that's this cake-eater's opinion.
Patrick: Antiviral (2012, dir. Brandon Cronenberg) The first feature from David Cronenberg's son Brandon owes A LOT to the work of his dad. It is very imperfect -- the pacing is bad, the performances are all one-note and it takes some problematic plot detours -- but the premise and the ideas are so interesting that it's worth your time. Set in a future that's become so celebrity-obsessed that people pay to be injected with the same viruses infecting their favorite stars (they even eat steaks made from cloned celebrity cells), the movie proves that a talent for body horror is hereditary. It's not entirely successful, but there's way more good than bad. Li'l Cronenberg is a filmmaker to watch.


  1. Adam, I totally agree with you about "Best Worst Movie", when I saw the doc I walked away felling slightly depressed. Especially the scene when they meet up with the actress who played the mom.

    Heath, you rolled a die 20 on your pick.

  2. I watched Best Worst movie again recently and I stopped watching when it moves into the second half when main guy is trying to round up the town to watch the movie. Thats when I remembered how it gets pretty low in the second half and I just had no interest in going there. However, while its probably more an indication of my lack of maturity but I can still enjoy a bit of cynical fun. Not too much, but I get it and can get into it sometimes, so I dont hate that aspect of the first half.