There’s a rapidly increasing trend in younger generations with everyone becoming a film critic. If anything makes this evident, the opening of an arthouse theatre on North Broad Street definitely does. We’re returning to another Golden Age of film, where we can watch movies in traditional venues (like the aforementioned theatre) or stream films through Amazon, Hulu and, what’s still arguably the most popular service, Netflix. It has become an at-home staple, replacing cable boxes and satellite dishes. And who doesn’t have dozens of films queued up just waiting to be watched at some point? So, if you’re looking to narrow down that list and watch something a bit left-field, then this list is for you. Here are my five picks for Netflix films you can’t miss.
This is a film I’ve been personally championing since first watching it. It is criminally underrated. Directed by Dee Res and starring Adepero Oduye, Pariah is a film with LGBT themes that focuses on a girl uncovering her lesbian identity. Not only is it an unflinchingly honest look at coming out, but the story unfurls to also cover infidelity, family, romance and other middle-class and black themes. Pariah picked up an Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance, and Oduye was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Acting. Filled out with an exceptional cast of black actors, the film also explores the intersectional aspects of race and sexuality. Sensitively told, elegantly acted, Pariah is the landmark film more people should notice.
Blancanieves is sold as a re-telling of Snow White, but don’t mistake it for the Disney-fied version of the story. Wondrously noir and romantic, this lush re-telling of the Brothers Grimm classic transfers the story to 1920s Andalusia. The cinematic and narrative style recalls the Silent Film era, but the genre evokes films as diverse as Dr. Caligari to Psycho. And while Macarena García’s depiction of Blancanieves (Snow White) will tug at heartstrings, it’s veteran Hispanic actress Maribel Verdú as Encarna (the Evil Stepmother) who really steals the show. The result is a film that’s as whimsical as it is brooding; as gorgeous as it is bleak. It’s no wonder it swept Spain’s own Goya Awards.
3. Enter the Void
Enter the Void has recently picked up steam as a cult film to watch ever since it’s been added to Netflix. So, take this as yet another endorsement. This film merits watching. Directed by French filmmaker, Gasper Noé, Enter the Void follows the post-mortem out-of-body experiences of a young drug addict in Tokyo. Shot in a first-person perspective, the imagery is inspired by psychedelics and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Surreal, sexual, and fantastical, it’s a film that can easily overwhelm. It may be divisive, but there’s certainly no other film like it. The final film sequence is one of the most vibrant and carnal visions of Hell ever captured on film. And that’s all I’ll say on that.
This film started making its festival rounds last year, premiering at Sundance. While the film was overlooked by the Academy, it picked up a historic Best Supporting Actress win at the Independent Spirit Awards for transgender actress, Mya Taylor’s performance. Sean S. Baker’s film is a contemporary dramedy that follows two transgender sex workers as they wander Hollywood looking for a cheating boyfriend/pimp. The story works as a narrative achievement; hilarious, frank and one of the truest depictions of people of color, transgender individuals and sex workers. Additionally, the film’s visual achievement is made even more remarkable by the fact that the film was shot on an iPhone. Its striking balance between poignancy and the outlandish make it a truly masterful work.
5. White God
The film’s premise may not immediately hit as one of the year’s most engaging dramas, but trust me when I say that it kept me enthralled and at times, weeping. This 2014 Hungarian film picked up the Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. Kornél Mundruczó’s thrilling drama follows young Lili, a 13 year-old musician whose dog, Hagen, is viciously taken away from her and then abandoned by her father. Lili tracks Hagen down as he starts an uprising against human civilization. While the daring (and admittedly wonky) premise should be enough to snag your attention, the fascinating performances between Zsófia Psotta (Lili), Bodie and Luke (Hagen) rival some of acting’s best.