THE LONELIEST PLANET, Dir. Julia Loktev 2011
I missed this little film in theaters by one day, as it didn’t have a very wide or long release, but it was well worth the wait until I discovered it streaming on Netflix. It’s a fantastically simple story. And while this is why it may turn some critics off–Ebert wanted more dramatic punch–it’s precisely why I loved it so much. Tensions abound scene to scene as young couple, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and lovely Israeli-American actor Hani Furstenberg, backback through Georgia with a guide–but there isn’t outright big plot conflict until about halfway through. Still, I was compelled and entertained every moment. The direction allows for a lot of what feels like physical improvisation, and the story is ultimately centered on one of these instinctual gestures. Once the pivotal moment happens, you will be personally engaged with new questions about yourself, and that, to me, is a great simple story.
This movie is not for the faint of heart or silly of moods, but it is so, so worth watching. It features a little-known but brilliant performance Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, an IRA leader who led a hunger strike in protest of prisoner conditions. That said, it’s anything but your typical biopic. In fact, it feels nothing like a biopic at all, and we don’t even meet our protagonist until well into the film. It’s one of the most beautifully shot, designed, and acted pieces of storytelling I’ve seen. Startlingly intimate, Hunger touches me far more than the McQueen-Fassbender follow-up Shame.
HOUSE OF CARDS
Truth: I will check out anything David Fincher’s involved in. Se7en was one of the first cool thrillers I remember seeing. I wrote about Fight Club in two different college papers. His Girl With The Dragon Tattoo arguably captured the book better than the original, and with better production value and filmmaking craft. I even found myself sitting through the (not-his-fault-but-) crappy Alien sequel he’s since disowned. He’s SO good at telling stories in taut, exciting, and darkly funny ways. So I was stoked to discover this political drama series producers and partially directed by him popping up in Instant Streaming the other week. I’m a few episodes in now, and I can say I’m definitely intrigued.
The series follows the ambitious House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey with a healthy dose of humor. He speaks directly to the audience every once in a while, his comments to us reminiscent of “Dexter,” letting us in on the joke as he manipulates his way through DC. Wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but it gets so funny that it’s totally worth it. Robin Wright plays his icy and equally aspiring wife, promising to be an interesting character, and Kate Mara is there as a green but shrewd reporter who forms a mutually beneficial relationship with Underwood. This is what I predict will be the crux of the show: how these two characters use each other. Trust (or maybe betrayal) is the theme at the heart of everything.
ALSO: NYT on binge-viewing and the TV of the future.
I’ve heard a lot of complaining lately about the lack of selection on Netflix from friends and strangers alike. I gotta say, I don’t get it. There is so much to see on Netflix (and I also use Amazon Prime–there’s no comparison). So I’m starting this little feature to share my favorite finds in every genre, all available on the instant streaming plan (at least at the time of my posting).
LOST IN TRANSLATION
This movie is comfort food to me. I can watch it over and over, and each time something in it–the understated performances actors doing some of their best work, the stillness and space in the art direction, the culture shock I remember ringing so true when I visited Japan–gently moves me, without ever being melancholy. It’s funny, sad, sweet, and beautiful to look at.
*Jess Zimmer has tracked down Scarlett’s panties.
*Evan E. Richards captured the film’s cinematography.