5 Thought Provoking Netflix Picks For Summer Viewing
In case you haven’t noticed, Netflix has really stepped up its game – no matter what you’re in the mood for, chances are you’ll find it. This embarrassment of riches, however, means that it’s easy to overlook some real gems. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at all those choices but at a loss to pick one, consider a selection from this curated list; they’re all thought provoking, intelligent, and far from cookie cutter.
1. We Are What We Are – directed by Jim Mickle (2013)
Finding horror movies that seem fresh and different is a difficult task, but this one fits the bill. After the death of their mother, sisters Rose and Iris must capitulate to their father’s wishes and carry out a dark and ancient family tradition. Themes of extreme religiosity and fundamentalism are examined to chilling effect – the film’s dénouement, in particular, is not for the faint of heart. You probably shouldn’t be eating towards the end of this film, is what I’m saying.
2. Melancholia – directed by Lars von Trier (2011)
Von Trier is an acquired taste, for sure. This avant-garde Danish filmmaker has made me bawl my eyes out (see “Breaking the Waves” and “Dancer in the Dark”) and recoil in utter horror (if you want to see one of the most disturbing movies ever, stream his film “Antichrist”, but don’t say I didn’t warn you). Love him or hate him, though, his movies linger in the mind long after viewing, and “Melancholia” is no exception.
It stars Kristen Dunst as a character in the midst of a full-blown depression; her depression, however, is eclipsed by the literal end of the world. What follows is a dreamy, terrifyingly lovely countdown of a family’s last days on earth. It’s not an action-packed apocalyptic thriller, but rather an exploration of mortality on both a micro and macro scale. Watch it, and then pull your loved ones close.
3. Top of the Lake – directed by Jane Campion (2013)
I’m always proselyting to everyone about this Sundance Originals miniseries, starring Holly Hunter and Peggy Olson herself, Elisabeth Moss. Detective Robin Griffin (Moss) gets pulled into the case of Tui Mitcham, a twelve year old girl who turns up pregnant and then disappears. As Griffin works the case, her own personal history intersects in compelling and disturbing ways.
Set against the haunting backdrop of New Zealand, the cast here is superb, including Holly Hunter as GJ, an esoteric guru “helping” a band of damaged women. As a whole, the series is dark and knotty; there’s a lot to unpack here about the power dynamic between men, women, and children. Moss truly shines, as a broken but strong character trying to save not only Tui, but herself.
Bonus: the soundtrack is excellent.
4. Grizzly Man – directed by Werner Herzog (2005)
This documentary is no longer available on Netflix streaming (boo hiss) but you can order it via Netflix DVD. If you’re not familiar with Herzog’s oeuvre, you’re in for a real treat. He could basically make a documentary about dirt, and I’d totally watch it. “Grizzly Man” centers on Timothy Treadwell, a self-proclaimed bear expert who lived in the Alaskan wilderness among grizzlies. Now, think about this for a minute – grizzlies as in enormous, deadly, wild bears.
Treadwell camped among them and filmed his interactions accordingly; he gave the bears names, touched them, and bonded (arguably) with them. In fact, Treadwell appointed himself as the bear’s advocate and protector, until his dying day. I won’t reveal how that death occurred, but it’s the driving force behind the film – his actions and their eventual horrifying consequence. Herzog works in multiple layers – some focus upon modern day interviews with Treadwell’s friends and families – while the rest is actual footage that Treadwell himself filmed. The result is heartbreaking and unforgettable. Seriously, get your hands on this film.
5. Hit So Hard – directed by P. David Ebersole (2011)
Ah, this documentary makes me happy because it hits all my teenage nostalgia checkpoints: Generation X represent! It’s the story of Hole drummer Patty Schemel – both her rise to fame and her struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Schemel is insanely likeable, and her experiences shed new light on the ‘90s alternative scene, in all its problematic glory.
Courtney Love weighs in, of course, as do members of Luscious Jackson, and there’s heartbreaking archival footage of Kurt Cobain and Frances Bean. I love insider-y looks at musical culture, and “Hit So Hard” really delivers. It will basically make you want to pick up a drum kit.
Readers – Have you seen any of the picks on this list? And what are your best Netflix recs? Please share!
Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.
skin tone: NC15
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