Now there’s little work to be procrastinating from there’s even more time to stare at a screen. Next on Netflix is back to ensure that you’re not wasting a single moment of those valuable hours/days/weeks…
If you are a relatively young and a fan of cinema, it’s virtually compulsory to adore the films of Quentin Tarantino. For me, adore is far too strong a word. Indeed the more popular the film, the more overrated I find it (looking at you, Pulp Fiction). The follow up to that deified sophomore feature, 1997’s blaxploitation homage/masterpiece Jackie Brown, is far and away his best.
Firstly, he didn’t write the original story (legendary crime author Elmore Leonard did), meaning his trademark flagrant flairs (i.e. that dialogue) which so often become overbearing are kept to an absolute minimum, working in his favour for once. Secondly it contains one of his best casts, a collection of actors who focus on subtlety and acting rather than looking a superficial, stylised ‘cool’.
After spending half an hour with several characters, just to dwell in and flesh out this hyper-real world (an engaging and underused approach similar to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), we meet Jackie, played by the phenomenal Pam Grier, a flight attendant and gunrunner for Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell (with a much better role but much worse hair than Pulp Fiction).
Forced to turn on him by the cops, she instead tries to play everyone against one other and walk away with $550,000 and a new man (Robert Forster) in a crime drama that doubles as one of the most delicate and realistic love stories in film, all the more surprising and rare since Jackie Brown concerns a middle aged couple.
Jackie Brown features all the tropes that people love about Tarantino (wit, shocking violence, a fantastic soundtrack, Samuel L. Jackson) but manages to come across as less adolescent and have a tender heart beating beneath all that style.
The most accessible weird film by the most mainstream weird director working in America today, Blue Velvet is also one of David Lynch’s most disturbing creations, a perversion of the perfect ideal of heartland USA made all the more insidious by how close it sits to reality. There are no backwards talking little people, no rabbit sitcoms, no psychogenic fugues, no ladies in the radiator, just Frank Booth and Dorothy Vallens, and a whole lot of voyeurism.
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is visiting his father in hospital when he stumbles across an ear in a field. Upon reporting this to the authorities, he gets himself involved with a case concerning nightclub singer and kept woman Dorothy Vallens. Finding the mystery too irresistible, he ends up hiding in her closet one night spying one of the most uncomfortable and shocking events ever witnessed in a mainstream film. From there things just get worse. And weirder.
Lynch is one of the few living masters of filmmaking, and although with him it can often be difficult to comprehend what exactly is happening, it’s difficult to deny the hypnotic power of the film you’re watching (and hearing; one particular Roy Orbison song has been forever corrupted because of this film).
Those only familiar with MacLachlan from his appearances in shows like How I Met Your Mother and Portlandia would do well to explore his work with Lynch (including the legendary series Twin Peaks), revel in the strangeness, and then wonder what they’ve just witnessed…
American Horror Story
Much has been made of this horror filled drama series across the Atlantic, but in the UK, American Horror Story has barely been noticed. Which is a shame, as decent serialised horror on television is, ignoring serial killers, rare and far between (The Walking Dead has long since reneged on its potential and become a soap opera with only slightly more dead people). The format is perfect for slow burn creeps and incisive character explorations, and for the most part, AHS delivers.
Every season concerns a new story, each a skewed version of American television archetypes. Season one, the subtly titled Murder House, is a perversion of that well-trodden genre the domestic drama. Like 90210 or The O.C., but with added face melting and rubber gimp suits.
The only other season currently available on Netflix, season two’s Asylum, is a medical drama on PCP. Set in 1964 and featuring most of the same cast (including the impeccable Jessica Lange) as Murder House in different roles, to the coterie of ghosts is added nunsploitation, Ed Gein-style serial killers, Nazi war criminals and, um, aliens.
While from the description it should be clear that the show is occasionally at risk of going overboard, it’s best to treat American Horror Story as a nightmare, a darker edged ghost train, where anything that could happen… is probably far too conventional for this show.