Summer is here and most of us are likely still trying to make the best out of the quarantine lifestyle. That’s where this list comes in, because even in these uncertain times your movie nights don’t have to be boring.
Each month, I pick a short-list of under-the-radar titles waiting to be unearthed from the algorithms of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like. If nothing else, it’ll save you from endlessly scrolling.
Here are a few films that will upgrade your “To-Watch” list this June.
This should be required viewing for every single white-person living in the United States. Easily one of the most important films from the last five years. Ava DuVernay captures a gut-wrenching and multi-faceted array of creative conventions; holding a mirror up to our society and says: “Look what we’ve done. Now fix it.”
In true DuVernay fashion, there’s never any doubt of the documentary’s mission, but you’re in for symbolic camera angles and a knack for unveiling each gritty, layer in true cinematic fashion. 13th rides that line between unsettling and beautiful in near perfect fashion. And every step of the way, with every story shared, we grow more uncomfortable with the systemic injustice and festering racism in the criminal justice system — which is the sign of a doc that hits its mark.
No one takes you on a cinematic journey quite like Ms. DuVernay, because there is no way to watch it and not feel convicted to see things differently and feel compelled to change the way of which we engage the world. And in this time, that’s still vitally important.
FOR FANS OF: Fruitvale Station; LA 92; When They See Us
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Okay, I’m just going to say it … Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the best Caped Crusader’s origin story captured on screen. The more years pass the more this flick grows into unicorn status. A fantastic blend of animation, familiar story, dark characters, and a touch of original storytelling all coexisting to craft a rare, visceral animated feature. And it was dropped in vintage straight-to-VHS style!
Arriving mid-run of TV’s Batman The Animated Series, over the backdrop of becoming the famed vigelante, Phantasm tells the story of Bruce Wayne’s only love — the one that got away, Andrea Beaumont. Years later Andrea returns to Gotham and Bruce’s life. Grappling with rekindled feelings and damaging memories, Batman must also thwart the arrival of a new murderous villain, The Phantasm (or angel of death). Of course it wouldn’t be a classic Bat-tale without crossing paths with the Joker, Mark Hammil’s greatest performance. Which may, in fact, be the true stroke of genius; weaving Joker’s connection to the narrative still feels fresh and chilling reaching its peak in a guttural amusement park battle that salutes to aged classic Metropolis.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is certainly a nostalgic pick, but it’s one that holds up remarkably well. A great time capsule of an era when mainstream animation was at its peak and comic book entertainment was starting to come into its own. For all of my fellow geeks out there, this one delivers the goods.
FOR FANS OF: Batman The Animated Series; The Iron Giant; Kubo and the Two Strings
Christopher Guest Movies
Bless Hulu for basically curating the perfect summer weekend movie marathon for us. I mean, does it get any better than this line-up of Christopher Guest classics?:
- Best in Show
- For Your Consideration
- A Mighty Wind
- Waiting for Guffman
The utterly delightful comedies pack a complete journey of quirky variety. A not-so-self-serious salute to folks music? Check. Venturing to a prestigious annual dog show? Check. An absurd celebration of community theatre? Check. Outrageous egos on a Hollywood film set? Check. Oh, and a healthy dose of Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, and Eugene Levy in all their brilliance. All of which are wrapped in the hilariously nuanced and dry characterizations that may only be found at the hands of Mr. Guest and his fleet of frequent collaborators.
FOR FANS OF: Office Space; The Producers; This Is Spinal Tap
A Ghost Story (2017)
A Ghost Story is the best movie of 2017 you might not have seen. Once again proving Rooney Mara — with all her diverse and unconventional choices — to be one of Hollywood’s most talented. Her heart-breaking fragility is a masterclass in less-is-more acting.
One of the most deeply sad yet imaginative and boldly existential films I’ve seen. Immediately after finishing it, I could tell it would haunt me for all the right reasons. Signs of fine film. And oh so deliciously imaginative and original. I mean, this scene of silent communication alone makes the screenplay worthy of an Oscar nom. It’s easy to say A Ghost Story is the kind of film we need more of, because we do — but crafting something this unique vision and truly having something to say without succumbing to spoon-feeding is easier said than done.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this one triggers deep feelings but not the ones you’d expect … and that makes it a worthwhile experiment.
FOR FANS OF: Captain Fantastic; Elephant; A Single Man
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
A couple months ago I wrote a nostalgic-laced essay on the potential perfection that is The Mighty Ducks. Because, for me, it’s more than mere entertainment. There’s something uniquely campy yet deeply grounded about the quack-attack that feels perfectly nostalgic but incredibly relevant still today. That’s what makes The Mighty Ducks magical. Call me crazy, but it’s the best hockey flick yet made. Or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking, but don’t act like this movie doesn’t matter to you because, on some level, it likely does. And ducks fly together.
So, is The Mighty Ducks a perfect sports movie?
Well, there’s only one way to find out. Thanks to Disney+ we can relive the glory of the Minnesota Miracle Man and his band of can-do misfits. A tasty bowl of nostalgia is just what the doctor ordered this summer.
FOR FANS OF: The Big Green; Heavyweights; The Sandlot
Overstuffed queue? Don’t stress. Fire up the one of these titles and save your next movie night. If nothing else, you’ve no excuses on finding something to stream when Christopher Guest mockumentaries are right there. Now, go watch something!
What’s the best flick you’ve caught on a streaming platform recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!