Your Netflix Instant Weekend: HUD, THE MACHINIST, and more
If you haven't heard, we're gearing up for another festival around these parts. This time, GATW is tackling SXSW here in Austin, TX. I like this festival because I don't have to go anywhere. Also, there are parties almost 24x7 and the film lineup is superb. As I am busy preparing to join several of my GATW family members in rocking your face with the best festival coverage around, I'm going to keep this weeks column short and sweet. So, if you can't make it down to Austin next week keep up with our coverage and entertain yourself with a tough-as-nails Western morality tale starring Paul Newman, a thriller from a modern master of atmosphere, and a study of madness from John Carpenter.
Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) lives hard, working only as much as he needs to on the family cattle ranch in order to spend his evenings with the ladies. He is constantly at odds with his father Homer (Melvyn Douglas), a true gentleman of the old West who is witnessing the death of the ideals he sees as lacking in his son. As cattle begin to die on the ranch, the emotional divide between Hud and Homer grows wider and it appears Homer's grandson is beginning to follow in Hud's footsteps which only serves to anger him further.
Based on the novel Horseman, Pass By Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show), HUD is a rough drama where family ties snap on screen before our very eyes under the weight of differing principles. There's a palpable air of resentment between Hud and Homer and it goes both ways. The film chronicles a major change in America itself and does so on scale that makes it very personal. HUD is even more poignant now as we as modern men and women look back on a simpler time that is no longer defined by the archaic ways of Melvyn Douglas' character but by that of Paul Newman's. (Available in HD)
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is near the end of almost every rope he has. He is frighteningly skinny, hasn't slept in a year, is disliked at work, and is involved in a machine accident on the job that cripples another man. That's just the beginning of his problems- there's also the matter of the only friend he has at work potentially being a figment of his imagination and the cryptic Post-It notes playing a mysterious game of hangman with him.
Brad Anderson (SESSION 9) infuses a stunning amount of atmosphere into a clever, but slight script. Much was made about Bale's dedication to the role- losing 60 pounds to play it- but it seems many people let the pictures of the actor at his skinniest be their only brush with THE MACHINIST. This is a mistake as the the movie is a triumph of a thriller and a frightening character study. The unraveling of Trevor's world is so meticulously realized in THE MACHINIST it is almost impossible for a viewer to not loose a bit of the grip he has on his own reality. (Available in HD)
With themes similar to THE MACHINIST, John Carpenter's mostly overlooked horror film, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, plays the reality vs. fiction battle out in a fashion much more suitable for popcorn munching. In it, a new book by horror author Sutter Cane is driving people mad. In fact, Cane's own agent has a brilliant introduction in the film showing just how crazy the book is making people. When Cane goes missing, his publisher (Charlton Heston) calls for help and insurance fraud investigator John Trent (Sam Neil) teams up with Cane's editor to find him. When they end up in Hobb's End, a fictional town in Cane's book, things have only just begun to get weird.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is deeply flawed at times, becoming too confusing for its own good, but when it works it is effectively moody and sometimes quite scary. There's a healthy balance between atmosphere driven horror and the boo-scares generally expected in more commercial films. A good bit of wit is present in the film's dissection of the argument of whether or not art inspires violence and the ending is chillingly bizarre. At first glance it would appear I've recommend two very similar films but watching both this and THE MACHINIST will show just how differently multiple films can handle the same type of concept. Nonetheless, I take no responsibility for the potential psychological effects of watching both in one weekend.
The Wildcard - LO
I see no reason to skimp on the crazy in this week's wildcard pick, so how about a tale of a love and demons? Justin's girlfriend April is kidnapped by demons so he uses a book to summon Lo to bring her back. But Lo has other plans. This looks like a dark comedy after my heart with great makeup effects!
If you're looking for more...
In keeping with the majority focus of this week's column there are a few more genre films for you to check out. MONSTERS is the story of two people trying to cross a monster-infected zone and the relationship that forms through the course of that journey. It's quite an accomplishment given the budget. The 1979 version of DRACULA with Frank Langella in the titualar role is ready to stream. ALIEN TRESPASS is a fairly amusing sci-fi comedy inspired by '50s science fiction films. UNDER THE MOUNTAIN is a kid friendly fantasy film that is based in New Zealand legends with a very H.P. Lovecraft feel. Also for the kids (and the kid in all of us) is THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN. The original NAKED GUN movie is available now as is AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL. For more laughs, looks towards THE ODD COUPLE (1958) and CANADIAN BACON. Some darker comedy can be found in the hugely underappreciated THE CABLE GUY. The original ITALIAN JOB (1969) is full of all kinds of Michael Caine badassery. Sofia Coppola's feature film directorial debut, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, has been added. Fans of Zoe Bell (DEATH PROOF) can see more of her in the documentary DOUBLE DARE. Speaking of documentaries, I haven't seen it but Abel Ferrara's CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS, about New York's famous Chelsea Hotel, sounds quite intriguing. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA is Sergio Leone's brilliant gangster epic. A pair of classic Westerns can be found in THE BADLANDERS and HIGH NOON. A odd blaxploitation film, THOMASINE & BUSHROD, is a counterpart to BONNIE & CLYDE. Any Paul Schrader addition is reason to celebrate and this week we have AMERICAN GIGOLO. Finally, if you didn't see it enough in high school, the 1968 version of ROMEO & JULIETTE can be watched at any time with the click of a button.