The Amazon Prime Video catalogue is growing by the month, and not only because a ton of old movies are jumping into the public domain. They’re getting their hands on Oscar and Emmy winners, along with an ever increasing selection of original programming. If you don’t have Amazon, now may be the time to consider signing up, if only because you’ve run out of things to watch on Netflix.
Even though Leonardo DiCaprio’s long quest for an Oscar is finally over, we’ll probably never stop being surprised that he didn’t win for Blood Diamond. Or that Djimon Hounsou didn’t win either. Both actors turn in rock solid performances in a movie that had virtually no weak spots. Even the ending title cards about actual blood diamonds didn’t have the usually preachy vibe movies get when they spell out their moral. It’s a frustrating movie for all the right reasons, the right reasons being tight scripting, intelligent character motivation, logical plot and character developments, and the ever present senseless disregard for human life conflict diamonds instigate and sustain. It’s easily one of our favorite movies, so any time we get easier access to it, we’re happy.
Caddyshack is one of those movies that’s remembered only for a few key parts and Bill Murray is in all of them. The reason it’s survived as a classic is most likely due to a stellar, entirely improvised performance that takes up way less of the movie than people seem to remember. It also has a lot to do with a groundhog. Everyone else’s performance is acceptable and it’s a comedy that holds up, but it’s Murray that turns it into a movie that’s really worth watching. Plus, it has the other Kenny Loggins song that’s almost as memorable as “Danger Zone.”
We’ll venture a guess and say, at this point, Christian Bale is picking roles based on what weird shit he can do to his body. The Fighter is in that vein, where Bale once again looks like a meth head with an eating disorder. It’s gotten to the point that we have to wonder if Bale is a masochist with an acting problem. In any case, the movie is great, a classic boxing redemption story, with the Massachusetts setting Mark Wahlberg seems to demand as one of two places he’ll act in a movie. The other is Philadelphia.
Lars and the Real Girl
Sex is going to get really weird in the upcoming decades. There are already guys marrying sex dolls, and they haven’t even gotten to Westworld quality yet. Lars and the Real Girl is the indie film that broached the topic back in 2007, around when humans first realized that robots would soon be viable places to rub our genitals and had been (presumably) conjugating with mannequins for years. Ryan Gosling plays the socially inept Lars who gets himself an internet girlfriend who turns out to be a plastic doll, and his family basically goes along with it. Our sincere hope for this movie is, in the next few years, it stays a comedy and not a guide. As difficult and intimidating as it can occasionally be, we should focus our energy on sleeping with real humans, because there’s no way robot fornication works out for us.
We have a theory that Braveheart only had Mel Gibson in it because Mel Gibson was the director. Not to disparage Mel Gibson’s performance or the movie he made, because both are good. It just might have been better had different things happened. One way it could have been different was if Liam Neeson was in it. The closest we’ll ever get to that though, is Rob Roy, where Liam Neeson plays the head of a Scottish cattle herding clan. He gets a loan to help feed his clan, but after it goes bad, he’s forced to go on the run. So mix in a little Han Solo to that earlier Braveheart and you’re closer to what we’re dealing with here.
One of the lines that absurd movies have to walk is that they can’t get carried away by their own weird world. Movies simply aren’t appealing if they pile one insane idea on top of another. This is why The Lobster works. It take a simple idea (that you’ll be turned into an animal if you can’t find love in a specific time period) and explores it by applying real emotion and character. The filmmakers could easily have turned the movie into a dystopian Orwell-Zootopia–Children of Men hybrid, but they recognized that would have made a good movie bad, so they didn’t do it. Instead, we get a darkly comic story about humanity’s desperation to be loved. So better.
Mozart in the Jungle (Season 3)
Amazon Prime Original programming is slowly coming into its own. It took a lot of missteps and cheap looking, poorly acted shows, but we’re finally getting good quality entertainment like Transparent and Catastrophe. Mozart in the Jungle is another one of those shows and has been doing fairly well on the awards circuit as well. It has some Golden Globes and a Primetime Emmy, so it’s getting attention. There’s the added benefit of us living in a bingeing culture and it being in its third season, so if you’re looking for a show to inject directly into your eyes and brain, this is one of the higher quality candidates.
The Man in the High Castle (Season 2)
The Man in the High Castle was one of the surprise hits of Amazon’s lineup. It’s a sort of update and fleshing out of Philip K. Dick’s novel by the same name, giving a relatively short book with a great concept some more room to explore its own world. The series is slow to get started, so it can be admittedly tough to get into, but the end of Season 1 sets the stage for an interesting and exciting Season 2. If Season 1 was about introducing us to Japanese and Nazi occupied United States, then Season 2 is about showing us what caused it and what we can do to change it.
Traditional hand drawn and stop motion animation fell away a bit after Pixar showed everyone they could make amazing movies with the right computer hardware. CG movies can be churned out with a prosumer level graphics card, so there’s no guarantee it’s going to be anywhere close to good. But when someone puts their mind to making a stop motion movie, at the very least, it will be good. Anomalisa is a movie like that, ending up with a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and covering topics you don’t usually find in a genre mostly associated with children. It pulled in an R rating, so this isn’t a Wallace and Gromit ripoff. There are also only three people providing the voices, proving it’s talent over budget that makes good movies.
Woody Allen can be hard to like, but if you can divorce the man from the movie, you’re in for some witty films. His writing is to movies what Jerry Seinfeld’s is to stand up; they’re genre altering performances that influenced both crafts for years to come. Allen’s latest is an Amazon Prime Original, part of an effort on Amazon’s part to match Netflix’s recent foray into original films. It’s not out yet, so we can’t tell you how it’s going to be, but the trailer has all the trademarks of a Woody Allen movie. There are love, Jazzy music, and a fast talking Jewish protagonist from New York. And chances are, you already know whether or not you’re going to watch it.
While you’re here, check out our picks for Netflix in December.