The Procrastinator's Remorse
While climate change may wreak havoc on the changing of the seasons, the dance of titles available on streaming services continues with the choreographed precision of a Russian ballet. The end of the month means the loss of titles stored in our various queues. Despite new research contradicting the notion that procrastination is a character flaw, the unexpected disappearance of a title from a watchlist still hurts every time. Here are some recommendations for titles that you’ve thought about watching but found some excuse to push to another viewing date.
Indulge in some lengthy neo-noir classics from the 1990’s! Michael Mann’s Heat essentially created the modern (or is it post-modern?) heist film. Despite the overhyped pairing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in a scene that’s been analyzed more than the Zapruder film, Mann’s technical and visual style has never found a better story to match it on the big screen. Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, on the other hand, both pays homage to and deconstructs the classic crime film archetype. Based on James Ellroy’s labyrinthine classic, it’s a reminder that corruption and systemic racism are not recent innovations of the police bureaucracy.
Speaking of un-filmable crime novels set in Southern California, now is the time to finally dive into Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambitious attempt to bring Thomas Pynchon to big screen in Inherent Vice. Steeped in 70’s stoner culture and New Age conspiracy theories, it’s a movie best watched with synapses firing on full blast or in an altered state of consciousness. On the similarly offbeat but definitely lighter side, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman upended magical realism in film with Being John Malkovich. There’s a strong case to be made that this is the most important film of the last 20 years, calling out the madness of a celebrity obsessed culture long before we descended into Kardashians, Instagram influencers and reality TV presidencies.
At peak 90’s nostalgia, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that those beloved memories were a lot more complicated. David O. Russell’s Three Kings reminds us that the first Iraq War, while celebrated in the media as a brilliant military success, had a lot more going on behind the cruise missiles on CNN. Then again, there’s almost certainly an argument out there that what once seemed like brilliant post-colonial storytelling subconsciously indulges in tropes about Western saviors. Similarly, while a lot of discourse has covered the decline of the heartland, Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan suggests that dark, crime ridden side of the American dream was well under way in the land of family values.
Over on Amazon, it’s the last chance to figure out whether Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is the great American comedy or an epic disaster. Similarly, Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes may be the first contemporary revision of the classic detective from one of cinema's great filmmakers, or it might be an unsuccessful experiment in genre mashups from a talented director on the decline.