NextFlix: January 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011


If you haven't seen Dogtooth, then you haven't seen anything like Dogtooth. It is one of the few movies I've ever come across that I can call truly singular. If you're already a fan of bizarre cinema, then stop reading now and stream this already. If you need more convincing, keep reading.

To watch Dogtooth is to peek in on a very private family as if they were an exhibit in some sort of humanoid zoo. The gist is this: Dad runs the show and wants nothing more than to raise his children without any outside influence. Mom is along for the ride, and the kids (more like 18- to 20-year-olds) just don't know any better because Dad has done such a good job of this. The kids are convinced that the world outside of their driveway is perilous beyond belief (just wait until you find out what their primary threat is!). Words are given new meanings; a "zombie" is "a little yellow flower." The parents stage little contests for the children. Competition is fierce; the winners are awarded stickers, which are highly coveted in their little microcosm. If this sounds boring, it's not. You will be surprised and sometimes altogether shocked at every new scene. You NEVER know what the hell you are about to witness.

As a whole, the film is very unsettling and disturbing. The frame of the camera, by default it seems, tends to cut characters off right above their shoulders, resulting in a reoccurring sense of depersonalization. Luckily, the film also has a dark sense of humor. You might be gasping in horror one second, but you'll be laughing uncomfortably the next. Thematically, I was reminded of the infamous Fritzl case. Although the movie doesn't quite reach that level of horror, it is similarly perverse.

Oh, and it features the single-best dance routine I've seen in a movie in a long, long while. 

Still not convinced? This stunning Greek film is now up for an Oscar at the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

WARNING: Aberrant sex and some shocking violence.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Parking Lot Movie!

First, a brief note about the lack of updates: sometimes Netflix goes through a drought and releases practically nothing I can recommend. I am still trying to come up with a good idea to keep the blog going during these dry spells. In other words, the blog isn't going anywhere. As proof, here's one I doubt you'll hear about anywhere else.

The Parking Lot Movie is not nearly as boring as its title suggests. This 2010 documentary is for anyone who has ever worked a job that they knew wasn't going anywhere. The kind of job where you spend most of your shift killing time. Most of all, it's for the people who've ever had to work a job where they were forced to interact with assholes. There is a scene in this movie where we bear witness to the single best tell-off I've ever seen. Watching it unfold, I felt a surge of joy rush through me. It made me want to travel back to my cashier days and give every last one of those bastards a piece of my mind. What makes it possible for these workers to do just that is one simple rule about parking lots: The customer is not always right. And so the employees are given free reign, more or less, to collect their dued amounts. This makes for good entertainment.

Prior to viewing, I was sucked in by a few reviews claiming this movie was a lot like a real-life Clerks. As it turns out, the claim is pretty damn accurate. You've got, as one character puts it, a group of otherwise unemployable misfits in, as another character puts it, a battle with humanity. Hell if that doesn't sum up Clerks, I don't know what does.

The Parking Lot Movie reaches a little higher though. The people who work there--many are grad students--are a little lost in life. They are poets and songwriters and dreamers, some all too aware that they are capable of something better. Some of them are incredibly spiteful, and perhaps a little too much of the movie consists of them bitching about people driving SUVs and kids with popped collars. Thankfully, their complaints are usually defined by an unflinching, often self-deprecating honesty.

The movie gets downright infectious when it focuses on the camaraderie between lot employees. At its most entertaining, you find yourself wishing you could spend a year or so working at the lot. You will want to play flip cone. You will want to pick the quote that ends up stenciled on the gate. You might even want to chase down a non-paying customer with a wrench! But you can't. Because in an ironic twist of sorts, we learn that you can't get this job. You have to know somebody. A little elitist, no?


Thursday, January 6, 2011


This one's for the skiiers and the snowboarders out there. In Frozen, three friends pay off a lift operator for one last run at the end of the day. This turns out to be a very, very big mistake. The negligent lift operator leaves his post, the park gets shut down, and a storm's rolling in. This leaves our three protagonists stuck 50 feet in the air. As witness to this situation, you're left feeling helpless. You wonder what you would do differently.You wonder if you could've fared better. This is survival horror and it's not for the faint-hearted. The middle act is without a doubt one of the leanest pieces of suspenseful filmmaking in recent years. The relatively thin plot isn't quite enough to deliver a full-fledged horror masterpiece, but this movie is short and utterly worth it to get your blood pumping.

Horror fans have it hard. It's tough to find movies that aren't overtly silly, or just gory for gory's sake; though both can be great if done properly, it's extremely rare. And so wading through the garbage has become par for the course for us horror lovers. This one's the real deal, a labor of love from all involved. Adam Green (acclaimed director of slasher homage Hatchet) shoots practically, meaning there's a refreshingly noticeable lack of CGI. Everything was shot on location, in actual frigid conditions, on an actual ski lift that really was 50 feet off the ground. It shows. Their isolation feels real. The threats are palpable and the terror of the situation is inescapable. Running under 90 minutes, Frozen is a cut above most of 2010's new horror films.

Ordinarily I'd post a trailer here. However, if you plan to watch Frozen, I urge you NOT to watch the trailer. As mentioned, the movie is short and the three-minute preview spoils way too much.