Summer is halfway over, and you haven’t even started on that Netflix queue, have you? I’ve had Melvin and Howard in my possession for two months now. We’re all going to get through this together.
Let me help you on your journey by suggesting 10 wildly different titles that are now available on Netflix Instant. It’s a glamorous, funny, serious, sometimes gay, and usually damn smart series of works. Let’s watch ’em and report back in a month, shall we?
Of Human Bondage
Ah, flashy young Bette! A one-of-a-kind imp and coquette! Of Human Bondage isn’t exactly light cinema, but of Ms. Davis’ contributions to ’30s, it’s her finest hour. Or is it Dark Victory? OK, I do love Dark Victory. But Somerset Maugham won’t ever let you astray. Did you see The Razor’s Edge? Anne Baxter tearing. It. Up. Anyway. See Of Human Bondage.
Now 50 years old, Cleopatra is a bit of a bear to get through, but you still need to see it because of those priceless moments in which Liz Taylor’s beauty shines like A REFLECTION IN A GOLDEN EYE (sorry) and you can totally track the beginning of ’60s sartorial and makeup trends. “Sphinx pink” was a real color at one point.
Barefoot in the Park
Barefoot in the Park may mark one of Jane Fonda’s lightest roles (it’s even lighter than California Suite, y’all), but it’s so worth viewing now thanks to its three timeless attributes: 1) Jane’s fabulous comic chops, 2) Robert Redford’s golden visage, 3) Mildred Natwick’s Oscar-nominated turn as Fonda’s concerned, sputtering mother. Movie stars named Mildred, guys. You’ll never get that back.
Don’t Look Now
Don’t Look Now only gets more beloved as each year passes, and thank God: At the time of its premiere, it garnered a controversial rap for its graphic sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, the reigning king and queen of the early ’70s. But the amazing editing, fascinating depiction of grief, and shocking thriller elements still make this a one-of-a-kind film. Totally, totally captivating. If you want a less hair-raising Julie Christie, fear not: Heaven Can Wait is also available on Netflix Instant starting this summer. And of course, if you want a hair-flattening Julie Christie, rent Shampoo.
The Parallax View
Now, of the films in Alan J. Pakula’s Political Paranoia trilogy, The Parallax View is certainly the one you should see least. (C’mon, Klute and All the President’s Men? Jane Fonda’s weary prostitute act and Jane Alexander’s liar face are more important than Warren Beatty taking himself seriously, I insist.) But there’s something to mine here: Beatty is a good actor, and he holds his own against the great Hume Cronyn. The crescendo of intrigue here is definitively ’70s, and everyone looks amazing swept up in it — because let’s face it, the real reason to watch this is for the remains of Jane Fonda’s shag that Paula Prentiss calls a haircut here. Sigh!
Shifting worlds completely: The new season of New Girl is on Netflix, and I think this might be the universally enjoyable sitcom on TV right now. Surely you’ve been put off by Zooey Deschanel’s loopy act in the past, but here she has such distinct chemistry with roommates Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris, and Max Greenfield that she becomes more lovable and charming with every episode. This is seriously an addicting comedy, and therefore perfect for a summer binge.
Shocking how many of my friends still haven’t seen this movie, because I think it’s one of seven movies I’ve seen in the past two years that I actually adored. Gayby fits within the nebulous, yet specifically marginalized world of “gay comedies,” but it’s fair to say it is better than just about any queer comedy you’ve ever seen. What other movie has the smarts or chops to dissect — even in a passing one-liner — Showgirls with a hilarious quip (“Nomi Malone” = “No, me, I’m alone “– a name that signifies her “existential angst”). Have to give it up to Matthew Wilkas and Jenn Harris, who play a gay man and his female friend who choose to have a child au naturel, for being so fun and effortless with the movie’s shockingly hysterical dialogue.
A Late Quartet
This is a movie that makes you feel like you understand the life of chamber musicians, even if its a soapy melodrama about bickering oldsters. Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Mark Ivanir are addictively egotistical pros who reel you into their cloistered musical klatch. A true underrated gem of the past year.
Venus and Serena
I’m already having Wimbledon withdrawals. Siiiiigh. This unassuming doc about the revolutionary Williams sisters will remind you just how difficult it was for them to emerge as superheroes, even if it seems like they’ve been kicking ass for decades now. Sidenote: I do kind of miss when professional tennis players looked like Conchita Martinez. But whatever. Williams dynasty for all time.
Rob Delaney: Live at the Bowery Ballroom
Rob Delaney was a comedian before joining Twitter, but he quickly became the 140-character machine’s premier comic, racking up nearly 900,000 followers. For people familiar with his tweet stream of raunchy, irreverent, artfully misspelled jokes, his standup is actually something of a surprise. It’s erratic and charged in a whole different way, and while that’s captivating on its own, it’s also lovely to realize that Delaney is one of the most pro-gay, pro-women comics working today.