By Kimiko MaedaLeon
The Rough Rider (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Netflix is such a wonderful thing; it brings us our favorite shows and movies and pulls us out of the abyss when we’re dead bored. But the sheer magnitude of all the things we could watch is just befuddling. How does one choose? Never fear, this list provides non-mainstream movies that will match whatever mood you are in. So sit back and enjoy the power of Netflix.
Horror: “The Babadook” gives you chills without giving you a heart attack
I’m one of those people who dislike being scared out of their wits, but horror movies has a way of drawing me in, as it does to everyone. I first heard about “The Babadook” online, where critics were citing it as “a refreshing take on the genre.” When it arrived on Netflix, I felt obligated to watch it, and I was not disappointed.
“The Babadook,” a foreign film, features actors and actresses with Aussie accents, placed in a seemingly innocent suburban neighborhood. Amelia, battling with depression after the death of her husband, tries to get on with her life and raise her child, Sam, who is struggling in school. One night Sam finds an odd children’s book on their shelf and asks Amelia to read it to him. What she finds in the book and what follows is anything but a kid’s story.
What sets this movie apart from other recent horror films is its atmosphere. Unlike movies such as “Cabin in the Woods” or “Paranormal Activity,” which start off and maintain a foreboding, dark mood, “The Babadook’s” atmosphere is layered: cheerful at the surface, but something sinister lurking underneath. Although the acting can be a bit cheesy at times, the movie does its job, building tension when tension is needed and adding gritty sound effects when the Babadook makes its appearance. It is a solid scarer, and its lack of jump scares ensured that people with weak hearts could still enjoy it without fainting: just my kind of horror movie.
In all, “The Babadook” is a more unconventional horror movie, with a cheerful-but-scary tone that scares you by building suspense, not by jumping out at you. Although the acting brought it down a bit, it still manages to do its job.
Drama: “Detachment” is highly immersive and non cliche
To be brutally honest, the only reason I watched this movie was because I was blown away by Adrian Brody’s acting in “The Pianist”, and was curious about his other roles. I found this movie deep in the far corners of the Netflix universe, and decided to give it a try. It was very much not what I was expecting, and in a good way.
Brody plays Henry, a melancholy, stuck-in-a-rut soul who takes in an underage prostitute and helps clean up her life. He also takes up a job as a long term english sub at a destitute public high school. As the film goes on, he develops relationships with some of the students and staff members.
Though it may seem like a bleak, unattractive movie, “Detachment” is anything but. Brody’s stellar acting transforms an uneventful plot into a jungle of mixed emotions. What stuck out more than his acting, however, was the soundtrack, or lack thereof. Besides the few times you could hear melodies in the background, most of the film does not include a soundtrack. This gives the movie an especially immersive, realistic feel to it. The characters’ emotions, without music, become very raw and authentic. It is quite impressive.
“Detachment” is one of those movies that strike you, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Although, that being said, it is one of those movies that you should only watch once in your life, like “Requiem for a Dream.” Why would that be? “Detachment” is a very somber movie that, for lack of better words, put you in a devastated mood afterward. It is eye-opening and makes you ponder about the struggles of life at its core, which is why despite it being a downer, it is still very much worth watching.
Indie: “Moonrise Kingdom”
First things first: What exactly is an ‘indie movie?’ Indie movies, or independent movies, are more low-budget, artsy films that dominate art festivals such as the Cannes and the Sundance festival. Because they are independent, they are not usually widely played in theatres. “Moonrise Kingdom” was written and directed by Wes Anderson, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2013. It is one of my favorite movies out there.
“Moonrise Kingdom” follows a very young couple, Sam and Suzie, in the town of New Penzance, New England in the 60’s. Sam is an orphan, who’s in and out of foster homes. Suzie is a troubled child who lives with her family. After they begin exchanging letters, they decide to run away with each other, leading their small town scrambling to try find them.
Like all Wes Anderson movies, “Moonrise Kingdom” has a killer soundtrack and quirky characters, from the Scoutmaster to Sam and Suzie themselves. The oddity of these characters help push the storyline along, giving the movie amazing one-liners and awkward encounters. The stellar soundtrack, as noted before, gives the movie an off-beat, animated atmosphere which sets the film apart and makes it its own. Along with the acting, the cinematography, and scenery, this movie’s just a package deal of awesome.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a lighthearted tale of young love in the 60’s filled with lovable, quirky characters and memorable music, a definite must-watch on a rainy day.
Tearjerker: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”
Every now and then, one needs a good cry to get them through the day. This movie provides. Set during WW2, the movie follows a young German boy named Bruno. Bruno’s father is high up in the military, and, following his promotion, is asked to oversee one of the concentration camps. The family moves into a house next to the camp and Bruno, with nothing to do, explores the premises. As he treks through the forest, he comes upon a fenced off area, and on the other side, finds a boy wearing ‘pajamas.’ They soon become friends and Bruno starts sneaking off to visit him more often.
Unlike most WW2 films, this one is in the perspective of a child, and a German child for that matter. This unique viewpoint allows one to truly see the two-faced disposition that the German soldiers had. For example, Bruno’s father at home is a very sweet man, and Bruno sees him as such: a man who’s hardworking and cares very much for his family. But he’s also an SS officer. Bruno never sees his father’s destructive side, but he sees it quite often in the other officers that enter his home. Being a child, he doesn’t understand virtually anything that is going on, and what his father is doing. It is heart breaking to watch a naive child get pulled into such a dark situation.
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a heart-wrenching tale of friendship and innocence, and the confusion of war on a child. It is almost guaranteed to make you cry.
Sci-Fi: “Mr. Nobody”
This movie kept popping up on my home screen, under ‘Drama,’ ‘Independent,’ ‘Recommended,’ you name it. It was in almost every category. I finally decided to watch it just out of curiosity. Seriously, how can one movie fall under so many genres? Turns out, one movie can.
Although it is mainly a sci-fi, “Mr. Nobody” has many other facets that could fall under other categories. This melting pot of genres creates a unique whirlwind of complex ideas and settings, which can be fun to watch but hard to grasp.
It circles around the concept of just how powerful and influential choices are. We make decisions everyday, whether it be big or small. From deciding what to wear to choosing a college, these decisions set you down a certain path. In comes Nemo, an old man who is the last mortal on Earth. As he lays on his bed, dying of old age, he tells his life story to a reporter. The catch though is that he tells multiple versions of his life. In one life, he moves to New York with his mom. In another, he chooses to stay in England with his dad, In one life, he’s rich. In another, he’s homeless. Depending on his decisions he made, he lives a different life.
With all the different plots and such, this film can be very confusing at times, and it requires a great deal of focus and attention to follow it. I believe it is well worth the effort. This movie shows just how vulnerable your life is to your choices, even if they may seem small at first. The complicated storyline is pulled along by marvelous acting by Jared Leto and its soundtrack, filled with mostly oldies, provide a sharp contrast to the dreamy, sci-fi feel of the movie itself.
“Mr. Nobody” is a tale of smaller tales becoming intertwined. Along with the tremendous acting and off-beat soundtrack, this movie will leave you stunned, and a little confused. The underlying concept of how decision making and shapes each and every one of us give it a very philosophical, dreamlike feeling that you won’t find in any other movie.
Netflix: so many choices, so little time. So the next time you are stuck with what to watch, try one of these movies. You won’t regret it.
Image Credit: Indiewire