Every week at Movie Mezzanine, we pick some of the best films currently on Netflix Instant. Whether they are big releases or hidden gems, these movies make your subscription worth the price. Read on for this week’s picks.
Neil Berkeley’s documentary about the artist Wayne White finds such a fascinating subject that the film itself pales in comparison to the thought of spending the same amount of time simply watching White’s energetic and vivid one-man show that forms the doc’s framing device. The range of the kooky Tennessean’s mixed arts unloads surreal, giddily childlike expressions that would call Pee-Wee’s Playhouse to mind even without the knowledge that White is the one who helped design that very playhouse. The anger that spikes from around the edges of that fun art both fuels and hampers the artist’s creativity, but this is a rare case of an artist overview that emerges truly happy, where even harrowing tales of childhood trauma have happy endings. It is good to see that, despite some patches of artsy narcissism, great work can come from decency as much as strife.
Tim Heidecker’s anticomic style is an acquired taste, but The Comedy critiques that mode even as it distills the comedian’s approach to an unadorned essence. The Comedy is a vision of irony occupying hollowed-out human shells like an alien parasite, self-sustaining on jokes without punchlines and a defiance of emotional attachment that betrays how desperately the person trapped behind its prison wants to truly reach out. Even the title is a demonstration of this cruelly deceitful irony: this is no comedy, it’s a horror film.
Dumbo does not need me to promote it. It’s Dumbo. But damn it all, just because we all know it’s great (deeply uncomfortable racial obliviousness notwithstanding) does not mean we can’t revisit it. Dumbo himself is a masterful inversion of the increasing intricacy of the Disney animators’ early feature-length work, all soft lines and softer pastels. His animated being is so delicate that the tragedies that happen to the poor beast are even more suspenseful; one fears he might be erased by one false move. Elsewhere, though, there is complexity. The early film master and Soviet propagandist Eisenstein loved what Disney’s animated features meant for filmmaking, and it would appear the animators returned the sentiment, with a sequence of workers and circus animals erecting their prison with canted shots of overlapping diagonal movement that would make the montage maestro proud. Dated in crucial, unsettling respects, Dumbo is nevertheless one of Disney’s best films, and the last in a string of bold, innovative masterpieces the studio has never lived up to in the seven decades that have followed.
What films have you sought out on Netflix Istant this week?