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.
Straub-Huillet remains one of my biggest blind spots, the intellectual filmmaking duo who tackled everything from opera to Marxism in their work. The inclusion of Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach on Netflix is a godsend, given the unavailability of most of the pair’s work. Even then, though Netflix may have no understanding of so singular a work, attaching a synopsis to the feature that many have been quick to correct. The focus here is on Bach’s music, with period-appropriate German and the filmmakers’ static style used to observe the music. Considered by many in the know to be a good introduction to Straub-Huillet, the film at least gives subscribers a chance to sample the two before having to look to more illicit means to see the rest of their work. — Jake Cole
Sandwiched and forgotten between the triumphs of Faces and A Woman Under the Influence, Minnie and Moskowitz is nevertheless John Cassavetes and, what’s more, Cassavetes hard to come by elsewhere. A dark comedy of characters whose plausibility and verisimilitude only makes them seem grotesque when set against the romantic comedy’s rigid generic types, Minnie and Moskowitz certainly has the staples of the director’s honest filmmaking. Minor or no, this is still a work by one of the all-time great (yet still misunderstood) American filmmakers, and its unavailability on other platforms makes this a must-watch. — Jake Cole
I’ve been hesitant to watch The Ward for years now. Having already sampled some of John Carpenter’s bad ‘90s work, his largely derided return to feature filmmaking only sent me further in retreat, back to the ‘70s and ‘80s work that suggested him as one of the great, personal auteurs in an increasingly bloated mainstream landscape. The more jump scares and found-footage define the horror genre, however, the more the prospect of any Carpenter, even a potentially tired, creaky one, sounds appealing. Also, the inclusion of Amber Heard as the young woman being plagued by ghosts cannot hurt. — Jake Cole
While the heavily promising Canadian “prodigy” Xavier Dolan likes to borrow from the stylings of his favorite auteurs, Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires) remains a potent and stylistically lush sophomore effort. Telling of a complicated love triangle between a pair of best friends and a new male love interest, Dolan’s film is able to sidestep the obvious influences from such directors as Wong Kar-Wai and Pedro Almodovar, resulting in passionate ode to coming-of-age and friendships tested. — Ty Landis
Cameron Crowe’s remake of the 1997 film Abre los ojos is a decidedly mixed bag of pleasures and flaws. While most have gone cold on the director (myself included), Vanilla Sky offers up a waking nightmare of a world populated by countless pop culture references and shifting identities. Centering on the rich and priviledged David Aames (Tom Cruise) and his quest to have it all, Crowe is keen on depicting the life of a playboy turned upside down as this trek into the dreamlike and the surreal is palpable and haunting. The soundtrack is also notable as it contains spots from Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and Bob Dylan. Also, fun fact: Tom Cruise wearing a mask usually results in a good movie. — Landis
Just recently arriving on Netflix Instant, Zodiac stands as the current crowning achievement in the career of David Fincher thus far. Depicting the Zodiac killer case from all angles and perspectives circa the 1960s and ’70s, Fincher’s layered drama serves as another window in the lives of obsessed men and their futile search for the truth. Paired along with an intoxicating screenplay from James Vanderbilt and excellent cinematography from the late Harris Savides, Zodiac remains one of the essential works from the past decade. — Landis