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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Netflix Instant Watch Picks for September 2011

Before They Were Big Edition
Louie: Season One
        To call FX's hilarious show Louie an updated version of Seinfeld would prove both extremely accurate, and somewhat short-sighted. Like the famed sitcom, the brainchild of comedian Louie C.K. alternates between the surreal and mundane moments of real life, with interspersed bits of stand-up comedy intermixed. And while I'm not about to argue that Louie is the funnier of the Two programs, it makes up for it with a heightened sense of artisanship and pathos. Aforementioned C.K. Produces, Writes, Edits, Directs, and Stars in this fictionalized account of his own life, wherein a newly divorced Dad must raise Two young daughters while keeping his depression at bay, and getting through the insanity of day-to-day life. It's a show that not only understands the feeling of being in an emotional rut, but also sees the humor in it, many of the scenes proving both uproarious and tragic at the same time. Better yet,  the construction of the show is fascinating, from the varied and unpredictable camera work of Paul Koestler, to C.K.'s own bold and often belly-ache-inducing choices in the editing room. I've heard the Season Two is even better, so do like I did, and get caught up with this show before you're too far behind.

Let Me In
        The ultimate surprise in last year's crop of flicks, Let Me In accomplished the unthinkable in successfully remaking the very recent (2009) and very good Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In. Now set in 1980's New Mexico, Let Me In is the story of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a scrawny young boy who is mercilessly picked on at school, only to come home to a mother who's too busy to look him in the eye. Into his apartment complex moves Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl with a strange and alluring air that catches Owen's attention from the get-go, but it's not long before he discovers that his new friend isn't all that she seems. Those expecting this Americanized version of the story to water down the more uncomfortable aspects of the story should be warned: This isn't your Twilight-style vampiric love story. What makes Let Me In so great is that it steals every last thing that Let the Right One In did right, and then fashions that with a plethora of bold, stunning moves of its own. In honoring the messy emotions and desires of its pre-teen leads, be they sexual, violent, or vengeful, the film is able to concoct a strangely endearing romance while simultaneously creeping under your skin in an absolutely insidious way. Director Matt Reeves, who, in my eyes, didn't receive his due credit for his work on Cloverfield, paces the whole thing at a slow, steady, dread-inducing clip, while the sublimely beautiful work composer Michael Giacchino and cinematographer Greig Fraser provide enough emotion to match the considerable terror of the thing. The acting is also uniformly strong, the vulnerable and damaged performance of Smit-McPhee particularly inspiring. Few movies have ever left my stomach in knots like this One did, its oddly moving concoction climbing all the way up to number Six on my Best Movies of 2010 list, slotting ahead of such Best Picture Nominated heavy-weights as Black Swan, Winter's Bone, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3 and The King's Speech. Call me crazy, but just do it after you've checked this One out.

        Despite the fact that he's about One step away from being a household name on the level of someone like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, many have still not heard of Christopher Nolan's directorial debut, and even fewer have seen it. Made on what is readily apparent as a shoe-string budget, Following stars Jeremy Theobald as a young man with a peculiar affinity for following people through their every day lives. This practice leads him into an odd sort of friendship with Cobb (Alex Haw), another deviant with a disturbed practice or Two of his own, the bond resulting in a variety of unpredictable occurrences. Shot in grainy black-and-white and acted by a cast of complete no-names, Following is a new-age noir, this time starring freaks instead of ladies men. As always, Nolan excels at raising the pressure through-out the film, delivering perfectly on the boiling point of his unforeseeable climax. Weighing in at a meager 70 minutes (or under half as long as either The Dark Knight or Inception), Following isn't about to make you forget Nolan's weightier triumphs of late, but it's a hell of a ride when you're on it, and a fun peak into the younger years of One of today's most high-profile film-makers.

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