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Friday, December 9, 2011

Netflix Instant Watch Picks for December 2011

Youthful Tomfoolery Edition

A Hard Day's Night
        Before The Hangover, before Wedding Crashers, before Animal House, there was a movie about nothing but a bunch of awesome dudes screwing around and causing havoc. A Hard Day's Night might not be where everyone sees the genesis of the crude-humor/light-plot comedy genre that has reached extreme prominence today, but the wacky antics of the fab four are still as reckless and fun as they were upon the film's 1964 release. It's nothing but a simple day in the life of the Beatles, filled with frenzied girls, and totally square managers, all filmed in sumptuous blank and white, soundtracked by... well... the best band ever. It's entirely meaningless entertainment, but it's a complete blast while you're watching it, and seeing young George Harrison read lines with purpose is always going to be pretty awesome.

Before Sunrise
        If you're the type that thinks the sexiest thing that two actors can do on screen together is hold a conversation, then Before Sunrise (and it's sequel, Before Sunset, also on Instant Watch) is just the movie for you. Ethan Hawke stars as Jesse, an American on an extended trip through Europe who has a chance encounter with a native named Celine. The two have an instant connection, and Jesse convinces Celine, on a whim, to spend his last hours on the continent with him, chatting it up, and roaming night-time Vienna streets. Before Sunrise is a bit light on plot, but that's because it wants to dedicate the entirety of its runtime to character development, a choice that makes the talks had by the pair both real and alluring. Despite its languid pace, the movie has a real youthful zest to it, as a couple of people with their whole lives ahead of them try to just figure out what to do next. Both smart and romantic, Before Sunrise is a miniature little wonder.

Harold and Maude
        The definitive Coming of Age movie (along with The Graduate), wherein hugely-underrated director Hal Ashby tells the story of Harold (Bud Cort), a staggeringly strange young man with a far greater love for morbid pranks than any of the women that his doting mother introduces him to. His general aversion to interaction is suddenly challenged by his meeting of Maude (Ruth Gordon), an elderly but vivacious woman who stokes Harold's curiosity with her endless myriad of eccentricities. Wes Anderson (among others) owes just about every trick in his bag to this movie, which still remains handsome and stylish 40 years after its initial release. But more than the warm tones and Cat Stevens music, Harold and Maude is a unique, personal, and enduring take on one youth's slow journey from witness of society to participant.

Party Down
        For the last few months, several of my friends have been trying to convince me to watch this show. What lesson did I learn? Trust your friends. The Starz Original series follows the exploits of what is likely the worst catering company that Los Angeles has ever seen, lead by eager-to-please former party animal Ron (Ken Marino). The Office is an obvious reference point here, the show shot on a hand-held digital camera, the plot often focused on the on-again, off-again romance of meant-for-eachother co-workers Henry (Adam Scott) and Casey (Lizzy Caplan), but Party Down has a life all its own. PD is blessed with a stacked supporting cast, featuring the likes of Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, and a slew of recognizable guest appearances. The humor is also unafraid of going to dark places, arriving at morals that you wouldn't quite expect. I'm a sucker for the, 'I hate my job,' sub-genre of comedy, and this is one fine example.

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