Why, hello to you, June, and your warmer temperatures. You bring us the first official day of summer. You bring us NHL and NBA championships. And, most importantly, you bring students and educators alike some much-needed time away from each other.
The 2013 version of the sixth month in the calendar year also means yet another set of five picks from Netflix's instant streaming catalog, of course, and this collection might just be the strongest of the year to date. We have the movie at the center of one of the most unjust snubs Oscar has offered in the last decade. We have a forgotten Matt Damon gem. We have one of David Mamet's best pieces of work. And, naturally, we also have a Spike Lee joint.
Now is the time when the weather begins to get more and more unbearable more and more consistently. I mean, you can't spend all your time under 90-degree sun, now can you? There's the sunburn. There's the dehydration. There's the embarrassing swimsuit. Again, there's the sunburn.
So, as you see that vacation time dwindle while the summer weeks pass, take a couple hours to consider any of the following five picks for the month of June. Because yes, sometimes that air-conditioning-filled living room seems far more appealing than the humidity the summer atmosphere provides. There's only so much back sweat we can take, you know.
Onward and upward ...
1. "Brokeback Mountain" — Though this thing took home 71 awards, the one thing that kept its distance was the Best Picture prize at the Oscars. It was a travesty. It was a mockery. It was a sham. It was a travishamockery. The Academy said "Crash" was a better movie. The Academy was clearly homophobic. Daniel Day-Lewis dedicated his SAG award that year ("There Will Be Blood") to Heath Ledger, saying that the late actor's performance was both unique and perfect while noting that the film's final five minutes featured some of the best acting he's ever seen. He wasn't wrong. It's one of the very few movies Anne Hathaway is in that she doesn't completely ruin, and maybe more fun is seeing the great Michelle Williams combine with her real-life beau for a relationship as surreally poignant as any that's ever appeared on the big screen. It's tender in all the right moments, it's fascinating in its storytelling and it's not a second too long, even as it runs close to two-and-a-half hours. If you aren't sold on the Batman movies (hey — welcome to the club!), this should serve as Exhibit A when pondering how great of an actor Ledger could be. He died far too soon, and "Brokeback Mountain" certifies that assertion.
2. "Sleepwalk With Me" — This is, without question, the single greatest 1-hour-and-15-minute flick you could ever watch. It's strikingly honest and it's presented in a way that's even a bit novel in scope. To think it's all true just adds to the intrigue this comedy offers. There's a reason Ira Glass and NPR were attached to the story, and there's a reason you should carve out an hour of your time to give this thing a shot. Check out the trailer ...
3. "Red Hook Summer" — And now for your Spike Lee joint (that phrase still makes me chuckle every time I see it). OK. I get it. This isn't the best thing the director has done. I understand. In fact, read this passage from the late, great Roger Ebert: "(The movie) plays as if the director is making it up as he goes along. That's not entirely a bad thing, although some will be thrown off-balance by an abrupt plot development halfway through that appears entirely out of the blue and is so shocking that the movie never really recovers. Here is Lee at his most spontaneous and sincere, but he could have used another screenplay draft." I am here to tell you that precisely 100 percent of that assessment is true. And to think this was one of the nicer things written! Anyway, there is a soul to this flick that frankly is just hard to ignore. The great (and I mean GREAT) Clarke Peters (Freemon from "The Wire," what up!) plays a preacher who houses his grandson for the summer in Brooklyn. Better yet, the wonderful Bruce Hornsby provides a thrilling if not sparse original score (and gee — look who once wrote about that!). It's not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure beats episodes of "The Real Housewives Of Washington County," right? Right.
4. "Glengarry Glen Ross" — "First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize? You're fired." And so goes some of the best sentences Alec Baldwin has ever uttered on a screen, big or small. The cast is A-plus-list: Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, a young Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Baldwin, Bruce Altman, Jonathan Pryce. Sure, the stuff is absolutely filthy, but hey — it's David Mamet, one of the most profane playwrights in the history of the universe, so what do you expect? The only knock on it is that because it originated in the theater, the film sometimes feels a bit too much like a Sunday matinee for comfort, though the truth is that all should be forgiven if only for how fast-paced the dialogue is delivered. Legend has it that all the actors essentially had to take a pay cut to do it and there would be days when those not shooting would show up simply to watch the others perform their respective lines. See — even the big names loved the thing! It's funny. It's aggressive. And it's very literally a cult classic. No reason to pass this one up, friends. No reason at all.
5. "The Rainmaker" — All the way back in 1997, Francis Ford Coppola directed a young Matt Damon as a lawyer without a job. What follows is some of the most heartfelt scenes the actor has ever offered on camera. It came from John Grisham's book of the same name, though the scuttlebutt is that in a rare occurrence, the film is actually the superior product in this equation. It runs more than two hours, but it's certainly worth every second of your time. Oh, and did I mention that you also have the fabulous Danny DeVito providing his wonderful Danny DeVito-ness? Take a look ...