If there was a single month for which Netflix Pix was made, it was December. Think about it: The kids are home from college for almost the entire month. High, middle or elementary school students all enjoy at least a week away from their studies. Employees who haven’t used vacation time and are urged to use it or lose it (I’ve always hated that phrase) spend a lot of time figuring out how to not work and need something to watch. And most importantly, maybe Santa has decided to bring an Internet/Netflix compatible device into one’s home (think the Blu-Ray players or video game systems that are usually handed out this time of year), and you want to put it to use right away.
Add to that the typical parties and time spent with family that December always promises, and what you have is a recipe for using Netflix streaming options for all they are worth. And don’t forget the weather — what else are you going to do when the cold finally creeps in and the snow makes the outdoors too inconvenient to experience? Call on Netflix. That’s what you’ll do. Call on Netflix.
That’s why I made sure to find some fairly reliable picks for December in the spirit of giving and good will with which I am oh-so-synonomous (that’s a lie — the good will stuff, not the reliable picks stuff). Below, we have a very surprisingly better-than-good tale of teenage romance and angst, the flick that dominated the Oscars only two years ago, the best Kirsten Dunst has ever been on film, a movie with one of the biggest twists in 1990s cinema and “Young Adult,” which was kind of a disappoint. Hey, four out of five ain’t bad, though, right?
Anyway, behold the following five picks for the final month of 2012. Should we all survive the ending of the Mayan calendar, we’ll be happy to see you into the new year come January. Should we not survive the ending of the Mayan calendar, then how ironic is it that “Melancholia” is on this list?! Very. Very ironic.
Onward and upward …
1. “The King’s Speech” — Oh, the memory of moving to this area in January of 2011 and heading to the theater to check this thing out before it would be available only through DVD. It seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it? The Academy did Colin Firth right by this (he unquestionably should have taken home the trophy the year before for his performance in “A Single Man”), and considering this beat both “Inception” and “Black Swan” for the Best Picture title, I am indebted to this particular film for life (though “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Social Network” were two obviously better movies, duh!). The thing’s secret weapon? Geoffrey Rush, whose Lionel Logue matches Firth’s excellence in each scene they share. How he didn’t win the Supporting Actor trophy that year is still something I ponder from time to time, angrily. Plus, outside of one notable sequence during which Firth harps on another word that starts with the letter “F,” the thing is pretty family friendly. Gather the kids, and have a look. Just remember to bring earmuffs.
2. “Young Adult” — Boy, I wanted this to be great. The golden touch of Jason Reitman. Diablo Cody, whom I still admire for “Juno.” Charlize Theron, who used to be married to the lead singer of Third Eye Blind. A struggling-with-growing-up premise. Patton Oswalt. Again. Patton Oswalt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great, and in fact, I know many who don’t even consider it good. But it’s only an hour-and-a-half. And the thing eventually gets super serious, super quick. And you still have Patton Oswalt who serves as the heart of the story in a very honest way. And it’s still Jason Reitman, the man behind one of my favorite five movies, “Up In The Air.” And there’s a ton of Diet Coke. And the lead character is a struggling writer, so who can’t relate with that?! OK. OK. Of the five suggestions this month, “Young Adult” is clearly the weakest. But if you’re bored and you’ve made your way through the other four picks … Hey, I’m just sayin’.
3. “Like Crazy” — From the worst to the best, “Like Crazy” was a movie I was prepared to dismiss. Stupid, stupid me. Anton Yelchin, he of “The Beaver” fame, and British actress Felicity Jones turn in fantastic performances as a young couple as dysfunctional as it is impossible. Bonus: The Best Actress In The World, Jen Lawrence, shows up as a detestable alternative to Jones’ cuteness. It’s sad. It’s small. It’s honest. And it’s hard to ignore. Have a look …
4. “The Crying Game” — The one with the twist! I was told by a ton of people that they knew the twist before watching it for the first time because it was inescapable when the movie initially hit theaters 20 years ago. I, however, did not know the twist when I sat down to watch it for the first time two weeks ago. It’s from Neil Jordan (whose “Mona Lisa” was almost perfect, as I said last month), and it’s a movie that will almost certainly leave you conflicted and/or confused. The No. 2 most memorable moments (after the twist, of course) come from Forest Whitaker and his Jody, who serves as the surprisingly effective soul of the film. Keep your eyes on Jaye Davidson and just remember: This was up for six Academy Awards. That’s six more than “Young Adult.”
5. “Melancholia” — This gained notoriety last year after its polarizing director, Lars von Trier, sounded off at a film festival about how much he could “understand and sympathize with Hitler.” Still, pay no mind to the chubby guy in the corner — this is a fantastically troubling piece of film. It’s without doubt the best Kirsten Dunst has ever been on camera, and there’s even a Kiefer Sutherland sighting. It’s not the most uplifting movie you could see, but considering the world may end sometime within the next three weeks, call it serendipity that this finds itself as the final movie of this month’s picks. Dunst won Best Actress at Cannes and she deserved every bit of it. Be prepared to sit down for a while (it runs almost two-and-a-half hours), but the end result is worth it. Check it out …