ScreenCrush Staff Picks for the Weekend of July 8
If you can’t decide what to watch this weekend, ScreenCrush’s Staff Picks are here to help. They’re like the recommendations at an old video store, except you don’t have to put on pants or go outside to get them. Here are three things to watch this weekend:
The latest film from Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) is now on Netflix Instant, and you should definitely make it a priority — but you should also go into this one as blindly as possible. The Invitation stars Logan Marshall-Green (aka “Not Tom Hardy”) as a man whose ex-wife invites him to the home they once shared for a mysterious dinner party she’s hosting with her new beau, played by Michiel Huisman in what might be the most brilliant bit of casting this year. Kusama wields dread and discomfort with surgical precision as the true motives behind this friendly gathering make themselves known. As I said in my review from SXSW (where I made it a point to see the film twice), The Invitation offers an inverse to the typical Comedy of Errors — a sort of Horror of Manners that deftly dissects the familiar impulse to behave politely regardless of how uncomfortable a situation may be. Kusama takes a basic concept — “dinner party gone horribly wrong” — and uses it to explore coping mechanisms and the ways in which people often project their own ideals onto others. It’s a simple but thematically complex and effective thriller version of the classic line from MTV’s The Real World: “Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
The Invitation is now available on Netflix.
When Adam McKay accepted his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short last spring, it validated every longtime fan’s belief that the guy was a much smarter filmmaker than his reputation as the dude who makes dumb Will Ferrell comedies. (Also, most of his “dumb” Will Ferrell comedies are masterpieces.) The Big Short maintains McKay’s standard milieu of egomaniacal dopes, but brings his satire into the real world, telling the truthy story of the men who correctly predicted (and wildly profited off of) the financial collapse of 2008. Righteously angry, hilariously funny, and sometimes shockingly sad, the film also showcased some terrific performances from Brad Pitt as a paranoid stock broker who believes the world is on the verge of collapse and a hysterical Ryan Gosling as an opportunistic stock trader who uses Jenga to explain mortgage bonds and credit default swaps. The Big Short is like an enormous tower of blocks that should topple over at any second — but never does.
The Big Short is now available on Netflix.
Earlier this week the film world lost a pioneer of international cinema when Abbas Kiarostami died at the age of 76. I’ve only seen one film by the Iranian filmmaker, the brilliant Certified Copy, but when I read of his passing I cleared my weekend to catch up on his career, beginning with Close-up. Part documentary, part scripted drama, the 1990 Iranian film tells the real-life story of a man who impersonated filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and tricked a family into starring in his film. Blurring the lines of fiction and reality further, the film stars the real-life family members playing themselves. There’s so many layers to Close-up you might even want to clear time to watch it a second time. Anyone who’s a fan of perplexing cinema that explores identity and truth through the lens of art will appreciate Kiarostami’s work. And if you're hooked with Close-up, there's four more Kiarostami films streaming on Hulu.
Close-up is now available on Hulu.