Netflix’s instant streaming selections are pretty much the only reason I have a TV these days; if it wasn’t for Community and it’s fellow Thursday night comedies, I’d never watch TV at all. Netflix has an awesome array of both blockbusters and weird little things you might never have heard of before, and I’m going to recommend two of them today.
The first is RIVERS AND TIDES, a documentary about artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy uses nature as his medium, creating pieces out of rocks or twigs or leaves by arranging them, slowly and meticulously, into breathtaking works of art that sometimes last for only a few seconds before time and weather and nature reclaims them. At one point in the film he builds a cairn of stones on the beach, well below the high tide line, because he wants to watch it get swallowed by the ocean; it takes him all day and (if I remember correctly) five tries, but he finally makes it, and the tide rises, and the cairn disappears, and there’s something incredibly moving about watching it happen. You might start the movie wondering why this weird guy spends so much time on something that can’t possibly last, but by the end you’ll get it. As the movie’s subtitle suggests, his other artistic medium is time, and watching the interaction of man and nature and time made this one of the most fascinating documentaries I’ve seen in a while.
The second movie I want to recommend is MONSTERS, which I talked about two years ago but not enough of you listened, which I know because it wasn’t even nominated for the Hugo last year despite being the best SF movie of 2010. INCEPTION was a worthy winner, I agree, but MONSTERS was my main nomination and, I admit, my write-in vote for the final. I loved it. MONSTERS is about a journalist hired to retrieve a rich man’s wayward daughter from Mexico, several years after a meteor landed in the Mexican wilderness and deposited the seeds of alien life: giant tentacled creatures that do not exactly get along with humans. Much of northern Mexico is now a quarantine zone, which our heroes eventually find themselves trekking through in a desperate attempt to get home, but this is not an action movie, and the aliens are not so much evil as incomprehensible; they are different, and we don’t really know how to deal with them, and that’s not a situation humans tend to respond to very well. There are some obvious immigration metaphors here, but it’s not a political movie either. It’s a near-future cultural study, a suspense-filled character drama, and my hands-down favorite ‘alien invasion’ movie. Check it out.