Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quick Picks: New to Netflix Watch Instantly, 3/31/11

This week I will be in Madison, Wisconsin for the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival, where I was invited to be a juror for the Wisconsin's Own competition (for filmmakers and films with ties to Wisconsin).  I will post Quick Picks this week, and upon my return I will resume the normal schedule.

Those of you in Madison who are new to this blog might be interested in some previous entries related to 2011 Festival films.  This year's festival includes a strong line up of Romanian films, including Aurora; If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle; Medal of Honor; and Tuesday, After Christmas. For those interested in following up after seeing these films, you can check my post about New Romanian Cinema titles currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

The Festival is also showing Lionel Rogosin's On the Bowery, which I mentioned as an important precedent to Kent MacKensie's The Exiles in my post about that film.

Finally, Netflix Watch Instantly has just added Jonathan Demme's film of Spalding Grey's one-man show, Swimming to Cambodia.  This year's Festival line up includes Steven Soderbergh's documentary about Grey, And Everything is Going Fine.

Now, before running off to tonight's line up of films (for me, that will include the experimental shorts screening The Future Past, the Hong Kong action film The Stool Pigeon, and Congolese adventure film Viva Riva!), here are some Quick Picks for Netflix Watch Instantly from its most recent additions.

Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, UK, 2004, 119 minutes)
Netflix: Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton, who earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal) spends her days doting on her working-class family. But Vera also has a secret side: Her family and friends don't know that she visits women and helps them induce miscarriages for their unwanted pregnancies. When the authorities get wind of her activities -- then illegal in 1950s England -- Vera's world quickly falls apart, deeply affecting both her and her family. Netflix link.

Theramin: An Electronic Odyssey (Steven M. Martin, USA, 1993, 83 minutes)
Netflix: After escaping Russia's communist revolution, Leon Theremin travels to New York, where he pioneers the field of electronic music with his synthesizer. But at the height of his popularity, Soviet agents kidnap and force him to develop spy technology. Steven M. Martin writes and directs this intriguing documentary about a man's "strange" music and his very interesting life as an inventor and influential musician. Netflix link.

Forbidden Games (Rene Clement, France, 1952, 85 minutes)
Netflix: Director René Clément's bittersweet drama depicts the ravages of war on its youngest victims. After being orphaned when a Nazi strafing kills her parents and her dog, 5-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) is taken in by farm boy Michel Dolles (Georges Poujouly) and his family. While his parents are busy feuding with their neighbors, the youngsters cope with the death surrounding them by creating a cemetery for animals killed in the fighting. Netflix link.

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