In the busy life of a college student, there are always places to save time. One of our most time-consuming questions is: “What should I watch on Netflix today?” To answer this question, there are three diverse yet high-quality films unearthed by a deep dive into the heart of the streaming service. One action drama, one comedy and one independent film, all three showcase different facets of cinematic excellence; they are well worth the time to watch them, as long as they appeal to a viewer’s individual tastes.
“Pulp Fiction” (1994, R)
Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the low-budget action films of the 80s and 90s, “Pulp Fiction” exudes lavishness and nostalgia. Drenched in blood, profanity and the straight-up weird, it somehow comes out the other side with the distinct sheen of brilliance. Topping a laundry list of Hollywood stars, John Travolta and Samuel Jackson star as a pair of philosophical gang-land enforcers in counterpoint to Bruce Willis’ temperamental boxer. With supporting roles by Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman and even Tarantino himself, the film is brimming with top-notch acting and, as in every Tarantino film, these characters are the adventure’s driving force.
The film is not best for those with delicate sensibilities, earning an R-rating for graphic violence, drug use, pervasive language and sexuality. None of this gratuity seems out of place, however, with every scene serving a purpose and no shot out of place. Tarantino has created a world where the absurd is normal and excess is a punchline, and the shock of the events surrounding them serves only to strengthen the mesmerizing characters who exist fully formed onscreen.
“Pulp Fiction” contains every sort of action movie trope, from gunfights to chase scenes and femme fatales to fancy suits, but each of them is overdone to such a degree that it both succeeds in its purpose and casually mocks the foundations it was built upon. It’s comedic at times and introspective at others, a homage to the genre while being smart enough to create something entirely new. “Pulp Fiction” is widely regarded as a cinematic classic–with good reason. If you’re in the mood for action, humor or just something very unique, this film might be the fix you’re looking for.
“Hot Fuzz” (2007, R)
The second in a trio of collaborations between actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, “Hot Fuzz” is a brilliant film that deconstructs the action genre to its most basic foundations and builds it back up as a stylish and unconventional vehicle for comedy. Pegg’s London super-cop, Nicholas Angel, is reassigned to the ho-hum police force of an idyllic hamlet in the English countryside–an event-less and adventure-less locale where the sergeant’s duties consist of chasing loose swans and waving to elderly ladies. His oblivious and erstwhile partner, Constable Butterman, played by Nick Frost, is a delight to watch in his attempts to emulate Angel’s hyper-competence. But, what begins as a sardonically clichéd ode to small-town Great Britain quickly blossoms into a hilarious mixture of buddy-cop film, slasher flick and 80s gun set piece.
When the town unsurprisingly turns out to be harboring more than meets the eye, the film’s dissections of the chase scenes, gunfights, conspiracies and brutality that characterize typical action films are as humorous as they are incisive. The entire supporting cast is stellar, from sinister old ladies and menacing grocers to brashly abrasive detectives and their grandfatherly police chief, and Pegg manages to create a sparkling dynamic with every one of them.
The trio of films co-written by this actor-director team is widely regarded as some of the highest-quality comedy of recent years, and this movie absolutely lives up to the hype. If you’re looking for over-the-top absurdity with memorable characters and a smattering of plot thrown in for good measure, “Hot Fuzz” might be a good place to start.
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (2012, UR)
A motion picture experience decidedly unlike any other, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is a haunting exploration of mental illness, beauty and the nature of sadness. Compiled from a series of three short films by creator Don Hertzfeldt, the movie consists of 62 minutes of hand-drawn animation and heart-wrenching emotion.
The short film chronicles a few weeks in the life of Bill, a stick-figure gentleman with a classy hat and a seemingly normal routine. Over the course of the journey we learn about Bill’s past, his future, his family, his surroundings and we begin to know Bill in a very intimate way.
Hertzfeldt does a phenomenal job of making a stick character into a relatable human being, and it is almost impossible not to find joy in Bill’s happy moments and weep at his misfortunes. The entire hour-long runtime is steeped in layers of subtext that may slowly reveal themselves upon repeated viewings. However, even a single view through will leave viewers floored, pondering what they have just seen and considering what it means about the nature of their lives and the human experience.
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is dazzlingly unique and astonishing in its simplicity. Over the course of a few minutes and a couple of frames, it somehow manages to create a world so vividly real and painful that it becomes difficult to watch.
Simultaneously, it’s fascinating enough to hold attention spellbound while it drags the viewer through a vista of heartbreak. This is not a film to be watched lightly, but if you are willing to think and not afraid to feel, Bill’s life is something you should probably experience at least once.