Movies that Netflix and Chill.
Time to stop wasting your time on the couch. Time to start using your Netflix time more efficiently. It’s time to get movie fit. Here we provide the motivation to watch the best Netflix has available, by trying to find the sex and the sexiness.
A is for The Apartment
Even with all the new shows Netflix has been cranking out, it’s still remarkably difficult to find something to watch on a Friday night.What is old is new again and there is lots of hope for Netflix to keep bringing back old favourites. In the meantime there are plenty of hidden gems to find on and you don’t have to dig so deep to find them.
The Apartment – Old Fashioned Sex
Straight out of the block and there are very few good movies on Netflix beginning with the letter A, though this is easily the best of them, and not bad at all. Jack Lemon plays a run of the mill New York office worker, who has an apartment that his male bosses borrow to have sex. Not with each other, because this is the 50s. No, they’re having sex with their secretaries, which is a much more wholesome American tradition.
And that’s a deliberate use of words, because there is something strangely wholesome about it all. The film came out in 1960, before free love, and is filmed in stagey black and white. So there is no sex on screen. It’s all implied. And this gets you to thinking.
Maybe these characters are having extra marital affairs, but not having sex? Couples in movies, right up to the 60s, only ever kiss. We assume that’s because they were more prudish times, when putting sex on a screen would just drive audiences insane.
As though the generations who fought World Wars I and II, and saw and experienced things we can’t even imagine, couldn’t handle the sight of a couple shagging in a bed. But maybe people really weren’t having that much sex. Maybe, just maybe, the films of the period were reserved because the sexual relations of the time were very reserved too. In which case we don’t see any sex in The Apartment because they weren’t having any sex. They were just sitting holding hands on the couch, kissing and listening to the radio. Which really makes you feel for any soldiers returning from war, if they only have the taste of lipstick and a lot of talking to look forward to.
Arguably this isn’t even the best film directed by Billy Wilder beginning with the letter A. But it’s what we’ve got, and it’s a good introduction to Wilder, one of the most successful writer directors Hollywood has ever seen. He was pretty diverse, doing comedy (Some Like It Hot) and noir (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard), which have in common his defining trait of clever, rapid fire dialogue.
Around the year 2000 some considered him the greatest of all film makers, but now he has fallen out of fashion. But still there are two contemporary directors who draw directly from Wilder: the Coen Brothers. They set their movies in similar worlds, they use similar characters. Like Wilder their movies seem split between the dark ones (Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men) and the funny ones (Raising Arizona, Big Lebowski), and are united by a very distinct and unusual style of dialogue.
Though they possibly surpass Wilder when they marry the two worlds together, like when they do darkly comic in Fargo. And strangely, they also very rarely include sex scenes, which is a hang up from their 50s movies obsession, and a big disappointment for anyone who fancies John Goodman.
B is for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Sexy, Not Gay, Cowboys
A classic western. Back when cowboys could be cowboys, not sheepherders. When they used hookers and guns and chewed and spat tobacco, and never, ever, ever ended up shagging each other no matter how good looking and vulnerable they both were.
And wow, were these guys good looking. Paul Newman and Robert Redford at their peak, all piercing eyes and cheeky grins and effortless charm. But strictly no shagging, no siree.
It’s understandable if you were looking for a gay western that you ended up here, Brokeback Mountain begins with a B too, and it’s yet another film not on Netflix. But there’s nothing queer about these guys, these beautiful men who are completely platonically in love with each other. Certainly if they were gay they would make an amazing couple, they get on so well. And they’d look great together. But that’s just incidental.
For God’s sake, Redford’s Sundance Kid has a girlfriend. Yes, he seems not to mind Paul Newman hanging out with his girl and flirting with her, as though nothing could ever happen between the two, but that’s just because he trusts Newman’s loyalty. He couldn’t have found a better more loyal friend than Newman if he tried. Newman is always there, never letting something like a woman get in the way of his time with Redford. And Redford appreciates the loyalty, providing protection and fire power in return…
The funniest thing about the relationship is that it’s generally accepted it wasn’t intended to be gay. The writer, William Goldman, is one of the Hollywood greats (who also wrote the much loved Princess Bride) and it’s assumed he was too good a writer to construct a gay cowboy film without realising it. And Paul Newman was pretty gay friendly as an actor (having done repressed rageful gay in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and he didn’t see it in the story either.
But nonetheless, through a modern lense it’s difficult not to spot, even if it isn’t there. Which probably says a lot about how movies have programmed us. Newman and Redford are movie stars. Movie stars must have love interests. They don’t show much interest in women, Newman doesn’t anyway. Therefore they must be interested in each other. QED.
We should all pat ourselves on the back for our liberalism, for sure. But something has probably died if we can’t watch a movie about two mates and take it at face value. Because such platonic stories do exist, and this is possibly cinema’s greatest example.
C is for Chinatown
Chinatown – Freaky Sex
“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” A cop whispers to Jack Nicholson.
It’s one of the most famous end lines of any movie. Though it mainly sticks in the mind because the film has almost nothing to do with the Chinese, China or Chinatown. Sure, when we first meet Jake/Jack he is telling the famous ‘You’re screwing like a Chinaman’ joke, but that’s only included because it’s funny seeing Jack Nicholson enthusiastically talking about screwing. The rest of the movie is very much about Wasp-ish Americans, their secrets and ruthless ambition.
A detective story that officially isn’t film noir by the technicality of not being in black and white, it’s unofficially the greatest noir ever made. Your parents loved it when it came out. But back then it did suffer from being released at the same time as The Godfather Part II, which was just bad luck really. And perhaps only this movie can survive the comparison. It is a perfectly reasonable position to hold that this is a better movie than either of the Godfathers, it’s not only contrarians who hold that opinion. It’s that good.
The legacy of the film also ran the risk of being overwhelmed by its director’s life. Chinatown’s plot turns on Jack Nicholson uncovering a taboo sexual secret about the Wasps at the centre of the story. It’s a sordid tale at its heart. So this fictional scandal somehow became mixed up in the public consciousness with director Roman Polanski himself, just by virtue of it also being scandalous: he was charged with sex with a minor, but fled the States rather than face the charge, setting his career back decades. And this was after his heavily pregnant wife was viciously murdered by the Manson gang. Yes, you’ll want to stick that in wikipedia. The 60s and 70s were things that happened. Chinatown is one of the major positives to come out of those decades, and certainly the shining positive of Polanski’s tragic time in the United States.
*No D’s in the library make the list, Netflix just doesn’t have enough great movies. Sorry if you spend money on the service, but it’s true. The D’s that could be here include Dog Day Afternoon, Dersu Uzala and The Deer Hunter, so there’s nothing wrong with the letter D itself. But there is a film that gets honourary mention…
D is for Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko – Sexy teenagers.
For a generation raised on the very tame sibling pairing of Ross and Monica in Friends, the Gyllenhaals were like a Freudian erotic sensation. Here is where we first met them, where they first established themselves as the brother and sister of cool. Jake is now universally acclaimed, critics love him because he agreed to do that scene in the tent with Heath Ledger, a scene that scared young actors off playing the role for years. But audiences fell in love love with him a few years before that, when he made friends with a scary rabbit in Donnie Darko. And if back then he had a shy and vulnerable appeal, his sister Maggie was much more gung ho-appearing as a BDSM submissive who likes getting tied up in Secretary.
Though both Gyllenhalls have appeared in a number of other indies since, they really are very mainstream now. They haven’t done a complete Jonny Depp style sell out, they haven’t given up on making good movies, to pocket the cash to buy an island. But certainly Jake could now afford some sort of a yacht.
As for the actual film that started it all, there really is no way to explain it that doesn’t cause disagreement. It’s something to do with a wormhole during the 1988 Presidential election that passes right through Donnie’s bedroom and nearly kills him. Or something. The reason it doesn’t make the grade is because it is neither as profound as it thinks it is or as jarring as the David Lynch movies that clearly inspired it.
E is for Everyone Says I Love You
Everyone Says I Love You – Sexy Young Things, and Less Sexy Older Things
Everyone may say ‘I love you’ in life, but most never say it about Woody Allen. Which is a shame. He doesn’t have the glamour of a Spielberg or a Scorsese but he is easily their match in artistic importance, and surpasses them in artistic innovation. His films are never expensive, he refuses to take on board the pressure of big budgets. But that doesn’t mean he lacks ambition, having given us iconic shots (Manhattan), ground breaking effects (Zelig) and even full scale,if hilarious, wars (Love and Death).
In real life Allen is also a world class jazz clarinet player and this movie is a musical compilation of some of his favourite classic tunes. They’re sung honestly,though sometimes badly, by Julia Roberts, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, himself, Goldie Hawn and a very young Natalie Portman, amongst others. The age of the stars is an issue. Mainly the age gap between Woody Allen and the actress he pursues in the movie, Julia Roberts, an age difference of 32 years.
This was never a problem for actors like Sean Connery or Clint Eastwood, who got older on screen while their love interests stayed the same age. But these actors were sexy once. There is a cultural memory of their sexiness that gets them over the line. Alas, Woody Allen has always been a little, skinny, neurotic man. And now he’s just the older version.
But if you can get over that, and if you can forgive the ridiculously privileged New York/Paris/Venice world this story is set in, you’ll never be Thru With Love.You might even grow to love Woody Allen too.
F is for The French Connection
The French Connection-Sexy Car Chases
Ah yes, the 70s, when cops could just walk out in front of a car, stop it, and just take it. Just say it was police business and drive off with someone else’s car. The 70s when men were real men, movies were real movies, and cops were really just angry functional alcoholics.
The is easily one of the best cop movies ever made, even one of the best movies of the 70s. And it’s all because it’s so straightforward: Some French guys are trying to import a big shipment of drugs into New York and the NYPD, in the shape of Gene Hackman, have to stop them. And because this is the 70s they can’t do it through phone tapping or satellite surveillance. Hackman instead must beat up some guys until they talk, then find and chase the bad guys. They were simpler times.
It’s the chase that usually catches the eye. Often cited as the best car chase ever filmed, it’s actually half a subway chase. Hackman commandeers a car (most people are smart enough not to stop for him when he waves his badge, but someone does) and sets off in pursuit of a train. Compared to more modern car chases it’s the bargain basement variety, there isn’t even an explosion. But it’s because of its cheap, realistic, sincerity that it works. Or perhaps it was just that audiences were easier entertained back then. Certainly the film was a massive hit, sweeping the Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Actor for Hackman.
The casual, almost genteel, police brutality at the start is perhaps the biggest indicator that the film is from a different era. The criminals of New York don’t seem to have guns, preferring knives instead. While the police don’t have either, they just beat up street criminals with their fists. It’s an interesting counterpoint to another film carried by Netflix under F, Fruitvale Station. This begins with real life footage of police shooting Oscar Grant dead on a train platform, and then dramatises the events leading up to a black man being shot without cause by trigger happy cops. So, in light of where US policing is right now, Hackman’s 70s character actually feels like a breath of whiskey flavoured fresh air.
(No G’s in the Netflix library make the grade. Films that should be carried include La Grande Illusion, The Godfather and Gone With the Wind. But they must be too expensive for Netflix. Though it’s not all cheap dross. Here is an honourary mention…)
The Great Beauty (Italian w. subtitles) – Wrinkly people having sex.
Italian cinema is historically not just some of the best cinema in the world, but also some of the best art in the world. So the bar is set particularly high. And to the names of Fellini and Rossellini and the other ini’s some would now add the name of Paolo Sorrentino for this, La Grande Bellezza. They just naturally sounds classy and sexy, these Italian words and names.
But not so fast. This story about an aging writer and socialite, who has perhaps lost any sense of meaning, but continues to party, might be a metaphor for modern, waning Italy, or old, fading Berlusconi or both, or neither. And it’s important that it be neither, because those two available metaphors are both clunky and obvious.
It is certainly well done, but we do have to wait for the dust to settle. Only time will tell if it’s bigger than a moment, a mood, in Italian history.
Unfortunately, at first blush it does strike as formulaic Oscar bait-romanticise Italy yet again, remind people they must love the country and its culture, and dare the critics not to be wowed. But he’s not a flash in the pan director (Il Divo, which also isn’t on Netflix, is superb), his films will be re-visited for years. So we’ll know how good this is just as soon as Berlusconi finally goes a bunga-bunga too far, and is dead and forgotten.