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Film in Stock: Films to watch on Netflix

Though it’s not what it used to be, Netflix has a great selection of films. This week, I have highlighted five of my top choices currently available for streaming. All of the following films are radically different from each other, so hopefully there is something for everybody. The first two offer unexplored stories, while the last three titles are a good access point if you are a stranger to documentary films. 

“The Way He Looks” by Daniel Ribeiro

If you are looking for a charming coming-of-age love story, look no further. This 2014 Brazilian film follows Leo, a blind teenager, navigating his first crush and the subsequent fallout of his affection. The strength of “The Way He Looks” is its subtlety. Youth isn’t exploited or oversimplified, but portrayed accurately as a toned-down mess. At the same time, this is a no-stress movie if you’ve had a long week and just want to pretend you’re a teenager in Brazil for a couple hours. If you liked last year’s “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Way He Looks” offers similarities in its slow-burning pace but is more subdued in its characters and plot.

“Tangerine” by Sean Baker

If you liked Sean Baker’s 2017 “The Florida Project,” “Tangerine” (2015) offers a bit of stylistic difference. Famous for being filmed exclusively on iPhones, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez brilliantly plays a Black trans sex worker navigating life after incarceration. “Tangerine” offers a stark contrast to “The Way He Looks” — it doesn’t do subtlety. From the sound mixing to the collaged camera framing and panning, Baker will keep you engaged not only with a strong plot, but also with visuals and sounds that reflect its setting. At the same time, “Tangerine” is self-aware enough to know what it’s doing, and I admire this film’s balancing of rawness with stylistic integrity. This film will give you “Trainspotting” vibes in a contemporary, American context.

“Last Men in Aleppo” by Feras Fayyad

This Oscar-nominated 2017 documentary humanizes the civilians on the frontlines of the Syrian Civil War, forcing viewers to abandon the abstraction in which they think of humanitarian crises. “Last Men in Aleppo” follows the “White Helmets,” a group of Syrian civilians who have taken it upon themselves to save people from rubble and the general catastrophe of an aerial bombing. Be warned that this film is very visually and emotionally graphic, but, at the same time, that’s the strength of what this documentary offers: truth that challenges the dominant strain of complacency. Fayyad accomplishes the goal of documentary embedded in the genre’s name. “Last Men in Aleppo” serves as documentation of how people are forced to deal with the consequences that result from the decisions of others.

“The Wolfpack” by Crystal Moselle

I am a bit biased in my evaluation of 2015’s “The Wolfpack,” because the documentary itself is about the personal and collective value of film. A quick synopsis couldn’t really do it justice, but, to give a brief overview, “The Wolfpack” follows a New York family of seven siblings who were restricted from leaving their house except for a few times a year. To fill time, the children would create costumes, settings and props in order to replicate their favorite scenes from films, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” This documentary doesn’t really do anything out of the ordinary stylistically, but stands that fascinating subjects can carry a film. In short, “The Wolfpack” exists somewhere between “Grey Gardens,” “The Brady Bunch” and “The Room.”

“Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal” by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

To be honest, this documentary is probably my most watched film on Netflix. If you are looking for (what I consider to be) a generally light hearted film, “Best of Enemies” (2015) is definitely the easiest watch, second only to “The Way He Looks,” the first film on this list. This documentary follows the 1968 televised debates between liberal commentator Gore Vidal and his conservative counterpart, William F. Buckley. But, underneath, “Best of Enemies” explores how the personal is political and the political is personal. Additionally, our current political circumstances start to make much more sense in context of chaotic nature of 1968. If you are in the mood for a laugh followed by several bouts of anger, alight here. Also, if you are new to the documentary genre, “Best of Enemies” is a great place to start.

Further notable Netflix mentions include: “Pariah” by Dee Rees, “Meru” by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, “Christine” by Antonio Campos and “Frances Ha” by Noah Baumbach.

— Martha Beliveau ’20

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