So, what’s new? Kidding, of course. The last seven or so days have seen an unprecedented shift in the way we live, as we all isolate in an effort to flatten the curve and save an unfathomable amount of lives in the process. Speaking as the father of a two year old (who just looked at the screen and said “write something for me so I can look at it”), I can say that it has been an…interesting change to my status quo. As we all settle into the new rhythms of a life spent at a social distance, our coping mechanisms loom ever larger. And what is cinema if not the best coping mechanism around. So, here at Milwaukee Film we’ll do our level best to help you through the coming days, weeks, and months, with content geared toward taking your mind off of our upsetting present as we look back at cinema’s past. But this isn’t a week for diversions, no, this is a week for wallowing in the emotional morass of our moment, and dwelling entirely too much on our dwellings. So that’s why this special Top Five Friday is delving into…
THE TOP FIVE MOVIES ABOUT BEING STUCK AT HOME!
Well, obviously. Hitchcock’s classic thriller is both a celebration and indictment of voyeurism, placing America’s beloved everyman Jimmy Stewart (before there was K-Stew, we all were mowing down on generous helpings of J-Stew) as the steeped-in-privilege audience surrogate, watching helplessly (yet voraciously) through his telphoto lens as terrible things happen outside his gorgeously cinematic window frame. Hopefully your social distancing efforts prove interesting, just not uxoricide-style interesting.
(dir. Gerard Johnstone | New Zealand | 2014)
FREE (!) on Tubi
This Kiwi gem flew under the radar a bit upon its initial release – but its balance of bananas comedy and genuine scares make it appointment viewing in quarantine times. The story of a ne’er-do-well daughter forced to move back in with mom on house arrest following a thoroughly bungled ATM robbery, returning to a home that her mom always had insisted was haunted. And, as it turns out, mother’s always right. To say anymore would be criminal (and considering I’m already sentenced to house arrest, we’ll leave it there). A horror-comedy delight!
3. Dave Made a Maze
(dir. Bill Watterson | USA | 2017)
FREE (!) On Tubi
As we all hunker down for the time being, old hobbies will be revisited, new trades will be learned (or at least books pertaining to those trades will be gently browsed), and many hours will be logged on our video game consoles of choice. Or, we could make like Dave, and create an insane DIY labyrinth in the comfort of our own living room that operates under TARDIS logic. Director Bill Watterson (not that one) keeps the visual ingenuity flowing throughout, as we delve deeper into this cardboard heart of darkness (think Michel Gondry meets medieval torture chamber), exploring the creative impulses of our titular, extremely coddled slacker.
(dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto | Japan | 2009)
Available on Spamflix
This is an absolutely gonzo movie from maniac/genius Hitoshi Matsumoto (Big Man Japan, R100) features Hitoshi as a man trapped in large, blindingly white room. Walls full of writhing cherub statues retract, leaving behind only tiny protruding genitals that release random objects into the room (a pink toothbrush, an antique vase, sushi, and much more) when pressed. Simultaneously, an aging luchador named Escargot Man prepares for a wrestling contest in Mexico. It is not spoiling anything to tell you that these two seemingly disparate storylines will at some point intersect, and that the payoff will remain unexpected until the literal second it occurs. Hopefully our time spent at home will result in as much unbridled discovery as this film revels in. At the very least, I hope our pajama game is as on point.
BONUS! Knowing full well this film is hard to get eyes on the US, I have obtained a couple of streaming codes courtesy of SpamFlix that I am giving away! Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and the code is yours!
5. Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special!
(dir. Jordan Brady | USA | 2012)
Streaming on Netflix
Let’s wrap things with what was a novel concept in 2012, and now looks more like a potential cottage industry in Spring 2020 – Maria Bamford’s stand-up comedy performance for an audience of two (her parents), filmed in her family living room. Bamford’s discomfiting comedic style is enhanced by the lack of traditional comedy special trappings, making this uniquely confessional examination of mental illness and familial misgivings land even more powerfully than it was filmed at a metropolitan cabaret. May we all mine this personal time to such devastatingly funny effect!
See you next week with more diversionary film picks!