Looking for more highbrow fare to supplement your holiday binge-streaming of “Friends” on Netflix? While several of 2014’s best films now on Amazon Prime are also up on Netflix—including Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-shortlisted beauty “Ida” and Roger Michell’s underseen autumn-years romance “Le Week-End“—Amazon Prime subscribers can enjoy even more this weekend. We’ve rounded up the best of the best:
“Borgman” (dir. Alex van Warmerdam) A dark suburban fairytale that takes cues from Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”) and Michael Haneke (“Funny Games”), while firmly remaining its own strange beast, “Borgman” hovers perilously over a stiff upper-class family whose bearings are unmoored by the appearance of a mysterious vagrant fellow (Jan Bijvoet). A creepy blast from beginning to end.
“Coherence” (dir. James Ward Byrkit) “Coherence” is not just smart science fiction: it’s a triumph of crafty independent filmmaking, made with few resources and big ambition. Gotham-nominated debut director James Ward Byrkit stripped his vision down to the barest of bones to achieve a mind-shifting, metaphysical freakout about a dinner party gone cosmically awry. Read our illuminating director interview here.
“The Dog” (dirs. Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren) Though short-shrifted by the Oscar documentary shortlist, “The Dog” is an uproarious, real-life portrait of John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his boyfriend’s sex change operation inspired “Dog Day Afternoon.”
“The Congress” (dir. Ari Folman) Number three on my year-end best list, this haunting, melancholy and gorgeous live-action/animated chimera is as pro-cinema as it is anti-Hollywood, offering a gloomy but faintly hopeful prophecy bursting with visual brio and a knockout performance by Robin Wright as many versions of herself. Drafthouse gave it a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release, but this will be a cult classic in the years to come.
“Hide Your Smiling Faces” (dir. Daniel Patrick Carbone) Carbone’s Tribeca entry and first feature is a moody rural-suburban tragedy revolving around two adolescent brothers whose coming-of-age is complicated by the sudden death of a friend. The director’s cinematography background lends itself well to this sparse fable.
“Locke” (dir. Steven Knight) This nimbly edited one-man show stars the delicious Tom Hardy as a stressed-out construction manager who juggles a series of intense, life-altering phone calls while driving in the dead of night from Birmingham to London. More of a critics’ cause celebre than a serious awards player, “Locke” won a British Independent Film Award for Knight’s tight script (his series “Peaky Blinders” is now on Netflix), and the LA Film Critics’ Best Actor prize for Hardy.
“Palo Alto” (dir. Gia Coppola) A third-generation Coppola makes a bid at ethereal filmmaking in the beautifully empty “Palo Alto,” loved by many but not my cup of tea. Emma Roberts leads, in a star-making turn, as a sexually curious high school senior; producer-star James Franco is a creepy soccer coach; Jack Kilmer commands the screen as a sensitive, too-cool-for-school hipster whose best friend, played by Nat Wolff, is a sociopath.
“Under the Skin” (dir. Jonathan Glazer) “Under the Skin” is the sort of far-out, nebulous and visually mesmeric art film you rarely see these days — and with an A-list star, Johansson, to boot. In this film loosely culled from a novel by Michel Faber, she plays an alien-in-human-form dropped from the skies and into Scotland — here a marshy, anemic, pictorial hellscape — to harvest the bodies (and, perhaps, the souls) of unwitting and horny men using her zaftig, feminine wiles. From the alien lair, an inky pool of darkness that drags male victims down to unspecified doom, to a memory-scarring beach sequence, these set pieces must be seen to be believed. Our director interview here.