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Five of the Year's Best Films -- That You Can Stream on Netflix Right Now

Five of the Year's Best Films -- That You Can Stream on Netflix Right Now
Upstream Color

For professional film critics, you’ll notice, the year in film tends to conclude prematurely. Those “Best Of” lists you see popping up everywhere around now have often been tallied, decided, and finalized by mid-November -- and in the web’s ever-harried race for clicks and pageviews, that date seems to be receding further all the time. (The Voice’s own film poll closed on December 11.) Among the more regrettable consequences of this is an illusion of gatekeeping. The impulse to declare and broadcast an opinion of a film as far in advance of its release as possible has, I suspect, created a sense that the only films of the year worth talking about those are available exclusively to critics. (I admit and apologize for my own indulgence in this practice.)

See also: Eight Great Shows You Haven’t Binge-Watched on Netflix Yet

It’s doubtless frustrating to open countless Best Film lists to find an assortment of foreign curiosities and indies with only meager distribution -- films bestowed only a nominal one-week theatrical run on the coasts before disappearing into obscurity. But one of the pleasant things about moviegoing in 2013 is that many of these titles, however minuscule their budgets, make their way to video-on-demand services, often in time for year-end catch up.

With that in mind, here are five of the year’s most accomplished and highly regarded movies, each of which is available to stream, for no extra charge, on Netflix Instant.

1. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
Not so much a documentary about The Shining as a portrait of the quiet madness its legacy has inspired and enshrined, Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 quickly proves no less intriguing than the film its subjects regard with such reverence. It may be that the many conspiracy theories declaimed by Ascher’s eccentric interviewees begin to seem almost infectious -- it’s as if the delusions of the film’s obsessives could be caught like a disease. Be advised: Kubrick can never be seen the same way again.

2. Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas)
One of Mexico’s premiere auteurs, the great Carlos Reygadas, returned this year with perhaps his most challenging feature film to date, the gorgeous, terrifying, and frequently inscrutable Post Tenebras Lux. But despite its occasional its forays into apparent abstraction -- a sanguine Satan with a briefcase and a glowing yard-long member, two arbitrary cuts to a schoolyard rugby match, and so on -- the film never seeks to punish. Whatever effort may be required by Reygadas is duly returned.

3. Somebody Up There Likes Me (Bob Byington)
Somebody Up There Likes Me is a comedy of the sort popularized by The Office and its legion of carbon-copy primetime successors -- founded on the pain of embarrassment and discomfort, its jokes largely revolve around its hero’s various poses of social awkwardness. But Bob Byington’s interests run deeper: His film is as invested in the pathos of the story as it is the natural humor, which may be why its gags so often seem to touch a nerve.

4. This Is Martin Bonner (Chad Hartigan)
Be wary of any Sundance darling billed as “gentle” or “unassuming” -- these are well known critical euphemisms for “cloying” and “interminable,” common qualities among Park City alumni. But Chad Hartigan’s This is Martin Bonner, an understated drama about an aging Christian and the ex-convict he gradually befriends, is gentle and unassuming in the best possible sense: sophisticated rather than tepid, moving rather than bland.

5. Upstream Color
It’s been nearly a decade since Shane Carruth emerged, seemingly from nowhere, to ensnare less elastic minds with his left-brain time-travel opus, Primer, in 2004, and the question of how the film world’s only math-whiz auteur might one-up himself with his sophomore feature has finally been answered -- though not quite as anybody expected. While no less complex than its predecessor, Upstream Color proved considerably warmer, revealing a side of its already exhaustively multitalented writer-director-editor-composer-star that few had anticipated: He’s as interested in feeling as thought.

 
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23 comments
Michael Shaw
Michael Shaw

Oh, yeah. I did watch the movie Rubber. And Hobo with a Shotgun.

Michael Shaw
Michael Shaw

I could see it making a reference to the slaughter of Native Americans. But about the Holocaust? The faked moon landings? The theory that I agree with is that it's all a dream on the mom's part and that she had been hired to take care of the hotel, not the husband and the husband was not even at the hotel.

Brian Lewis
Brian Lewis

I dont know that it was ever meant to be a documentary on either. Its more a vehicle to demonstrate the mania of these people.

Brian Lewis
Brian Lewis

If you look for "Room 237" to be particularly enlightening regarding Kubrick....or "The Shining" for that matter, you might be disappointed. If anything you spend 90 minutes shaking your head at the lunatics who see something where nothing likely exists.

Jennifer Sasahara
Jennifer Sasahara

Just watched "Somebody Up There Likes Me." Horrible horrible film. Sad and disappointed Nick Offerman was in that...

Micah Jerrell
Micah Jerrell

You can also stream Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus and you should.

Mark Sauer
Mark Sauer

Just streamed Blackfish...phenomenal.

Michael Shaw
Michael Shaw

I watched it. For a documentary, it has some major flaws. It brings up interesting theories, but fall short. It's supposed to examine The Shining, but they interview zero of Kubrick's friends, family or co-workers.

F Travis Böley
F Travis Böley

Room 237 is the only one on that list that seems interesting.

Effie Kessler
Effie Kessler

Oh upstream color was...interesting. I prefer primer hands down, though.

Jennifer Krupp
Jennifer Krupp

Not one of those reads interesting enough to watch.

Mark Bland
Mark Bland

Room 237 is the only one worth your time

Melissa Ann Weber
Melissa Ann Weber

Room 237 is pretty amazing.. But you gotta like Stanley Kubrick films.. And like The Shining enough to try and understand the movie..

Misty Ziegler
Misty Ziegler

Would've been nice to actually have a movie description instead of just the directors info....Upstream Color sounds much more interesting after actually reading the synopsis on Netflix.

Michael Neely
Michael Neely

...Not going to be watching any of those movies. Sorry.

 

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