Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Online Netflix Project: Great for the Unemployed -- ("Let the Right One In," "Dark Days")

I conducted an experiment yesterday. It wasn't really a conscious decision; rather, it was only after I drowned in a movie pool's deep-end that I had the idea, posthumously. In 10 1/2 hours, I watched four movies. I had an online Netflix journey.

I awoke around 7:30am and decided I'd sit down to some online Netflix viewing, since sleeping more wasn't an option. My choice? "Let the Right One In," that Swedish vampire movie everyone (that's relative) has been talking about for, well, an embarrassingly long time, but somehow I keep missing.

After a stark film about Swedish vampires at seven in the morning, I'd have to be able to sleep! Oh, delusion.

"Let the Right One In" (2008) opens with a shot of Oskar's (Kare Hedebrant) reflection as he stares bleakly into the Swedish snow that extends forever; he looks like a character out of "Village of the Damned," with unnatural-looking white hair, and matching skin. He's 12-years old and he spends his days snipping out articles of heinous murders and unspeakable deeds, daily assembling them into a little book -- a little Death Diary, say. Since he's the target of a bully and two lackeys at school, he also spends much time plotting sweet revenge. A little boy after my heart.

He's lonely. His mother isn't much of a presence, his father lives somewhere in another town, where he entertains questionable characters, may be gay and may be an alcoholic -- the scene explaining their relationship is very vague, and a little hard to understand. But neither parent is particularly attached, and so, Oskar is lonely.

Then Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves in next door. She doesn't go to school, but she dooooesss come out at night to stand barefoot in the snowy courtyard ("Aren't you cold?" "I've forgotten how.") and look eerie. They strike up a friendship after she schools Oskar on his Rubik's Cube, and soon they are trading Morse code communiques through the walls.

Eli lives with a strange, pock-marked man who's meant to help her, lighten the load a little for old Eli. There's a great early scene where he uses this contraption (almost as cool as Chigurh's in "No Country") that he carries around in a box with him to vaporize some acid substance, before administering it to the patient to make him pass out; for the bloodletting, he has his whole system down! Turns them upside down to let it all drain out. The acid is key in another great scene later involving the old man.

There's a lot of blood, a look at the inside of a slimy face, one shot of some crazy-looking private parts, a sweet and subtle love story between our two bloodthirsty stars -- all the while being very, very thoughtful. It is pretty fantastic.

You can watch "Let the Right One In" here online on Netflix.

"Squeal like a pig!"

So. the 12-year olds came and went, and while my eyelids were fighting the good fight to close, I sought out some tooth picks to foist them apart -- I juuuuuust wanted to see what Netflix suggested for me; She always seems to suggest such sweet things.

"Dark Days." Oooohhhh, that sounds up my alley, I thought, characteristically.

"Dark Days" (2000) is a documentary by Marc Singer about homeless people who've spent years building shacks, cooking food, becoming a community, doing crack -- all the good stuff we terrestrial creatures do, but they've been doing these things waaaay underground New York City, in an abandoned railroad tunnel.

The first two-thirds of the film (which was shot with a 16 mm camera, on black and white film)follows half a dozen or so of these characters through their daily lives. They've all constructed these huts using things found upstairs, or, "on the streets," where we wasteful, slovenly nuts -- who pay rent and bills and value, oh, the moon -- have chucked out perfectly good plywood, pans, clothes, slow cookers, TVs, you name it. And, not only can they, in turn, sell these things, they can use them! Somehow, they're able to tap into some electricity, feeding off Mother Manhattan. Take that ConEd!

Every day, they surface and start their day of dumpster diving, during which a few of the characters seem really excited by their daily treasure hunt. Upon arriving to one empty can, a man tosses what little's left inside and says with a sigh, "Oh, don't you worry, things'll pick up." But it's not said with desperation, or fear that he'll go starving, it's his love of the game that's hurting.

It all didn't seem half bad (except for the rats), and there were times that I glanced around my little hovel and thought, well, if things don't pick up -- there's always this. Until the Bad Guys came: Amtrak was kicking them out. Sigh.

In the end, the documentary was certainly interesting and entertaining. Singer does a good job of mixing the sadness of the situation with the jokes, and each character's backstory was uniquely shocking and upsetting. One was a former convict whose daughter was later raped, dismembered and burned; one was a 20-something who'd been abandoned by his parents as a young child; and, of course, a few were down-on-their-luck crackheads -- a nice assortment. Singer's dedication to the documentary was also noble, driven by helping the community financially and eventually securing them all housing vouchers. Swell dude.

You can watch "Dark Days" on Netflix here.

Here is a particularly sad scene, as one of the characters talks about losing her two boys in a fire.

After "Dark Days," I'd already decided what I needed to do -- I let Her suggest another to me, so smart Ms. Netflix, and then another. Where would She lead me? To great things, that's where.

But my fingers hurt, so I'll ramble on those, later.