Whilst the world is on pause and your Filmhouse Sunderland visits aren’t possible, we’re keeping the independent cinema flag flying with our new weekly watch lists from Chris & Jonny, the people behind the project.
Each Friday, we’ll post a list of four films that are currently available across BBC iPlayer, All4, Netflix and Amazon Prime that we think you should seek out.
This week’s selection is…
A Simple Plan (15) (1998) (BBC iPlayer)
Sam Raimi conjures up the spirit of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo in this complex and dynamic film noir. Perhaps unfairly remaining largely forgotten in his career, this is one of his greatest films and features outstanding performances from Billy Bob Thornton and the late Bill Paxton. Whilst in the woods near their small town, upstanding local Hank Mitchell (Paxton), his brother Jacob (Thornton) and their friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) find a crashed plane containing more than four million dollars and the pilot’s dead body. Although Hank is reluctant to keep the money, Jacob and Lou convince him otherwise, and the trio devise a plan to split the fortune. However, things begin to unravel fast….
Shirley (15) (2019) (Netflix)
Elizabeth Moss takes on the role of horror writer Shirley Jackson in this tantalisingly unconventional spin on the biopic and the creative process. The film takes its lead from Susan Scarf’s book Shirley: A Novel, in which the writer creates a fictitious event in Jackson’s life. Here, she is struggling to write her new novel, blocked by her own anxieties and agoraphobia. She’s living with her cheating and critical husband Stanley Hyman, yet emotionally alone. To give Shirley more time to focus Stanley invites newlywed couple Fred (logan Lerman) and his pregnant wife Rose (Odessa Young) to stay and run the house whilst his wife works. The two women soon find themselves spending their days together, and as they develop an increasingly unhealthy bond Rose falls under the thrall of Shirley, and the boundaries of reality and fiction begin to collapse…
Ray & Liz (15) (2018) (All 4)
Renowned photographer Richard Billingham makes his feature debut with this intricate and unflinching family portrait based on his own upbringing in the 1980s. Just outside of Birmingham, Ray (Justin Salinger) and Liz (Ella Smith) raise their two sons and live on the fringes of society in a rundown council flat. An unconventional approach to parenting rubs off on their children… Gorgeously photographed on 16mm, Billingham’s film challenges the cliché of the working class on film, and is brimming with dark humour and verve.
Ghost World (15) (2000) (Amazon Prime)
Terry Zwigoff adapts Daniel Clowes’ iconic graphic novel into an intelligent voyage through teen angst starring Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johannsson. Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson) are best friends who are about to graduate from high school. Trying to work out what they want from life isn’t easy, and amidst the distractions that fill their daily lives, the pair find themselves becoming mildly obsessed with two wildly different men. For Enid, it’s the much older offbeat record collector Seymour (Buscemi), who she strikes up a meandering friendship with, whilst Rebecca takes the direct romantic route with a boy called Josh (Brad Renfro). Will these vastly differing connections and a place at the crossroads of adult life be the catalyst for the girls growing apart…? Truly original, and sharply funny, Ghost World is an unconventional teen comedy with a dark and knowing spark.
We’d love to hear what you think of the films we recommend – let us know!
See you next week,
Chris & Jonny