Since it was too hot to do much of anything yesterday (up to and including going downtown, going shopping, or even getting dressed), I spent my free day in my air-conditioned apartment catching up with a bunch of stuff on my Netflix instant queue.  Here was my day’s entertainment:

Small SoldiersSmall Soldiers

I hadn’t planned to watch this film, but I was listening to the latest episode of the Film Sack podcast and I enjoyed their discussion about whether this film was awful or had some redeeming qualities.  When I learned that the film was available on Netflix, I decided to check it out.  And my final verdict is … it doesn’t actually suck!  Okay, there were some doofy and annoying elements, and it was kind of dark and violent for a PG-13 film.  That being said, I kept expecting it to be jaw-droppingly awful and instead I found myself impressed by the special effects, Kirsten Dunst and the late great Phil Hartman, and the eye-rolling humor.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s JourneyBeing Elmo

So, this was a strange viewing experience.  I’d actually had this movie in my queue for a very long time; in fact I think I’d had it in my queue since it first became available on Netflix (before Kevin Clash’s recent sex scandals).  I wanted to see this film both because I’d admired Clash’s book My Life as a Furry Red Monster and because the film had been reviewed so well.  Well, this film is very well done, and if you enjoyed Clash’s autobiography you’ll love this film.  But then again, seeing this film with modern eyes there’s the additional “yeah, but …” aspect.  It’s one thing to watch a film portraying someone as a great human being when you know that he’s really an ordinary human being but the film is playing up his positive side.  It’s another thing to see someone portrayed as a hero when you know that his personal life was not so heroic, which in fact cost him the job which is the focus of the film.

Punching the ClownHenry Phillips

I’ve been a fan of Henry Phillips for a while now, primarily because of his appearances on podcasts like The Todd Glass Show.  I would describe him as a “musical comedian,” but in this semi-autobiographical film he describes what he does as “satirical folk music.”  The experience of watching him is similar to listening to him, in that there’s a slow quiet conversation that builds, and builds, and builds … and then WHAM he whacks you over the head with something hilarious.  If you’re into deadpan humor, you should watch this movie, listen to his podcast appearances, and check out his YouTube channel.

House of CardsHouse of Cards

Oh.  My.  God.  Okay, so the first thing you should know is that I don’t care one iota about politics.  Political conversations tend to bore me or go sailing over my head.  That being said, this Netflix TV series about the Majority Whip (played by Kevin Spacey) who pulls the strings behind the scenes of US politics is FRIGGING AWESOME.  This series is filled with great actors you’ll recognize from other TV series and movies, and it’s really superbly done.  We’re five episodes into the series now, and I’m finding myself thinking about the show at all hours of the day, thinking about which way the plot might turn even while I’m going to sleep at night.  The first season is up on Netflix now, and season 2 is coming out in 2014.

The RevisionariesThe Revisionaries

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of this documentary until I read this post on NPR’s pop culture blog listing some amazing films from 2012.  But when I saw that it was about how the textbooks that were selected for Texas schools influenced the textbooks that would be available to the rest of the country, I knew that my boyfriend would love to see this movie.  He’s been an educator for years, and while he was the kind of teacher who tended to use everything EXCEPT textbooks, he’d discussed this Texas-centered phenomenon with me before.  Oh, and I also wanted to see this film because a major focus of the film was about the argument over whether or not the theory of evolution should be taught / embraced / discussed / debated in schools.  And because my boyfriend and I are both big fans of Inherit the Wind.  Anyway, this film was amazing, frustrating, and amazing.  I found myself yelling at the screen at several points when someone was promoting an especially stupid view.  My basic reaction to this film can be summed up like this:

Oh my God!  What the hell?  WHAT THE HELL?  Why do they think … Why would they expect … WELL, FOR GOD’S SAKE!  NOBODY’S STOPPING YOU FROM PRAYING!  Did he just say the earth was 6,000 years old?  What the hell?  Okay, Honey, I want you to buy me a plane ticket to Texas so I can go over there and kick that guy in the shins!

That being said, every thinking person should watch this film.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.