South Korea, 2003, 120 min, Dir. Park Chan-wook
Our disgruntled protagonist is experiencing his first day of freedom, having spent 15 torturous years in a windowless cell for no apparent reason, tossed inside after one drunken night in Seoul. The reason for his imprisonment is as mysterious as the reason why his captors let him go, but either way, Dae-su is dead set on revenge. And his first meal of a live cephalopod puts on display Park Chan-wook's commitment to the unexpected, the darkly humorous, and the cosmically fucked in this early 2000s thriller.
Oldboy—the second installment in Park's Vengeance trilogy—is certainly not for the faint of heart. While much of the graphic violence takes place offscreen, the film still upkeeps a gruesome atmosphere that will have you shredding your fingernails for a source of relief. There's teeth-pulling, sawed-off hands, valium gas, beautiful violet boxes, tiddy-sucking, hammers, and a brilliant one-take fight scene. I will refrain from any spoilers but INSIST you watch this film. It's one of the best! JASMYNE KEIMIG
US, 1987, 97 min, Dir. Mary Lambert
What's the best way to spell out the weirdness of a film like Siesta? By its stars? There are many: Ellen Barkin, Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Jones. Miles Davis is on the soundtrack. Maybe by its opening sequence? Claire (Barkin) wakes up on an airport runway wearing only a red slip. She's muddy, covered in blood. She runs to a river to wash away the blood. Then she sprawls out, labia-forward, on the riverbank. Vultures consider eating her ass. It doesn't make sense, but it's hot.
All in all, Siesta is a ripe, stylish, horny film with as much sense as a Lady Gaga music video—which makes sense, considering its director, Mary Lambert (not that Mary Lambert), started her career directing truly iconic music videos for divas like Madonna, Janet Jackson, and, uh, Rod Stewart. Siesta is Lambert's first feature film, and as NYT's Janet Maslin jabbed in her original review, Lambert "will still be best known for [her music videos] after Siesta is gone." (She went on to say nice things about the movie.)
While that's not entirely true (Lambert made Pet Cemetery in 1989), it's tough to beat directing Madonna's music videos, notably "Like a Prayer." It’s helpful to consider Lambert-as-music video director when watching Lambert-as-feature length film director—if you're able to consider Siesta at all. It’s basically only available on VHS. CHASE BURNS
France, 1964, 95 min, Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
There's a quality to Band of Outsiders that's inspiring, corralling three simplistic yet angsty poetic characters together to try to pull off a robbery. Godard's love of American crime films and culture shines through, mishmashing tropes and polishing them off with a French existential sheen. It's a caper that's less about the crime at hand and more about how the vulnerable Odile and her two pushy conspirators/paramours fall in and out with one another. TLDR: Godard makes a gangster film that's more brain than brawn. It charms. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2005, 114 min, Dir. Nobuhiro Yamashita
This mid-2000s indie classic, ranked by critics as one of the best Japanese films of the 21st century, follows four teenage girls as they work to create a band that performs cover songs from the famous Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, specifically the band's song "Linda Linda." The film that plays out is curious and simmering, at times slow-moving, but overall very joyous.
The Linda Lindas, which you should know from this video below, brought me to this movie. NPR confirmed that the band, which is creating an album with Epitaph Records and has an excellent new single out, is named after Linda Linda Linda.
How did the girls, age 11 to 17, find this deep cut, which came out years before the youngest member was born? Maybe they inherited good taste—Eloise Wong, the band's bassist and singer, is the daughter of "Chinatown punk savior" Martin Wong, who created the Asian-American pop culture magazine Giant Robot—or maybe they're just divine punk stars. I'm crossing my fingers and toes that the oncoming success of The Linda Lindas will bring a renewed interest to this indie gem in the US. Someone, drop a new Bluray!!!! I'm out here considering buying a $75 copy from Japan!!! CHASE BURNS
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.