If you’re going to watch a bunch of movies during a quarantine, make them good.
Nathaniel Thompson is exactly the person you want living next door during a lockdown. He knows everything about movies, and if you’re nice, he will probably loan you a Blu-ray of the obscure foreign horror film your favorite musician casually referenced in an old interview.
Thompson has spent his time working behind the scenes at the Academy of Motion Pictures; he also makes frequent audio commentaries on DVDs, reviews obscure films on his site mondo-digital and he’s penned a four-volume series about weird and wonderful films titled “DVD Delirium” (FAB Press). If Thompson recommends a movie to you, take his word for it.
On top of all of that, he’s just a really nice guy — with wonderfully bizarre taste. As Jonathan Gold could find majesty from a no-name taco truck or a snooty Michelin-star chef, this Redondo Beach denizen can also find the gems among the riff-raff.
While Thompson was putting the final touches on his fifth book on cinema, we asked him to offer suggestions on the best movies to stream right now. Here’s what he had to say:
One of the most haunting supernatural films of the past decade was shot with crowdfunded pocket change by first-time director Mike Flanagan and his buddies in Glendale. They made sure you’ll never feel safe walking through those spooky pedestrian tunnels again. A perfect example of how suggestion can freak you out a hundred times more than gallons of blood, this was the calling card that led Flanagan to bigger things like “Doctor Sleep” and “The Haunting of Hell House.”
“Burden of Dreams” The Criterion Channel
Besides being one of the world’s finest living directors (and the baddie on “The Mandalorian”), German director Werner Herzog is also one hell of a great documentary subject as proven in Les Blank’s jaw-dropping look at the making of 1982’s “Fitzcarraldo.” If you think social isolation is a pain, this incredible look at the ultimate film shoot from hell will make you think otherwise — and it’s really, really funny, too.
“Career Girls” The Criterion Channel
One of the best films ever made about female friendship in the modern era, “Career Girls” tends to get overlooked in the filmography of acclaimed director Mike Leigh, but it’s just as worthy as his more famous ’90s films like “Naked” and “Secrets & Lies.” Plus, it’s the best showcase for the insanely talented English actress Katrin Cartlidge, who was taken from us far too soon.
Spike Lee got back to his wild 1988 “School Daze” persona with this raucous battle of the sexes epic that loosely translates the story of ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata” to modern-day Chicago. Too off-the-wall to get any serious awards consideration, it’s still a lot of fun and worth more than the mostly forgotten footnote status it seems to have gotten in the wake of “BlacKkKlansman.”
“Don’t Think Twice” Netflix
If you don’t do improv in L.A., I guarantee you know at least one or two people who do — and nothing captures the scene better than this look at six performers who get very stirred up when one of them makes the big-time. A killer cast including Keegan-Michael Key and “Community” star Gillian Jacobs is the secret weapon in this funny and sometimes melancholy treat from director, actor and comedian Mike Birbiglia.
Right now this might be the most familiar title on this list to the general public, but it’s still worth a shout out as the film Bong Joon Ho made right before sweeping the Oscars with “Parasite.” A touching, sometimes outrageous fable about animal rights and showing compassion for your fellow man and planet, it’s an unforgettable artistic vision that proves once again how important South Korea is today in our cinematic landscape.
“One Cut of the Dead” Shudder
I guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like this knockout Japanese zombie comedy, which plays like a classic door-slamming farce set in the world of low-budget moviemakers who take advantage of a real apocalypse erupting in their midst. A wild technical feat made for virtually no money, it’s the next midnight movie just waiting to happen.
“Paris is Burning” Netflix
Made at the height of the AIDS era, this vibrant celebration of New York City’s drag ball scene is a killer party film as well as a snapshot of the intersection of LGBT, African-American and Latino cultures who faced obstacles still with us today. The perfect movie to watch when you’re taking a break from binging “POSE.”
“The Rocketeer” Disney+
A real kick of a throwback action film that never seemed to find the audience it deserved, “The Rocketeer” features a glorious recreation of 1938 Los Angeles as the backdrop for the tale of a stunt pilot who uses a handy jet pack to fight Nazis and do some good for the American cause. Deliberately old-fashioned and totally family-friendly, it’s one film ripe for rediscovery.
“White Fang” Disney+
As much as everyone loves to focus on “Hocus Pocus,” there’s a lot of other solid ’90s live-action Disney out there — and this highly entertaining adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel is one of the best. You get a young Ethan Hawke, solid direction by Randal “Grease” Kleiser, a truly epic score by Basil Poledouris and Hans Zimmer and one of the best canine performances ever from the wolfdog Jed, who had previously starred in John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” A perfect getaway family adventure film.