The 99 best movies under 99 minutes on Netflix Canada

A movie’s runtime is increasingly becoming a major factor in the likelihood of me ever watching it.

Of course, there are directors I love whose work I follow almost religiously. And I, too, get sucked into festival and awards buzz. But when I’m home and want to watch a movie before bedtime (8 p.m., and I’m only sorta kidding) lurks, I’m not looking for epics or films with entr’actes. More than once, I let my The Great Escape (172 minutes) DVD set continue gathering dust in favour of shorter films I had available to watch (The Italian Job – the Michael Caine one – and Run Lola Run – an 80-minute German thriller – come to mind).

The next time you’re looking for a movie to watch and want to make sure you’ll be conscious by the time the credits roll, you don’t have to just fire up another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like I’ve been doing for the last two weeks. You *can* watch a movie! As Buffy herself sang at the 2002 MTV Movie Awards, “movies kick absolute, total and complete ass.”

Here are 99 great films under 99 minutes currently streaming on Netflix Canada.

(Netflix Canada catalogue @ June 1, 2015)

My favourites

1. Fargo (1996), 98 minutes

Fargo

Why I’ve even bothered including 98 other films on this list is beyond me. We should all just be watching Fargo 99 times back-to-back. The Coen Brothers classic stars Frances McDormand as the badass, no-bullshit, pregnant detective Marge Gunderson, who’s investigating three murders in her town, all occurring after the disappearance of the wife of bumbling Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy).

2. A History of Violence (2005), 96 minutes

History of Violence

Tom Stall and his family are about to get a rude awakening. After a news story hailing him as a local hero garners some national attention, Tom’s past life catches up with him. Viggo Mortensen stars in Canadian director David Cronenberg’s film, with Mario Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. One of Cronenberg’s best.

3. His Girl Friday (1940), 92 minutes

His Girl Friday

How far can one man go to try to lure his ex from her new beau? For newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant), the limit does not exist as he tries everything to keep Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), his ex-wife and his ace reporter, in town.

4. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013), 91 minutes

20 Feet from Stardom

The Oscar-winning documentary follows back-up singers who lent their vocals to some of the most famous and popular songs ever, yet are not household names, including Darlene Love, who stole the show at the 2013 Oscars and was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s Late Show.

5. Fruitvale Station (2013), 85 minutes

Fruitvale Station

A haunting portrait of the last day of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area man shot by police on the platform of a train station, that’s become more haunting and poignant since its release. I also highly recommend Roxane Gay’s essay on Fruitvale Station, “Last Day of a Young Black Man.”

6. Stoker (2013), 99 minutes

Stoker

Chan-wook Park’s first film in English is Stoker, about young India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska, in her best work ever) coping with her father’s death, her mother’s (a bone-chilling Nicole Kidman) grief, and her mysterious uncle’s (Matthew Goode) sudden and creepy interest in her.

7. Blue Jasmine (2013), 98 minutes

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine is the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Jasmine Francis, a role that earned Cate Blanchett her very deserved second Oscar.

8. Mean Girls (2004), 97 minutes

Mean Girls

The endlessly quotable and rewatchable Mean Girls is also only 97 minutes long. Has a shrine been erected in honour of Tina Fey yet?

9. I Am Divine (2013), 90 minutes

I Am Divine

I’d only heard of Divine and knew nothing of Harris Glenn Milstead, the man under her wigs and makeup before watching I Am Divine, the fascinating documentary about the drag icon who was John Waters’ muse and starred as Edna Turnblad in the 1988 film version of Hairspray. 

10. The Cabin in the Woods (2012), 95 minutes

Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is a send-off of every horror movie trope, wrapped in a bonkers, over-the-top horror-comedy of its own, co-written by Judd Apatow and Drew Goddard.

 Animation

11. Shrek (2001), 90 minutes

Shrek

Shrek‘s influence on the animated-film landscape is undeniable, even though the series has fallen out of the grace of some fans because of subpar third and fourth entries.

12. Shrek 2 (2004), 93 minutes

13. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), 98 minutes

14. Un chat à Paris (2010), 70 minutes

15. Kung Fu Panda (2008), 92 minutes

16. Ernest et Célestine (2012), 80 minutes

17. Antz (1998), 83 minutes

18. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), 94 minutes

19. L’illusioniste (2010), 80 minutes

Action/Thriller/Crime

20. Red Eye (2005), 85 minutes

Red Eye

Wes Craven is a true master of suspense, and in the breezy 85-minute Red Eye, starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, Craven builds one of the most gripping thrillers of the last decade.

21. Premium Rush (2012), 91 minutes

22. Dredd (2012), 95 minutes

23. Haywire (2011), 92 minutes

24. Salt (2010), 99 minutes

25. Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007), 91 minutes

26. Big Trouble in Little China (1986), 99 minutes

27. A Company Man (2012), 96 minutes

28. The Matador (2005), 98 minutes

29. Killing Them Softly (2012), 97 minutes

30. The Guard (2011), 96 minutes

31. Blue Ruin (2013), 90 minutes

32. Croupier (1998), 94 minutes

Documentary

33. Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011), 92 minutes

Page One: Inside the New York TImes

Blame my print journalism bias for the first three documentary picks: Page One, about the behind-the-scenes, production side of putting together The New York Times, with a deep and now-bittersweet look at the work of the late David Carr; Bill Cunningham New York, about a NYT photographer who literally invented street fashion photography; and Stripped, about cartoonists at newspapers discussing how the fall of print media is affecting their craft.

34. Bill Cunningham New York (2010), 84 minutes

35. Stripped (2014), 85 minutes

36. Side by Side (2012), 98 minutes

37. Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (2014), 88 minutes

38. Blackfish (2013), 83 minutes

39. The Imposter (2012), 99 minutes

40. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013), 81 minutes

41. From One Second to the Next (2013), 34 minutes

42. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013), 38 minutes

Drama

43. Bicycle Thieves (1948), 89 minutes

Bicycle Thieves

Netflix’s catalogue of classic films is sometimes lacking but often changing based on which studios it inks deals with. The 1948 Italian film Bicycle Thieves is a heartbreaking and hopeful film about a man and his son searching for a stolen bike that is crucial for the father’s job. Honorary Oscar winner in 1950 for foreign-language film, before the competitive category was established in 1956.

44. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), 93 minutes

45. Omar (2013), 98 minutes

46. Wadjda (2012), 98 minutes

47. Blue Caprice (2013), 93 minutes

48. Tiny Furniture (2010), 99 minutes

49. Diego Star (2013), 87 minutes

50. Rabbit Hole (2010), 91 minutes

51. My Week with Marilyn (2011), 98 minutes

52. The Station Agent (2003), 89 minutes

53. Love Is Strange (2014), 94 minutes

54. Punch-Drunk Love (2002), 95 minutes

55. Short Term 12 (2013), 96 minutes

56. Smashed (2012), 81 minutes

57. The Bling Ring (2013), 90 minutes

58. Moon (2009), 97 minutes

59. Carnage (2011), 79 minutes

60. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008), 94 minutes

Horror

61. The Strangers (2008), 85 minutes

The Strangers

There’s a fine line between “predictable” and “hits exactly the right note exactly when it’s supposed to.” That is The Strangers, a 2008 horror-thriller starring Liv Tyler as a woman being taunted by three masked assailants at her and her husband’s isolated vacation home.

62. Teeth (2007), 94 minutes

63. The Descent (2005), 98 minutes

64. Carrie (1976), 98 minutes

65. The Fly (1958), 93 minutes

66. Frailty (2002), 99 minutes

67. In Fear (2013), 85 minutes

68. The Woman in Black (2012), 95 minutes

Comedy, Romcom, Dramedy

69. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), 99 minutes

Grand Budapest Hotel

The latest film by Wes Anderson was a surprise hit, and a rare early-in-the-year release that was able to sustain its momentum come Oscar time, taking home four awards in technical categories and being nominated in nine overall. The film stars Anderson regulars and has a most impressive cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, and Tony Revolori, in a memorable breakout film role.

70. Baby Mama (2008), 98 minutes

71. Zoolander (2001), 89 minutes

72. Office Space (1999), 89 minutes

73. Wet Hot American Summer (2001), 96 minutes

74. Bring It On (2000), 98 minutes

75.  Liar Liar (1997), 86 minutes

76. Intolerable Cruelty (2003), 99 minutes

77. Dan In Real Life (2007), 98 minutes

78. 13 Going On 30 (2004), 97 minutes

79. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), 85 minutes

80. Midnight in Paris (2011), 94 minutes

81. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), 96 minutes

82. Enough Said (2013), 92 minutes

83. I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), 97 minutes

84. Hamlet 2 (2008), 92 minutes

85. Frank (2014), 95 minutes

86. Gayby (2012), 88 minutes

87. Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012), 92 minutes

88. Easy A (2010), 92 minutes

89. Your Sister’s Sister (2011), 90 minutes

90. The Full Monty (1997), 91 minutes

91. Clueless (1995), 97 minutes

92. The Addams Family (1991), 99 minutes

93. Fever Pitch (1997), 98 minutes

94. Alan Partridge (2013), 90 minutes

95. Harold and Maude (1971), 91 minutes

96. But I’m A Cheerleader (1999), 85 minutes

97. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), 92 minutes

98. Frances Ha (2012), 85 minutes

99. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), 81 minutes

Best of 2014: Movies

What a diverse year at the movies 2014 was, and what a thrilling adventure every trip to the theatre has been. I’ve been tinkering with my Top-10 list for days and have come up with this group of 10. Enjoy.

10. 22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street surprised me. I thought 21 was OK, but was looking forward to 22 because of what Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum had been up to since the first film’s release. The duo’s chemistry and the film’s fun silliness make it one of the best buddy-cop films of the decade. Among my favourite moments of 22: a Golden Girls reference about Blanche doing heroin, Jonah Hill trying to convince himself he is Beyoncé post-Destiny’s Child, and an end-credits sequence for the ages. Sometimes a movie’s just fun. (112 minutes, dirs. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

9. Whiplash

Who knew a movie about a drummer and his teacher could be this nerve-wracking? J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller star. Look for Simmons to clean up on the awards trail. (107 minutes, dir. Damien Chazelle)

8. Mommy

With five films to his name in his short career (and life – he’s 25), Xavier Dolan’s specialty has become the lush, over-emotional melodrama. With Mommy, he hits all the right notes. And bless Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément, who turn in incredible performances. (139 minutes, dir. Xavier Dolan)

7. Force majeure

I prematurely tweeted out my thoughts on Force majeure after I left a screening of the Swedish film during the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in the fall, suggesting the film was a force moyenne. Almost three months later, I still think about the film. Daily. It’s funny, tragic and poignant, often in the same frame. A vacationing family has a close encounter with an avalanche at the amazing ski resort they’re staying in (seriously, I don’t ski and would start if it meant staying where these guys stay in the film!), which puts more pressure on what we find out is a very strained marriage. (118 minutes, Ruben Ostlund)

6. Locke

Two words for why and how Locke, a movie that takes place entirely inside a car in which you ever only see one man, works: Tom Hardy. The British actor made a splash in Christopher Nolan’s Inception in 2010 (though he has been active since 2001, with a small role in HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers) and he’s been busy ever since. In 2015, he’s slated for five movies, including the Mad Max reboot and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s The Revenant, which will also star Leonardo DiCaprio. Locke shouldn’t work at all, but it very much does. (85 minutes, dir. Steven Knight)

5. Enemy

After Incendies and Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve changes gears without toning down the intensity with Enemy. It’s just a wallop of a film with a knockout ending. Can’t wait to see this one again. I quite liked this analysis of Enemy, via Slate. (90 minutes, dir. Denis Villeneuve)

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what summer blockbusters should be like. Smart and epic in scope, the franchise continues on the right path since its impressive 2011 reboot. Andy Serkis is back as as ape Caesar, with a new human cast (Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke) and director Matt Reeves, who’s signed on to the next Apes instalment due in 2016. (130 minutes, dir. Matt Reeves)

3. Nightcrawler

I was expecting Jake Gyllenhaal to be getting the kind of attention and recognition for Nightcrawler that Matthew McConaughey got for Dallas Buyers Club last year. Then I remembered that unlike McConaughey, Gyllenhaal wasn’t in terrible movies for almost a decade before turning his career around. People love a redemption story, and Gyllenhall has become astonishing after being good for a long time. Nightcrawler made me nervous. Mostly, it felt like it could teeter out of control at any moment; mostly, it was because of Gyllenhall’s unhinged portrayal of a sociopathic, psychopathic, greedy Louis Bloom. Nightcrawler is the Wolf of Wall Street of broadcast journalism. (117 minutes, dir. Dan Gilroy)

2. Gone Girl

To make this as spoiler-free as possible, here’s what I’ll say about one of the best thrillers (and most fun/frustrating literary and cinematic experiences I have had in a while) of the year: David Fincher directs this adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel for which Flynn also wrote the screenplay. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as a couple with problems (“Marriage is hard work,” after all), as do Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle, Casey Wilson and Kim Dickens. Pike’s character, Amy Dunne, goes missing on her and Nick’s (Affleck) fifth anniversary. A search is launched, of course. And the shit hits the fan. Again. And again. And again. Even though I knew what was coming, it felt just as exciting and new as it would have had I been totally unfamiliar with the story. I think. (149 minutes, dir. David Fincher)

1. Under the Skin

Under the Skin

My biggest cinematic regret of 2014 is missing Under the Skin in theatres. I ended up watching one summer night (it’s available on Netflix Canada) on my modest 40-inch TV with the sound turned way, way up – I’d heard how great the score by Mica Levi was. Under the Skin was the most astounding, hypnotizing, immersive movie experience I had in 2014. Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien on a mission in Scotland. Director Jonathan Glazer has the ability to craft an intriguing and satisfying mystery around this character, an opportunity Johansson truly relishes, giving a gentle humanity to a creature who’s up to some terrible deeds. (108 minutes, dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Honourable mentions: Boyhood; Chef; Dear White People; Edge of Tomorrow; Guardians of the GalaxyThe LEGO Movie; Life Itself (as a rule, I keep documentaries off my Top-10 lists because I think their goals are different and should not be judged against artistic works of fiction. Life Itself moved me. Like thousands, I am sure, Roger Ebert introduced me to film writing and dozens, if not hundreds, of films I would never have thought to watch.) The One I Love; Snowpiercer; Veronica Mars.

Best of the rest: Blue Ruin; Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me; Godzilla; Grand Budapest Hotel; Happy Christmas;Neighbours; Obvious ChildOnly Lovers Left AliveTop Five; Wild.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Here’s my Top 10 list for my favourite movies of 2013.

Film review: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

Xavier Dolan Mommy

Quebec cinema wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature Mommy is his best by far.

In hindsight, Mommy is also Dolan’s first masterpiece. This isn’t a knock to his debut, J’ai tué ma mère, or the lush Laurence Anyways, or even the Hitchcockian Tom à la ferme, but none of his previous films are nearly as moving, captivating or artistically assured as Mommy is. Knowing what he can do now with Mommy, a passionate, beautiful and unique film about a Québécois family, with a script that is biting and emotional, it makes his previous efforts pale in comparison.

Set in 2015, when a new law is passed allowing Canadians with a problem child to give him or her up to a federal institution, Mommy follows Diane “Die” Després (the perfect Anne Dorval, in her fourth Dolan film) and her son Steve, whom Die picks up from what appears to be a boarding school that’s at wit’s end with what to do with the troublemaker (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). Steve set one of his classmates on fire and is being expelled, leaving widowed and severely underemployed Die no choice but to try to homeschool him. The pessimistic woman at the school reminds Die that “It’s not because we love someone that we can save them.” Immediately, we get a glimpse into the mother-son relationship of Die and Steve. Dolan is in his element: they have fun together and love each other, clearly, but Steve is sometimes violent and dangerous, and Die can’t help but blame herself. Their relationship is toxic but codependent. Die can never be sure what will set Steve off. After a misunderstanding leads to an argument, Steve starts destroying things around the house and Die scrambles to find a safe space to hide from her boy until he calms down. Suddenly, that new law sounds like it could literally be a lifesaver. Die and Steve get some relief when the shy and stuttering neighbour from across the street, Kyla (Suzanne Clément, in a beautiful and heartbreaking turn), begins to tutor Steve.

Mommy hits you when you least expect it with a ferocity that left me thinking about it for days after I watched it. Even almost two weeks later, I get chills thinking of certain scenes and sequences, and Dolan’s use of music is especially effective in the film. It felt odd at first, hearing Dido’s “White Flags” or Oasis’s “Wonderwall” used in the soundtrack un-ironically, but when Kyla, Steve and Die belt out Celine Dion’s “On ne change pas” after a hilariously awkward dinner scene, I was floored at how such a soapy moment could be so moving. It just works. Everything in Mommy meshes so well for the world and characters of Mommy.

The 1:1 aspect ratio in which it is shot leaves no room for distraction either. You’d think that you’d be missing out on something with the square frame, but it’s more than enough to be completely immersed in the characters’ worlds, their living rooms, kitchens, lives. Dolan also isn’t afraid of extreme closeups, leaving no room for the actors to not emote and commit fully.

To have five directorial efforts to your name at age 25 is a feat in itself, but for those five to be critically acclaimed, well… It should surprise nobody that Dolan’s reported next film is going to be his first English-language feature and will star two-time Oscar nominee Jessica ChastainMommy, like three of four Dolan films before it, screened at the Cannes film festival (Tom à la ferme premièred at Venice, but did not make it to the South of France) and was awarded the Jury Prize. It screened at TIFF and had a big red-carpet première in Montreal earlier this month. The hype is real and it’s worth it.

Mommy opens in Montreal on Sept. 19.

★★★★ (out of ★★★★)

Film review: Boyhood

BOYHOOD - 2014 FILM STILL - Ellar Coltrane

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been wowing critics and audiences since its première at Sundance in January. The acclaim is universal, boisterous and very enthusiastic. (The film has a score of 99 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 9.4/10)

Boyhood follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 5 to age 18 as he goes to school, plays video games, goes to college, and everything in between. The film is gorgeous and exquisitely shot, finding beauty in the mundanity of everyday tasks, of life and its ups, downs and middles. There is no plot to speak of, just the journey you are on with Mason and his family.

It’s not unusual for films to span years or decades. Boyhood does, but it’s unique in that it was filmed a few weeks at a time over 12 years using the same cast and crew. Kudos to everyone involved for committing and trusting that the end product would be spectacular, and not just a feat or gimmick. The cast includes Coltrane, who does great work though he doesn’t get the meatiest or juiciest bits; many times, Coltrane’s performance was just a look, a sigh or an eye roll. But if Linklater is Boyhood‘s brain and Coltrane’s Mason is the film’s soul, then Mason’s mom Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette, is the film’s heart, turning in her best work ever. The cast is rounded out by Lorelai Linklater (the director’s daughter) as Samantha, Mason’s older sister, and Ethan Hawke, who plays their absentee-but-wants-to-change dad. Hawke is no stranger to Linklater films: he starred in the director’s sublime Before Sunrise trilogy, which follows a couple (Hawke and Julie Delpy) at different stages in their relationship. Boyhood isn’t a four-person film, just like lives aren’t shaped by just parents and siblings: Marco Perella, Cambell Westmoreland, Richard Robichaux and Cassidy Johnson may not get top billing on Boyhood, but their characters helped build Mason into the 18-year-old we see at the end of the film.

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