Premise: In this fantastical dark comedy directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, a sad, unemployed puppeteer wants to make a radical change in his life. He stumbles upon the opportunity to do so when he finds a portal that allows people to enter the brain of actor John Malkovich.
The man obsesses over this experience and tells his friends, who exploit the portal in various ways. Malkovich increasingly loses control over his life and career as other people take turns playing him.
“Being John Malkovich” earned three Academy Award nominations: Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener) and Best Director (Spike Jonze).
Setting: Late-1990s New York City
Netflix descriptors: “Mind-bending” and “absurd”
How it starts: Minimal, dim lighting hits an empty stage and closed blue curtain. The string section of an offscreen orchestra plays over the murmurs of an unseen audience. The strings stop, and the crowd claps. The full orchestra (with percussion) starts up again, and the curtains open to reveal a marionette in a theatrical set.
The marionette is a man with a ponytail. After seeing his reflection in the mirror, the marionette man trashes the set.
Notable cast: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Bonus: Kaufman wrote and directed a forthcoming Netflix Film called “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which debuts Sept. 4. This likely motivated Netflix to add “Malkovich” and another Kaufman movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” this month. Here’s the trailer for the Netflix Film:
Premise: In this medieval adventure comedy, a man of non-noble birth wishes to become a knight and participate in the sport of jousting. The sport only allows nobles to compete, so the man must wait for a chance to trick the organizers into letting him join.
In his quest to become a knight, he befriends the writer Geoffrey Chaucer, who in real life wrote “The Canterbury Tales.” In this version, Chaucer is a young man who has accomplished little and can’t seem to keep out of gambling debt. The two work together, along with a small team of other strivers, to make something of themselves in their world of inequality.
Setting: Fourteenth-century Europe in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer
Netflix descriptors: “Witty,” “exciting” and “romantic”
How it starts: Yellow, serifed text appears on a black screen. The text:
In medieval times a sport arose. Embraced by noble and peasant fans alike though only noble kings could compete. The sport was jousting.
It reads almost as if written by an AI bot, but at least the text conveys the movie’s backstory in a simple manner.
Notable cast: Mark Addy, Paul Bettany, Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell and Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Bonus: Here’s an interview with Heath Ledger from 2001 about his role in the film: