Whether you’re someone who’s staying home to practice social distancing or someone deemed essential and thereby in need of escape at the end of the work day, movies may be the perfect way to spend your free time right now. Many of us are streaming more than ever before or doing so for the first time. If you’re looking for a novel film experience with a connection to art, Trent Nicholas, film expert at the Virginia Museum of Arts, suggests these five titles to add to your queue. What makes these choices unique? Each film—two documentaries and three fictional dramas in the horror, adventure, and detective/crime genres—relates to art and artists in VMFA’s permanent collection. All five are currently available from streaming services. So grab a bowl of popcorn, settle into your sofa, and enjoy! We hope you’ll find these films intriguing and entertaining and that they’ll help you pass the time until things get back to normal.
BLACK IS THE COLOR (2017; 52 min; color & b&w) Directed by Jacques Goldstein. In less than an hour, this fascinating and comprehensive survey of great African American works highlights several artists found in VMFA’s Permanent Collection: Romare Bearden, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, and Henry Osawa Tanner. Rent on Amazon or iTunes.
ELVIS ’56 (1987; 61 min; color and b&w ) Narrated by Levon Helm (The Band), this up-close and personal documentary captures that magical year when a young Elvis Presley was on the verge of world superstardom. Elvis’ momentous appearances in Richmond are featured. Rent on VUDU.
HAMMETT (1982; 96 min; rated PG-13; color) Inspired by paintings by Edward Hopper, director Wim Wenders designed the lighting and color of this retro Film Noir production. The story follows pulp fiction writer Dashiell Hammett (Frederick Forrest) as he investigates a deadly crime ring in San Francisco. Co-starring Marilu Henner and Peter Boyle. Rent from Amazon, iTunes, or YouTube. Free on Tubi and VUDU.
THE MUMMY (1932; 79 min; b&w) This renowned Universal Studios horror flick stars Boris Karloff as an Egyptian mummy that comes back to life. Director Karl Freund worked in the German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Rent on Amazon, iTunes, or YouTube.
SEARCHERS (MAGALIGLUTIT) (2016; 94 min; rated R; color; in Inuktitut w/English subtitles) Directed by by Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq. Starring Benjamin Kunuk. In the Arctic, an Inuit woman and her daughter are kidnapped from their igloo by three men. Her husband and son must track them down with only a Winchester rifle and their cunning. Rent on iTunes.
Trent Nicholas holds an MA in cinema studies from New York University. He is currently the coordinator of statewide media resources at VMFA and teaches film history for the Virginia Commonwealth University Art History Department.
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