Seeing Tom Waits get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently really made me reflect upon the fact that he is a true renaissance man. Not only is he a genius songwriter, but also an actor, a poet, and most importantly – a scalawag. His deep leathery and rapscallion voice is his trademark which has the ability to pierce through the human soul. The movies he decides to take part in are almost as majestic as his music.
Waits has been in bad movies, like The Book of Eli and Bram Stroker’s Dracula. He’s been in some great ones too, such as Down by Law and Short Cuts. You may be surprised to find out that Netflix has several of his better films to view instantly. So, here is a list of four recommended Waits films to check out on Netflix Instant.
Big Time (1988)
I’m trying to remember the first time I heard the name Tom Waits, or even the first time I heard one of his songs, but I can’t quite recall when or where it was. It’s as if he’s always been there, lingering in the back of my mind, or maybe that’s just some bizarre side effect of listening to his music in copious amounts.
If you’ve never heard any of Tom’s tunes before, then here be the place to start. Big Time is one of the more unconventional concert films. It has more in common with the films of David Lynch and Luis Buñuel than The Last Waltz or Gimme Shelter. Instead of intercutting the concert with documentary style footage, there are surrealist segments fragmented between, and sometimes during, the songs. Everything about this film embodies the spirt of Tom Waits, the essence of his music, and is a audiovisual testament to the peculiar.
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007)
Wristcutters is a strange little romantic comedy, two lost souls find their true love in the middle of a road trip through purgatory. The film has a real unique look and style. It’s very dark and grim, but somehow you end up caring about these cold characters. Waits plays a supporting role in the film as a mysterious cult leader with a strong belief in miracles. He gives a strong performance leading the audience on a string and makes sure that they don’t know what angle he’s playing.
I find Terry Gilliam very hit or miss. Mostly miss. His films tend to linger too much into oddity just for oddity’s sake. But Parnassus struck a chord with me because it mostly tried to delve into the truths about man’s nature. The film starts out with Christopher Plummer making a deal with The Devil (Waits). Waits and his pencil thin mustache are the perfect manifestation of evil, yet he still has a jovial personality as if he always has the winning hand. The movie is also a must see, because it was the last performance of Academy Award winner, Heath Ledger. His presence gives the movie an otherworldly crypticness.
Bukowski: Born into This (2003)
This film is a documentary wherein Waits provides a few interviews about the great poet Charles Bukowski. Waits describes Bukowski as a major influence in his life, and in this documentary you can see why. Charles is an ugly, vulgar man, a womanizer, and a drunk. He looks like he was birthed straight from one of Waits’ darker songs, yet there is a tenderness buried underneath his rough exterior. There is one point where he recites one of his poems, then weeps uncontrollably at the sorrow of his life. This is a very good film, and a good reference point for Bukowski’s poems and novels. Charles Bukowski has been the subject of other good fictional films such as Barfly, played by Mickey Rourke, and Factotum, played by Matt Dillon.
For more recommendations on Netflix Instant Watch movies, check out: