If you live in the American Northeast, this snowpocalypse has probably left you with a day to kill, if not a couple. Free of work responsibilities, you now have time to read a dense classic novel, experiment with an elaborate meal or do some serious housework. But who are we kidding? You’ll probably vege out in front of your television, dialing up whatever’s on streaming. On the bright side, long, long movies were made for days like these. Rather than binge watch TV, here are some epics — in some cases, film series —currently streaming on the big three (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) that will burn up gobs of your time:
‘There Will Be Blood’
After starting off with brash young man films (including “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”) indebted to masters like Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson found his voice and then some with this snaky look at an oil prospector (Daniel Day-Lewis) driven by greed as well as his innate hatred of other people. Opening with a dialogue-free stretch, it ends in one of the funnier/crazier screen chats. (Also recommended on Instant: Anderson’s “The Master”.)
‘Lawrence of Arabia’
David Lean’s elephantine study of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole, all coiled intensity and super blue eyes) demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. But your massive television, over an HD signal, should do in a pinch. Its peerless desert imagery tends to get all the press, but it’s also one of Hollywood’s most complex character studies, observing a man driven by both heroic and less heroic tendencies.
It's not that bad! This 1963 Liz Taylor monstrosity is by now well into the black, even if that took ages. And even if it's not not a drag, it has segments where the pageantry seems worth it — and eventually things turn meta. The fourth and final hour is a weirdly mesmerizing slow crawl in which Taylor's Cleo and Richard Burton's Marc Antony anguish over finishing a war (or is it a movie?) for which no one any longer has much passion.
‘Once Upon a Time in the West’
Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime
The king of spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone followed up his “Man with No Name” trilogy with an even sturdier epic, which subs in Charles Bronson for Clint Eastwood and files one of the great cast-against-type stunts, with Henry Fonda as a cold-blooded enforcer introduced killing an adorable kid. Even better, it’s a hypnotic look at capitalism settling the West even more violently than any outlaw. And it allows the Italian director to actually roam amongst Monument Valley — the old stomping grounds of the genre’s arguable king, John Ford.
Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime
D.W. Griffith helped invent numerous major narrative devices to cinema with “The Birth of a Nation.” For a less retroactively queasy and nearly as important spectacle, one can take in his ambitious follow-up, which cuts around four stories from different periods, the most striking being his lavish, no-expense-spared recreation of Babylon.
‘The Children of Paradise’
Filmed, incredibly, under the nose of the Nazis during the occupation of France, this 1945 drama was the nation’s answer to “Gone with the Wind.” Truth is, it's more of an ensemble film, trailing the lives and loves and miseries of a group of 19th century theater actors. Heartbreaking and exacting, it’s also a reminder that arguably the greatest actors were the ones in France in the 1940s — every one of them subtle and perfect.
‘The Human Condition’
Clocking in at some 10 hours over six parts, this take on Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel is the devastating tale of an ordinary Japanese man suffering through WWII, from a brutal boot camp to an even more brutal POW camp to the battlefield and to a dreamlike finale. It will take you all day, but you will leave stuffed. (Also recommended on Hulu: Akira Kurosawa’s comparatively more manageable “Seven Samurai.”)
‘Jeanne Dielman, 26 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’
There aren’t many glacial art films lurking on streaming sites, but the Criterion Collection’s alleyway on Hulu offers a handful. If you really want to feel time disintegrate, then behold one of the masterworks of minimalism: Chantal Akerman's three-and-a-half hour feminist study of a stay-at-home mom. Occasionally she turns tricks as a prostitute, but she mostly fills her days with menial chores. Watch her cut up potatoes for three minutes or go buy groceries for a meal her student son will chow on without comment. Sounds boring? After enough time with the film, every tiny thing Seyrig does becomes hypnotic. And when she screws something up — as with the time she drops a spoon on the kitchen floor — it becomes the most thrilling event you’ve ever seen in a movie, due only to the way your brain has been trained. (Other slow-burners for the ascetic: Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" and "Andrei Rublev" and Pedro Costa's "Colossal Youth.")
The ‘Up’ Series
America turned “Boyhood,” made over 12 years, into a surprise money-gobbler. Meet its even more dedicated cousin. Since 1964, the same film crew — led by director Michael Apted — has caught up with the same group of kids every seven years, asking them how they’re doing, how their life has changed and seeing how they’ve measured up to their youthful vision of their future. (Spoiler: Aging sucks.) If watched in one, epic battering ram, the results are disturbingly cosmic: watch, among other downers, as a perky, cute kid sours into a cynical wanderer only to find some watered-down form of salvation. And what better way to spend a snow day by contemplating your own decay.