OWEN MASON-HILL/THE Middlebury Campus
Time is now, for many of us, no longer a luxury; it is something we possess in abundance. If you, like me, have found yourself searching for something to occupy your time at home in between a 10 a.m. wake-up and a 2 a.m. bedtime, look no further. While I may be biased, I think there is no better way to spend your time during this quarantine than by watching and rediscovering the golden age of streaming we live in. There are far too many shows and movies available online for any single person to see in a few months, and because of that, there is no shortage of critics and news outlets releasing their own streaming guide. I have read all these lists and still find them insufficient, so I have, with the help of my good friend Gabe Gilleland, devised a list of movies and television worthy of your time. They will be divided by streaming platform, so feel free to skip ahead to whichever you subscribe to, but I would also consider reading others and possibly picking up a new streaming service that suits your fancy.
Netflix is a streaming behemoth, though with options aplenty, it can be even more difficult to make a decision — I personally have a list of over 75 shows and movies. I will limit my choices to just three: one film, one television show and one more suggestion that could fall into either category.
Movie: “Good Time”
The Safdie Brothers’ “Good Time” (2017) is, like their 2019 release “Uncut Gems,” an exploration into chaos. After a poorly executed bank robbery finds Connie Nikas’s (Robert Pattinson) brother Nick (Benny Safdie) arrested and thrown in prison at Rikers Island, Connie must come up with $10,000 in bail money. To watch “Good Time” is to ride a roller coaster without the price of admission; a roller coaster with no chest bar, screws missing and no brakes. It is a release of oneself into the chaotic world the Nikas brothers inhabit.
Though my favorite show on Netflix is far and away “Bojack Horseman,” I have already written a slew of Reel Critic reviews on the subject and I would be remiss if I didn’t look beyond it for another recommendation. The 2010 BBC adaptation of Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle’s original works stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as investigative duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a modern 21st century London. Though many of Doyle’s stories are well known, “Sherlock” reinvents them for a modern setting. The writing is incredibly complex, with some of the finest acting I’ve seen from either Cumberbatch or Freeman and an undeniably engrossing chemistry between the two. Each episode of this show is a short film in its own right and invites viewers to watch in a single sitting, but I would urge this one to be taken slow. It really rewards a viewer who takes his or her time with each episode before continuing to the next.
Wildcard: “Demetri Martin The Overthinker”
Demetri Martin’s 2018 stand-up special is an hour long buffet of one-liners served up in polished silver dishes. Martin’s style of comedy is not for everyone and very much unlike many of his contemporaries, but I find myself completely stitched in laughter from the pure silliness of his humor. “The Overthinker” also includes a sort of meta-commentary from Martin over his stand-up in a way that draws attention to the medium in which he is performing and only extends the reach of this special. It is well worth the watch.
Though only valued at 10% of Netflix’s net worth, Hulu has surprised me recently with its consistent release of acclaimed films as well as fantastic and original television shows. If you don’t have a subscription to Hulu, I would highly recommend it for its FX television shows and steady release of smaller, less popular but nevertheless great films.
“Shoplifters” was my favorite film of 2018. It centers around the Tokyo-based Shibata family as they maneuver the streets of Japan stealing and scamming for their survival. Even in their destitute state, the family adopts a young girl (Miyu Sasaki) who they find locked out in the cold night. With meager resources and a misguided moral compass, “Shoplifters” asks audiences to consider the ethics of doing bad things for good reasons. How far does empathy allow us to go to understand one another and the decisions we make?
Television: “Nathan For You”
Nathan Fielder graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades. The premise of the show is quite simple: Nathan is hired by failing businesses as a consultant to revamp their declining sales. Nathan Fielder, the show’s creator and star, is an odd person who excels in filling the awkward silences between strangers with even more awkwardness. His solutions, while not always perfect, are most certainly unconventional. The show thrives in presenting people with an absurdist reality through which it generates a certain honesty in their reactions. There is a nonfiction humanity in “Nathan For You” that a room full of writers would never think about. The show’s final episode “Finding Francis” is a beautiful combination of quirky honesty and an impossible search wrapped up into a 90 minute documentary. Even if you don’t watch the show, make sure to check out “Finding Francis;” it’s more than worth your time.
“DAVE” is a semi-fictional autobiographical depiction of Dave Burd’s transformation into his ironic and comedic rap alter ego Lil Dicky. Created and starred in by Dave Burd himself, “DAVE” throws audiences into the struggle of trying to be the greatest rapper of all time whilst also being Dave, a normal suburbanite who’s entire existence is in antithesis to rap culture. “DAVE” finds comedy in the mundane, in Dave’s awkward mannerisms, and in being a musical braggadocio rapping about sex and drugs whilst also trying to be polite and have a stable relationship. The line between Dave Burd and Lil Dicky is distinct, almost like a superhero donning their costume, but the show explores the times in Burd’s life when the line isn’t so clear. This show is without a doubt hilarious and the cast of characters Burd surrounds himself with are incredibly unique and undoubtedly comedic in their own right.
Make sure to look out for a part two coming soon with recommendations for Amazon Prime and HBO with additional updates for Netflix and Hulu based on my current viewing. I’ve only just started watching season one of “You” on Netflix and it’s sent my head into a tailspin, so lookout for a possible Reel Critic on that as well.