Welcome to the Weekend Watch, where we try to point you toward the best ways to spend your viewing time (or, at least, steer you clear of the garbage). In light of the global health crisis and the consequential movie theater closures, the HPN Staff wanted to recommend some quality streaming content you might enjoy.
The Lady™ and I had been trying to come up with an easy way to pick movies when we’re looking for something to watch, so she came up with the idea to put movies we meant to see on scraps of paper into a bowl and pick one when we’re about to watch a film. This week was Her from 2013. It’s definitely a good movie but I can’t tell if I liked it or not. I will say that I’m definitely glad I saw it and the performances are all pretty damn good. My personal favorite was that when Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) tells the Chris Pratt character that he’s dating an AI there’s no weirdness from him at all. He just accepts it and asks Theodore if they want to go on a double date. I also appreciate that the movie doesn’t devolve into a horror movie, that’s nice.
The Public Enemy
Speaking of going back into the vault, one of the great things Rick has been doing over at The Whitsett Theater Online is showing some of the classics. A few weeks ago it was His Girl Friday and this week we got The Public Enemy from 1931 starring James Cagney. It’s pretty much the prototype for most modern gangster movies, but there’s an interesting morality in play from the studio that was pretty common of time. It’s definitely worth watching though if for nothing else than to see the famous grapefruit in the face scene.
Sticking with Rick suggestions because of his watching of Barry last time, The Lady™ and I remembered we never finished Season 1. And let me just say that was silly of us. This show is so good. It deserves all the accolades it has received as does Bill Hader who is simply wonderful in this. With HBO giving away some of its content for free right now there is no reason for you not to check this show out. It’s absolutely worth it. As a result I’ve been saying “Barry” like NoHo Hank for a week now.
As most of you know I’m a huge LEGO fan and one of my favorite reviewers on YouTube is Jang over at Jangbricks. He’s always fair and impartial, he has a soothing voice, and he always goes super into depth about why he likes or doesn’t like a set. If you are looking for something that is kind of mindless and relaxing but also have a taste for LEGO this is a good choice. Check out his channel here and also make sure you check out his enormous LEGO City (New Jang City) with one of the runners up from LEGO Masters: Boone from Beyond the Brick
Middleditch & Schwartz
Three episodes of long-format comedy improv, this is easily one of the funniest things on Netflix right now. I’m more Schwartz than Middleditch but it doesn’t matter. It’s hilarious. Please watch it so they make more.
The Twilight Zone
Rick at the wonderful Whitsett Theater has been streaming episodes of The Twilight Zone on Sunday nights. Due to a technical issue, the most recent stream crapped out on me. Well, come to find out, the whole ORIGINAL series, as hosted by Rod Serling, is on Hulu. I’m not skipping ahead because I enjoy the Sunday night virtual screenings with friends. But you should, whether you’ve seen it before or not. That shit holds up.
Ok, cards on the table, that’s not a great promo. It makes Happy Endings look somewhat…..generic. But once you get past the “sitcom-y” premise, you realize just how special this show is. Amazing cast and funny as fuck, the whole (woefully too short) series is up on Hulu. Give it a few episodes, you won’t regret it.
The story of a woman dealing with doubt (both internal and external) after being raped, this is a tough one. Not tough to recommend. It’s so well done. The cast is exemplary. The writing, directing and editing, equally so. But it’s heartbreaking seeing what this woman had to put up with to get real help. Not one to throw on in the background, but still worth your time. I can’t recommend it enough (space it out though…..).
Portrait of a Lady On Fire
Ugh. My heart still aches when I think about this movie. I meant to catch it in theaters, but it didn’t get a broader release until right before the lockdown. Regardless, I can’t recommend it enough. It is beauty personified. Writer/director Céline Sciamma brings endless levels of talent to the fore with this slow burn, passionate love story between an artist and the aristocrat she is hired to paint. Top notch performance, stunning photography, and writing well worthy of its win at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s one of those rare films where I wouldn’t change a frame. It’s streaming exclusively on Hulu, but I’m waiting on a UHD release before I watch it again.
A Silent Voice
Like my previous entry, this film is going to stick with me for a long time. The story itself is fairly simple: A young deaf girl is so mercilessly bullied by her classmates that she changes schools. Years later, one of her tormentors, who himself became the subject of bullying, tracks the girl down to try and make amends. It’s a bit difficult to talk about this one without spoiling it, but this is one of the most mature and realistic looks at bullying you’re likely to find. The damage, feelings of loss, of isolation. I had my share of bullies growing up and it all rings true. Director Naoko Yamada, who got her start as a storyboard artist, brings a keen eye for detail and composition, giving every shot a purpose, propelling the broader story and individual arcs with a sure hand. This one is a powerful, emotional ride from start to finish, but not one without hope and promise. I already had this in my blu-ray library, but it’s available to stream on Netflix.
I’d caught a handful of episodes across its early seasons but never managed to finish them all. I started watching shortly before I cut the cord, but the show wasn’t available to stream so I just lost track of it. Now that the entire run is on Hulu it felt like a good time to start at the beginning. Colorful, strange, clever, and filled with good writing and voice talent, it’s no wonder the show is so highly regarded. I know that the series matures a bit with its audience, so there are more complex arcs and deeper character material to come, but for now I’m reveling in the silliness and the joy it brings.
This is a rewatch for me, and it’s a show I’ll never get tired of. This animated series follows a small group of students who attend a specialized arts high school. They’re all staying away from home at a small apartment complex, sort of like a mini college dorm. Over the course of four seasons and a handful of specials the girls bond, share goofy adventures (and a lot of food), and learn to grow as artists and face the world ahead. It’s wonderfully lighthearted and sweet. And its unique art/animation style, blending real-life objects, symbols, and bold patterns and textures, help it stand out from other shows in its genre. I’m so taken by it that I’ve been slowly collecting the original art books from Japan. I couldn’t find a proper trailer, so I included links to two short clips to give you an idea of what you’re in for. The show is available to stream via HIDIVE and VRV.
Circus Of Books
I’m going to admit that as many times as I’ve walked and driven by Circus Books in my lifetime, I had no idea what kind of story it actually was – a gay porn shop. It was an epicenter for LGBTQ culture in West Hollywood for more than 35 years. Even more unbeknownst to many – myself included – is that the store was cultivated and cared for by quirky, straight Jewish couple, Karen and Barry Mason. In telling their story, and the stories of their three children, store staff and patrons, we get to learn about this landmark of history and a lot about acceptance, tolerance and ignoring preconceived notions.
Beastie Boys Story
This was just great. So much fun! Despite Adam Yauch’s passing, “Mike D” and “Ad-Rock” infuse so much passion and joy into telling the story; they did “MCA” proud. I am a long time fan but didn’t know much about the Beastie Boys’ origin story so that was of particular interest to me. They originally had a female drummer?! What?! The way they put this together was also unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen and I really appreciated not only that spin but the clear influence of Spike Jonez’s directing as well. If you have Apple TV+, this is a worthy watch.
Don’t F*ck With Cats
All I’d heard about this docuseries is that it’s fucked up. But I realized going in that I really had no idea what it was about and looking back, that is really for the best. It certainly made the first episode (of three) extremely revelatory. So I will not say more except to caution that there is some scary shit happening to actual cats here and there so some people may want to put a thumb on the fast-forward button. This shit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S, y’all.
Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration
This special, which aired on YouTube (and obviously still exists there), was absolutely wonderful. It was actually derived out of an original plan to premiere a gender-revised version of Sondheim’s iconic musical, Company, on March 22, his actual birthday, but that was not to be, of course. The showing of this gorgeous “who’s who” of Broadway-and-then-some compilation was delayed by some frustrating technical difficulties at first, but once it got off the ground, we went into 30+ musical homages to the Maestro in an effort to raise money for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty). I highly recommend a viewing if you’re any kind of theater fan. Watch it if only to see Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald bequeath us “The Ladies Who Lunch” dressed in bathrobes whilst shipping cocktails.
It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’ll do. In fact, I am not convinced a theater audience would turn up for this; Netflix felt like the right home. It’s a mini Marvel reunion of sorts as well; an action film starring Thor, written and produced by the Russos, directed by Marvel’s go-to guy for stunts…. So that’s a fun grouping. It’s a slow burn and be warned, there are subtitles through a lot of it (it takes place in India), but you get some seriously awesome fights, some great chases on foot, car chases and shoot-outs. I’m also giving points for originality as I am not stuck wondering why Joe Russo set his script in India and between him and his brother cast 97% unknowns to star. Somewhat related – a fun fact I learned when the Russo brothers live-tweeted through Avengers: Endgame this week – Sam Hargrave, who directed Extraction and was the Stunts Director on Endgame is the one portraying Cap fighting another Cap in the movie. The other Cap is his brother, Daniel. (Picture of them dueling here.)
So that’s your adapted, upcoming weekend in review. Let us know what you saw, liked and/or hated!
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–Loren, RDT, Rick, and AJ