It’s going to be -54 degrees in Chicago this week. Everything is shut down, even in a rate twist, Chicago Public Schools. If you don’t live here, that’s a local joke. CPS rarely closes. This means most of us, hopefully, will be inside looking for something to binge. Here are a handful of my favorites for streaming that you may have missed. I’m skipping the obvious choices and giving you some of my personal favs. This list leans toward the genres of : thriller, science fiction, action adventure and documentary scale. Genres that you won’t find too much on Oscar or Golden Globe lists but should be. In any respect, enjoy and stay warm!
UPDATED SUGGESTIONS 1.30.19
ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD; NETFLIX
What is it like living in Antartica? Meet the people who live there. This doc explores human nature in places where you spend most of your time in darkness. Herzog adds his poetic commentary and thoughtful interviews in conjunction with gorgeous footage. It’ll make you appreciate winter in ways you haven’t thought about yet.
A nail biter from beginning to end. The best reenactments I have seen on film for a story like this. It’s a harrowing tale that will have your heart pounding. By far my favorite of the mountaineering gone wrong documentaries.
THE THING: Rent it
Classic horror, also takes place in Antartica. I miss these old monster movies. I love the props and old school movie make-up. Created before everything was computer generated. This icy thriller is a great cold weather view.
FORTITUDE; AMAZON PRIME
This takes the best things about The Thing and puts it into modern times. Shot in Iceland … my hubby and I actually went to the town that this was shot in. The scenery is sure to go with our frigid weather but the mystery will have you guessing till the end. Wonderful performances. Highly recommend this one.
SNOWPIERCER; ITUNES on sale this week
This one is really good. I love me some Tilda, she is fantastic as a bad guy. It’s an action movie on a train that uses every action movie on a train trope but it does so in surprising ways. We ended up buying it after watching it on amazon last year. They took it off amazon, so you’ll have to rent it but it’s a great cold weather watch.
If you feel like you’ve got cabin fever … this movie is for you. Imagine being on the moon, isolated and alone. The desolate and cold atmosphere and stellar perforce of Sam Rockwell makes this a must watch. It’s SOOO GOOD.
LIFE BELOW ZERO ; NETFLIX
Want to see what it takes to live in the Alaskan wild? These guys are doing it off the grid. They hunt and grow their own food, gather wood for fuel and heat, they trade with each other. It’s crazy to see what it takes to live off the grid in winter. Makes me appreciate my modern amenities.
MANIAC ; NETFLIX
This show seemed to go under the radar. I have no clue why. It’s super fun, cerebral and weird. I would call it a strange psychological thriller set inside a highly designed universe that is a mash up of the 70s, 80s and 90s nostalgia. Imagine the set from Aliens, the technology from war-games and the strangeness of an ayahuasca trip mashed up with a few noir genres that is kinda like Vanilla Sky meets 12 Monkeys.
If you are struggling to follow, that’s because Maniac is hard to put in a box. If you can make it through the flashiness, underneath is a really beautiful and painful truth about human nature. That there is no easy fix for the darkness of life. We all need help, community and love to pull through. Perhaps that sounds a little hokey, but I promise this show delivers and may require multiple viewings.
HEREDITARY ; AMAZON PRIME
So I wrote a super long blog on this movie after seeing it in the theaters. It is by far the best horror film created in the past 15 years. It doesn’t have jump scares or flashy special effects. It’s a trauma based horror film. One that should have gotten an Oscar nomination for it’s lead actress. I LOVED this film for it’s brave and brazen portrayal of female vulnerability and power while exploring extreme grief. But be warned. You may need therapy after. You can read my blog about it here.
EIGHTH GRADE ; AMAZON PRIME
Why this one wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, I don’t know. I certainly liked it better than Lady Bird. It’s awkward, weird and adorable. Yes, it captures a midwest white suburban girl experience of 8th grade that we see on screen all the time- but it does so extremely well. While culturally, it doesn’t push any boundaries, it was the first film I’ve seen that tackles awkwardness without trying to overly transform the leading lady into a modern beauty. My favorite part, was that it painted young girls the way I knew myself to be: average, awkward, weird and smart. It brought back all the squirmy feelings I had growing up. I loved the script. I always feel like this girl when I put something out on the internet with my blogs or social media. Totally relatable.
THE BALAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS; NETFLIX
This anthology is really really good. The stories are solid and the writing is on point. My only wish was that they diversify the cast a bit more. I think this would have been even better if they branched out and added some people of color. Having been to New Mexico recently, I also dig the scenery. It’s beautifully shot.
DARK TOURIST; NETFLIX
Travel to the weird places, do the weird things. That’s the premise of this one. I wish the host was more Bordain like, in that I sometimes think he can be a little disrespectful in the way that white tourists can be annoying BUT he does some weird things that I wanted to see. Like a trip to Fukushima or a tour that attempts to give you an experience of crossing a border illegally. Easy watch and can break up any of the above if they are too serious.
KEN BURNS , THE WEST
Yes, he can put you to sleep. But if you want a really great history lesson this one is amazing, comprehensive and more woke than your typical history doc. I learned so much about America’s past. WAY more that I was ever taught. It really shifted my view of the typical white “western,” story. Which is why I think Buster Scruggs missed out on a crucial casting step. I appreciated how the interviews with Native Americans were handled, they really lead the story and I think thats important. It’s long. So it could take you a few days to finish this one. I’ve been watching it a little bit here and there for a few months.
FYRE OR FYRE FRAUD
Join the long list of people throwing their hat into this ring. It was a crazy party that never happened. It’s stupidity and criminality that was made for reality TV. Also wrote a blog about these. Where I offer a more critical look at the two docs. You choose. Netflix or Hulu.
BANDERSNATCH, BLACK MIRROR
Speaking of choice. Have you Bandersnatched yet? You may want to watch season 3-4 of Black Mirror too but Bandersnatch is clever. You’ll enjoy your choices and seeing them play out. I love how they involve you in the story with the writing and can’t imagine plotting out a story like this. It reminds me of video games but with more cinematic cut scenes. You’ll need a device that allows you to make the choices. Apple TV won’t work but several others do. My favorite gem happens in the therapists office.
THE STAIRCASE; NETFLIX
If you like true crime, this one is at the top of my list. Start one episode, you’ll watch them all. This case is full of so many twists and turns but what I really loved about it was watching a family deal with grace under horrible circumstances. I am still on the fence on where I stand as an audience juror. The filmmakers do a nice job of keeping you guessing. Its a great alternative to Making a Murderer.
See how the FBI started the behavior profiling division of serial killers and coined the term. It’s macabre true crime drama at it’s best. The actors were given the real tapes from the serial killers to use to develop their characters and the performances are spine chilling. Season 2 will include a few infamous men and the Ted Bundy series is sure to “T," that up nicely. The last episode had me on the edge of my seat. It’s the real life Silence Of The Lambs that will make you question why you like it so much. I was surprised that I didn’t hear more about this show. It was like a good book. Couldn’t put it down.
TRIGGER WARNING ; NETFLIX
Killer Mike from Run the Jewels is hilarious. Episodes 1-4 are amazing. You’ll laugh and question things in new ways. Really like this approach to cultural problem solving. The humor only points out the seriousness of the issues he presents, which is what makes this pretty progressive. My favorite episode is the Crips and Bloods soda. I’ve always said that gangs have marketable skills, they just need help learning legal forms of business. Killer Mike tackles that in the best way and the focus group is important to see. I wasn’t crazy about the last episode but the first 4 is great TV.
CHILDREN OF MEN; NETFLIX
This is one of my favorite dystopian films. Made before dystopian was hip in that young adult novel way. It was feminist long before The Handmaids Tale. If you don’t remember much about it, I highly recommend a repeat viewing. With our current climate, this one suddenly feels fresh again. Directed by the same man who directed Roma. I actually think this is his best film.
Worth renting: MAD MAX FURY ROAD
Speaking of dystopian. You guys, this movie got added to my favorite films of all time the second I saw it in theaters. Don’t let the trailer turn you off, it’s badly cut. I could have done better. A good chase sequence is hard to film, so I respect the craftsmanship. Fury Road was the first action film I’ve seen with a male lead that stepped aside for the females. Furiosa became my spirit animal. It’s an allegorical high octane dystopian rock opera on crack. It’s about feminism, war, capitalism, climate change and toxic masculinity without saying any of those words. I loved how the writers mashed up language and developed a theology created by a dictator that borrows from history, pop culture and rock and roll. The stunts were all filmed live in the desert and they will have you scratching you heads on how they did it. It takes the best of the old Mad Max films and improves the purpose. I think .. that might be my next blog. It’s so fun to pick apart all the symbolism.