By Norman Wilner
On today's episode of The Big Story, the Frequency Podcast Network's daily news show, host Jordan Heath-Rawlings asked me to recommend a few movies and TV shows for people who'd reached the end of their self-isolation watch lists.
And since people have been asking us for the list, I figured I'd provide it here as a public service.
For people in action-movie withdrawal
Michael Bay's 6 Underground isn't very good—like, at all—but if you're jonesing for a Fast & Furious knockoff with firefights, explosions and cars flipping over in exotic locations, it has all of those things. It's on Netflix. But also it's bad, so instead I'd recommend Lockout, a.k.a. the awesome Guy Pearce action movie that re-situates the hostage crisis of Escape From New York in an orbiting space prison. It's available for rental and purchase on YouTube and Google Play.
For people looking for a great romantic comedy
Not only is Michael Dowse's The F Word absolutely charming rom-com in which Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan do their best to play out the When Harry Met Sally... friendship thing, but it's also a wonderful look at what life used to be like in the east end, as Radcliffe, Kazan, and their friends hang out and talk at house parties, restaurants, clubs, knitting circles at yarn shops, vintage stores, and coffee shops. God I miss coffee shops. Streaming free on CBC Gem.
For people who want to sound incredibly cool and smart and snobby at their next office Zoom drinks, but also want to enjoy the film too
Depending on your taste—and if you have Amazon Prime—you may enjoy Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here (in which Joaquin Phoenix gives a career-best performance as an unbalanced man hurtling towards an explosion of violence), Robert Eggers's The Lighthouse (starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in a go-for-broke period comedy about isolation and madness that's never seemed more relevant) or Dark River (a moody drama from Clio Barnard starring Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley as adult siblings coping with childhood trauma).
For parents who finally have time to catch up to that buzzy TV show everyone else has been talking about forever
I've evangelized Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul until I'm blue in the face, but can I pass up a chance to recommend a stunning American drama and its even more powerful prequel? No. No, I cannot. (They're both on Netflix.)
I also pointed to Michael Schur's The Good Place—the first three seasons of which are streaming on Netflix, with a fourth coming soon—as one of the best shows most people have slept on: a fantastical sitcom about philosophy and morality that features wonderful work from TV lifers Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, and launched the careers of William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto and D'Arcy Carden. Go see something good.
For sports fans who are barely coping in a world without sports
I have to preface this section with an apology: I referred to both Adriana Maggs's Goalie (streaming free on CBC Gem) and Miranda de Pencier's The Grizzlies (available on Crave) as "hockey" movies, even though The Grizzlies is about lacrosse. This is what happens when you try to cover 30 titles in 20 minutes: any sport where team of people run around with sticks turns into hockey in your cabbage brain. Forgive me, and please watch The Grizzlies. It's very good, and so is Goalie, which turns the tragic story of NHL hero Terry Sawchuk into something approaching poetry.
For parents whose kids have seen the big Pixar movies 8 billion times and need something new and good to start watching 8 billion times
May I introduce you to Aardman? Netfllix has a considerable selection of shorts, features and television from the British stop-motion company that gave the world Wallace & Gromit, including all of the W&G short films, their Oscar-winning feature The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, the eccentric comedies Chicken Run and Early Man and the brand-new Shaun The Sheep adventure Farmageddon. And though Aardman had nothing to do with them, I'm also throwing in the two Paddington movies, because people deserve joy.
People who’ve decided to lean into pandemic cinema
I can totally understand why people would want to gorge on virus movies right now: by shaping an incomprehensible nightmare into a two-hour narrative with a beginning, middle and end, movies like The Andromeda Strain (iTunes, Cineplex), Outbreak (Hollywood Suite Go) and Twelve Monkeys (Amazon, Crave) can be somewhat reassuring. And to that end, there’s a reason Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns’s exhaustively researched 2011 nightmare Contagion became the most-watched movie on Netflix as COVID-19 spread across the globe: we want to see a worst-case scenario where most of us still make it out the other side.
People who are old-school Adam Sandler fans
I cannot help you. But you should definitely check out Uncut Gems on Netflix and Punch-Drunk Love on Hoopla, both of which get Sandler out of his cargo-shorts comfort zone and into much more powerful projects.
People who want to get a head start on their (very small) Oscar pool
I’m still hoping theatres reopen in time for the fall awards-bait season, but if they don’t… well, pickings are going to be slim. Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which is available as a 48-hour rental on iTunes and Google Play, is easily the best movie I've seen this year, a devastating and intimate study of two young women (Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder) making their way from their small Pennsylvania town to New York City for an abortion. And with the right push, Elisabeth Moss might have a shot at a best actress nomination for her performance in Leigh Whannell’s subversive spin on The Invisible Man (iTunes, Google Play). Beyond that, who knows? Bad Boys For Life could be up for best original screenplay!
People who just want to put on a TV show in the background so they can occasionally laugh at it and maybe feel a little less alone
What better comfort food than Dan Harmon’s brilliant Community, which shifts genres and tones from one episode to the next while still also somehow retaining a big, open heart. All six seasons are streaming on Netflix and Amazon; the fourth is kind of weak, but it still has a puppet musical tucked away in there.