Although my lovely flat screen television gets very little play and I haven’t had cable in years, I love movies and get readily hooked on a good tv series. I am a member of the internet generation – we stream, we download and for the low price of $7.99/month, we subscribe to Netflix.
Relative to American viewers, Canadian Netflix selection is extremely limited (a fact I discovered upon logging into my account during a trip to the U.S. last year), but if, like me, your lack of cable says something about your taste in film and tv (less reality television and Hollywood blockbusters, more off-beat comedy and indie flicks) you’re in luck. You might have to dig a little deeper to find the gems on Netflix in Canada, but here’s a list to get you started. For a second list created by Robyn, check out Part Two of our Netflix choices.
If you haven’t already jumped on the zombie train, the Walking Dead is a damn good place to start. I expected to hate this series, resisted it as long as possible, then caved and became rapidly obsessed. The first two seasons of the AMC production are currently on Netflix, with the third season currently airing live. It was surprisingly easy to get past my initial eye-rolling and become consumed with the lives of Sheriff Rick and his merry band of survivors in post zombie apocalypse America. If you don’t believe me, check out the series’ long list of television awards and nominations.
I am currently watching the 4400 – a mid 2000s series that dramatizes the lives and investigation of 4400 individuals from around the world who mysteriously went missing over the course of five decades. In the pilot episode, a comet deposits the missing 4400 back on U.S. soil on a deserted beach somewhere near Washington. It turns out the 4400s were taken by the future and returned to the present with special powers to change the course of history. Despite the sci-fi sounding premise, we never actually see the future; instead, the plot focuses on the development and difficulties faced by the 4400s as they come to terms with a world that has continued without them and on the two National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) agents charged with investigating the events. The series ran for four seasons from 2004 to 2007 and if you can handle the dated fashion, is worth checking out.
Former favourites at my house include Damages (a legal drama on speed) and Community (hilarious character-driven comedy). Next on the list are the much talked about House of Cards; the cult classic, Twin Peaks; and the animated adult spy series, Archer.
Netflix is generally pretty behind the times when it comes to new movies, but has a great collection of cult classics (Donnie Darko, Pulp Fiction, Team America) and indie flicks (including Lena Dunham’s directorial debut, Tiny Furniture and Elisabeth Olson’s breakout film, Martha Marcy May Marlene). Personal favourites include Howl – starring James Franco as Alan Ginsberg and anything starring or directed by Woody Allen (of which Netflix is home to several).
If you’re a fan of foreign films, Netflix’s collection is actually fairly impressive. The Lives of Others and A Separation both won the Academy Award for best foreign film in their respective years. The former tells the tale of an East German secret police agent who becomes consumed by the lives of the objects of his surveillance; the latter, set in Iran, offers a heart-wrenching glimpse into the deterioration of a marriage when faced with a choice between a child’s future and a family’s past. Honourable mentions go to French prison film, A Prophet; and Spanish film, Sin Nombre.
In my queue: This is England, a 2006 drama about a young boy who falls in with a gang of skinheads, recommended by my movie junkie friend Megan; Mammoth, co-starring Michelle Williams and Gael García Bernal, a film that went largely unnoticed in 2009 and received only mediocre reviews, but remains on my “to see” list solely given the cast; and Manhatten Murder Mystery (a Woody Allen classic starring Diane Keaton and Anjelica Huston that I have yet to see).
I love documentaries and one of my all-time favourites, Big River Man, is currently available on Netflix. I saw this film at Hot Docs years ago and would absolutely recommend it to any documentary lover. Pop culture favourites Freakonomics, and Exit Through the Gift Shop are featured, as are a long list of environmental and travel themed films. Check out Into the Abyss for a fascinating portrayal of the impact of a triple homicide on both the convicted and those affected by the crime, then lighten things up with a glimpse into the man behind the puppet, with Being Elmo. Finally, for my most embarrassing film recommendation of life: Never Say Never – the Justin Bieber Story. Although you’ll still never catch me listening to the Biebs at home, this shockingly honest documentary kind of explained Beiber fever. The kid is adorable, talented and utterly unpretentious.
Do you have anything to add to the list?