With cable tv season rounding up, our (ahem) beloved Toronto Maple Leafs putting an end to hockey season in Toronto, and the Blue Jays simply not living up to the hype, I’m sure we can all use some more Netflix in our lives. I’ve sought out the assistance of my good friend Alanna because, well.. she has fabulous taste and an incredibly discernible eye for arts & culture in many mediums, but particularly in film (and yes Alanna, in fashion, food, music, and art too!).
I’ll follow Kelly’s lead and break these up similarly to her picks in our original Best of Canadian Netflix post. Enjoy Alanna’s commentary here :)
With the much anticipated Season 4 of Arrested Development to be released on Netflix on May 26 (all 15 episodes at once), get pumped by watching the first three seasons to remind you how much you love this show. In case you’ve been living in a hole (sorry!), this show features Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett & Michael Cera , a dysfunctional and formerly wealthy family. It’s a hilarious character series that has garnered a cult following.
The award-winning, IFC produced Portlandia should not be missed. The sketch comedy featuring stereotypical hipsters living in Portland, OR, played by Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney). It’s quirky and funny and if you’re anything like Kelly and I, you’ll be not-so-secretly be laughing at the hilarious similarities to your own lives. The epsiodes featuring guest stars and cameos with the likes of The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Tim Robbins, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder are among my favorites.
Alanna and I agree that House of Cards is BEYOND truly outrageous. Kevin Spacey as the Majority Whip of the House, Robin Wright as a non-profit CEO and the other half of this bizarre modern high-achieving-at-any-and-all-costs power couple, Kate Mara as the most annoying journalist/blogger/lame girl all star in this DC-political-psycho-drama that frequently breaks the fourth wall and features BBQ. Sold. This is also Netflix’s first original series, with all 13 episodes of the première season released at once, effectively changing television distribution and consumption forever.
The Inbetweeners is a fantastic, hilarious, cringe-filled British comedy about four regular to below average dudes in high school. It is uncomfortable to watch, but I can never tear myself away. This is NOT to be confused with the not worth the price of Simon’s new car U.S. remake, which obviously blows. A similar story with Skins which is the best show for making you yearn for a reckless British coming of age experience and has one of the best soundtracks ever (I would only vouch for Seasons 1-3).
Luther is an AMAZING detective drama starring the hottest of hot Stringer Bell (okay, Idris Elba, but whatever…I don’t care what you call him, he is delicious when he isn’t making terribly cheesy music videos). It is also an amazing modern London detective show, so obviously great for Anglophiles. Similarly, Sherlock is a dark, gory, gritty suspense filled detective show with less attractive leads, but whatever. Still, it is an incredible movie-quality mini-series with each episode running 90 minutes. It is fantastic.
Honourable Mention: The Riches is a short-lived highly underrated dramedy about Irish con artist/travellers starring Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Shannon Woodward and Noel Fisher. I really enjoyed this and it was a casualty of the perfect storm of low ratings and the 2007/8 Writer’s Strike.
Obvious and slightly less obvious choices that are worth your time: Freaks and Geeks (followed by the lesser known Undeclared), Community (until Dan Harmon’s departure), Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter (early seasons), Damages (early seasons), Misfits Season 1- 3 (another BBC outfit).
The great thing about docs is that while they can be extremely niche market, the good ones draw you in, captivate you, entertain you and educate you, even if you don’t give a shit about car racing and Catholicism (Senna); late-night comedy host man-child drama (Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop); materialism, beauty pageants, time shares and the financial crisis (The Queen of Versailles); Hollywood politics and how the religious right interfere with movie making and distribution (This Film is Not Yet Rated); highly stylized tellings of 90s hip hop royalty from the perspective of a former star of Boston Public and quintessential New Yorker (Beats, Rhymes & Life: A Tribe Called Quest); simultaneous development of 4 newborn babies born in different parts of the world (Babies); the enduring influence that a group of young punks in 70s California had on skateboarding (and surfing) (Dog Town and Z-Boys); taps that spew fire and fracking that is unrelated to Battlestar Galactica (GasLand); the intensity of competition at any age and the incredible athleticism on display in the world of international ballet (First Position) or Broadway musical revivals, for that matter (Every Little Step); or how corporations are evil and rule the world (The Corporation).
From here, for brevities sake, we’ve got a list of choice selections to recommend that are divided by non-official genres:
Sneakers (Such a classic recommendation/movie that is undeniably awesome. Robert Redford, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Dan Akroyd, Ben Kingsley, and Sidney effing Poitier. CANNOT GO WRONG)
The Hunger Games (Jennifer Lawrence and young adult dystopian fiction – enough said.)
Lucky # Slevin
Clear and Present Danger
Children of Men
Six Degrees of Separation (Will Smith as a serious actor in 1993; based on the incredible play about David Hampton, the charismatic con artist who pretended to be Sidney effing Poitier’s son in real life. Also stars Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing and Ian McKellen, among others) (ed. note: Alanna’s 2nd use of “Sidney effing Poitier)
The Other Woman (A different role for Natalie Portman, a young lawyer getting used to the role of Stepmom.)
Coco Before Chanel
Biutiful (Javier Bardem – ’nuff said?)
One Week (Pacey Whitter, New Waterford Girl, Tim Hortons. Lake Louise and a 1973 Norton Commando 850 star in what one reviewer called a “love letter to Canada”. Kick ass all-Canadian soundtrack too.)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Candy = Canadiana for me. Also, Uncle Buck)
Young Adult (Charlize Theron is a young divorcee and is so tragic is hurts to watch.)
Your Sister’s Sister
Damsels In Distress
Kissing Jessica Stein
Bottle Shock (This is not a well known one, but a great one…beautiful scenery and light uplifting story based on a true story about WINE!!!)
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (You’ll notice an Elizabeth Olsen pattern in our picks. Here she’s the grandaughter of Jane Fonda and daughter of uptight NYC lawyer Catherine Keenner, and they’re all learning to let loose.)
500 Days of Summer (Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s tragic reltionship with the requisite Zooey hipster twists.)
Aziz Ansari (Any of his comedy, really.)
Easy A (Robyn’s fave and catalyst for mega crush on Emma Stone.)
The original Swedish Adaptation of the Stieg Larsson Trilogy, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et al.
The White Ribbon
Precious Life (Although this is also a doc, but it is in this category on Netflix)
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (This was a favourite of all my male students when I taught in Japan…Zatoichi is another classic/folk hero)
Alanna’s personal choices:
Manhattan Murder Mystery (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Angelica Huston, New York…I loved this movie as a kid, and it was the first Woody Allen movie I was old enough to register the first time I watched it.)
Bad Girls (1994 movie about 4 cowgirls played by Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore…Girl power for sure)
Valley of the Dolls
9 to 5
Lost in Translation
Clue The Movie (OMG OMG OMG BEST EVER…FLAMES, FLAMES, FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE)
To Die For
Slums of Beverly Hills
Drop Dead Gorgeous
The Paper Chase
All I Wanna Do (also released as Strike and as The Hairy Bird…I owned a VHS copy and wore it out. Kiki Dunst, Racheal Leigh Cook, Monica Keena, Gaby Hoffman, Vincent Kartheiser, Heather Matarazzo, Merrit Weaver…so many good actors in their younger years playing in this 1960s boarding school nonsense movie that I can’t wait to watch again!)