Streaming Picks: July 2020, Part 1

I’ll be doing a big preview of Peacock when/if they reveal a full list of what will be available at launch. This post will cover the Big Three (Netflix, Hulu, Prime).

FILMS
Top Picks
The Films of Christopher Guest – Hulu 7/1
Palm Springs – Hulu 7/10
Spanglish – Prime 7/1
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Netflix 7/1
Christopher Guest is an undeniable comic genius. If you’ve never experienced three of the funniest movies ever made (and one of the sharpest Hollywood satires of the last 30 years), Hulu has you covered, with Waiting for Guffman (1997), Best in Show (2000) and A Mighty Wind (2003), plus For Your Consideration (2006).

Romantic comedy Palm Springs broke a record at Sundance, selling for $17 million (and 69 cents) to Neon. Alas, COVID-19 killed its chances at being the indie success of the summer, so it’s off to Hulu.

Adam Sandler got the best reviews of his career for his turn in Uncut Gems, but he’s been giving excellent dramatic performances (when he wants to) for many years, including in James L. Brooks’ wonderful, seriously underrated Spanglish, where he plays a chef facing a marital crisis. He also makes the best-looking sandwich ever captured on film.

Bafflingly not on HBO MAX (yet), Netflix has what might legitimately be the best Batman movie ever made: the animated Mask of the Phantasm, which features an insanely dark story and Mark Hamill’s incredible performance as the Joker.

Recent Selections
#AnneFrank: Parallel Stories – Netflix 7/1
The House That Jack Built – Hulu 7/1
A Kid Like Jake – Hulu 7/1
Mary Shelley – Hulu 7/1
Psycho Granny – Hulu 7/1
Trapped Model – Hulu 7/1
The Whistlers – Hulu 7/2
To the Stars – Hulu 7/3
Only – Netflix 7/5
A Kid from Coney Island – Netflix 7/6
The Long Dumb Road – Netflix 7/8
Vivarium – Prime 7/11
Shakuntala Devi: The Human Computer – Prime 7/15
The Rest of Us – Hulu 7/13
The Weekend – Hulu and Prime 7/15
Funan – Netflix 7/17
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love – Hulu and Prime 7/19
The Assistant – Hulu 7/20
The Last Full Measure – Hulu 7/21
2099: The Soldier Protocol – Hulu 7/26
Banana Split – Netflix 7/26
Bull – Hulu 7/30
The Flood – Hulu 7/30

Originals
Under the Riccione Sun – Netflix 7/1
Desperados – Netflix 7/3
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado – Netflix 7/8
The Claudia Kishi Club – Netflix 7/10
The Old Guard – Netflix 7/10
The Business of Drugs – Netflix 7/10
On est ensemble – Netflix 7/10
Gli Infedeli – Netflix 7/15
Fatal Affair – Netflix 7/16
MILF – Netflix 7/16
Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia – Netflix 7/22
Love on the Spectrum – Netflix 7/22
Animal Crackers – Netflix 7/24
The Kissing Booth 2 – Netflix 7/24
Ofrenda a la tormenta – Netflix 7/24
Radioactive – Prime 7/24
My Spy – Prime 6/26
The Hater – Netflix 7/29
Seriously Single – Netflix 7/31
The Speed Cubers – Netflix 7/31

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The Anniversary Albums Project: Best of 2019

New music has lost a lot of hold on me over the last few years. And last year I decided that instead of trying to keep up with it all, I’d look back at music history and listen to the albums celebrating milestones. Some of these I’d heard before, but many I had not. The project ended up being more than I could keep up with at times – there’s a list of at least 50 albums I didn’t get to – but it was much more enjoyable to discover and rediscover classics instead of just whatever was being dumped onto Spotify every Friday.

So below are my top 10s from each year I covered, along with some honorable mentions.

The Beatles - Abbey Road
1969

1. The Beatles – Abbey Road
2. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis
3. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
5. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
6. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way
7. The Band – The Band
8. Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
9. Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul
10. Sly & the Family Stone – Stand!

HONORABLE MENTIONS
• Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country / Willy and the Poor Boys
• Roberta Flack – First Take
• The Kinks – Arthur
• Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
• Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis
• The Stooges – The Stooges

The Clash - London Calling
1979

1. The Clash – London Calling
2. Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Armed Forces
3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes
4. Donna Summer – Bad Girls
5. Roxy Music – Manifesto
6. Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!! / I’m the Man
7. Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust
8. Prince – Prince
9. Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
10. Sister Sledge – We Are Family

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
• The B-52’s – The B-52’s
• David Bowie – Lodger
• Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
• Chic – Risqué
• Dave Edmunds – Repeat When Necessary
• Gang of Four – Entertainment!
• Ian Hunter – You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic
• Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
• Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks
• Sparks – No. 1 in Heaven
• Supertramp – Breakfast in America
• Talking Heads – Fear of Music
• Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats
• XTC – Drums and Wires

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What I Watched This Week: 21 Jun 2020

NEW SHOWS
Perry Mason – “Chapter One” (B) / limited series premiere
I’m intrigued but not quite hooked. It’s got great atmosphere and a great cast, but it’s not quite there yet.

CURRENT SHOWS
Barkskins
“Bees in a Bottle” (B-)
“The Black Sun” (B+) / season finale
Felt like it was just getting started, but many of its storylines came to a tragic end. Will be interested to see if a possible second season continues with the settlers or if it jumps ahead in time as its source material does.

BINGEING
The Great (A-)
A few of its characters were left twisting in the wind in the jam-packed finale, but this was a magnificently vulgar and clever limited series. The ensemble cast was uniformly excellent, but Phoebe Fox (as former lady of the court turned servant Marial) was the MVP.

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What I Watched This Week: 14 Jun 2020

BINGEING
What We Do in the Shadows – Season 2 (A- average)
Even better than its hilarious first season, featuring several of my biggest laughs of the year so far.

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What I Watched This Week: 7 Jun 2020

NEW SHOWS
Barkskins
“Buttermilk” (A-)
“The Wobble” (B+)
Our bounty hunters find their man, revealing fresh new horrors. A rescue attempt for Rene and Father Gabriel goes horribly awry, setting the stage for showdown between the Irouqois and the French settlers, each army egged on by the British.

BINGEING
The Simpsons – Season 1 (B+ average)
While the animation is still a little rough, the storytelling and heart was strong from the beginning. Standout episodes: “Homer’s Odyssey,” “Moaning Lisa,” “Life on the Fast Lane”

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What I Watched This Week: 1 Jun 2020

NEW SHOWS
Barkskins
“The Sugared Plum” (B+)
“The Law of Two” (B+)
The show gets a tick better as the characters’ treacherous intentions come into focus. Everyone’s got a secret, and everyone’s got a scheme. That should keep things interesting for the rest of the season.

BINGEING
What We Do in the Shadows – Season 1 (B+ average)
A terrific first season that grows its world as it goes, with its quintet of main characters all richly drawn and hilarious in their own way.

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Streaming Picks: June 2020

FILMS
Top Picks
Shirley – Hulu 6/5
First up is Neon’s Sundance hit, with another great performance from Elisabeth Moss. She plays horror author Shirley Jackson (“The Lottery,” “The Haunting”) in this fictional take on her life, one that’s a scarier than the real thing. Between this and The Invisible Man, look for Moss to be a real threat come awards season.

Da 5 Bloods – Netflix 6/12
Spike Lee rides his latest comeback (which included a long overdue Oscar win) with this Vietnam story about a mostly black platoon and their return to the country decades later in search of buried treasure. Easily the movie I’ve been most excited for so far in 2020.

Knives Out – Prime 6/12
One of last year’s very best movies (and biggest hits) hits streaming, where your conservative family members can finally see the roasting they deserve, all while enjoying themselves with a compelling mystery.

Recent Selections
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Hulu 6/2
Miss Snake Charmer – Hulu 6/4
Intrigo: Dear Agnes – Hulu 6/5
The Appearance – Hulu 6/6
Intrigo: Samaria – Hulu 6/12
Child’s Play – Hulu and Prime 6/12
Milea – Netflix 6/13
Dustwalker – Hulu 6/15
Crawl – Hulu and Prime 6/18
Goldie – Netflix 6/19
Straight Up – Netflix 6/26
Clemency – Hulu 6/22
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band – Hulu 6/25
Charlie’s Angels – Hulu 6/25
Guns Akimbo – Prime 6/27
Carrion – Hulu 6/29
The Gallows, Act II – Hulu and Prime 6/30

Originals
Spelling the Dream – Netflix 6/3
The Last Days of American Crime – Netflix 6/5
We Are Freestyle Supreme – Hulu 6/5
A Whisker Away – Netflix 6/18
7500 – Prime 6/19
Father Soldier Son – Netflix 6/19
Feel the Beat – Netflix 6/19
Lost Bullet – Netflix 6/19
One Way to Tomorrow – Netflix 6/19
Wasp Network – Netflix 6/19
Athlete A – Netflix 6/24
Nobody Knows I’m Here – Netflix 6/24
Home Game – Netflix 6/26
Adú – Netflix 6/30
One Take – Netflix TBD

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What I Watched This Week: 24 May 2020

NEW SHOWS
Barkskins
“New France” (B+) / series premiere
“The Turtle King” (B)
Not exactly my cup of tea, but this New World-set historical drama is well-acted and well-directed by David Slade (Hannibal). Its treatment of native characters is not what I expected based on its opening minutes, but it’s clear early on that the white characters are the savage ones. The accents are all over the place, though.

Mrs. America – “Reagan” (B) / limited series finale
Ties a nice bow on everything, but should have ended last week, with a newly radicalized Alice (Sarah Paulson) watching in horror as busloads of religious nuts arrive for a counter-rally.

BINGEING
Homecoming – Season 2 (B+ average)
While it’s certainly not as good or as bold as its Julia Roberts-led first season, this is another compelling mystery, with great acting across the board. Janelle Monáe, in her first starring role, is particularly impressive, playing one of the most fascinating, duplicitous characters in recent TV history.

OLD SHOWS
Everybody Loves Raymond (Season 5) – “Marie’s Sculpture” (A-)
Had a chance to browse Universal’s new streaming service Peacock, and while its library and interface aren’t anything to write home about, it does have every episode of the last great multi-cam sitcom. I chose to revisit this classic episode, in which Marie takes a sculpture class and turns out a very “ladylike” piece. Like Seinfeld‘s The Contest, it’s uproariously funny and I still can’t believe a broadcast network let them do it. 20 years on, some of the jokes are a little creaky, but mostly gut-busting.

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Streaming Picks: May 2020, Part 2

Unlike Disney+ (which had a massive library) and AppleTV+ (which didn’t), WarnerMedia is being awfully coy about what, exactly, will be on their new streaming service HBO MAX. So here’s what they’ve confirmed so far will be available at the May 27 launch (though even that is fuzzy). I’ve intentionally excluded every HBO movie, series and special, as that’s already part of the deal. Unfortunately, the app won’t be available on the two most popular streaming platforms: Roku and Amazon Fire. It’s also not available to Comcast cable subscribers, even if they already have HBO. Love it when corporations quibble over pennies and screw over customers.

FILMS
Top Pick
Studio Ghibli
For the first time ever, the brilliant works of Hayao Miyazaki are legally streaming in the U.S. I sadly know too few of the master’s films, so this will be a chance for me to finally check out the likes of Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke.

Recent Selections
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Downton Abbey 
Joker 
Ready or Not

Originals
On the Record

NEW SHOWS & SPECIALS
Top Picks
Love Life
While hitting it big with the Pitch Perfect franchise, Anna Kendrick hasn’t quite found a role as, ahem, pitch perfect as her Oscar-nominated turn in Up in the Air. I’m not sure if this rom-com will be it, but it sure seems to be the right choice at the moment.

The Honourable Woman
One of my the best shows of the 2010s, this unflinching limited series stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as the titular character, caught in the crosshairs of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Originals
Craftopia
Legendary
Looney Tunes Cartoons
The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo

OLD SHOWS
The Alienist (Season 1)
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Complete Series)
Batwoman (Season 1)
The Big Bang Theory (Complete Series)
The Boondocks (Complete Series)
Doctor Who (Seasons 1-11)
Doom Patrol (Season 1)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Complete Series)
Friends (Complete Series)
Impractical Jokers (Seasons 1-8)
Katy Keene (Season 1)
Luther (Seasons 1-5)
Nancy Drew (Season 1)
The O.C. (Complete Series)
The Office (Complete UK Series)
Pretty Little Liars (Complete Series)
Rick and Morty (Seasons 1-3)
Robot Chicken (Seasons 1-10)
Search Party (Seasons 1-2)
Steven Universe (Complete Series)
Torchwood (Complete Series)
We Bare Bears (Seasons 1-4)

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What I Watched This Week: 17 May 2020

NEW SHOWS
Community – “Cooperative Polygraphy: Live Table Read” (A)
Everything I wanted from the Parks and Rec special I got here. A joyful, hilarious reunion that uses one of the show’s all-time best scripts into a seamless recreation, with plenty of in-the-moment jokes and commentary to make it feel organic. Now we just need that movie.

Mrs. America – “Houston” (A-)
A trippy episode wonderfully directed by Janicza Bravo puts the spotlight on Alice (Sarah Paulson), a composite character who has a change of heart after taking drugs at the National Women’s Convention, realizing the STOP ERA movement she’s a part of has gone too far, becoming anti-woman, anti-education, bigoted and stubborn. It comes a little too neatly, but this is one of the most fascinating hours of television of the year so far.

REWATCH
Terriers – Season 1 (A average)
Essentially a perfect season of television, and arguably the best show canceled after one season. A compelling mystery with richly drawn characters in a series that was equal parts tragic and comic.

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