So, looks like it finally decided to be winter all of a sudden and the whole eastern seaboard has been hit by a wintery wallop. Odds are with the subway shutdown you’re “working from home.” Congratulations! Time to clean the apartment, do some yoga, meditate, catch up on your reading, call your parents. Just kidding. Netflix time! Anything but work really. If you’re one of those people who helplessly scrolls through the myriad of titles, paralyzed with indecision, waste no more time. Here are some top notch movies and series to get you through the next day or two:
PATTON OSWALT: TRAGEDY PLUS COMEDY EQUALS TIME
Patton Oswalt’s new comedy special may be his best work yet. It’s clear the acerbic comic has tempered his nerd rage, bringing in a cool, calm confident wisdom in to steady his razor-sharp wit without dulling its edge. His other special, 2009’s My Weakness Is Strong is also great, but if you’ve seen neither, start with Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time and work backwards.
IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY
The sardonic and methodical animator Don Hertzfeldt, is known for strictly working in analog and stridently and repeatedly flipping the bird to advertisers who want to use his work. Most will recognize his stick figure characters from the short film Rejected (“My SPOON is too BIG!”) This time, Hertzfeldt spent years animating this film by hand, using archaic optical effects on cameras and and equipment made out of dinosaurs to weave the uplifting tale of a loner dying of a brain tumor reflecting on his mortality and failed romance. You know, cartoon stuff.
But seriously, this film is astounding and beautiful, for its strange aesthetic, masterful comic timing and the sheer marvel that he made this all with no computers.
Maybe this one’s a bit obvious given you’re snowed in. On a train. A train containing the last remnant of the human race. A train containing the last remnant of the human race ruled by a brutal dictatorship that keeps 99% of you in destitute bondage, eating processed crap while a privileged few sit in dinner cars and eat sushi and do molly and dance. Sorry, no, that’s the plot of the movie. Real life isn’t like that.
So, for a while now, Netflix has just been teasing us all by offering Fantasia 2000, which granted, does have a few great sequences, but not the original. Finally they make good and give us the beautiful, nostalgic, surprisingly-psychedelic-upon-adult-viewing, 1940 classic Fantasia. Guys, they made this movie in fucking 1940, I don’t think you grasp the magnitude of that. Go back and watch it, it’s unbelievable.
As Brokelyn’s resident Nebraskan, I can vouch for this movie’s authenticity. There’s something about The Cornhusker State’s open landscape and stark atmosphere that lends itself to black and white, and something about black and white on a whiteout snowy day that just works. This movie does what Alexander Payne’s work can do perfectly: balances cute and earnest folksiness with grim and uncompromising looks at the darker side of human nature.
Look past the rough edges of low budget filmmaking and wonky non-actor performances and you’ll see an incredibly candid and embedded and genuine slice of life in Old New York. It’s a fictional narrative, but is so rooted in the environment of the South Bronx hip hop scene, and the Lower Manhattan art scene that it almost feels like a documentary. It has notable, sometimes brilliant sometimes awkward appearances by real life graffiti artists Lee Quinones, Lady Pink, and Zephyr and music by Blondie and Grandmaster Flash. The film is rife with outstanding and somewhat surreal vignettes, that trail off from the main plot, such as a rap battle between the Furious Five and the Cold Crush Brothers that goes on spontaneously, a cappella, out on a basketball court, in the middle of a normal afternoon.
I mean, at this point Twin Peaks has been accessible for so long that if you’ve still never seen it and you don’t watch it right now, by the end of this snowstorm, it will be too late. Oh, it’ll still be around but you will have passed the threshold of time in your life when you still feel the need to keep telling yourself and everybody else that you’ll get around to watching Twin Peaks sometime. You’ll know then, it’s just not for you. You can let it go.
I was really happy to see Bojack Horseman do well and get the attention it deserved when it came out. That said, it needs more attention. If you haven’t seen it, see it, there’s horses in it and they’re pretty. If you’ve seen it, but only the first episode or two and dropped off, go back, it evolves. Bojack managed to surprise me by veering off into much deeper and darker shorelines as the season progresses. What starts as coke and stripper jokes ends in real pathos and sincere building of complex characters, some of whom are animal people.
Maybe there’s some of you out there who like a real dark, brooding, kind of snow day. Maybe you want to scuttle up to your rooftop and drink whiskey and watch the unfolding chaos. In that case I’d recommend Black Mirror, the brainchild of constantly angry British comedian and social satirist Charlie Brooker. This is Brooker’s first foray in to non-comedy, and given what Brooker sounds like when he’s being funny, it’s pretty rough. Black Mirror has the same insightfulness and inventiveness as The Twilight Zone, using science fiction to illuminate parts of society and the human experience that get kept in the dark, and yes, sometimes the same bad habit of flogging a dead horse. But if you’re the brooding type, you know that nothing’s perfect, and you can’t stop focusing on that one flaw of that thing you otherwise really enjoy, like when your throat’s sore and you can’t stop swallowing, so you’ll like it.
COMEDY BANG BANG
Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts team up to make a talk show, an adaptation of Aukerman’s podcast of the same name. The show version is a bit more surreal, and of course has the dimension of visual comedy, which they don’t waste by just trying to make the show exactly like the podcast. The comedy oscillates between vaudevillian wackiness to sharp wit and satire. Aukerman also directed the Between Two Ferns series, so picture that but a little more Pee-wee Herman.
HONORABLE MENTION: TRANSPARENT
Amazon’s original series is only on Amazon and not on Netflix for some silly reason. Transparent is for sure Amazon’s crown jewel. Jeffery Tambor, the dad from Arrested Development, gets way vulnerable and gives probably his best performance ever. Tambor leads a great cast as a trans woman coming out to her pack of grown kids who are each selfish and endearing in their own ways. So if you have Amazon Prime and want to have a comedy show yank your heart strings right the fuck out of your chest ten times, binge-watch this one.