Cosmos Movie List 2021 Updates

Cosmos Movie List 2021 Updates

Cosmos’s Fav k Drama

Movies Seen 2021

movies seen 2020

movies seen 2019

Movies Watched During 2018

movies list

this is an updated to my 2021 movie listing reflecting among other things the K Dramas I have recently gotten into.  I will update it again at the end of the year, if not sooner.

Movie Watching Goals 2021

movies watched during 2018
night at the movies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 movies/TV series by the end of the year.

At least one Korean movie per week

At least one Spanish movie per month

One Bollywood or another foreign language movie per month

A mixture of thrillers, K Drama, comedies, romcom, etc

Make a list of Oscar movies, watch several

Resume going to the theater later in the year

When traveling to the US watch five movies each trip

the list

Movie Watching Goals 2021

100 movies/TV series by the end of the year.

At least one Korean movie per week

At least one Spanish movie per month

One Bollywood or another foreign language movie per month

A mixture of thrillers, K Drama, comedies, romcom, etc

Make a list of Oscar movies, watch several

Resume going to the theater later in the year

When traveling to the US watch five movies each trip

the list

 

 

 

 

January

  1. Bloodshot
  2. Ozark
  3. Bloodlines
  4. Discovery
  5. Humans are Useless Hoopla
  6. Wu Assassins
  7. 6 Underground
  8. Warrior Nuns
  9. Alice In Borderland
  10. I Am Not Okay with This
  11. Constantine

February

  1. The Beach
  2. Holliday
  3. Rebecca
  4. About Time
  5. Spy games
  6. We could be heroes
  7. Vastness of the Night Amazon
  8. Hanna
  9. The Expanse
  10. Sneaky Pete -Amazon

March

  1. How it Ends
  2. The I Land
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Get Out
  5. Space Sweepers K SF Drama
  6. I Care a Lot 2020 TV
  7. Messiah
  8. Itaewon Class K Drama

April

  1. Sense 8 –has Korean star
  2. Salvation
  3. The Order
  4. Lock N Key
  5. Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  6. Titans
  7. O/A
  8. Abyss
  9. Outer Banks

May

  1. White Lines
  2. Umbrella Acadamy
  3. The Last Man Standing K Drama
  4. Suicide Squad
  5. The Honest candidate K Drama
  6. Behind Her Eyes
  7. Sisyphus K Drama
  8. Venzano K Drama
  9. Strangers K Drama
  10. The Woman in the Mirror
  11. Gemini Man
  12. Legends
  1. Wanted with An
  2. Bridgeton

  3. gelina Jolie 2005?
  4. War Dogs
  5. The Holliday
  6. The woman in the Mirror
  7. How It Ends
  8. Love and Monsters
  9. Knives Out
  10. Old Guard
  11. Love, Death, and Robots
  12. Borek Movie

July

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

61 Sweet Tooth

  1. Mine K Drama
  2. Glitch
  3. Parasite K movie 2020 Oscar Winner
  4. Legends of Alhambra K Drama
  5. Sin City
  6. The Talented Mr. Ripley

August

  1. The negotiator K movie

  2. No exit K movie
  3. Crash Landing On Me K Drama
  4. Jackel 1997 US Movie
  5. Night in Paradise K movie
  6. My Love from the Stars – K Drama

K Drama List

Crashlanding on you

Legends of Alhambra

The negotiator movie

Mine

Venzeano

Sisyphus

Stranger

Space Sweepers K SF Drama

The Last Man Standing K Drama

Honest Candidate

Mr. Sunshine

Itaewon Class

Mr. Kim’s convenience

A night in Paradise

No exit

My Love from the Stars K Drama

To watch

Sky Castle

Kingdom

Reply 1988

Signal

My Mister

Hospital PlayList

Flower of Evil

The Most Exciting TV Shows Coming in 2021: From ‘Wanda Vision’ to ‘Impeachment’

I May Destroy You and The Queen’s Gambit makes Willa Paskin’s list.

2020 was not a great year—even for television. There was a tremendous amount of TV shows, most of which were fine; some of which, despite not even being all that fine, hit the strange, stressful, contained spot we all found ourselves in; and some of which that was, you know, good. For this list, when I say “good” I mean “the shows I most enjoyed,” a deeply fuzzy determination based on the series’ ambition, uniqueness, and, like, how much I wanted to watch it. This list contains several shows—including the first two—that I would describe as the year’s “best,” but it’s also peppered with shows I would primarily describe as personal favas. Would I have loved Ted Lasso so much in another year? I truly don’t know. All I know is, in this one, it felt like a bomb.

 

I May Destroy You

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. At the end of the first episode of I May Destroy You, creator, writer, and star Michaela Coal’s character, Arabella, is drugged and raped in a bar. The rest of the series, inspired by Coal’s own experience, follows Arabella as she tries to process what happened—and so much else. I May Destroy You explores consent in various permutations, but it also digs deep on Arabella, a charismatic, talented, tempestuous, brilliant, and undisciplined writer, friend, goof, lover, drug taker, social media influencer, and artist in the making. In a year when people prized escape, I May Destroy You offered something tougher and more hopeful: the possibility you just might be able to wring something meaningfulout of the awful past.

City So Real

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. In a year full of popular documentary series, City So Real is better than all the rest of them. Loosely arranged around the 2019 Chicago mayoral race, it plays fly on the wall in neighborhoods all over the city. At protests, campaign rallies, barbershops, bars, city meetings, restaurants, campaign offices, dinner parties, radio stations, and dingy administrative rooms, a cross-section of indelible Chicagoans, so distinctive they wouldn’t feel out of place in fiction, talk about their hard-nosed home and its intricate politics. The show is sprawling and yet as perfectly assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Put together, it gives the full scope of a flawed, challenging, changing city and its stubbornly devoted residents.

Ted Lasso

Streaming on Apple TV+

$4.99/month from Apple TV+

  1. The character Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) first popped up in a series of sports promos, but he reappeared in the full-fledged series Ted Lassojust in time to counterprogram the state of the world. Lasso, basically, the nicest guy in existence, knows nothing about soccer when he takes over a British football club, but no matter, he knows human beings. With his emotional know-how, can-do attitude, kindly good spirits, down-home charm, and warm, fuzzy personality (and mustache), he wins over the excellent British supporting cast who, surprise surprise, are all lovely deep down, too. It’s a fantasy of American decency and British patience for cornpone jokes that I found irresistible.

 

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. Three seasons of The Great Pottery Throw Down, a craft competition shows that’s The Great British Clay-Off, arrived on HBO Max all at once this year. The artistry on the show leaves a little to be desired—the tension between utility and inspiration tilts toward the former—but I’m a sucker for watching people make things, and there’s something particularly hypnotic about people pulling shapes out of lumps of whirring clay. The show also has Keith Brymer Jones, a bulky master potter with a molting Flock of Seagulls hairstyle who is the anti–Paul Hollywood. Instead of macho shtick and a crushing congratulatory handshake, he tears up at the contestants’ accomplishments, not only when they do great work, but when they exceed themselves.

Mrs. America

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. Mrs. Americatells the story of the failed fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment when equality and second-wave feminists were both bested by the driven and polarizing Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Big picture, it’s a slow-motion tragedy, but episode by episode it’s juicy and thrilling to watch, and chock-full of wonderful performances. It focuses not only on Schlafly but on women’s movement boldface names like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzoh Daub), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), who were trying to do so much for so many that they were undone by a woman on a mission to remake female equality into the bipartisan issue it remains today. Mrs. America perhaps makes the mistake of framing Schlafly as primarily an opportunist, not exactly an ideologue, but it gets across its gutting point: In this instance, the past isn’t prologued, because it’s not even past.

 

The Good Lord Bird

Streaming on Hulu with Showtime subscription

$8.99 with Showtime add-on from Hulu

  1. If you were to imagine in a vacuum what a premium cable miniseries about the life of the abolitionist John Brown might look like, you’d almost surely imagine something much stuffier and soberer than The Good Lord Bird. With the award-winning James McBride novelas a guideline, this drama takes the most serious of subjects, America’s peculiar institution, and explores it with intelligence, verve, and wit. The story is told from the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), the young Black boy who joins Brown’s (Ethan Hawke) ragtag group, and whom Brown, blind to the basics of the people’s he’s devoted his life to helping, spends the whole series believing to be a girl. Hawke is incredible as Brown, a loony force of nature, long-winded, hilarious, intermittently gentle, and terrifying, spitting brimstone and, well, spit. He’s part of the show’s no-sacred-cows approach to history, in which even the righteous can be ridiculous, stumbling blindly through time, but that doesn’t make them any less right.

 

The Queen’s Gambit

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. The Queen’s Gambit opens like it’s going to be a brooding gothic about abandonment, addiction, and loneliness, only to renege and deliver something more straightforwardly satisfying: a superhero story about genius, community, and chess. The show is a realist fantasy, where all the details—the period wallpaper, the interior design, the gameplay—are accurate, but the misogyny has gone missing, with men falling all over one another to help Beth Harmon, the genius who just defeated them. Whether that’s inspiring or facile, it’s a blast. It also features a very strong supporting cast whose standouts include the director Marielle Heller as Beth’s loving, enabling adopted mother, and a shockingly charming human string bean.

 

Bluey

Streaming on Hulu with Disney Plus subscription

$6.99 with Disney+ add-on from Hulu

  1. Bluey, an animated Australian children’s show about a family (who happen to be dogs), is the most playful, sweet, wholesome, nondidactic, and—why it is on this list!—least annoying children’s show on television.

 

Cheer

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. Netflix’s docuseries Cheer premiered at the very beginning of January, so basically, the distant past. In the interim so much has happened, including the disturbing and distressing allegationsinvolving one of the leads, the show’s emotional center. It’s hard to reconcile, but so was the show itself, a study of the grueling lengths young adults will go to belong to something bigger than themselves. Is it worth it? Should the adult in charge know better and push less? Are the demands being put on their bodies—the concussions, the broken limbs—teaching them self-discipline, or just giving them a lifetime of ailments? And why was it impossible (for me, anyway) not to get caught up in its sports-movie-triumph narrative?

 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. This is a bit of a list trickery, in which I use the pesky 10th slot as an alert more than anything else: If you or anyone you know has ever enjoyed a teen drama that aired on the WB or UPN, or knows a current teen who seems like they would dig that kind of thing, may I please introduce you to Netflix’s Teenage Bounty Hunters, essentially a lost WB show just waiting for a time slot before Buffy, Veronica Mars, Dawson’s Creek, or Felicity. Two fraternal twin sisters—one naughty, one nice, but swapping roles all the while—who attend a Christian high school start a sideline as bounty hunters after crashing their dad’s car. It’s a case-of-the-week show, a teen show, a family mystery show, and it’s scrappy and plucky and full of banter, a lighter-side Veronica Mars. It also addresses one of the great concerns of my youth: whether all those WB shows could have had bigger audiences if only they’d been on different channels (the answer is no.) Netflix didn’t pick this show up for a second season, which means, in great WB fashion, this show already has the makings of a cult classic.

The Best Movies of 2020

The Movies I Can’t-Wait to Watch (in Movie Theaters??) in 2021

This Global Box-Office Blockbuster Is a Reminder That Hollywood Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on Telling Big Stories

I Was Moved by Raz Ahmed’s Understated, Intense Performance in Sound of Metal

What It’s Like to Watch a Friend Make a Great Movie—and to Be Expected to Respond to It as an Asian American Critic

What did movies matter in 2020? What did anything? I don’t intend those questions in the nihilistic sense of “lol nothing matters.” I pose them open-endedly in the last weeks of a year that put such once foundational concepts as mattering, let alone movies, into question. All the things we lost in the coronavirus pandemic in 2020—our gathering places, our public institutions, our jobs, our sense of daily shared reality, and for far too many Americans, our loved ones’ lives—put the things we were still able to do into sharper relief. And one of the best things you can still do when holed up at home, as long as you have a home and some means of wiring yourself into the ambient digital matrix we all now exist in, is watch movies.

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Without theaters, the cinematic year (like the year) felt amorphous and hazy. What constituted a “hit” or a “flop” in 2020? Which movies were the virtual-festival darlings, the hyped-up disappointments, or the word-of-mouth successes? Because almost all of our viewing happened in private, and because the big streaming platforms guard their data like Smaug his hoard, it was hard to determine which movies people were talking about or ignoring, hard to choose what to watch, and more and more as this year of entertainment-conglomerate mergers wore on, hard to figure out where to stream it. Watercooler conversation can’t very well drive box office receipts when the only watercooler insight is your kitchen sink and the only box office is … Home Box Office. But though there were far fewer opportunities to talk about a movie on the way out of the theater—surely among life’s peak everyday experiences—there were more chances than usual to fall into weird indie rabbit holes and nurture new cinematic crushes.

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A methodological note on this year’s list: I have been loose on the parameters as to what constitutes a “2020 movie.” Some of the below titles showed at festivals in 2019, were meant to open theatrically this year, and wound up going straight to streaming instead. Others were released in both formats at different times during the year, and at least one never ended up opening at all but remains on the list as a harbinger of good films to come. This is a record of the movie year as I experienced it: fragmentary, catch-as-catch-can, often out of sync with “the conversation” yet somehow astonishingly timely. No movie on this list could have been conceived after the pandemic shut down film production, yet many if not most of them seem somehow to respond to our current historical moment of cabin fever and barely contained mass rage. If I had to find a thread running through the movies that follow (though imposing thematic coherence on any list this diffuse is a fool’s game), it would have something to do with captivity and freedom. The characters in these films are often escaping, hiding out, lying in wait, fetching the bolt cutters to find their way out of whatever traumatic past has trapped them. While you wait for your shot at freedom (in the form, it now seems, of that first vaccine injection), here are some great movies to get you through the next few months. In alphabetical order:

The Assistant

Kitty Green’s unassuming but keenly observed first narrative feature follows one terrible workday in the life of an intern of a never-seen movie producer who’s a serial sexual abuser in the Harvey Weinstein mold. Ozark’s Julia Garner is on screen, often alone, for virtually every second of the movie. Her miserably treated character is the only moral center in this austere movie’s cold and self-dealing universe, and she could easily have gone for Cinderella-style sympathy from the audience (if instead of sweeping ashes from the hearth, Cinderella stapled scripts and fielded calls from anxious wives). But Garner rejects the temptation to coast as a suffering ingenue. In a quietly bravura performance that’s dialogue-free for long stretches, she fills in a whole tragic back story just by the way she listens. (Listen to the Culture Gabfest review The Assistant.)

 

The Assistant

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

Bureau

From its opening image—Brazil has seen from space, the fires in the Amazon visible, as a classic Caetano Veloso song plays on the soundtrack—Kleber Mendonca Filho’s genre-splicing thriller has an air of unsettling mystery. The title is the name of a remote village in the country’s hardscrabble northeast, where, for reasons never fully explained, an international team of white supremacist assassins led by the always-chilling Udo Kier descends to wreak brutal and possibly supernatural mayhem. Densely plotted and packed with vivid actors including the legendary Sonia Braga, this ambitious if the sometimes inscrutable film takes place shortly, “a few years from now.” But its merciless vision of global politics as a zero-sum class and race struggle, and its almost comedically grisly final action sequence, feels very much of the present.

 

Bureau

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Beanpole

Kant emir Balagan’s second feature, about a young woman working as a military nurse in post–World War II Leningrad, is filmed in a palette of impossibly rich greens, reds, and golds—every frame glows with the intensity of a stained-glass window or an illuminated manuscript. That
lush pictorial beauty offsets the extreme bleakness of the story, as the lanky “beanpole” of the title (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) contends with the psychic fallout from her service in the war. In increasingly self-destructive ways, she seeks to expiate her bottomless guilt for what she perceives as a terrible wrong done to a friend, but which the audience, with more compassion for the characters than they can summon for themselves, understands as a wrong done to Beanpole herself by the implacable cruelty of history.

 

Beanpole

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Collective

In the fall of 2015, a fire broke out at a packed nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, resulting in the death of 64 people and the permanent disfigurement of more than 100 more. In the years that followed, public outrage over the incident—the club had no functioning fire exits—caused a government to fall and a new activist movement to arise. Alexander Nana’s intricate, suspenseful documentary tracks the journalistic effort to expose the complex knot of corruption, deception, and negligence that enabled both the disaster itself and the failure of the health care system to do right by the victims after. This is one of the most heartbreaking films I watched in a year already drowning in heartbreak, but also one of the most necessary at a time when the fourth estate is often the last line of defense against a global capitalist system that seems designed to be quite homicidal.

 

Collective

For rent

$6.99 from Amazon

Da 5 Bloods

In retrospect, Chadwick Boseman’s sudden, tragic, and, for everyone but those in his most intimate circle, completely unexpected death of colon cancer in August makes this Spike Lee joint about a group of Black veterans returning to Vietnam all the more moving and urgent. But Da 5 Bloods would have been one of the best movies of the year anyway. Boseman’s role is small but pivotal: His climactic encounter with the older vet played superbly by Delray Lindo is a scene of transformation and healing that fully justifies the rush of cathartic tears it brings. In addition to being insightful about Vietnam War trauma and the complications of modern Black masculinity, Da 5 Bloods is a rollicking buddies-on-the-road comedy, full of earthy humor and jovial trash talk. The early scene when the four old soldiers, tropical drinks in hand, boogie their way to their table at a real-life Ho Chi Minh City disco called Apocalypse Now is one of the year’s great depictions of an experience so many of us missed over this homebound year: goofing off on the dance floor with friends. (Read the review.)

 

Da 5 Bloods

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s seventh feature, a stripped-down Western about the tender friendship between two lonely men in a Pacific Northwest pioneer town in 1820, was the last film I saw in a theater in 2020, at an early March press preview surrounded by colleagues, some of them longtime friends. That whole night had an unusually celebratory feeling; First Cow had blown away everyone I spoke to about it, but the feeling it left in its wake was a quiet, subdued kind of dazzlement, the sneaking suspicion that early in the release calendar though it still was, we had probably just watched one of the most original and accomplished movies we’d see all year. Afterward, in the lobby, there was a little reception with a waiter serving “oily cakes,” the sweet fried-dough pastry that figures crucially in the movie’s plot. Munching them, it was easy to see how this confection, a rare delicacy in the movie’s hardscrabble setting, could have caused the high-stakes competition for scarce resources that the movie chronicles. But though First Cow is all about finding a way to survive in an environment of scarcity, this contemplative, compassionate drama is a miracle of filmmaking abundance, with incandescent performances from John Magar and Orion Lee and the curiously calming presence of Eve, the prettiest on-screen bovine since Buster Keaton fell in love with a heifer in the 1925 silent Go West. (Listen to the Culture Gabfest review First Cow.)

 

First Cow

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Let Them All Talk

As I was finalizing this list, it occurred to me that one of the most crucial functions of movie viewing, especially in a year like this (has there ever been a year like this? Maybe 1918?), was sadly underrepresented. Sometimes all you need is some stylish escapism, a low-stakes hangout film where likable characters pursue sparkling or snarky conversations over flutes of Champagne in rooms with flattering lighting. To the rescue just in time came Steven Soderbergh’s latest comedy, about an egocentric novelist (Meryl Streep) who invites two long-estranged friends (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest) and her devoted nephew (Lucas Hedges) on a trans-Atlantic cruise to collect a literary prize in Europe. At first, the generically titled Let Them All Talk seemed like it was going to be a Nancy Meyers–style rom-com about frisky codgers on a boat—not that there would be anything remotely wrong with that. But by 20 minutes in, it was clear this was pure Soderbergh, a multicharacter caper film in the mode of his Ocean’s movies, Out of Sight, or Magic Mike. The difference: Instead of winning a striptease competition or robbing a high-security bank, this crew of oddballs—three strong-willed middle-aged women, an awkward young man, and the various colorful characters they cross paths with on the ship—is simply seeking to come to terms with the undone work of their own lives: the longtime friendships in need of repair, the romantic connections not yet made, the books left to write. (Read the review.)

 

Let Them All Talk

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

Minami

Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film follows a Korean immigrant family in the 1980s as they attempt to turn a recalcitrant piece of land in rural Arkansas into a working vegetable farm. The story is seen mainly through the eyes of 7-year-old David, played with movie-stealing aplomb by the tiny but utterly self-possessed first-time actor Alan S. Kim. (His petulant delivery of “I’m not pretty! I’m good-looking!” may be my single favorite line reading of the year.) But Steven Yuen, in a marvelously understated performance as his stubborn but fiercely devoted father, gives the kid a run for his money. Minami is a drama about immigrants that don’t try to make grand statements about the immigrant experience in America. Rather, it tells the specific story of one family, dysfunctional and troubled in its particular way, but held together by a powerful bond of love. (Read the review.)

 

Minami

Coming Feb. 12, 2021, from A24

Nomad land

Jessica Broder’s 2017 book on retirement-age migrant workers living out of their RVs provided the source material for this lyrical portrait of a widow (Frances McDormand) who takes to the road after a mine closure eliminates the small company town she’s lived in her whole life. I don’t know how to add to what I already wrote in my review, and what so many others have said: Nomad land is a miracle of a movie that somehow transmutes painful experiences like homelessness, loneliness, and systemic exploitation by a pitiless labor market into a poetic meditation on freedom, friendship, and the passage of time. (Read the review.)

 

Nomad land

Coming soon from Searchlight Pictures

Saint Maud

This is the only movie on the list that hasn’t yet been released at all. I saw it in late February, the week before the coronavirus started to shut down in-person press screenings, and my lovestruck review of it is still waiting in the can be published, although the headline—calling it “The First Great Horror Film of 2020”—will have to change by a digit. But I leave it on the list in anticipation of great films to come. The English director Rose Glass, making her debut feature, serves up a gory brew of body horror and spiritual cinema in the tradition of Robert Bresson. Jennifer Hele and Morfitt Clark are spellbinding as a terminally ill choreographer and her fanatically religious young caregiver. Are the ecstatic visions that ravish Maud in her sordid bedsit the work of the divine, the demonic, or her own mental and emotional instability? It’s the rare movie that delves this deeply into the experience of personal faith and (Lord, that final shot!) scares your pants off to boot.

 

Saint Maud

Coming “soon” from A24

Plus, five runners-up:

City Hall
Dick Johnson Is Dead
Fourteen
Lovers Rock
Time

The Best TV of 2020

I May Destroy You and The Queen’s Gambit makes Willa Paskin’s list.

2020 was not a great year—even for television. There was a tremendous amount of TV shows, most of which were fine; some of which, despite not even being all that fine, hit the strange, stressful, contained spot we all found ourselves in; and some of which that was, you know, good. For this list, when I say “good” I mean “the shows I most enjoyed,” a deeply fuzzy determination based on the series’ ambition, uniqueness, and, like, how much I wanted to watch it. This list contains several shows—including the first two—that I would describe as the year’s “best,” but it’s also peppered with shows I would primarily describe as personal favas. Would I have loved Ted Lasso so much in another year? I truly don’t know. All I know is, in this one, it felt like a bomb.

 

I May Destroy You

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. At the end of the first episode of I May Destroy You, creator, writer, and star Michaela Coal’s character, Arabella, is drugged and raped in a bar. The rest of the series, inspired by Coal’s own experience, follows Arabella as she tries to process what happened—and so much else. I May Destroy You explores consent in various permutations, but it also digs deep on Arabella, a charismatic, talented, tempestuous, brilliant, and undisciplined writer, friend, goof, lover, drug taker, social media influencer, and artist in the making. In a year when people prized escape, I May Destroy You offered something tougher and more hopeful: the possibility you just might be able to wring something meaningfulout of the awful past.

 

City So Real

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. In a year full of popular documentary series, City So Real is better than all the rest of them. Loosely arranged around the 2019 Chicago mayoral race, it plays fly on the wall in neighborhoods all over the city. At protests, campaign rallies, barbershops, bars, city meetings, restaurants, campaign offices, dinner parties, radio stations, and dingy administrative rooms, a cross-section of indelible Chicagoans, so distinctive they wouldn’t feel out of place in fiction, talk about their hard-nosed home and its intricate politics. The show is sprawling and yet as perfectly assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Put together, it gives the full scope of a flawed, challenging, changing city and its stubbornly devoted residents.

 

Ted Lasso

Streaming on Apple TV+

$4.99/month from Apple TV+

  1. The character Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) first popped up in a series of sports promos, but he reappeared in the full-fledged series Ted Lassojust in time to counterprogram the state of the world. Lasso, basically, the nicest guy in existence, knows nothing about soccer when he takes over a British football club, but no matter, he knows human beings. With his emotional know-how, can-do attitude, kindly good spirits, down-home charm, and warm, fuzzy personality (and mustache), he wins over the excellent British supporting cast who, surprise surprise, are all lovely deep down, too. It’s a fantasy of American decency and British patience for cornpone jokes that I found irresistible.

 

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. Three seasons of The Great Pottery Throw Down, a craft competition shows that’s The Great British Clay-Off, arrived on HBO Max all at once this year. The artistry on the show leaves a little to be desired—the tension between utility and inspiration tilts toward the former—but I’m a sucker for watching people make things, and there’s something particularly hypnotic about people pulling shapes out of lumps of whirring clay. The show also has Keith Braymer Jones, a bulky master potter with a molting Flock of Seagulls hairstyle who is the anti–Paul Hollywood. Instead of macho shtick and a crushing congratulatory handshake, he tears up at the contestants’ accomplishments, not only when they do great work, but when they exceed themselves.

 

Mrs. America

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. Mrs. Americatells the story of the failed fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment when equality and second-wave feminists were both bested by the driven and polarizing Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Big picture, it’s a slow-motion tragedy, but episode by episode it’s juicy and thrilling to watch, and chock-full of wonderful performances. It focuses not only on Schlafly but on women’s movement boldface names like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzoh Daub), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), who were trying to do so much for so many that they were undone by a woman on a mission to remake female equality into the bipartisan issue it remains today. Mrs. America perhaps makes the mistake of framing Schlafly as primarily an opportunist, not exactly an ideologue, but it gets across its gutting point: In this instance, the past isn’t prologued, because it’s not even past.

 

The Good Lord Bird

Streaming on Hulu with Showtime subscription

$8.99 with Showtime add-on from Hulu

  1. If you were to imagine in a vacuum what a premium cable miniseries about the life of the abolitionist John Brown might look like, you’d almost surely imagine something much stuffier and soberer than The Good Lord Bird. With the award-winning James McBride novelas a guideline, this drama takes the most serious of subjects, America’s peculiar institution, and explores it with intelligence, verve, and wit. The story is told from the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), the young Black boy who joins Brown’s (Ethan Hawke) ragtag group, and whom Brown, blind to the basics of the people’s he’s devoted his life to helping, spends the whole series believing to be a girl. Hawke is incredible as Brown, a loony force of nature, long-winded, hilarious, intermittently gentle, and terrifying, spitting brimstone and, well, spit. He’s part of the show’s no-sacred-cows approach to history, in which even the righteous can be ridiculous, stumbling blindly through time, but that doesn’t make them any less right.

 

The Queen’s Gambit

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. The Queen’s Gambit opens like it’s going to be a brooding gothic about abandonment, addiction, and loneliness, only to renege and deliver something more straightforwardly satisfying: a superhero story about genius, community, and chess. The show is a realist fantasy, where all the details—the period wallpaper, the interior design, the gameplay—are accurate, but the misogyny has gone missing, with men falling all over one another to help Beth Harmon, the genius who just defeated them. Whether that’s inspiring or facile, it’s a blast. It also features a very strong supporting cast whose standouts include the director Marielle Heller as Beth’s loving, enabling adopted mother, and a shockingly charming human string bean.

 

Bluey

Streaming on Hulu with Disney Plus subscription

$6.99 with Disney+ add-on from Hulu

  1. Bluey, an animated Australian children’s show about a family (who happen to be dogs), is the most playful, sweet, wholesome, nondidactic, and—why it is on this list!—least annoying children’s show on television.

 

Cheer

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. Netflix’s docuseries Cheer premiered at the very beginning of January, so basically, the distant past. In the interim so much has happened, including the disturbing and distressing allegationsinvolving one of the leads, the show’s emotional center. It’s hard to reconcile, but so was the show itself, a study of the grueling lengths young adults will go to belong to something bigger than themselves. Is it worth it? Should the adult in charge know better and push less? Are the demands being put on their bodies—the concussions, the broken limbs—teaching them self-discipline, or just giving them a lifetime of ailments? And why was it impossible (for me, anyway) not to get caught up in its sports-movie-triumph narrative?

 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. This is a bit of a list trickery, in which I use the pesky 10th slot as an alert more than anything else: If you or anyone you know has ever enjoyed a teen drama that aired on the WB or UPN, or knows a current teen who seems like they would dig that kind of thing, may I please introduce you to Netflix’s Teenage Bounty Hunters, essentially a lost WB show just waiting for a time slot before Buffy, Veronica Mars, Dawson’s Creek, or Felicity. Two fraternal twin sisters—one naughty, one nice, but swapping roles all the while—who attend a Christian high school start a sideline as bounty hunters after crashing their dad’s car. It’s a case-of-the-week show, a teen show, a family mystery show, and it’s scrappy and plucky and full of banter, a lighter-side Veronica Mars. It also addresses one of the great concerns of my youth: whether all those WB shows could have had bigger audiences if only they’d been on different channels (the answer is no.) Netflix didn’t pick this show up for a second season, which means, in great WB fashion, this show already has the makings of a cult classic.

Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix

The Only Movie Watchlist You’ll Need This Summer

Here are 32 new films to see this season, whether you’re ready to return to theaters or want to stay on the couch.

Hollywood has a crowded slate of films—delayed by the pandemic and otherwise—to release over the next three months. That makes choosing what to see more stressful than usual, especially when some titles can be seen both in theaters and at home. To make the process more manageable, I’ve scrutinized trailers and even screened some of the films below to put together this guide for all your needs, whatever they may be. My first question, to set the scene: How far would you like to venture away from your couch?

I Want to Go Back to Theaters and …

… I’M CRAVING BIG-SCREEN ACTION

F9 (JUNE 25)

The latest installment in the Fast & Furious series sees Vin Diesel’s near-indestructible Dominic Toretto face off against his brother, Jakob (played by John Cena); the return of the fan-favorite character Han (Sung Kang); and—I’m guessing—a lot of cars vrooming and whooshing about. The film has already sped into theaters overseas and earned a pandemic record-making $163 million in its opening weekend. If the director Justin Lin keeps upping the ante with the action in these movies’ inevitable sequels, as he has skillfully done in previous Fast movies, this franchise might just last forever.

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS (JULY 23)

Starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding as the titular ninja, this G.I. Joe spin-off draws inspiration from a comic-book series that traces Snake Eyes’ backstory before he lost his voice. It’s also a blatant attempt to build another cinematic universe, but the trailer offers enough flashy sword fights and martial-arts showdowns to make the effort worthwhile for now. If nothing else, I’m curious to see if Golding’s got the chops to be a leading action star. (I have a feeling he does.)

I Want to Go Back to Theaters and …

… I’M CRAVING BIG-SCREEN ACTION

F9 (JUNE 25)

The latest installment in the Fast & Furious series sees Vin Diesel’s near-indestructible Dominic Toretto face off against his brother, Jakob (played by John Cena); the return of the fan-favorite character Han (Sung Kang); and—I’m guessing—a lot of cars vrooming and whooshing about. The film has already sped into theaters overseas and earned a pandemic record-making $163 million in its opening weekend. If the director Justin Lin keeps upping the ante with the action in these movies’ inevitable sequels, as he has skillfully done in previous Fast movies, this franchise might just last forever.

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS (JULY 23)

Starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding as the titular ninja, this G.I. Joe spin-off draws inspiration from a comic-book series that traces Snake Eyes’ backstory before he lost his voice. It’s also a blatant attempt to build another cinematic universe, but the trailer offers enough flashy sword fights and martial-arts showdowns to make the effort worthwhile for now. If nothing else, I’m curious to see if Golding’s got the chops to be a leading action star. (I have a feeling he does.)

BLACK WIDOW (JULY 9)

The superspy played by Scarlett Johansson didn’t get a funeral in Avengers: Endgame, but she is getting the solo film her fans have been campaigning for since it was possible to binge all of the Marvel movies in less than a day. (For those counting, this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 24th entry.) This prequel follows Natasha on a mission across Europe to reunite her “family,” characters who will probably be essential to the next films. Bonus tip: Don’t forget to watch for a post-credits scene.

WARNER BROS.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (AUGUST 6)

Comic-book superheroes rarely ever actually die. The same goes for comic-book-inspired film franchises. The David Ayer–directed version of Suicide Squad bombed with critics, but the band of supervillains forced to do the government’s bidding is getting a second chance, with some fresh additions to the cast and a new director in James Gunn, the needle-drop-happy mind behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Come for Margot Robbie reprising her gonzo performance as Harley Quinn; stay for what appears to be a much more irreverent and coherent version of the story. At the very least, this version looks lit brightly enough so that we can see what’s happening.

… I LIKE MY MOVIES TO COME WITH A BEAT

IN THE HEIGHTS (JUNE 11)

A feel-good hug of a movie that might make you dance in your seat, this adaptation of the Broadway hit by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiana Alegria Hodes dazzles with Jon M. Chu’s maximalist direction. The story follows characters living in the disappearing Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, all with their ideas for fulfilling their American dreams. Consider this my official endorsement of the film’s sterling quality, and an appeal for concession stands across America to please add piragua to their menu.

FOCUS FEATURES

THE SPARKS BROTHERS (JUNE 18)

The director Edgar Wright (Baby DriverScott Pilgrim vs. the World) trains his eye on the quirky musical duo, whose sound has influenced, well, almost every band in existence, this documentary argues. Featuring interviews with dozens of musicians (Beck, Flea, Jack Anton off) and notable no musicians (Mike Myers, Jason Schwartzman), the film, which premiered this year at Sundance, is a close look at music history and a peek inside Wright’s kinetic mind.

RESPECT (AUGUST 13)

Biopics of famous entertainers need, above all else, the right actor in the leading role. This glitzy portrait of Aretha Franklin—not to be confused with the limited series that aired earlier this year—casts Jennifer Hudson as the legendary singer, and the star seems poised to embark on another awards-season run if all goes well. She’s surrounded by an equally impressive cast: The ensemble also includes heavyweights such as Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald, along with an unexpected dramatic turn from Marlon Wayans as Aretha’s manager and first husband, Ted White.

THE BEATLES: GET BACK (AUGUST 27)

Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame trades hobbits for the Fab Four. This documentary follows the Beatles as they make the album Let It Be and includes never-before-seen footage that had been cut from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 doc. Jackson has stated that the hours of material he’s gathered show the foursome’s camaraderie and challenge the narrative that the album was made amid discord. I’ve got a feeling he’s right; after all, the film was created with approval from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison.

… I WANT TO SEE SOMETHING WITH MY PARENTS

STILLWATER (JULY 30)

In this thriller directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Matt Damon plays a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth Everyman whose estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin) gets arrested for murder abroad. The script seems to have been inspired by the Amanda Knox case but told from an astonishingly resourceful and über-patriotic parent’s perspective. Think Jason Bourne, if Bourne had a conspicuous twang and transformative facial hair.

LIONSGATE

THE PROTÉGÉ (AUGUST 20)

Everything about this spy movie’s trailer—slow-motion shoot-outs, cool disguises, the villain delivering whispered threats—screams predictability, but the film has assembled a formidable cast, including Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. And I guess this is when I admit I’m a fan of the star Maggie Q’s CW-feed take on Nikita from the early 2010s. Campy action is her sweet spot.

REMINISCENCE (AUGUST 20)

One of the Westworld co-creators, Lisa Joy, wrote and directed this tale of a scientist (Hugh Jackman) who discovers a way to time travel through memory. If it’s anything like Joy’s work on the first season of the HBO series, it’ll be twisty but enthralling. If it’s anything like the latest season, it’ll give you a massive headache. Either way, the film marks a welcome return to hard sci-fi for Jackman after he starred in the underrated The Fountain more than a decade ago. (What’s that—he was in Chippie in 2015? Why would you remind me?)

… I NEED A KID-FRIENDLY FLICK

WARNER BROS.

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY (JULY 16)

LeBron James steps into Michael Jordan’s shoes—er, Air Jordans—in this update on the cult favorite about NBA stars playing basketball alongside Looney Tunes characters. The villains this time are AI-controlled digital players, whatever that means. This might turn out to be nothing more than a shameless mashup of all the intellectual property Warner Bros. has ever owned, but if it matches the earnestness of its predecessor—and if James has half as much fun as Jordan did as a movie star—it just might work.

JUNGLE CRUISE (JULY 30)

Yes, this is Disney trying to turn another one of its theme-park rides into a billion-dollar franchise, but Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s combined charm can not—excuse me, will not—be denied. Jesse Plemons also drops in as the kooky villain who gets in the way of our heroes’ mission to find a tree with healing powers in the middle of the Amazon. If this Disney-feed spin on The African Queen all looks a bit … much, just remember: The CGI simply adds more scenery for all three stars to chew.

… I WANT TO BE TERRIFIED

THE FOREVER PURGE (JULY 2)

Just in time for Independence Day, the horror franchise about a dystopian version of America in which lawlessness gets to run rampant for a day every year will release what is (reportedly) its final installment. In it, a band of criminals decides that the annual purge should last longer than a day. Maybe forever. What are the odds of this series delivering four more sequels?

ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS (JULY 16)

As a breezy, 100-minute collection of puzzles and jump scares, the first film was a surprise hit, the kind of low-stakes entertainment even non–horror fans can enjoy. This sequel finds the surviving heroes from the original getting trapped in—you guessed it—another series of escape rooms with a group of other players. Though the tests look a lot harder to solve this time around, if the film’s writers continue to focus on the riddles, they might just figure out a way to sustain a franchise.

OLD (JULY 23)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this graphic-novel adaptation follows a vacationing family who realizes that the beach they’re relaxing on is making them age at a rapid pace—so rapid, they’ll all be dead by the end of the day. Gael García Bernal and Phantom Thread’s Vicky Kreps star as the parents; their children age quickly into teens played by rising stars Alex Wolff and Thomasina McKenzie. Shyamalan, who’s expressed endearing excitement about making this film, has said his daughters gave him the source material—and perhaps the inspiration for the film’s underlying anxiety around getting older. In other words, he sees dying people.

THE NIGHT HOUSE (AUGUST 20)

Rebecca Hall stars as a widow grieving her husband’s death while alone—or is she?—in the house, he built for them. To go any further into the plot risks spoilers, but I can tell you that Hall’s character starts seeing visions of her husband lurking around the property. Also, according to critics who attended the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, this film couples its scares with innovative but intrusive sound design. Brace your senses.

CANDYMAN (AUGUST 27)

This remake/sequel to the 1992 film possesses quite the pedigree: Jordan Peele, the reigning king of our era of elevated horror, co-wrote the script with the producer Win Rosenfeld (Black Klansman) and the director Nia DaCosta, who made a splash on the festival circuit with the thriller Little Woods and is on deck to direct the Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels. And I haven’t even mentioned the Emmy-winning actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), who stars as an artist finding inspiration in the urban myth about the titular killer with a hook for a hand (played by Tony Todd, returning to the role), only to unleash him, whatever he is.

… I MISS SEEING FESTIVAL FAVORITES IN PERSON

ANNA KOORIS / A24

ZOLA (JUNE 30)

Starring Riley Keough and Taylor Paige, this satirical romp follows a pair of women who go on a road trip to make some quick cash dancing in strip clubs. The film, which is based on a viral Twitter thread, scored distribution through the indie studio A24 even before it screened for the first time at Sundance in 2020. The gamble has paid off so far: Critics loved it. (Perhaps more movies should be based on tweets? Don’t @ me.)

THE GREEN KNIGHT (JULY 30)

A crown descending onto Dev Patel’s head and then lighting him on fire. A bear holding a lantern at the top of a staircase. A talking fox emerging from heavy fog. Based on the trailers, it seems the director David Lowery has shrouded his film in cryptic, poetic images—which is appropriate, given that his source material is an ambiguous 14th-century fantasy epic filled with figurative language. The story follows an Arthurian knight (Patel) being tested for his chivalry by a giant green being. If Lowery has his way, the eerie atmosphere of the film, which was supposed to premiere at SXSW in 2020, will linger in your mind long after you finish watching it.

CODA (AUGUST 13)

Though I saw this at one of Sundance’s virtual screenings—as in, alone in my living room—I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only viewer who had used up all her tissues by the time the credits rolled. (I became certain when, two days later, Apple picked up the film for distribution for a festival-record $25 million.) The film tells a coming-of-age story through an unconventional heroine: a teenager who’s the only hearing member of her family, grappling with her responsibilities to her relatives and her love of singing. It’s a crowd-pleasing tearjerker, the kind I wish I’d seen in a packed theater.

… I’M JUST A HUGE RYAN REYNOLDS FAN

LIONSGATE

THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD (JUNE 16)

The Deadpool actor plays a reluctant hero who gets dragged into scary shenanigans by a fearless woman. Explosions, pop-culture references, and jokes at Reynolds’s character’s expense ensue. Judging by the trailer, it seems like the film was a lot of fun to make for all of the actors involved, including an Oscar winner.

FREE GUY (AUGUST 13)

The Deadpool actor plays a reluctant hero who gets dragged into scary shenanigans by—frankly, I could just copy my previous paragraph and paste it here for this film. But there are some significant differences worth mentioning: Reynolds’s character exists inside a video game, a different Oscar winner (Taika Waititi) tags along, and the movie will probably be rated PG-13 instead of R.

I’d Rather Stay Home but …

… I WANT A TASTE OF BIG-SCREEN ACTION

AMAZON PRIME

THE TOMORROW WAR (JULY 2, AMAZON PRIME)

Chris Pratt is drafted to fight a war in the future against alien invaders and gets to grumble things like “I was trying to save my daughter. If I got to save the world to save her, then I’m gonna do it.” It’s a time-travel movie, so I’m expecting someone he meets in the future to turn out to be him or someone he knows, only older. (By the way, when did all movie aliens start looking like the Stranger Things Demogorgon?)

Also availableBlack Widow (July 9, Disney+ with Premier Access); Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16, HBO Max); The Suicide Squad (August 6, HBO Max)

… I WANT TO DANCE ALONG

SUMMER OF SOUL (JULY 2, HULU)

The music producer and DJ Questlove’s directorial debut traces the events of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a six-week celebration in 1969 featuring performers such as Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and B. B. King; the archival footage on display had been shelved for more than 50 years. The film took home several documentary awards at Sundance this year, for good reason: As much as it may be a history lesson about the decade, it’s also an absorbing concert movie and a probing look at how live music captured the frustrations and fears of members of the Black community and offered them catharsis when nothing else could.

Also availableIn the Heights (June 11, HBO Max)

… I’M WATCHING IT WITH MY PARENTS

NETFLIX

THE ICE ROAD (JUNE 25, NETFLIX)

When the trailer for this disaster flick began with Liam Nelson driving in the snow, looking forlorn, I felt déjà vu: Hasn’t he already done this? Turns out I was thinking of 2019’s Cold Pursuit, a farce of a film in which Nelson’s character gets in the way of a turf war among gangs in the Rockies. This, on the other hand, is pure action: Nelson plays a trucker who must drive across thousands of miles of icy pavement to rescue a group of trapped miners. A perfectly chilly way to slide into summer.

Also available: Reminiscence (August 20, HBO Max)

… I NEED A KID-FRIENDLY FLICK

LUCA (JUNE 18, DISNEY+)

Pixar’s latest is a literal fish-out-of-water tale about an anxious merboy named Luca who ventures above the surface to—actually, it’s not clear what he’s up there to do, other than eat gelato, explore a quaint Italian seaside town, and accidentally terrorize its locals. But the animation looks delightful, and the story seems to be a fable about the wonders of getting outside your comfort zone. That’s a lesson for anyone, not just the children this film is aimed at.

NETFLIX

FATHERHOOD (JUNE 18, NETFLIX)

The comedian Kevin Hart stars in this film from an About a Boy co-writer, Paul Weitz, as a single parent trying to raise his adorable daughter, Maddy (Melody Hurd). You can imagine the hijinks: Hart’s Matthew struggles to find support, can’t tie a baby wrap, and fails to figure out how to do Maddy’s hair. Be ready for tears, though; the story’s based on a memoir and appears to delve into the unexpected loss of Maddy’s mom as much as it does into father-daughter antics.

Also availableJungle Cruise (July 30, Disney+ with Premier Access); CODA (August 13, Apple TV+)

… I WANT TO BE TERRIFIED

HULU

FALSE-POSITIVE (JUNE 25, HULU)

Pregnancy has proved potent as inspiration for horror writers, and this film offers a modern spin on the subgenre nursed into being by Rosemary’s Baby. Ilana Glazer of Broad City stars as a woman who, after a successful IVF treatment, starts to suspect that her doctor, played by Pierce Bresnan, has more sinister intentions in mind than helping her and her spouse (Justin Theroux) conceive.

 
THE FEAR STREET TRILOGY (JULY 2, 9, 16, NETFLIX)

Billed as a “film trilogy event” by Netflix, this collection of movies takes R. L. Stine’s young-adult-oriented book series and spins it into an R-rated mini cinematic universe. Set in and around the fictional Ohio town of Shadyside, the three films chronicle three very different, very creepy years in local history—1994, 1978, and 1666—that all have something to do with an ancient curse. Binge if you dare.

… I WANT A DASH OF ROMANCE

GOOD ON PAPER (JUNE 23, NETFLIX)

By now anyone who’s ever tried online dating knows what a “catfish” is. In this romantic comedy, however, the heroine, played by the comedian Ilia Schlesinger, falls for a “cuttlefish”—the kind of date who isn’t hiding via the internet but putting on an entire charade in person. Schlesinger based the script on an incident that happened to her in real life, so even if the relationship doesn’t end well, you can trust that it’ll be populated with her signature zany characters.

THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER (JULY 23, NETFLIX)

Based on a Jojo Moyes novel, this decades-spanning romance toggles between the 1960s, when a writer (Callum Turner) falls for the wife (Shailene Woodley) of his subject, and present-day, when their love letters are found by a British journalist (Felicity Jones) who becomes determined to track them down. The plot’s easy to predict, but the period costumes and production design deliver the lush aesthetic that fans of such sweeping love stories cherish.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Oscar Winners 2021

Note: for some reason I have not seen any of these yet.  I will look for them on netflix and add them to my list as time goes by.

2021 Winners

Best Picture Nomadland
Best Director Chloé ZhaoNomadland
Best Actor Anthony HopkinsThe Father
Best Actress Frances McDormandNomadland
Best Supporting Actor Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress Youn Yuh-jungMinari
Original Screenplay Promising Young Woman
Adapted Screenplay The Father
Animated Feature Film Soul
Foreign Fanguage Film Another Round
Documentary Feature My Octopus Teacher
Documentary Short Subject Colette
Live Action Short Film Two Distant Strangers
Animated Short Film If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Original Score SoulTrent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste
Best Original Song Fight for You – Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Cinematography MankErik Messerschmidt
Best Costume Design Ma Rainey’s Black BottomAnn Roth
Best Visual Effects TenetAndrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Ma Rainey’s Black BottomSergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
Best Film Editing Sound of MetalMikkel E. G. Nielsen

 

The Most Exciting TV Shows Coming in 2021: From ‘Wanda Vision’ to ‘Impeachment’

 

I May Destroy You and The Queen’s Gambit makes Willa Paskin’s list.

2020 was not a great year—even for television. There was a tremendous amount of TV shows, most of which were fine; some of which, despite not even being all that fine, hit the strange, stressful, contained spot we all found ourselves in; and some of which that was, you know, good. For this list, when I say “good” I mean “the shows I most enjoyed,” a deeply fuzzy determination based on the series’ ambition, uniqueness, and, like, how much I wanted to watch it. This list contains several shows—including the first two—that I would describe as the year’s “best,” but it’s also peppered with shows I would primarily describe as personal favas. Would I have loved Ted Lasso so much in another year? I truly don’t know. All I know is, in this one, it felt like a bomb.

 

I May Destroy You

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. At the end of the first episode of I May Destroy You, creator, writer, and star Michaela Coal’s character, Arabella, is drugged and raped in a bar. The rest of the series, inspired by Coal’s own experience, follows Arabella as she tries to process what happened—and so much else. I May Destroy You explores consent in various permutations, but it also digs deep on Arabella, a charismatic, talented, tempestuous, brilliant, and undisciplined writer, friend, goof, lover, drug taker, social media influencer, and artist in the making. In a year when people prized escape, I May Destroy You offered something tougher and more hopeful: the possibility you just might be able to wring something meaningfulout of the awful past.

 

City So Real

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. In a year full of popular documentary series, City So Real is better than all the rest of them. Loosely arranged around the 2019 Chicago mayoral race, it plays fly on the wall in neighborhoods all over the city. At protests, campaign rallies, barbershops, bars, city meetings, restaurants, campaign offices, dinner parties, radio stations, and dingy administrative rooms, a cross-section of indelible Chicagoans, so distinctive they wouldn’t feel out of place in fiction, talk about their hard-nosed home and its intricate politics. The show is sprawling and yet as perfectly assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Put together, it gives the full scope of a flawed, challenging, changing city and its stubbornly devoted residents.

 

Ted Lasso

Streaming on Apple TV+

$4.99/month from Apple TV+

  1. The character Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) first popped up in a series of sports promos, but he reappeared in the full-fledged series Ted Lassojust in time to counterprogram the state of the world. Lasso, basically, the nicest guy in existence, knows nothing about soccer when he takes over a British football club, but no matter, he knows human beings. With his emotional know-how, can-do attitude, kindly good spirits, down-home charm, and warm, fuzzy personality (and mustache), he wins over the excellent British supporting cast who, surprise surprise, are all lovely deep down, too. It’s a fantasy of American decency and British patience for cornpone jokes that I found irresistible.

 

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. Three seasons of The Great Pottery Throw Down, a craft competition shows that’s The Great British Clay-Off, arrived on HBO Max all at once this year. The artistry on the show leaves a little to be desired—the tension between utility and inspiration tilts toward the former—but I’m a sucker for watching people make things, and there’s something particularly hypnotic about people pulling shapes out of lumps of whirring clay. The show also has Keith Brymer Jones, a bulky master potter with a molting Flock of Seagulls hairstyle who is the anti–Paul Hollywood. Instead of macho shtick and a crushing congratulatory handshake, he tears up at the contestants’ accomplishments, not only when they do great work, but when they exceed themselves.

 

Mrs. America

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. Mrs. Americatells the story of the failed fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment when equality and second-wave feminists were both bested by the driven and polarizing Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Big picture, it’s a slow-motion tragedy, but episode by episode it’s juicy and thrilling to watch, and chock-full of wonderful performances. It focuses not only on Schlafly but on women’s movement boldface names like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzoh Daub), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), who were trying to do so much for so many that they were undone by a woman on a mission to remake female equality into the bipartisan issue it remains today. Mrs. America perhaps makes the mistake of framing Schlafly as primarily an opportunist, not exactly an ideologue, but it gets across its gutting point: In this instance, the past isn’t prologued, because it’s not even past.

 

The Good Lord Bird

Streaming on Hulu with Showtime subscription

$8.99 with Showtime add-on from Hulu

  1. If you were to imagine in a vacuum what a premium cable miniseries about the life of the abolitionist John Brown might look like, you’d almost surely imagine something much stuffier and soberer than The Good Lord Bird. With the award-winning James McBride novelas a guideline, this drama takes the most serious of subjects, America’s peculiar institution, and explores it with intelligence, verve, and wit. The story is told from the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), the young Black boy who joins Brown’s (Ethan Hawke) ragtag group, and whom Brown, blind to the basics of the people’s he’s devoted his life to helping, spends the whole series believing to be a girl. Hawke is incredible as Brown, a loony force of nature, long-winded, hilarious, intermittently gentle, and terrifying, spitting brimstone and, well, spit. He’s part of the show’s no-sacred-cows approach to history, in which even the righteous can be ridiculous, stumbling blindly through time, but that doesn’t make them any less right.

 

The Queen’s Gambit

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. The Queen’s Gambit opens like it’s going to be a brooding gothic about abandonment, addiction, and loneliness, only to renege and deliver something more straightforwardly satisfying: a superhero story about genius, community, and chess. The show is a realist fantasy, where all the details—the period wallpaper, the interior design, the gameplay—are accurate, but the misogyny has gone missing, with men falling all over one another to help Beth Harmon, the genius who just defeated them. Whether that’s inspiring or facile, it’s a blast. It also features a very strong supporting cast whose standouts include the director Marielle Heller as Beth’s loving, enabling adopted mother, and a shockingly charming human string bean.

 

Bluey

Streaming on Hulu with Disney Plus subscription

$6.99 with Disney+ add-on from Hulu

  1. Bluey, an animated Australian children’s show about a family (who happen to be dogs), is the most playful, sweet, wholesome, nondidactic, and—why it is on this list!—least annoying children’s show on television.

 

Cheer

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. Netflix’s docuseries Cheer premiered at the very beginning of January, so basically, the distant past. In the interim so much has happened, including the disturbing and distressing allegationsinvolving one of the leads, the show’s emotional center. It’s hard to reconcile, but so was the show itself, a study of the grueling lengths young adults will go to belong to something bigger than themselves. Is it worth it? Should the adult in charge know better and push less? Are the demands being put on their bodies—the concussions, the broken limbs—teaching them self-discipline, or just giving them a lifetime of ailments? And why was it impossible (for me, anyway) not to get caught up in its sports-movie-triumph narrative?

 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. This is a bit of a list trickery, in which I use the pesky 10th slot as an alert more than anything else: If you or anyone you know has ever enjoyed a teen drama that aired on the WB or UPN, or knows a current teen who seems like they would dig that kind of thing, may I please introduce you to Netflix’s Teenage Bounty Hunters, essentially a lost WB show just waiting for a time slot before Buffy, Veronica Mars, Dawson’s Creek, or Felicity. Two fraternal twin sisters—one naughty, one nice, but swapping roles all the while—who attend a Christian high school start a sideline as bounty hunters after crashing their dad’s car. It’s a case-of-the-week show, a teen show, a family mystery show, and it’s scrappy and plucky and full of banter, a lighter-side Veronica Mars. It also addresses one of the great concerns of my youth: whether all those WB shows could have had bigger audiences if only they’d been on different channels (the answer is no.) Netflix didn’t pick this show up for a second season, which means, in great WB fashion, this show already has the makings of a cult classic.

The Best Movies of 2020

The Movies I Can’t-Wait to Watch (in Movie Theaters??) in 2021

This Global Box-Office Blockbuster Is a Reminder That Hollywood Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on Telling Big Stories

I Was Moved by Raz Ahmed’s Understated, Intense Performance in Sound of Metal

What It’s Like to Watch a Friend Make a Great Movie—and to Be Expected to Respond to It as an Asian American Critic

What did movies matter in 2020? What did anything? I don’t intend those questions in the nihilistic sense of “lol nothing matters.” I pose them open-endedly in the last weeks of a year that put such once foundational concepts as mattering, let alone movies, into question. All the things we lost in the coronavirus pandemic in 2020—our gathering places, our public institutions, our jobs, our sense of daily shared reality, and for far too many Americans, our loved ones’ lives—put the things we were still able to do into sharper relief. And one of the best things you can still do when holed up at home, as long as you have a home and some means of wiring yourself into the ambient digital matrix we all now exist in, is watch movies.

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Without theaters, the cinematic year (like the year) felt amorphous and hazy. What constituted a “hit” or a “flop” in 2020? Which movies were the virtual-festival darlings, the hyped-up disappointments, or the word-of-mouth successes? Because almost all of our viewing happened in private, and because the big streaming platforms guard their data like Smaug his hoard, it was hard to determine which movies people were talking about or ignoring, hard to choose what to watch, and more and more as this year of entertainment-conglomerate mergers wore on, hard to figure out where to stream it. Watercooler conversation can’t very well drive box office receipts when the only watercooler insight is your kitchen sink and the only box office is … Home Box Office. But though there were far fewer opportunities to talk about a movie on the way out of the theater—surely among life’s peak everyday experiences—there were more chances than usual to fall into weird indie rabbit holes and nurture new cinematic crushes.

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A methodological note on this year’s list: I have been loose on the parameters as to what constitutes a “2020 movie.” Some of the below titles showed at festivals in 2019, were meant to open theatrically this year, and wound up going straight to streaming instead. Others were released in both formats at different times during the year, and at least one never ended up opening at all but remains on the list as a harbinger of good films to come. This is a record of the movie year as I experienced it: fragmentary, catch-as-catch-can, often out of sync with “the conversation” yet somehow astonishingly timely. No movie on this list could have been conceived after the pandemic shut down film production, yet many if not most of them seem somehow to respond to our current historical moment of cabin fever and barely contained mass rage. If I had to find a thread running through the movies that follow (though imposing thematic coherence on any list this diffuse is a fool’s game), it would have something to do with captivity and freedom. The characters in these films are often escaping, hiding out, lying in wait, fetching the bolt cutters to find their way out of whatever traumatic past has trapped them. While you wait for your shot at freedom (in the form, it now seems, of that first vaccine injection), here are some great movies to get you through the next few months. In alphabetical order:

The Assistant

Kitty Green’s unassuming but keenly observed first narrative feature follows one terrible workday in the life of an intern of a never-seen movie producer who’s a serial sexual abuser in the Harvey Weinstein mold. Ozark’s Julia Garner is on screen, often alone, for virtually every second of the movie. Her miserably treated character is the only moral center in this austere movie’s cold and self-dealing universe, and she could easily have gone for Cinderella-style sympathy from the audience (if instead of sweeping ashes from the hearth, Cinderella stapled scripts and fielded calls from anxious wives). But Garner rejects the temptation to coast as a suffering ingenue. In a quietly bravura performance that’s dialogue-free for long stretches, she fills in a whole tragic back story just by the way she listens. (Listen to the Culture Gabfest review The Assistant.)

 

The Assistant

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

Bureau

From its opening image—Brazil has seen from space, the fires in the Amazon visible, as a classic Caetano Veloso song plays on the soundtrack—Kleber Mendonca Filho’s genre-splicing thriller has an air of unsettling mystery. The title is the name of a remote village in the country’s hardscrabble northeast, where, for reasons never fully explained, an international team of white supremacist assassins led by the always-chilling Udo Kier descends to wreak brutal and possibly supernatural mayhem. Densely plotted and packed with vivid actors including the legendary Sonia Braga, this ambitious if the sometimes inscrutable film takes place shortly, “a few years from now.” But its merciless vision of global politics as a zero-sum class and race struggle, and its almost comedically grisly final action sequence, feels very much of the present.

 

Bureau

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Beanpole

Kant emir Balagan’s second feature, about a young woman working as a military nurse in post–World War II Leningrad, is filmed in a palette of impossibly rich greens, reds, and golds—every frame glows with the intensity of a stained-glass window or an illuminated manuscript. That
lush pictorial beauty offsets the extreme bleakness of the story, as the lanky “beanpole” of the title (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) contends with the psychic fallout from her service in the war. In increasingly self-destructive ways, she seeks to expiate her bottomless guilt for what she perceives as a terrible wrong done to a friend, but which the audience, with more compassion for the characters than they can summon for themselves, understands as a wrong done to Beanpole herself by the implacable cruelty of history.

 

Beanpole

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Collective

In the fall of 2015, a fire broke out at a packed nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, resulting in the death of 64 people and the permanent disfigurement of more than 100 more. In the years that followed, public outrage over the incident—the club had no functioning fire exits—caused a government to fall and a new activist movement to arise. Alexander Nana’s intricate, suspenseful documentary tracks the journalistic effort to expose the complex knot of corruption, deception, and negligence that enabled both the disaster itself and the failure of the health care system to do right by the victims after. This is one of the most heartbreaking films I watched in a year already drowning in heartbreak, but also one of the most necessary at a time when the fourth estate is often the last line of defense against a global capitalist system that seems designed to be quite homicidal.

 

Collective

For rent

$6.99 from Amazon

Da 5 Bloods

In retrospect, Chadwick Boseman’s sudden, tragic, and, for everyone but those in his most intimate circle, completely unexpected death of colon cancer in August makes this Spike Lee joint about a group of Black veterans returning to Vietnam all the more moving and urgent. But Da 5 Bloods would have been one of the best movies of the year anyway. Boseman’s role is small but pivotal: His climactic encounter with the older vet played superbly by Delray Lindo is a scene of transformation and healing that fully justifies the rush of cathartic tears it brings. In addition to being insightful about Vietnam War trauma and the complications of modern Black masculinity, Da 5 Bloods is a rollicking buddies-on-the-road comedy, full of earthy humor and jovial trash talk. The early scene when the four old soldiers, tropical drinks in hand, boogie their way to their table at a real-life Ho Chi Minh City disco called Apocalypse Now is one of the year’s great depictions of an experience so many of us missed over this homebound year: goofing off on the dance floor with friends. (Read the review.)

 

Da 5 Bloods

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s seventh feature, a stripped-down Western about the tender friendship between two lonely men in a Pacific Northwest pioneer town in 1820, was the last film I saw in a theater in 2020, at an early March press preview surrounded by colleagues, some of them longtime friends. That whole night had an unusually celebratory feeling; First Cow had blown away everyone I spoke to about it, but the feeling it left in its wake was a quiet, subdued kind of dazzlement, the sneaking suspicion that early in the release calendar though it still was, we had probably just watched one of the most original and accomplished movies we’d see all year. Afterward, in the lobby, there was a little reception with a waiter serving “oily cakes,” the sweet fried-dough pastry that figures crucially in the movie’s plot. Munching them, it was easy to see how this confection, a rare delicacy in the movie’s hardscrabble setting, could have caused the high-stakes competition for scarce resources that the movie chronicles. But though First Cow is all about finding a way to survive in an environment of scarcity, this contemplative, compassionate drama is a miracle of filmmaking abundance, with incandescent performances from John Magar and Orion Lee and the curiously calming presence of Eve, the prettiest on-screen bovine since Buster Keaton fell in love with a heifer in the 1925 silent Go West. (Listen to the Culture Gabfest review First Cow.)

 

First Cow

For rent

$4.99 from Amazon

Let Them All Talk

As I was finalizing this list, it occurred to me that one of the most crucial functions of movie viewing, especially in a year like this (has there ever been a year like this? Maybe 1918?), was sadly underrepresented. Sometimes all you need is some stylish escapism, a low-stakes hangout film where likable characters pursue sparkling or snarky conversations over flutes of Champagne in rooms with flattering lighting. To the rescue just in time came Steven Soderbergh’s latest comedy, about an egocentric novelist (Meryl Streep) who invites two long-estranged friends (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest) and her devoted nephew (Lucas Hedges) on a trans-Atlantic cruise to collect a literary prize in Europe. At first, the generically titled Let Them All Talk seemed like it was going to be a Nancy Meyers–style rom-com about frisky codgers on a boat—not that there would be anything remotely wrong with that. But by 20 minutes in, it was clear this was pure Soderbergh, a multicharacter caper film in the mode of his Ocean’s movies, Out of Sight, or Magic Mike. The difference: Instead of winning a striptease competition or robbing a high-security bank, this crew of oddballs—three strong-willed middle-aged women, an awkward young man, and the various colorful characters they cross paths with on the ship—is simply seeking to come to terms with the undone work of their own lives: the longtime friendships in need of repair, the romantic connections not yet made, the books left to write. (Read the review.)

 

Let Them All Talk

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

Minami

Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film follows a Korean immigrant family in the 1980s as they attempt to turn a recalcitrant piece of land in rural Arkansas into a working vegetable farm. The story is seen mainly through the eyes of 7-year-old David, played with movie-stealing aplomb by the tiny but utterly self-possessed first-time actor Alan S. Kim. (His petulant delivery of “I’m not pretty! I’m good-looking!” may be my single favorite line reading of the year.) But Steven Yuen, in a marvelously understated performance as his stubborn but fiercely devoted father, gives the kid a run for his money. Minami is a drama about immigrants that don’t try to make grand statements about the immigrant experience in America. Rather, it tells the specific story of one family, dysfunctional and troubled in its particular way, but held together by a powerful bond of love. (Read the review.)

 

Minami

Coming Feb. 12, 2021, from A24

Nomad land

Jessica Broder’s 2017 book on retirement-age migrant workers living out of their RVs provided the source material for this lyrical portrait of a widow (Frances McDormand) who takes to the road after a mine closure eliminates the small company town she’s lived in her whole life. I don’t know how to add to what I already wrote in my review, and what so many others have said: Nomad land is a miracle of a movie that somehow transmutes painful experiences like homelessness, loneliness, and systemic exploitation by a pitiless labor market into a poetic meditation on freedom, friendship, and the passage of time. (Read the review.)

 

Nomad land

Coming soon from Searchlight Pictures

Saint Maud

This is the only movie on the list that hasn’t yet been released at all. I saw it in late February, the week before the coronavirus started to shut down in-person press screenings, and my lovestruck review of it is still waiting in the can be published, although the headline—calling it “The First Great Horror Film of 2020”—will have to change by a digit. But I leave it on the list in anticipation of great films to come. The English director Rose Glass, making her debut feature, serves up a gory brew of body horror and spiritual cinema in the tradition of Robert Bresson. Jennifer Hele and Morfitt Clark are spellbinding as a terminally ill choreographer and her fanatically religious young caregiver. Are the ecstatic visions that ravish Maud in her sordid bedsit the work of the divine, the demonic, or her own mental and emotional instability? It’s the rare movie that delves this deeply into the experience of personal faith and (Lord, that final shot!) scares your pants off to boot.

 

Saint Maud

Coming “soon” from A24

Plus, five runners-up:

City Hall
Dick Johnson Is Dead
Fourteen
Lovers Rock
Time

The Best TV of 2020

I May Destroy You and The Queen’s Gambit makes Willa Paskin’s list.

2020 was not a great year—even for television. There was a tremendous amount of TV shows, most of which were fine; some of which, despite not even being all that fine, hit the strange, stressful, contained spot we all found ourselves in; and some of which that was, you know, good. For this list, when I say “good” I mean “the shows I most enjoyed,” a deeply fuzzy determination based on the series’ ambition, uniqueness, and, like, how much I wanted to watch it. This list contains several shows—including the first two—that I would describe as the year’s “best,” but it’s also peppered with shows I would primarily describe as personal favas. Would I have loved Ted Lasso so much in another year? I truly don’t know. All I know is, in this one, it felt like a bomb.

 

I May Destroy You

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. At the end of the first episode of I May Destroy You, creator, writer, and star Michaela Coal’s character, Arabella, is drugged and raped in a bar. The rest of the series, inspired by Coal’s own experience, follows Arabella as she tries to process what happened—and so much else. I May Destroy You explores consent in various permutations, but it also digs deep on Arabella, a charismatic, talented, tempestuous, brilliant, and undisciplined writer, friend, goof, lover, drug taker, social media influencer, and artist in the making. In a year when people prized escape, I May Destroy You offered something tougher and more hopeful: the possibility you just might be able to wring something meaningfulout of the awful past.

 

City So Real

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. In a year full of popular documentary series, City So Real is better than all the rest of them. Loosely arranged around the 2019 Chicago mayoral race, it plays fly on the wall in neighborhoods all over the city. At protests, campaign rallies, barbershops, bars, city meetings, restaurants, campaign offices, dinner parties, radio stations, and dingy administrative rooms, a cross-section of indelible Chicagoans, so distinctive they wouldn’t feel out of place in fiction, talk about their hard-nosed home and its intricate politics. The show is sprawling and yet as perfectly assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Put together, it gives the full scope of a flawed, challenging, changing city and its stubbornly devoted residents.

 

Ted Lasso

Streaming on Apple TV+

$4.99/month from Apple TV+

  1. The character Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) first popped up in a series of sports promos, but he reappeared in the full-fledged series Ted Lassojust in time to counterprogram the state of the world. Lasso, basically, the nicest guy in existence, knows nothing about soccer when he takes over a British football club, but no matter, he knows human beings. With his emotional know-how, can-do attitude, kindly good spirits, down-home charm, and warm, fuzzy personality (and mustache), he wins over the excellent British supporting cast who, surprise surprise, are all lovely deep down, too. It’s a fantasy of American decency and British patience for cornpone jokes that I found irresistible.

 

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Streaming on Hulu with HBO Max subscription

$14.99 with HBO add-on from Hulu

  1. Three seasons of The Great Pottery Throw Down, a craft competition shows that’s The Great British Clay-Off, arrived on HBO Max all at once this year. The artistry on the show leaves a little to be desired—the tension between utility and inspiration tilts toward the former—but I’m a sucker for watching people make things, and there’s something particularly hypnotic about people pulling shapes out of lumps of whirring clay. The show also has Keith Braymer Jones, a bulky master potter with a molting Flock of Seagulls hairstyle who is the anti–Paul Hollywood. Instead of macho shtick and a crushing congratulatory handshake, he tears up at the contestants’ accomplishments, not only when they do great work, but when they exceed themselves.

 

Mrs. America

Streaming on Hulu

$5.99/month from Hulu

  1. Mrs. Americatells the story of the failed fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment when equality and second-wave feminists were both bested by the driven and polarizing Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Big picture, it’s a slow-motion tragedy, but episode by episode it’s juicy and thrilling to watch, and chock-full of wonderful performances. It focuses not only on Schlafly but on women’s movement boldface names like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzoh Daub), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), who were trying to do so much for so many that they were undone by a woman on a mission to remake female equality into the bipartisan issue it remains today. Mrs. America perhaps makes the mistake of framing Schlafly as primarily an opportunist, not exactly an ideologue, but it gets across its gutting point: In this instance, the past isn’t prologued, because it’s not even past.

 

The Good Lord Bird

Streaming on Hulu with Showtime subscription

$8.99 with Showtime add-on from Hulu

  1. If you were to imagine in a vacuum what a premium cable miniseries about the life of the abolitionist John Brown might look like, you’d almost surely imagine something much stuffier and soberer than The Good Lord Bird. With the award-winning James McBride novelas a guideline, this drama takes the most serious of subjects, America’s peculiar institution, and explores it with intelligence, verve, and wit. The story is told from the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), the young Black boy who joins Brown’s (Ethan Hawke) ragtag group, and whom Brown, blind to the basics of the people’s he’s devoted his life to helping, spends the whole series believing to be a girl. Hawke is incredible as Brown, a loony force of nature, long-winded, hilarious, intermittently gentle, and terrifying, spitting brimstone and, well, spit. He’s part of the show’s no-sacred-cows approach to history, in which even the righteous can be ridiculous, stumbling blindly through time, but that doesn’t make them any less right.

 

The Queen’s Gambit

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. The Queen’s Gambit opens like it’s going to be a brooding gothic about abandonment, addiction, and loneliness, only to renege and deliver something more straightforwardly satisfying: a superhero story about genius, community, and chess. The show is a realist fantasy, where all the details—the period wallpaper, the interior design, the gameplay—are accurate, but the misogyny has gone missing, with men falling all over one another to help Beth Harmon, the genius who just defeated them. Whether that’s inspiring or facile, it’s a blast. It also features a very strong supporting cast whose standouts include the director Marielle Heller as Beth’s loving, enabling adopted mother, and a shockingly charming human string bean.

 

Bluey

Streaming on Hulu with Disney Plus subscription

$6.99 with Disney+ add-on from Hulu

  1. Bluey, an animated Australian children’s show about a family (who happen to be dogs), is the most playful, sweet, wholesome, nondidactic, and—why it is on this list!—least annoying children’s show on television.

 

Cheer

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. Netflix’s docuseries Cheer premiered at the very beginning of January, so basically, the distant past. In the interim so much has happened, including the disturbing and distressing allegationsinvolving one of the leads, the show’s emotional center. It’s hard to reconcile, but so was the show itself, a study of the grueling lengths young adults will go to belong to something bigger than themselves. Is it worth it? Should the adult in charge know better and push less? Are the demands being put on their bodies—the concussions, the broken limbs—teaching them self-discipline, or just giving them a lifetime of ailments? And why was it impossible (for me, anyway) not to get caught up in its sports-movie-triumph narrative?

 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

Streaming on Netflix

$8.99/month from Netflix

  1. This is a bit of a list trickery, in which I use the pesky 10th slot as an alert more than anything else: If you or anyone you know has ever enjoyed a teen drama that aired on the WB or UPN, or knows a current teen who seems like they would dig that kind of thing, may I please introduce you to Netflix’s Teenage Bounty Hunters, essentially a lost WB show just waiting for a time slot before Buffy, Veronica Mars, Dawson’s Creek, or Felicity. Two fraternal twin sisters—one naughty, one nice, but swapping roles all the while—who attend a Christian high school start a sideline as bounty hunters after crashing their dad’s car. It’s a case-of-the-week show, a teen show, a family mystery show, and it’s scrappy and plucky and full of banter, a lighter-side Veronica Mars. It also addresses one of the great concerns of my youth: whether all those WB shows could have had bigger audiences if only they’d been on different channels (the answer is no.) Netflix didn’t pick this show up for a second season, which means, in great WB fashion, this show already has the makings of a cult classic.

Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix

The Only Movie Watchlist You’ll Need This Summer

Here are 32 new films to see this season, whether you’re ready to return to theaters or want to stay on the couch.

Hollywood has a crowded slate of films—delayed by the pandemic and otherwise—to release over the next three months. That makes choosing what to see more stressful than usual, especially when some titles can be seen both in theaters and at home. To make the process more manageable, I’ve scrutinized trailers and even screened some of the films below to put together this guide for all your needs, whatever they may be. My first question, to set the scene: How far would you like to venture away from your couch?

I Want to Go Back to Theaters and …

… I’M CRAVING BIG-SCREEN ACTION

F9 (JUNE 25)

The latest installment in the Fast & Furious series sees Vin Diesel’s near-indestructible Dominic Toretto face off against his brother, Jakob (played by John Cena); the return of the fan-favorite character Han (Sung Kang); and—I’m guessing—a lot of cars vrooming and whooshing about. The film has already sped into theaters overseas and earned a pandemic record-making $163 million in its opening weekend. If the director Justin Lin keeps upping the ante with the action in these movies’ inevitable sequels, as he has skillfully done in previous Fast movies, this franchise might just last forever.

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS (JULY 23)

Starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding as the titular ninja, this G.I. Joe spin-off draws inspiration from a comic-book series that traces Snake Eyes’ backstory before he lost his voice. It’s also a blatant attempt to build another cinematic universe, but the trailer offers enough flashy sword fights and martial-arts showdowns to make the effort worthwhile for now. If nothing else, I’m curious to see if Golding’s got the chops to be a leading action star. (I have a feeling he does.)

I Want to Go Back to Theaters and …

… I’M CRAVING BIG-SCREEN ACTION

F9 (JUNE 25)

The latest installment in the Fast & Furious series sees Vin Diesel’s near-indestructible Dominic Toretto face off against his brother, Jakob (played by John Cena); the return of the fan-favorite character Han (Sung Kang); and—I’m guessing—a lot of cars vrooming and whooshing about. The film has already sped into theaters overseas and earned a pandemic record-making $163 million in its opening weekend. If the director Justin Lin keeps upping the ante with the action in these movies’ inevitable sequels, as he has skillfully done in previous Fast movies, this franchise might just last forever.

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS (JULY 23)

Starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding as the titular ninja, this G.I. Joe spin-off draws inspiration from a comic-book series that traces Snake Eyes’ backstory before he lost his voice. It’s also a blatant attempt to build another cinematic universe, but the trailer offers enough flashy sword fights and martial-arts showdowns to make the effort worthwhile for now. If nothing else, I’m curious to see if Golding’s got the chops to be a leading action star. (I have a feeling he does.)

BLACK WIDOW (JULY 9)

The superspy played by Scarlett Johansson didn’t get a funeral in Avengers: Endgame, but she is getting the solo film her fans have been campaigning for since it was possible to binge all of the Marvel movies in less than a day. (For those counting, this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 24th entry.) This prequel follows Natasha on a mission across Europe to reunite her “family,” characters who will probably be essential to the next films. Bonus tip: Don’t forget to watch for a post-credits scene.

WARNER BROS.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (AUGUST 6)

Comic-book superheroes rarely ever actually die. The same goes for comic-book-inspired film franchises. The David Ayer–directed version of Suicide Squad bombed with critics, but the band of supervillains forced to do the government’s bidding is getting a second chance, with some fresh additions to the cast and a new director in James Gunn, the needle-drop-happy mind behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Come for Margot Robbie reprising her gonzo performance as Harley Quinn; stay for what appears to be a much more irreverent and coherent version of the story. At the very least, this version looks lit brightly enough so that we can see what’s happening.

… I LIKE MY MOVIES TO COME WITH A BEAT

IN THE HEIGHTS (JUNE 11)

A feel-good hug of a movie that might make you dance in your seat, this adaptation of the Broadway hit by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiana Alegria Hodes dazzles with Jon M. Chu’s maximalist direction. The story follows characters living in the disappearing Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, all with their ideas for fulfilling their American dreams. Consider this my official endorsement of the film’s sterling quality, and an appeal for concession stands across America to please add piragua to their menu.

FOCUS FEATURES

THE SPARKS BROTHERS (JUNE 18)

The director Edgar Wright (Baby DriverScott Pilgrim vs. the World) trains his eye on the quirky musical duo, whose sound has influenced, well, almost every band in existence, this documentary argues. Featuring interviews with dozens of musicians (Beck, Flea, Jack Anton off) and notable no musicians (Mike Myers, Jason Schwartzman), the film, which premiered this year at Sundance, is a close look at music history and a peek inside Wright’s kinetic mind.

RESPECT (AUGUST 13)

Biopics of famous entertainers need, above all else, the right actor in the leading role. This glitzy portrait of Aretha Franklin—not to be confused with the limited series that aired earlier this year—casts Jennifer Hudson as the legendary singer, and the star seems poised to embark on another awards-season run if all goes well. She’s surrounded by an equally impressive cast: The ensemble also includes heavyweights such as Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald, along with an unexpected dramatic turn from Marlon Wayans as Aretha’s manager and first husband, Ted White.

THE BEATLES: GET BACK (AUGUST 27)

Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame trades hobbits for the Fab Four. This documentary follows the Beatles as they make the album Let It Be and includes never-before-seen footage that had been cut from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 doc. Jackson has stated that the hours of material he’s gathered show the foursome’s camaraderie and challenge the narrative that the album was made amid discord. I’ve got a feeling he’s right; after all, the film was created with approval from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison.

… I WANT TO SEE SOMETHING WITH MY PARENTS

STILLWATER (JULY 30)

In this thriller directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Matt Damon plays a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth Everyman whose estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin) gets arrested for murder abroad. The script seems to have been inspired by the Amanda Knox case but told from an astonishingly resourceful and über-patriotic parent’s perspective. Think Jason Bourne, if Bourne had a conspicuous twang and transformative facial hair.

LIONSGATE

THE PROTÉGÉ (AUGUST 20)

Everything about this spy movie’s trailer—slow-motion shoot-outs, cool disguises, the villain delivering whispered threats—screams predictability, but the film has assembled a formidable cast, including Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. And I guess this is when I admit I’m a fan of the star Maggie Q’s CW-feed take on Nikita from the early 2010s. Campy action is her sweet spot.

REMINISCENCE (AUGUST 20)

One of the Westworld co-creators, Lisa Joy, wrote and directed this tale of a scientist (Hugh Jackman) who discovers a way to time travel through memory. If it’s anything like Joy’s work on the first season of the HBO series, it’ll be twisty but enthralling. If it’s anything like the latest season, it’ll give you a massive headache. Either way, the film marks a welcome return to hard sci-fi for Jackman after he starred in the underrated The Fountain more than a decade ago. (What’s that—he was in Chippie in 2015? Why would you remind me?)

… I NEED A KID-FRIENDLY FLICK

WARNER BROS.

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY (JULY 16)

LeBron James steps into Michael Jordan’s shoes—er, Air Jordans—in this update on the cult favorite about NBA stars playing basketball alongside Looney Tunes characters. The villains this time are AI-controlled digital players, whatever that means. This might turn out to be nothing more than a shameless mashup of all the intellectual property Warner Bros. has ever owned, but if it matches the earnestness of its predecessor—and if James has half as much fun as Jordan did as a movie star—it just might work.

JUNGLE CRUISE (JULY 30)

Yes, this is Disney trying to turn another one of its theme-park rides into a billion-dollar franchise, but Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s combined charm can not—excuse me, will not—be denied. Jesse Plemons also drops in as the kooky villain who gets in the way of our heroes’ mission to find a tree with healing powers in the middle of the Amazon. If this Disney-feed spin on The African Queen all looks a bit … much, just remember: The CGI simply adds more scenery for all three stars to chew.

… I WANT TO BE TERRIFIED

THE FOREVER PURGE (JULY 2)

Just in time for Independence Day, the horror franchise about a dystopian version of America in which lawlessness gets to run rampant for a day every year will release what is (reportedly) its final installment. In it, a band of criminals decides that the annual purge should last longer than a day. Maybe forever. What are the odds of this series delivering four more sequels?

ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS (JULY 16)

As a breezy, 100-minute collection of puzzles and jump scares, the first film was a surprise hit, the kind of low-stakes entertainment even non–horror fans can enjoy. This sequel finds the surviving heroes from the original getting trapped in—you guessed it—another series of escape rooms with a group of other players. Though the tests look a lot harder to solve this time around, if the film’s writers continue to focus on the riddles, they might just figure out a way to sustain a franchise.

OLD (JULY 23)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this graphic-novel adaptation follows a vacationing family who realizes that the beach they’re relaxing on is making them age at a rapid pace—so rapid, they’ll all be dead by the end of the day. Gael García Bernal and Phantom Thread’s Vicky Kreps star as the parents; their children age quickly into teens played by rising stars Alex Wolff and Thomasina McKenzie. Shyamalan, who’s expressed endearing excitement about making this film, has said his daughters gave him the source material—and perhaps the inspiration for the film’s underlying anxiety around getting older. In other words, he sees dying people.

THE NIGHT HOUSE (AUGUST 20)

Rebecca Hall stars as a widow grieving her husband’s death while alone—or is she?—in the house, he built for them. To go any further into the plot risks spoilers, but I can tell you that Hall’s character starts seeing visions of her husband lurking around the property. Also, according to critics who attended the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, this film couples its scares with innovative but intrusive sound design. Brace your senses.

CANDYMAN (AUGUST 27)

This remake/sequel to the 1992 film possesses quite the pedigree: Jordan Peele, the reigning king of our era of elevated horror, co-wrote the script with the producer Win Rosenfeld (Black Klansman) and the director Nia DaCosta, who made a splash on the festival circuit with the thriller Little Woods and is on deck to direct the Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels. And I haven’t even mentioned the Emmy-winning actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), who stars as an artist finding inspiration in the urban myth about the titular killer with a hook for a hand (played by Tony Todd, returning to the role), only to unleash him, whatever he is.

… I MISS SEEING FESTIVAL FAVORITES IN PERSON

ANNA KOORIS / A24

ZOLA (JUNE 30)

Starring Riley Keough and Taylor Paige, this satirical romp follows a pair of women who go on a road trip to make some quick cash dancing in strip clubs. The film, which is based on a viral Twitter thread, scored distribution through the indie studio A24 even before it screened for the first time at Sundance in 2020. The gamble has paid off so far: Critics loved it. (Perhaps more movies should be based on tweets? Don’t @ me.)

THE GREEN KNIGHT (JULY 30)

A crown descending onto Dev Patel’s head and then lighting him on fire. A bear holding a lantern at the top of a staircase. A talking fox emerging from heavy fog. Based on the trailers, it seems the director David Lowery has shrouded his film in cryptic, poetic images—which is appropriate, given that his source material is an ambiguous 14th-century fantasy epic filled with figurative language. The story follows an Arthurian knight (Patel) being tested for his chivalry by a giant green being. If Lowery has his way, the eerie atmosphere of the film, which was supposed to premiere at SXSW in 2020, will linger in your mind long after you finish watching it.

CODA (AUGUST 13)

Though I saw this at one of Sundance’s virtual screenings—as in, alone in my living room—I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only viewer who had used up all her tissues by the time the credits rolled. (I became certain when, two days later, Apple picked up the film for distribution for a festival-record $25 million.) The film tells a coming-of-age story through an unconventional heroine: a teenager who’s the only hearing member of her family, grappling with her responsibilities to her relatives and her love of singing. It’s a crowd-pleasing tearjerker, the kind I wish I’d seen in a packed theater.

… I’M JUST A HUGE RYAN REYNOLDS FAN

LIONSGATE

THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD (JUNE 16)

The Deadpool actor plays a reluctant hero who gets dragged into scary shenanigans by a fearless woman. Explosions, pop-culture references, and jokes at Reynolds’s character’s expense ensue. Judging by the trailer, it seems like the film was a lot of fun to make for all of the actors involved, including an Oscar winner.

FREE GUY (AUGUST 13)

The Deadpool actor plays a reluctant hero who gets dragged into scary shenanigans by—frankly, I could just copy my previous paragraph and paste it here for this film. But there are some significant differences worth mentioning: Reynolds’s character exists inside a video game, a different Oscar winner (Taika Waititi) tags along, and the movie will probably be rated PG-13 instead of R.

I’d Rather Stay Home but …

… I WANT A TASTE OF BIG-SCREEN ACTION

AMAZON PRIME

THE TOMORROW WAR (JULY 2, AMAZON PRIME)

Chris Pratt is drafted to fight a war in the future against alien invaders and gets to grumble things like “I was trying to save my daughter. If I got to save the world to save her, then I’m gonna do it.” It’s a time-travel movie, so I’m expecting someone he meets in the future to turn out to be him or someone he knows, only older. (By the way, when did all movie aliens start looking like the Stranger Things Demogorgon?)

Also availableBlack Widow (July 9, Disney+ with Premier Access); Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16, HBO Max); The Suicide Squad (August 6, HBO Max)

… I WANT TO DANCE ALONG

SUMMER OF SOUL (JULY 2, HULU)

The music producer and DJ Questlove’s directorial debut traces the events of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a six-week celebration in 1969 featuring performers such as Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and B. B. King; the archival footage on display had been shelved for more than 50 years. The film took home several documentary awards at Sundance this year, for good reason: As much as it may be a history lesson about the decade, it’s also an absorbing concert movie and a probing look at how live music captured the frustrations and fears of members of the Black community and offered them catharsis when nothing else could.

Also availableIn the Heights (June 11, HBO Max)

… I’M WATCHING IT WITH MY PARENTS

NETFLIX

THE ICE ROAD (JUNE 25, NETFLIX)

When the trailer for this disaster flick began with Liam Nelson driving in the snow, looking forlorn, I felt déjà vu: Hasn’t he already done this? Turns out I was thinking of 2019’s Cold Pursuit, a farce of a film in which Nelson’s character gets in the way of a turf war among gangs in the Rockies. This, on the other hand, is pure action: Nelson plays a trucker who must drive across thousands of miles of icy pavement to rescue a group of trapped miners. A perfectly chilly way to slide into summer.

Also available: Reminiscence (August 20, HBO Max)

… I NEED A KID-FRIENDLY FLICK

LUCA (JUNE 18, DISNEY+)

Pixar’s latest is a literal fish-out-of-water tale about an anxious merboy named Luca who ventures above the surface to—actually, it’s not clear what he’s up there to do, other than eat gelato, explore a quaint Italian seaside town, and accidentally terrorize its locals. But the animation looks delightful, and the story seems to be a fable about the wonders of getting outside your comfort zone. That’s a lesson for anyone, not just the children this film is aimed at.

NETFLIX

FATHERHOOD (JUNE 18, NETFLIX)

The comedian Kevin Hart stars in this film from an About a Boy co-writer, Paul Weitz, as a single parent trying to raise his adorable daughter, Maddy (Melody Hurd). You can imagine the hijinks: Hart’s Matthew struggles to find support, can’t tie a baby wrap, and fails to figure out how to do Maddy’s hair. Be ready for tears, though; the story’s based on a memoir and appears to delve into the unexpected loss of Maddy’s mom as much as it does into father-daughter antics.

Also availableJungle Cruise (July 30, Disney+ with Premier Access); CODA (August 13, Apple TV+)

… I WANT TO BE TERRIFIED

HULU

FALSE-POSITIVE (JUNE 25, HULU)

Pregnancy has proved potent as inspiration for horror writers, and this film offers a modern spin on the subgenre nursed into being by Rosemary’s Baby. Ilana Glazer of Broad City stars as a woman who, after a successful IVF treatment, starts to suspect that her doctor, played by Pierce Bresnan, has more sinister intentions in mind than helping her and her spouse (Justin Theroux) conceive.

 
THE FEAR STREET TRILOGY (JULY 2, 9, 16, NETFLIX)

Billed as a “film trilogy event” by Netflix, this collection of movies takes R. L. Stine’s young-adult-oriented book series and spins it into an R-rated mini cinematic universe. Set in and around the fictional Ohio town of Shadyside, the three films chronicle three very different, very creepy years in local history—1994, 1978, and 1666—that all have something to do with an ancient curse. Binge if you dare.

… I WANT A DASH OF ROMANCE

GOOD ON PAPER (JUNE 23, NETFLIX)

By now anyone who’s ever tried online dating knows what a “catfish” is. In this romantic comedy, however, the heroine, played by the comedian Ilia Schlesinger, falls for a “cuttlefish”—the kind of date who isn’t hiding via the internet but putting on an entire charade in person. Schlesinger based the script on an incident that happened to her in real life, so even if the relationship doesn’t end well, you can trust that it’ll be populated with her signature zany characters.

THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER (JULY 23, NETFLIX)

Based on a Jojo Moyes novel, this decades-spanning romance toggles between the 1960s, when a writer (Callum Turner) falls for the wife (Shailene Woodley) of his subject, and present-day, when their love letters are found by a British journalist (Felicity Jones) who becomes determined to track them down. The plot’s easy to predict, but the period costumes and production design deliver the lush aesthetic that fans of such sweeping love stories cherish.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Shirley Li is a staff writer at The Atlantic​, where she covers culture.

 

Oscar Winners 2021

Note: for some reason I have not seen any of these yet.  I will look for them on netflix and add them to my list as time goes by.

2021 Winners

Best Picture Nomadland
Best Director Chloé ZhaoNomadland
Best Actor Anthony HopkinsThe Father
Best Actress Frances McDormandNomadland
Best Supporting Actor Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress Youn Yuh-jungMinari
Original Screenplay Promising Young Woman
Adapted Screenplay The Father
Animated Feature Film Soul
Foreign Fanguage Film Another Round
Documentary Feature My Octopus Teacher
Documentary Short Subject Colette
Live Action Short Film Two Distant Strangers
Animated Short Film If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Original Score SoulTrent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste
Best Original Song Fight for You – Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Cinematography MankErik Messerschmidt
Best Costume Design Ma Rainey’s Black BottomAnn Roth
Best Visual Effects TenetAndrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Ma Rainey’s Black BottomSergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
Best Film Editing Sound of MetalMikkel E. G. Nielsen

The End

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