I only include films and TV shows I’ve seen for the first time in my screentime wrap-ups, but quick shout-out to The Force Awakens being on Netflix. Thank you Netflix gods.
The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson (2017) documentary, Netflix
Marsha was a trans activist, a key part of the Stonewall riots and the fight for LGBT rights, who was found dead in 1992. The police ruled her death a suicide, but none of the people that knew her believed it, particularly given recent threats of violence against her and the violence towards trans women that was all too common. It’s not a perfect documentary – it’s one of those that’s trying to fit too much in and loses some focus and pacing as a result – but it’s an important one. People like Marsha are often forgotten in mainstream history, like the recent Stonewall film that centred cis white gay men and pushed aside the trans women, particularly trans women of colour, who were the ones who really threw the first stones. There are marginalised communities within marginalised communities, and the marginalisation of trans women (and men) in the LGBT community is definitely a thread that runs through the film. It probably would have worked better if it were longer, or as a series, which could have given more space to the people in the film and the life of Marsha herself, but it’s still worth watching. (I saw after watching that Reina Gossett, herself a black trans activist, has said David France used her extensive archival research and ideas for his film, which prevented her from making her own, particularly given the resources he gained through working with Netflix. She does have a non-documentary film coming out next year about Marsha, and France says he didn’t steal her work, and I’m not sure what to think about it. But if he did take advantage of her work (which was literally dangerous for her to acquire at times), a cis white gay man putting his voice over a black trans woman to tell Marsha’s story is…very much not good given the themes of the film. Very much not good. I’ll definitely be watching her film Happy Birthday Marsha! as well)
Casting JonBenet (2017) documentary, Netflix
This is a very odd film, mostly because it’s impossible to tell how much the people in it knew what it was really all about. Basically, the film is people from the local area auditioning to play roles in a film about JonBenet’s murder and talking about their own theories on what happened. But there is no film – the film is the auditions and theories. It’s a really interesting way of doing it, and makes it less about the murder and more about the way people speculate about these kinds of cases and why they believe the things they do, and how fascinated so many people are by ‘true crime’. But it also feels ethically a bit on the line – if the people didn’t know what they were really being filmed for, and were sharing at times extremely personal stories in an effort to be picked for a part that didn’t really exist, it would be quite exploitative. Some of the editing lends it a kind of dark humour, particularly when one participant says it would be impossible for the brother to have done it because a boy that age lacks the physical strength and the film cuts to a series of young boy auditionees bashing in watermelons with a hammer. If you like crime type stuff or meta stuff, definitely watch this because it is oddly fascinating, but definitely do it with a critical eye.
Jupiter Ascending (2015) film, Netflix
Yeah so this is a mess. It’s hard to believe it’s made by the same people who made the first Matrix (though easier to believe it was made by the people who did the Matrix sequels). It’s trying really hard to be a campy space opera but it’s bonkers in the bad way, not the good. The visuals are good but I was too distracted by over-fast plot, bad acting, and wtf-ness. Nope.
La La Land (2016) film, Netflix
I’m not mega into musicals, but I thought this might be a good comfort watch. It’s weird that they chose so such as generic blah song to open the film, as it kind of sets the tone. I did like the very end, because I love a bitter-sweet ending, but it was definitely just a good comfy sleepy watch.
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond (2017) documentary, Netflix
I don’t know anything about Andy Kaufman, but you definitely don’t need to to watch this. I’m not a big Jim Carrey fan – I imagine he’s totally exhausting to hang with – but this is definitely interesting. It looks at the behind-the-scenes of when Jim played Andy in the 1999 film Man on the Moon, when he went ‘full method’ and stayed in character for the entirety of the filming. I think sometimes ‘method acting’ is used by actors as an excuse to act like a dickhead (hello, Jared Leto), but I don’t think that’s what was happening here. Jim felt such a connection and similarity with Andy that at times he talks as though he was possessed by him, and I do think he believes that. Even Andy’s family members spoke with him like he was, and felt like he was, really him. I don’t believe in any kind of afterlife, so I don’t believe in possession either, but it’s definitely interesting to see who a deep sense of connection manifests.
Mindhunter (season 1) series, Netflix
I really enjoyed this, it was very easy to binge on sleepy evenings. The main character gets increasingly irritating, but he’s supposed to, and it means the characters’ relationships with each other and themselves gradually shift, reaching a climax in the final episode (Ford’s arrogance does not pay off…). Definitely worth a binge if you’re looking for something crime-y that’s easy to watch but also engaging.
Designated Survivor (seasons 1 & 2ish) series, Netflix
Series 2 is still being slowly released, but I’m enjoying it so far. The writing, particularly the dialogue, isn’t great, and season 2 becomes even more ridiculous when the plot has to shift from what was driving season 1. But it’s fun (in an apocalyptic sort of way) and easy to watch. The pace is fast, too fast for reality, but the perfect speed for sleepy bingeing. I also just like the concept – after finding out about the existence of the designated survivor when I watched The West Wing, I always wondered what would actually happen if a very unqualified and inexperienced person suddenly had to rebuild an entire government and the heads of the legal system at a time of acute crisis. President Kirkman is a little too competent, but his doubts and his worries about it work. And I like that it often touches on current issues, though usually doesn’t linger on them long enough to go into any kind of depth (like The West Wing does). It’s good, ridiculous, political funs.