COLUMN: Suggested streaming for September 2018


Netflix was founded in 1997. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

School just started, and Spotify’s already exceptional TV and music streaming bundle just got better with the addition of Showtime. Those things, it might seem, are an unfortunate coincidence for student productivity levels everywhere, but they’re also a nice opportunity to ease into a bad sleep schedule and poor productivity to get that lovely, full college experience. Without further ado, here’s some suggested viewing titles for the month of September, when studying is out and binging the longest possible movies and TV series is in:

Big Little Lies

Streaming on: HBO

The series “Big Little Lies” began in 2017 on HBO.  Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

So, “Sharp Objects” just reached its much-discussed finale, and you’re feeling deprived of your latest bingable obsession? The good news is, director Jean-Marc Vallée’s previous TV miniseries, the prestige-drama-slash-murder-soap, “Big Little Lies,” provides another compelling mystery to distract from the tedium of papers and lab reports. At the crux of the story is a murder mystery, but Vallée eschews tradition by refusing to even reveal the identity of the victim. Around that already captivating premise, he builds a cast of compelling characters, the rich and bloodthirsty soccer moms of Monterey, California, fleshed out by an incredible cast that features the likes of Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

A handsomely produced drama as bingable for its characters’ melodramatic antics as it is gripping for its murder mystery, “Big Little Lies” is a masterclass in long-form storytelling and subversion. It’s full of great performances and surprising twists, and with a second season – that will see acclaimed director Andrea Arnold taking the director’s chair, and Meryl Streep joining the already stacked cast – there’s no better time to check out “Big Little Lies” than the present.

The Godfather Trilogy

Streaming on: Netflix 

“The Godfather” was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

Perhaps the most woefully under-seen of all must-see films, Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” saga is a stunning cinematic achievement whose highs simply can’t be overhyped. The good news is, the entire trilogy is currently available on Netflix, and the extra good news is that the whole thing boasts a ten-hour runtime perfect for avoiding responsibilities or anxieties in favor of getting lost in a good, old-fashioned epic.

And what an epic, indeed. From the opening moments of “The Godfather” to its final shot, and again with the equally stunning “Part II,” Coppola spins a masterfully crafted and genuinely epic narrative yarn that’s captivating and emotionally involving at every moment, as well as conjured to film with a visual splendor that puts any cinematic achievement in the decades since its release to shame. Mileage on the third film is variable, and watching it is really only advisable to those in dire need of closure or procrastination, but the first two installments remain two of the greatest films ever.

Twin Peaks

Streaming on: Netflix, Showtime

“Twin Peaks” began in 1990 and ended in 1991.  Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

As fall sets in, there’s no better time than to start David Lynch’s classic and influential television saga, “Twin Peaks.” Spanning two seasons, a prequel movie and a limited series that aired last year, finally completing – sort of – a decades-long TV epic of murder and mayhem, nightmare and nostalgia, Lynch’s iconic and subversive TV series explores the bizarre and crime-ridden aftermath of the murder of a high school homecoming queen. 

At once a sublime exploration of our personal demons and inner darkness, a surrealist soap opera draped in layers of Lynchian weirdness and an utterly invigorating murder mystery as confoundingly weird and undeniably gripping as anything TV has ever seen, “Twin Peaks” is an unforgettable high point of the medium and a precursor to the modern golden age of long-form storytelling. Its growth as a series has been met with equal measures of heated frustration and endless adoration, but it remains throughout the majority of its decades-long run an entrancing and wonderful watch. In other words, forget that due date and start streaming “Twin Peaks” as soon as possible. You might not be able to stop.


Streaming on: Netflx

“Heat” was directed by Michael Mann in 1995.  Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

For the balanced binger, here’s a selection that’s both epic and manageable: Michael Mann’s crime thriller “Heat,” a three-hour epic rewatchable enough to provide a daily, weekly or monthly distraction from life’s ailments but a commitment not altogether damning for your other responsibilities. As significant as an inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” as it is for finally uniting screen legends Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the same frame, Mann’s film follows the lives of a career criminal and the Los Angeles detective investigating him and his co-conspirators in tandem, finding meaningful parallels, empathy and universal truths where other directors so often fail.

It’s an imposing creation, a cinematic monstrosity that follows so many plot threads and violent individuals it’s hard to imagine the thing having any room for character or theme, but Mann, ever the visual poet, prioritizes them, finding empathy and feeling where they ought not to belong, and using the vehicle of a taut crime thriller to present a staggering meditation on the converging dualities between obsession and devotion, life and death. It’s also straight up one of the most exciting and compelling movies ever made, and a powerhouse of a film with endless wealth to offer. 

Literally Anything by the Coen Brothers

Streaming on: Netflix, Amazon, HBO

“Fargo” was directed by the Coen brothers in 1996.  Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

One of the year’s most exciting cinematic prospects is the Coen brothers’ upcoming film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” Which makes now the perfect time to binge every previous Coen film you can get your hands on. The brothers are among cinema’s most prolific auteurs, and exactly the sorts of filmmakers whose works might be more worthwhile than finishing that math homework. Their oeuvre is populated with a diverse range of genres and formal styles, each remarkable in its own ways; meaning there’s no clear or easy way to start. 

If it’s the essentials you seek, look no further than their stone-cold drama, “No Country for Old Men,” on Netflix, or their iconic black comedy, “Fargo,” available on HBO. Also noteworthy are their more recent works “A Serious Man,” their semi autobiographically inspired dark dramedy and perhaps their most criminally underrated movie, or “Inside Llewyn Davis,” their love letter to the archetype of the struggling artist. Or perhaps for a bit of levity, consider "Burn After Reading" their farce-laden political thriller slash slapstick comedy. Any way you go, there’s no missteps when it comes to the Coens.

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