Entertainment in the time of coronavirus, an essential watchlist of TV shows, films to help you survive self-isolation
The coronavirus pandemic might have severely dented the theatrical movie business — early estimates peg the losses to be in the $5 billion range — but it has also opened new doors for the streaming industry. As more people make the choice to self-isolate, they are faced with a new conundrum: now that they have time on their hands, how shall they pass it?
With multiple streaming options available — Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+ are running successfully, with Hotstar poised to merge with Disney+ by the end of the month — the viewer is spoiled for choice. Here is a list of series and films that you might want to check out during your hibernation.
Often described as a visual novel, David Simon’s The Wire is the Infinite Jest of television shows — a formidable classic that most people pretend to have seen, but haven’t really. It is a dense show, perfectly suited for undistracted viewing.
Director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Z Burns’ eerily prophetic film has witnessed somewhat of a resurgence in recent weeks, thanks to the grim parallels that it has to the ongoing pandemic. Its scientific accuracy can only be rivalled by the incisive efficiency of its tagline: “Nothing spreads like fear.”
War of the Worlds
On paper, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds is an alien invasion story, but the Oscar-winning filmmaker snuck in environmental subtext to his film. At the risk of spoiling the ending, the aliens in War of the Worlds, after having brought humanity to its knees, withdraw just as mysteriously as they arrived, much like how the SARS virus disappeared.
The Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in its first stage has been widely criticised. Indeed, several other nations — most notably, Iran — employed a similarly flawed approach in addressing the outbreak, which includes keeping information from the population and underplaying its actual impact. The terrific miniseries Chernobyl investigates the cost of lies, and how a mass cover-up can create chaos.
A recent article on The Atlantic wondered how China, a nation infamous for the mass surveillance of its citizens and its strict censorship laws, could allow itself to be blindsided by such a deadly virus. The Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour profiles Edward Snowden, who leaked inside information about the illegal wiretapping practices of the NSA (National Security Agency).
One of the most unfortunate fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic has been the racism people of South East Asian descent have been made to endure. The Chinese film industry will take months, if not years to recover, but until then, why not watch one of the finest films of 2019: Lulu Wang’s meditation on life, death, and taking care of one’s grandparents, The Farewell.
The Great Beauty
When confronted with mortality, one develops a new perspective to living. Director Paolo Sorrentino’s fabulous film about a hedonistic journalist learning to live a more meaningful life doubles as an ode to Italy, one of the epicentres of the outbreak.
Few films can mimic the feeling of being trapped better than Buried, a breakneck thriller in which Ryan Reynolds finds himself buried alive inside a coffin, armed with nothing but his wits and a few tools to help him escape.
Martin Scorsese’s classic film about a damaged taxi driver with delusions of grandeur is one of the most staggeringly accurate films about loneliness ever made.
Man Seeking Woman
While classics are sure to benefit from this situation, overlooked shows such as Man Seeking Woman also deserve a reappraisal. The vibrantly inventive romantic comedy arrived during a transitional phase in the industry, when traditional TV was making way for streaming. Perhaps that is why it never quite took off like it should have. That and it’s very, very strange.
Made in Heaven
Weddings are, of course, a hugely risky proposition, but now even more so. But if you find yourself in two minds about attending that casual acquaintance’s poorly timed nuptials, make the wise decision and live vicariously through Made in Heaven instead.
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