What to watch today: Your lockdown guide to movies and series online
New shows, classics, masterpieces free and available for rent, movies and series for you, and the kids (and some for just you). Your guide to what’s hottest on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and Hotstar.Updated: May 15, 2020 20:32 IST
Kaamyaab (YouTube and Netflix): This 2020 film by Hardik Mehta sees Sanjay Mishra play a bit actor from the ’70s and ’80s, now retired but desperate to take his film tally from 499 to 500 with one last part. It’s evocative yet funny, recreating the honestly awful films of those decades to marvellous effect. And it’s a bittersweet tip of the hat to the many men and women who’ve put so much into peopling our screens, and yet were rarely really visible.
Mrs America (Disney+ Hotstar): Revolutions are messy, as one character puts it. This series, starring Cate Blanchett, clambers into the women’s rights movement of 1970s America, exploring the opposition it faced from other women, and the undertones of colour and class that dictated who was heard, and seen, even among those n the same side.
Material (Netflix): Thistender, eye-opening film is about a young Indian-origin Muslim man in South Africa trying to navigate the world of women, family and ambition while juggling dreams of a stand-up career and a father determined that he stay true to his faith and take over their cherished textile store. The end is far too pat, but this is an easy watch with several funny moments, Plus, it’ll leave you in cathartic tears by the end, and who doesn’t need that right now?
The Half of It (Netflix): This is a teen romance that’s nothing like the candy-coloured romcoms we’re used to. For one thing, the cinematography is stunning. For another, the friend is the central character; she’s gay; and in love with the same girl as the jock she’s helping. He, meanwhile, is trying hard to be more interesting. Except for one scene, the movie never ever goes where you expect it to. And it finds a happy ending that’s tangled, true and yet a triumph.
23 Hours to Kill (Netflix): We see so much stand-up now, and much of it is uneven, put together by youngsters struggling to find their feet. Which is why it’s an even greater treat to see Jerry Seinfeld do what he’s done for decades, but better, sharper, wittier. It’s a reminder that effort and talent are all very well, but there’s no substitute for expertise.
I Know This Much Is True (Disney+Hotstar): Mark Ruffalo is outstanding in a double role in this new HBO series. He plays twin brothers, one stable and bowed down by the weight of caring for the other, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
Becoming (Netflix): The Michelle Obama documentary built around her memoir is a delightful hour of straight-talking, no-BS honesty. Skip the first 25 minutes, unless you’d like to revisit her popularity and see crying readers gather at signings. But watch the rest, for an up-close recap of a modern-day fairy tale powered by talent, grit and self-belief.
Good Omens: Lockdown (YouTube): This short short has been released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Good Omens, the beloved book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It features the voices of David Tennant and Michael Sheen, who play the suave demon and rather befuddled angel in the series on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t watched it, do. If you have, this short on how they’re both faring in the lockdown will bring all the mischief, longing and love back in a rush.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Mubi): Director Celine Sciamma paints a sometimes tender sometimes searing picture of the forbidden love between a woman painter and her subject, a young aristocrat set to be married against her will.
The Willoughbys (Netflix): The little stars of this animated film are children who were unwanted, and are uncared-for and unseen. What identity are you left with then, and from what do you draw strength? It’s a sweet little movie that will likely make your children appreciate you more. Featuring the voices of Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and Jane Krakowski.
Studio Ghibli films (Netflix): There are few cinematic worlds as beautiful as those in the animated features of the legendary Studio Ghibli, created by directors, animators and legends Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The stories are filled with gentle wisdom. These are films you can watch with kids or by yourself. No matter how old you are, they’re joys to behold. Start with Kiki’s Delivery Service, and you’ll feel you’ve stepped back into childhood in a simpler time.
Little Women (YouTube): Greta Gerwig’s truly remarkable retelling of this gentle classic gives it several contemporary twists, more layers, and a surprise ending. If you missed it in theatres, you shouldn’t have, but you can now rent it on YouTube Movies and Google Play.
Tigertail (Netflix): A Taiwanese immigrant to America seems to be living his dream, but can he really leave the struggle behind, and has the destination been worth all he’s given up? A delicate exploration of identity, loss, manhood, and the impossibility of belonging when you start out being the other.
The Death of Stalin (Amazon Prime): Step inside the Kremlin in this viciously dark comedy directed by Armando Iannucci and based on the graphic novel series by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. The dictator has died, and at first no one even dares say it. Mayhem, chaos and hilarity follow.
Crip Camp (Netflix): This film is about the disability rights movement that set the tone for the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, but it is also so much more. It opens in 1971 at Camp Jened in New York, where a group of differently abled youngsters find a sense of belonging and realise they are much more than they’ve been led to believe. The film explores how this shared experience changes them, and the world.
Apollo’s New Moon (Amazon Prime and YouTube): Released last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, this stunning film combines NASA footage with AI enhancements to give you of a sense of what it was like to be the first humans to step off the planet and land on its satellite.
The Platform (Netflix): If you’re in the mood for something gruesome but unforgettable, check out this Spanish film. It’s set in a vertical prison where cells are stacked one above the other, and a single platform of food makes its way down every day, leaving the lower rungs so desperate that… well, you’ll see when you watch it.
Some Good News (YouTube): John Krasinski of The Office (US) has a new show on YouTube he calls SGN. Part of it resembles a good-news bulletin, but he also has wife Emily Blunt and celebrity friends join in. For one of the most uplifting moments in recent live programming, go to minute 10 of episode 2 to see the surprise performance they put together for a little girl on Zoom.
Iliza Shlesinger (Netflix): Her sketch comedy show is just out too, but it’s her four stand-up specials on the same platform that you should really check out. She’s hilarious, irreverent and a delight to watch. There’s drama in every sharply crafted sentence. And her political incorrectness isn’t crass or forced, it’s just who she wants to be.
Kidding (Hotstar): This is Jim Carrey as we very rarely get to see him. He plays an extremely popular children’s TV star whose life is quietly unravelling in the background. He loses his son, then his wife leaves, he finds love again, but it’s just never easy going, and he may be losing his hold on his own brand too.
Jamtara (Netflix): Set in small-town India, this Hindi Netflix show is inspired by a real phishing scam that was based in Jharkhand. It tracks the youngsters running the scam. They make phone calls to procure bank details of people from across the country and get lakhs of rupees transferred to multiple accounts in their village, Jamtara. But they don’t know how to manage the booty. How the loot plays out in the village is the story narrated in 10 compelling episodes.
A Separation (Amazon Prime and YouTube): In this dark Iranian film about the burdens of the past, Asghar Farhadi has a couple filing for divorce because the wife wants to take their 12-year-old daughter to another country, for a different life, and the husband feels he must stay back and care for his ailing father. How will they explain any of this to an Islamic divorce court, and what does the girl want for herself?
Avenue 5 (Hotstar): A darkly funny satire by Armando Iannucci (of Veep), Hugh Laurie stars as the captain of a luxury space cruise knocked off course by an absurd string of events. Set in a future just close enough to be uncomfortable, it unravels bit by bit, and forces you to ask yourself, which of the characters is closest to who you’d be?
Night on Earth (Netflix): This is Earth as you’ve never seen it — weirdly lit, colours oddly saturated, animals silently scrambling to survive. Each episode is set in a different environment — jungles, oceans, cities — all shot at night. If you’d like to know how they did it, there’s a making-of movie too.
The Circle (Netflix): Who would you be if you could be anyone? How far would you go to win $100,000? In this reality show, eight strangers are moved into one building but never meet. Instead, they can present themselves as they like, on a shared special social media app, and decide how far they’ll go to build the influence they need within it, to stay in the game.
The Birds (YouTube Movies): Taking something familiar and twisting it into a nightmare seems to be the theme of our times. So step into Hitchcock’s classic, where birds become monsters with no motive, manifestations of the subconscious, as they suddenly threaten a sleepy town. Available on YouTube Movies and Google Play
Pose (Netflix): It is 1980s New York. The underground dance scene is full of Latino trans and gay men and women. It’s a whirlwind world of joy and heartbreak. This Netflix show addresses issues like discrimination, class and sexism between joyous dance and drag competitions.
Bored to Death (Amazon Prime): Jason Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames, a writer, romantic, and unlicensed private eye. When he isn’t struggling with his writing, he and his friends work to solve cases. Part stoner comedy, part comedic noir, this series on Amazon Prime is quirky fun.
On Body and Soul (Netflix): In this Hungarian film from 2017, two slaughterhouse workers have the same dream every night. In it, they meet in a forest, as deer, and fall in love. She’s autistic, he has a lame left arm. Both attracted and repelled by each other, they decide to try and make it work.
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Netflix), directed by Stanley Nelson. Creating has to be about change, the jazz legend Miles Davis says in this Netflix documentary. Track his storming of the New York scene, the women who shared and shaped his life, and his transformation from trumpeteer to musical innovator.
Parasite (Amazon Prime): If you’re looking for a heart-stopping descent into the wages of desperation, watch this Oscar-winning South Korean film about a family of street-smart have-nots and inch to the edge of your seat as they scrabble to earn a little bit for themselves, only to have things spin out in ways that are truly horrific.