Most of us are under lockdown and turning to online entertainment. Some nights I don’t even know what to watch, and I write about film and series for a living. So, I thought it would help sift through the jumble, to compile a list of every title that a) I have ever reviewed positively and b) is available online. This is Part I of II, split into films versus series, and cinematic versus documentary.
Moffie – an unfinished review (https://www.moffiefilm.com/stream)
As extraordinary and as hauntingly beautiful as Skoonheid (Oliver Hermanus’s second film) was, I could only recommend it to diehard cinephiles, and still then I included a warning. It all builds up to a crushing scene which traumatised this rather thick-skinned reviewer. It attests to the power of the film. Moffie, even more extraordinary and more hauntingly beautiful than Skoonheid, is not Skoonheid. Everyone should see it. No warning necessary.
Joker is an expansive film, a cinematic marvel with plenty of jaw-dropping scenes. The unrelentingly dark nature of this instalment will, however, frighten many cinemagoers. Be warned. Or heartened.
Hustlers (DStv BoxOffice)
What a remarkable surprise this film turned out to be. The trailer shrewdly sold it as a comedy, with some inconsequential drama thrown in. Casting Jennifer Lopez, with her fluffy film history, only added to the expectation of it being a frothy romcom. Just with strippers. Nothing too gruelling – a Friday night film that would fill the seats. Surprise! It’s a gritty drama, an all-out condemnation of the greed of men, with rather great comedy thrown in – and, yes, with some strippers. Oh, and believe you me, JLo is a revelation as Ramona Vega.
Bombshell (DStv BoxOffice)
It’s not a perfect film, not by a long shot. It’s a bit shallow, glosses over Megyn’s and Gretchen’s bigoted views and is sappy at times. But who cares? It’s hugely entertaining. More importantly, it does perfectly capture the misogynist culture women across the world deal with daily.
Knives out (DStv BoxOffice)
What fun! On top of terrific casting, flawless styling and a house as interesting as the characters, Knives out is intelligent, funny, dark and, yes, hugely entertaining to watch. It will spoil the film to reveal any of the twists and surprises; just know that there are quite a few, and that this viewer certainly did not see them coming. Ana de Armas is perfection as the mild-mannered Marta, and the film ultimately revolves around her good heart. I haven’t enjoyed a whodunnit this much in years. Keep an eye out for the nod to Murder, she wrote.
Dank vader regisseur Matthys Boshoff het vir 99% van die film die stroopblik stewig toegehou. Racheltjie de Beer kon so maklik in melodrama verval het. Daar is aangrypende nuanses wat beïndruk.
Dié wat die storie van Racheltjie de Beer ken, weet tog hoe dit eindig, en tog kry Matthys dit reg om ons te laat hoop, om ons te laat gryp na grashalms in die hoop dat sy nie sterf nie. Bederfwaarskuwing: Sy sterf.
Blinded by the light (Netflix)
Blinded by the light, even though infused with heart and soul and a lovely sincerity, would have benefited from a tighter edit and much higher production values. Bruce Springsteen, known for keeping an album back for three years because he was not happy with a small detail, would have kept this film back for much longer.
The best of enemies (Netflix)
The styling is flawless, from Ann’s low-slung bosom to CP’s pants riding up over his hips. The slow tracking shots hold you, and the colour grading perfectly recreates the ’70s. The acting is superb all round. The music is carefully selected, not to overwhelm, but to add to scenes – look out for the lyrical Roy Orbison track lending an even more haunting feel to the Klan shooting up some girl’s house. There are very few unnecessary scenes in the 132 running minutes. The slow pace gives you time to get to know the characters (in varying degrees), but is never ever boring.
Marriage story (Netflix)
Thank you, Netflix, for creating a space (and paying) for films like these to be made. Even with big names attached to it, very few studios would’ve thrown money at this project in our current climate. It is not easy viewing, but for real cinephiles and lovers of gritty, realistic drama, it is essential viewing. The dissolution of a marriage, a relationship, is perfectly captured. Adam Driver stands out. He has a primal rawness that he can turn on at the flick of a switch. Watch out for the scene in his new apartment, where the two finally let rip. I needed a whisky after that. But don’t despair; there is a ray of light at the end of the film.
Kudos to Netflix for yet another brilliant art house film that might not otherwise have been made. Paddleton is a no-drama, slow-build-up portrayal of friendship, integrity and stepping up to the plate. It will sucker-punch you in the gut, and, for that reason, you will either hate it or love it. I loved it. There is not a whiff of Hollywood drama about this film. It develops slowly, but will not bore you. Every scene is measured, and both you and the cast have time to breathe. Most importantly, it is never sappy.
Die stropers (DStv/Showmax)
Die film lewer net genoeg emosie om jou aan die lewe te hou, om jou nie heeltemal afgeknou te laat voel nie. Die toneel waar Janno byvoorbeeld sy kamerlig aan- en afskakel, wys vir jou wat in sy hart is. Die plesier wat die rondloperhond bring, is tasbaar. So ook die kosbare oomblikke waar die twee ouer boeties met die kleinsussies speel, of vir hulle sing. Alhoewel jy regdeur voel die duiwel dans onder êrens rond.
Green book (DStv)
There are small moments of beauty and moments of gentle humour, often intertwined – moments that only strengthen this gentle film.
Mary Poppins returns (DStv)
It is a magical, mischievous, musical wonderland. It is the antithesis of all things Hollywood, all things shiny and false. It is pure and free and otherworldly.
Private life (Netflix)
The film deals with little else apart from infertility, so if you are not affected by it, directly or indirectly, Private life could be rather bleak. There are moments of dark humour, but this is mostly a devastating tale of infertility and the lengths people will go to to have children. Heartbreak is at the core of this film.
A star is born, apart from its faults, manages one thing deftly: to launch Lady Gaga’s acting career. (American horror story does not count.) She outshines (and outsings) the veterans in this film. Go, Gaga.
Leave no trace (Netflix)
The film ultimately questions issues such as living off the grid versus needing community, broken soldiers coming home, forced assimilation into society and religion, and father-daughter relationships. It questions these issues without taking a definitive stand on any of them. The film gives you room to breathe and perhaps even see both sides of the coin. Highly recommended.
Hotel Artemis (DStv/Showmax)
What a relief it is not to be bombarded by OTT blockbuster explosions, ten-car pile-ups, endless gore and ridiculous plot lines. For that alone, Hotel Artemis deserves an award of some kind. Luckily, this is not all that this almost-noir film has to offer.
Reitman’s use of editing and sound design adds to the insanity the viewer feels. There’s a scene where Marlo’s son is throwing a screaming tantrum in the car, and kicking the back of her chair to top it off. You are trapped in this car with child and parent screaming at one another. Then, the scene cuts to an aerial shot of the car and cuts all audio. Goosebumps.
Ready player one (Showmax)
You don’t need to get all, or any, of the references to enjoy the film. It is still a thrilling, albeit sweet adventure that will leave you gasping for breath.
There are many themes running through this film, the most obvious being self-destruction. When Lena returns, the hazmat suits ask her why she is the only one to return. Her answer is that she had something to come back for. You accept that she is referring to Kane. The other women all assumed it was a suicide mission, but went ahead anyway. They were subconsciously self-destructing, running away from pain or from addiction or from their dark side. The highlight of the film is an almost ballet-like sequence between Lena and her “other” in the light tower. Jaw-dropping stuff.
I, Tonya (DStv/Showmax)
Tonya Harding is not an easy woman to portray. It is still beyond me how Margot Robbie made her likeable, how she made me care for Tonya and even feel empathy for her. I left the cinema struck by the tragedy of it all, by how the judges looked down their noses at her and how her promising career ended up in the bin.
Wanneer jy die film kyk, voel dit asof die regisseur ’n sekere vryheid aan die akteurs gegee het om te ontspan en bloot te gesels. Ek dink aan die toneel by die dam waar die kelnerin en Pieter sit en gesels. Dit voel nie gejaag nie; dit voel nie asof elke skoot presies beplan en georkestreer is om by die begroting en tydlyn in te pas nie. Dit verleen ’n ontspanne, maar innemende kwaliteit aan die film.
Vuil wasgoed (DStv)
Die storie het interessante kinkels en die geweld is heel grafies sonder om oorboord te gaan. Van die scenario’s is te goed vir woorde. Ek dink nou spesifiek aan die toneel waar hulle die hele geldoptellery beplan in ’n crèche, op klein stoeltjies, by ’n klein tafeltjie, en ’n speelkaart gebruik om die roete uit te werk. Die film is die moeite werd net daarvoor, alhoewel Nico Panagio in aaklige bruin long johns jou ook sal laat grinnik.
Crime caper comedy
Liewe Kersfeesvader (Showmax)
Die hoogtepunt van die film is die tipe humor wat gebruik word. Dit is nie slapstick of die tipiese Hollywoodse een-reël-grappies nie, maar fyn humor. Dit herinner aan groot Australiese flieks soos Strictly ballroom of selfs (die minder geslaagde) The dressmaker. Die Aussies kan oordryf met humor, die mees surrealistiese tonele saamflans, onvergeetlike karakters skep en in twee sinne jou hart breek, maar jou ook laat lag terwyl die trane nog loop. Liewe Kersfeesvader se tonele en karakters is ook oordrewe, maar tog steeds menslik en snaaks en onvergeetlik.
Wat beïndruk, is die feit dat Vaselinetjie op haar innerlike krag staatmaak. Sy oorleef die kinderhuis. Sy oorleef ’n kêrel wat nie kan vrede maak met sy eie basterherkoms nie. Sy oorleef haar beste vriendin se selfmoordpoging. Ja, hierdie gebeure vorm haar, maar dit is haar innerlike kompas, haar fondasie wat haar beskerm teen hartseer, teen die pad byster raak. En waar kry sy hierdie fondasie? By Oumie en Oupie. Hulle is haar heenkome.
The wound (Showmax)
When I say The wound is transformative, I don’t use the word casually. With great care and respect, John Trengove and his team disconnect you from your world, and walk alongside you into a world foreign to most. You are made to wince, to care deeply – even for loathsome characters – and, ultimately, you are left winded by the weight of patriarchy and the tragic, yet perfect, end.
The first half of the film deals with the holidays at Camp Jened, the second half with the revolution it sparked. Disabled ramps and toilets are par for the course today – thanks to this same motley crew of disabled, horny and frustrated teens who met up at a summer camp that gave them a taste of a better, more independent life. They stayed in touch, fought to be a part of mainstream society, and then one day decided to stand up and be counted. Well, maybe sit or lie down or roll up and be counted. (I can make that joke. I had a disabled brother.) Nonetheless, they fought the US government and won.
Rolling thunder revue: A Bob Dylan story by Martin Scorsese (Netflix)
Rolling thunder revue: A Bob Dylan story by Martin Scorsese captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed during the fall of that year. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, Rolling thunder is a one-of-a-kind experience from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese.
Tell me who I am (Netflix)
What sets this film apart from other brilliant documentary films is the absolute grace these two brothers show each other. Yes, the story is gobsmacking, but the empathy, love and trust between Alex and Marcus in this impossible situation had me in tears throughout. Tell me who I am will intrigue you, question your views on life, but also humble you in the face of such compassion.
Westworld: “New gods are coming, and they are very angry” (DStv/Showmax)
Unless the season picks up speed and gains some clarity from episode five onwards, season three might be labelled as same old, same old, just in a new and sexy futuristic world. The showrunners certainly know what kind of competition they are up against. The crux is, even though I am at times lost in the subtext/host/human confusion, I am interested enough to stick around and see how it all pans out.
Jean Smart just picks the coolest parts. Go look at her IMDb profile. She has consistently been kicking ass since 1979. Watch all the seasons of Legion (2017–19) if you need proof. Then, there is Regina King, who has an on-screen presence that will make you quiver in your boots. Remember her in all three seasons of American crime (2015–17)? Or in The leftovers (2014–17)? Now, put these two together, throw in that cracker of a script I mentioned, and you will want to watch nothing else. And, yes, Don Johnson and Jeremy Irons are in it, too.
His dark materials (Showmax)
It is a slow burner, with solid special effects and incredible production values. The 14-year-old Dafne Keen is on track to become one of the greats. Oh, and you are going to love Iorek Byrnison, the bear.
It is not perfect, and it certainly does not push any boundaries. Yet, I find myself looking forward to every new episode. Even though I kinda know it won’t surprise me or shock me, I enjoy the easy pace; I enjoy how comfortably the ensemble cast just slip into the characters, into their trials and tribulations.
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
It is entertainment in its purest, most binge-worthy format. It contains very clever and subversive humour, so much freaking heart, enough tension to keep you coiled up until the end and all the superhero thrills.
The OA (Netflix)
Part I was a slow-moving, infuriating, weird and confusing tale of near-death experiences. It was also haunting and gripping and addictive. You cared deeply for these broken characters being driven to the edge of their humanity. Oh, and let’s not forget the “dance” sequences, which were totally freaky and weird, until they were evocative and life-changing.
Die beste gedeelte van die reeks, en hoekom ek sal aanhou kyk, is die “chemistry” tussen die twee hoofkarakters, Bas Koorts (Chris Vorster) en Beatrice Mack (Monique Rockman). Hy verteenwoordig die ouer generasie, wysheid en kalmte. Sy is die jong, hardegat sersant wat oë rol, haar eks “ghost” en te veel drink. Hulle irriteer en terg mekaar, maar die een leer by die ander.
What an out-and-out joy to watch. You have a whole town of strong women, a deliciously malicious Jeff Daniels, characters loyal to their deaths, plenty of thrilling showdowns and shoot-outs, the freak accident that killed the town’s men, and then you have Merritt Wever as a pants-wearing, no-shit-taking cowgirl. (I know, you had to google her. It’s okay. She is underappreciated. She almost stole the show from Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie.)
One must concentrate when watching this incredible German-language Netflix original. Pause if need be, as Dark is an intelligent, complicated web of murder and dysfunction set in three different time periods. Yes, there are some intricate sci-fi wormholes thrown in, but this does not overshadow the character-driven narrative or the exploration of the human psyche. The series is tightly edited, and all the threads do come together in the end. Just don’t blink.
Drama/dark murder mystery/sci-fi
The good place (Netflix)
This half-an-hour sitcom combines sunny humour, complex philosophy simplified and a delightful Ted Danson in a career-best role! What more do you want? Okay, you also get Kristen Bell as the lead and a cameo by Maya Rudolph. (How I love the genius of Maya.)
Comedy with depth
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
I watched season one to switch off after a tough day. You knew what to expect – half an hour of quirky characters, definite laughs and great acting. It never disappointed. But, as the series grew, it slowly turned into something more than a well-crafted sitcom. Creators Eugene Levy and his son Daniel Levy introduce you to the somewhat one-dimensional characters in season one, making you laugh at them but also like them. Then, they slowly add every character’s depth, flaws and humanity, and suddenly you realise you love them. On more than one occasion during season four, I ended up in tears. Watch out for the two versions of Tina Turner’s “You’re the best”.
Comedy with depth
Counterpart is a slow-burning dystopian espionage series that questions how decisions influence who we eventually become, and how different we would be if we had married someone else, or got that promotion, or moved to another country. Fascinating, but still entertaining.
The devil next door (Netflix)
I thought I had, in my lifetime, seen comprehensive coverage of the Holocaust. Visiting Auschwitz in 2017 certainly left me reeling. For this series to move me beyond words was certainly a surprise. It also kept me glued to the screen throughout the five episodes. Is it him? Is it not? Is he one of the worst human beings ever? Or a doting husband, father and grandfather who slaved away at the Ford factory to support his family?