Here are some shits to watch.
The American Barbecue Challenge (Netflix)
I’m literally obsessed with reality cooking shows and for my money none were as fun, well-shot, innovative and surprisingly compelling than Netflix’s American Barbecue Challenge. Following the journey of eight incredibly affable and different American barbecue pit masters as they compete against each other for first place. The challenges are unique and difficult, the Q is mouthwateringly delicious looking but it’s the contestants themselves that make this ultimately worth binging, all overcoming obstacles with grace and humility, all with overwhelming respect for each other. It’s take the heart of Great British Baking Show and adds a salty Southern twang. And you’ll learn so much about barbecue.
Batman: The Animated Series (HBOMax)
How overcome with joy I was when HBOMax released all 109 episodes of this childhood favorite of mine. Looking at it now as an adult, this is really quality storytelling with excellent characterizations (Mark Hamill is brilliant as The Joker) and gorgeous art deco animation. Due to the anthology nature of the show of not many continuous storylines, you can watch the episodes out of order to avoid a string of duds. Here’s my recommendations, just from Season 1:
Episode #4 “Heart of Ice” (Mr. Freeze episode)
Episode #5&6 “Feat of Clay” (Clay Face episode)
Episode #8 “Joker’s Favor” (Joker and Road Rage)
Episode #17&18 “Two-Face” (Two-Face Origin Story)
Episode #24 “Mad as a Hatter” (Mad Hatter = Ultimate Incel)
Episode #26 “Perchance to Dream” (Twilight Zone-esque episode)
Episode #32 “Beware the Grey Ghost” (Heartwarming w/ guest star Adam West)
Episode #35 “Almost Got ‘Im” (Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Penguin, Croc)
Episode #38 “Christmas with the Joker”
Episode #41 “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” (Riddler episode)
Episode #45 “What is Reality?” (Riddler episode)
Episode #46 “The Laughing Fish” (Joker episode)
Episode #47 “Harley and Ivy” (Thelma & Louise riff)
Episode #49 “The Man Who Killed Batman” (Funniest episode)
Episode #51&52 “Robin’s Reckoning” (Robin Origin Story)
Episode #53 “Birds of a Feather” (Penguin Incel Story)
Episode #59 “Read My Lips” (Ventriloquist Gangster)
City of God (HBOMax)
A strikingly powerful and entertaining Brazilian crime masterpiece from the early 2000s, City of God spans two decades in the slums of Rio de Janiero shuffling from a dozen or so fascinating characters including an aspiring photo journalist, a beach hippie, a bus driver forced into a life of crime to protect his family, a sociopathic young drug lord and his disco-loving, conscience-having sidekick trying to go straight. It’s a wild ride and manages to stuff a miniseries worth of stories into two hours and ten minutes.
I May Destroy You (HBOMax)
Famously snubbed by the Golden Globes, Michaela Cole‘s twelve episode HBO/BBC collaboration is a brilliant darkly comedic and affecting 30 minute drama about surviving sexual assault and the societal double standard depending on who the victim is. If this all sounds too bleak to watch, then I assure you it’s not. Michaela Cole (writing and directing every episode as well as playing the lead) deftly handles the themes into something extremely palatable while never sugar-coating anything. It was one of the best shows of 2020, sadly a lot of people missed.
It’s A Sin (HBOMax)
Heartbreaking but incredibly well written British miniseries about five friends in 1980s London trying to survive the AIDS epidemic. Spanning an entire decade in just five one-hour episodes, the show features some of the richest characters currently on a television drama and the perfect blend of comedic and tragic elements. Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris guest star.
Romeo Must Die (HBOMax)
Dumb but entertaining early 2000s Romeo and Juliet update following the daughter of a black crime lord (Aaliyah) who falls in love with the son of a Chinese crime lord (Jet Li) in the middle of a vicious turf war. You never buy the romance for a second, mostly because of how stiff Li is as an actor, but it’s a fun little diversion on a Sunday afternoon that also features a very good Delroy Lindo, a very bad DMX and very funny Anthony Anderson as a really stupid version of Mercutio. You’ll never look at touch football the same way again.
Small Axe (Amazon Prime)
An anthology series comprised of five wonderful and completely different feature length films by director Steve McQueen about Trinidadian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1990s. The first one, Mangrove, is the best courtroom drama I’ve seen in years but the the real standout is Lovers Rock, an immersive and gorgeous house party experience set in the 1980s. It’s rare when a filmmaker makes two films in a year, but McQueen has made five. What a bad ass.
Wendy and Lucy (Amazon Prime)
Low key brilliance from First Cow helmer Kelly Reichardt, about a struggling young adult (Michelle Williams – maybe the best I’ve seen her) trying to get her dog and herself to Alaska in order to find work. Unfortunately, they break down in Oregon without any money and barely any hope. I can’t remember a movie that more accurately captures the shame of other people seeing you struggle/be poor and the film’s representation of how more fortunate people react these people is spot on – some are helpful, some are assholes, most are indifferent. Running a tight 80 minutes, it’s over before you want it to be.