Netflix Picks of the Week
Silence of the Lambs
This 1991 horror classic is another one of my personal favorites and available to view on Netflix. This creepy psychological horror thriller finds Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) interviewing cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to gain insight into the mind of a killer. The film doesn't take long to get under the viewer's skin. The concept in and of itself is disturbing, but the film goes into it all the way without sugarcoating anything. It's an undeniable horror masterpiece and a masterclass in suspense and tension. Anthony Hopkins is barely on screen, and yet he leaves an undeniable mark on the film's tone. Every performance is directed to perfection. The script is also incredibly tight, with the psychological breakdown of disturbing characters like Lecter and Buffalo Bill providing fascinating insight into the mind of the grisly murderers and killers we hear about on the news. This film is the only horror film to date that has won Best Picture, and it is well deserved. If you haven't seen this classic, check this out as soon as you can.
Beasts of No Nation
This Netflix original film is the second best in their catalog and one of the best films of 2015. It was sadly overlooked by the Academy at the time since it was a Netflix release, but that didn't stop the film from getting the recognition it deserved from lovers of film everywhere. The film follows a child soldier named Agu (Abraham Attah) who is recruited into a guerrilla army by a warlord (Idris Elba) during a fictional civil war in a fictional African nation. The performance by Abraham Attah was one of the best child actor performances I've ever seen. He plays a battle hardened soldier so well that I forgot I was watching an actor. Idris Elba also gives one of his best ever performances as the unnamed warlord, playing a very complicated character with gravitas and bringing layers of empathy to his character. The film shows the horrors of war on full display, and the script does not shy away from exploring the consequences and complicated politics that goes into these kinds of civil wars. You slowly watch as these characters abandon their humanity for the sake of a cause, and you wonder if they can ever find themselves again after the atrocities they have seen and committed. This is a very dark film that is not for the faint of heart, but if you're into war films or want a fascinating, well directed, well shot drama to watch, then I highly recommend this film.
The Vietnam War
If you don't know much about the Vietnam War, this 10-episode docuseries will leave you both disgusted and fascinated with the conflict. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick spent over a decade compiling archival footage, documents, and interviews for the project, which makes History Channel documentaries look like student work. It constantly shifts between U.S and Vietnamese narratives, starting with the revolution against French colonial rule and ending with Watergate. The interviews with jaded veteran foot soldiers are reminiscent of Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels, while the interviews with decision-makers and historians' analysis make it seem like the U.S had no choice but to invade. The Vietnam War will make you a skeptic of our government if you aren't already, and with narration by Peter Coyote and a soundtrack featuring Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Byrds, it's a fun watch.
One Day at a Time
This Netflix reboot of a classic 1975 sitcom has all the heart of its predecessor, updated for a modern audience. It follows the life of Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), a Cuban-American veteran living in an apartment with her two children and aging mother, played by the indomitable Rita Moreno. Other characters include Penelope’s privileged landlord, her meek boss, and various love interests. The series gained critical acclaim in its first two seasons for tackling serious issues such as racism, homophobia, immigration, and mental illness. The third season, released on Feb. 8, continues the trend, discussing drugs, alcoholism, teenage sex, and more. Some might accuse it of being moralistic, but it approaches each episode with such genuine heart that any missteps are easy to forgive. In an age of cinematic television and anti-heroes, it’s nice to see a sitcom with a consistently funny and lovable cast. One Day at a Time will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it just might make you wish you were part of the Alvarez family as well.