One of my favorite features of modern life is the privilege of watching almost any movie on demand (with a slight delay from the release date) in the comfort of our own living room, with headphones for sound quality and subtitles so that my hearing-impaired husband and I can understand every word uttered. Private screenings used to be the privilege of the rich. Nyah nyah na nyah nyah.
For some time we have been sharing our list of favorite movies each Christmas with our friends, and now I do it on this blog.
Our Netflix feature film watching was down a bit this year, maybe because we watched more good series, see below.
We loved seeing some of the popular films of 2018 as they came out on DVD, including
But we also discovered some lesser-known films from that year and a little—or a lot—farther back. Here are some we awarded 5 stars (in no particular order):
I, Tonya 2017—Remember skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in the 1990s? We do, and this biopic is both wickedly funny and sympathetic to poor Tonya.
Pather Panchali 1958—This is a Satyajit Ray classic, the first and probably the best in a trilogy. Heartrending and heartwarming at the same time. Aparajito, number 2 in the trilogy, is on our Q to watch. The World of Apu, number 3, isn’t available.
Fences 2016—Working as a trash collector in 1950s Pittsburgh, the Denzel Washington character struggles to transcend the bitter experience of being a talented baseball player denied the opportunity to play in the majors because of his race. With Viola Davis.
The Breadwinner 2017—Animated tale about life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, in which 11-year-old Parvana dresses as a boy to become the family breadwinner.
The Red Turtle 2017—No dialogue for this beautiful animated fable about a man who washes up on a remote desert island, where he builds a makeshift raft to escape but is repeatedly turned back by an enormous red turtle.
American Wrestler: The Wizard 2016—To escape the Iran-Iraq war, an Iranian teen flees to live with family in Northern California, arriving during the Iran hostage crisis. Finding neither his kin nor his classmates welcoming, Ali joins the wrestling team to fit in.
A Street Cat Named Bob 2016—A street musician and recovering addict adopts—or is adopted by–a stray cat who becomes part of the act. Based on a true story.
Girl 2018 (streaming)—Poignant Belgian film based on the true story of a young trans ballet dancer.
And Breathe Normally 2018 (streaming)—A gritty, humane story of a single mom and an asylum seeker facing deportation. Set in Iceland.
The Mountain Between Us 2017—Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are so much fun to watch in this suspenseful drama about a plane crash and subsequent survival trek.
Marshall 2017—Recounting an early case of attorney Thurgood Marshall — who would later become the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Riveting biopic.
LBJ 2017—Woody Harrelson as LBJ is as good as Christian Bale in Vice.
The Hate U Give 2018—Trenchant and realistic story about current race relations seen through a teen’s struggles to do the right thing while caught between two worlds.
Free Solo 2018 (documentary)—A literal cliff-hanger. Climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes.
Several streaming documentaries got our thumbs-up as well, including
The Great Hack—Cambridge Analytica and the dark side of social media.
American Factory—What happens when a struggling factory in a struggling American town gets sold to the Chinese? Crossculture struggles!
NOVA: The Thai Cave Rescue—Twelve young soccer players and their coach trapped in a flooded cave. (Happy ending.)
Period. End of Sentence.—An uplifting documentary on the tender subject of menstruation. Female entrepreneurs in India develop a process to make and sell inexpensive pads.
As for binge-worthy series, we also enjoyed a number of popular favorites such as
Queer Eye (especially in Japan!)
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
The Great British Baking Show
as well as two other British competitions similar to Baking Show:
Big Dreams Small Spaces—Homeowners redo their own private gardens with the aid of British gardening star Monty Hall.
Great Interior Design Challenge—Amateur designers redo other people’s homes
Four outstanding documentary or docudrama series:
When They See Us—Everybody should see this series on the miscarriage of justice against the Central Park Five, and what happened after they were exonerated.
Unbelievable—A rape victim isn’t believed and the assaults continue in another state. Great storytelling and profound commentary on rape trauma and the difference local police cultures can make.
Diagnosis—NYT medical columnist crowdsources help to diagnose baffling medical conditions.
The Spy—Reenactment of a true Israeli spy thriller. Sasha Baron Cohen is fascinating in a serious role.
Two well-made drama/suspense series
Black Earth Rising—International Court of Justice, war crimes in east-central Africa. I know enough about this to say it is quite realistic. The acting, production, and storytelling are amazing.
Godless—Nothing realistic about this Wild West series about a town that left-behind women take over but lots of sometimes violent entertainment. If you miss Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey, watch this.
And just for fun—
Pose—Trans culture in Harlem before trans was anywhere near socially acceptable. Suffering, heart, exuberance.
Losers—The often-compelling stories of people who came in second, or last. Documentaries.
The Kindness Diaries–Guy on motorbike travels the world depending on the goodness of strangers. Documentaries.
Dating Around—A dating setup much kinder than Bachelor/Bachelorette. Five blind dates. Goal is not a match but to find one person worthy of a second date.
What were your favorites this year? Did we miss any?