A couple weeks ago a friend asked me which tv shows I watch. And I’m like, Uh. I hadn’t watched a show past one or two episodes in months. Not for any noble reason. Time maybe. My old watching time (nap time) disappeared entirely this year. I get low doses via online clips of John Oliver. And family movie night has given Claire and me a running joke of Unikitty quotes. Justin and I have watched two movies together in the last few months: In A World and Catching Fire. So time is one reason. Second reason is I don’t always make great use of my resources: I bought Amazon Prime for free shipping. That’s the lowest common denominator of the perks. So I’ve spent the last two weeks buying up recommended (by friends, podcasts and critics) series, documentaries and movies to stream.
This is what I’ve watched and recommend:
Stories We Tell from Sarah Polley Polley records the story of the story she heard about who her biological father is, using family and friend interviews. She finds her biological father and he has a voice in the film. I really like two threads Polley runs through this documentary. One is her use of actors and to recreate scenes, as if from old home movies. And the father who raised her, largely on his own after her mother died, reads his narrative aloud, to a beautiful conclusion.
The Overnighters from Jesse Moss Set in Williston, North Dakota, Moss follows men who arrive from around the world to work in the oil boom. Rents and housing prices are too high for some men to afford, even if they have a job, so a local pastor opens his church to give people a place to sleep. The community and church is divided about this charity. It’s messy. And as the documentary ends, it remains messy in an unexpected way. I still think about the people involved.
Nebraska directed by Alexander Payne, written by Bob Nelson I love this film. A son drives his father from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska because his father won’t shut up about the million dollar magazine sweepstakes he’s sure he won. The family dynamic – at the house, in the car, at the parents’ hometown – is sweet, tired and painful in turn. The scenery is recognizable to anyone who knows road trips west and small farming towns but Payne shoots in black and white, making the ordinary a little more stark, a little more beautiful. The pace is slow, just right. I love watching a movie that feels like reading a novel.
And Two BBC Series
The Bletchley Circle, Seasons 1 and 2 (Mystery Fix!) This series is set in 1950s London and centers on a group of WWII codebreakers who have since left their top-secret work for marriage, motherhood and career. Only one of the four lived the travel adventure the girlfriends talked about during their time at Bletchley Park. But when one woman finds a pattern to a series of murders she invites the others to help solve the crime. That first case kicks off three more short cases featured in the second season.
Call The Midwife, Season 1 Another series set in 1950s London, at the East End, and based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth. I read the first memoir, Call The Midwife, when I was pregnant with Grant. A couple of the women’s stories stayed with me and this first season feels a lot like reading the book: each situation has its moment, but another call always comes. I’ll watch the next seasons, but might reread the first memoir and the next two first.