Let’s address the elephant in the room. This column is usually here to present the best new cinematic releases for the month ahead. However, theatres have rightfully closed their doors and Hollywood has screeched to a standstill as we all adjust to new social distancing measures. So, this month’s column is going to be a little different.
Instead, James Palmer and George Forster are here to give you 10 recommendations available online right now to help get you through these hard times.
This is Flip Screen’s Guide to April 2020.
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Despite Willem Dafoe gaining an Oscar nomination for his role as Vincent Van Gogh, it seems that not enough people are talking about At Eternity’s Gate, one of the most visually stunning films of recent years. Shot on location in the countryside of France where Van Gogh lived during his final years, director Julian Schnabel perfectly reflects the thought-process of the famed artist. The camera never stops, subjectively swaying back and forth with whatever Van Gogh is doing. Plus, with a backdrop of some of the brightest yellows you will ever see, At Eternity’s Gate is more warming than you may think.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
Nilson & Schwartz, Amazon Video
2019 was an amazing year for film, with instant classics like Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Knives Out all releasing to well-deserved acclaim, however The Peanut Butter Falcondeserves to be one of the year’s highlights. The film has absolutely everything you could possibly want: a fantastic interplay between costars Shia LaBoeuf and Zack Gottsagen;delightful secondary characters; and an unrivalled tender charm. My heart melted at least four times when I first watched with my co-writer James Palmer, and I’m ready to melt again now it is available on Amazon Video.
People often forget that Netflix has b-movie classics like Coffy hidden away in its locker. Arguably the most famous Blaxploitation poster (and probably movie), Coffy has a simple plot:revenge. Pam Grier plays the titular character, becoming a vigilante who seeks vengeance against a heroin dealer responsible for her sister’s addiction. Notable in its depiction of a strong black female lead, something rare in the genre of its time, as well as sparking an anti-drug message, Coffy stands strong against other Blaxploitation flicks.
Drive to Survive (2019-2020)
I might be showing my inner boomer here, but I love Formula 1. The spectacle of wheel to wheel racing and the competition itself has always been enough to get me invested. However, since the 2020 season has been postponed, I’ve started watching Drive to Survive on Netflix. Each series covers the previous year’s F1 season, with unprecedented camera access, interviews,and jaw-dropping storylines. The intense drama between teammates, rivals and pit bosses are engaging enough for audiences that wouldn’t usually care about F1; my family and I have been binging the second season this last week and have been gripped the whole time.
If you’re more interested in box sets then I would strongly suggest the anthology adaptation of Fargo. Many originally believed it was a faithful remake of the Coen Brothers beloved crime drama, that was until Key & Peele showed up as private investigators. Each series offers a different yet similarly oddensemble, even including aliens at some point. As the shows gone on, it’s been able to experiment with its structure and style more, no more evident than the latest season (featuring Ewan McGregor playing twins).
Catch 22 (2019)
Michôd, 4 On Demand
Catch 22 is one of those properties that people claim to be impossible to adapt from Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel. So, it comes as no surprise that the 1970 film adaptation starring Alan Arkin was received to lukewarm reviews. It wouldn’t be until 2019 that the novel would get another on-screen run, this time asa limited series available on Channel 4 On Demand. Though unlike its 1970 counterpart, it’s is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in a long time. I’ve always been a sucker for satire and Catch 22 hits all the marks for me – a delicate balance of laugh out loud humour and biting critique, capped off withChristopher Abbott’s (It Comes at Night) excellent performance as Yo-yo that really deserves more eyeballs.
Paris is Burning (1991)
Netflix has a large catalogue of documentary films, series and mini-series, but if you haven’t seen Paris is Burning yet, you’re missing out. Recently added to the Criterion Collection, Jennie Livingston’s documentary is a cult classic within LGBTQ+ film. Filmed in the late 80s, it follows the African-American, Latino, gay and transgender communities preparing for the New York drag balls, the ‘Superbowl’ of the New York LGBTQ+ community. Following multiple characters, and with a runtime of just 78 minutes, Paris is Burning has a special place in the history books for queer and documentary filmmaking.
The Death of Stalin (2017)
More satire now, this time from the master himself, Armando Iannucci. Mastermind behind satirical greats such as The Thick of It and The Day Today, Iannucci returns with his hilarious imagining on the Bolshevik infighting in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s death. The excellent screenplay is supercharged by an all-star cast including Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Simon Russell Beale, who make the film the enjoyable romp that it is. It’s difficult to make such a tragic part of history hilarious but The Death of Stalin more than manages it. You can find the film right now on Netflix.
First Reformed (2017)
If you’re someone who prefers to fuel your anxiety during this global pandemic rather than detract from it, then First Reformedis the choice for you. Written and directed by Paul Schrader, the indie drama focuses on the themes of faith, climate change and commercialism. Ethan Hawke plays Pastor Toller, minister of a historical church which is more of a tourist attraction than a place of worship. When asked by local resident Mary (Amanda Seyfried) to try and help her husband with his crisis of faith, Toller ends up having his own doubts. It’s a truly powerful film that may have gone under the radar for a few film-lovers.
Somewhat of a change of pace from my other lighter suggestions, but Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is just too good to miss. Revenge is one of the best non-English language films of the last decade, a brutal and highly stylised tale of revenge, fronted by the wonderful Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz.. Though it can be rather graphic at times, it’s one to watch for those of you with a strong stomach. You can find Revenge on horror streaming service Shudder.