Before you turn on your television, iPad or laptop this weekend and drown in options, The Globe and Mail presents three best cinematic bets that are worth your coveted downtime – no commute to the movie theatre required.
High Maintenance (Crave)
This delightful anthology series about a Brooklyn weed dealer (Ben Sinclair) and his sundry clients has recently returned for a fourth season on HBO, and it’s just the antidote to the late-winter blues (not least because the season was filmed in the summer). High Maintenance, which began as a lowly web series on Vimeo before HBO began airing it in 2016, was created by Sinclair and his then-wife, Katja Blichfeld, who worked for years as a casting director. The show hones in on a different character or set of characters in each episode, and for this reason it owes a huge debt to Blichfeld’s background. The best thing about High Maintenance is its wide-ranging and largely unknown cast – the show has earned comparisons to Law & Order, which famously employed basically every actor in New York over its 20-year run. Most half-hour episodes are split into two stories; sometimes they converge, and sometimes they don’t. With High Maintenance – truly the Kinder Surprise of TV shows – you never really know what you’re in for.
Slings & Arrows (Acorn TV)
For years if you wanted to watch this mid-2000s Canadian series, you had to buy the DVDs. Thanks to the British streaming service Acorn TV, you can now easily watch the show so nice, it moved The Globe and Mail to use the term “outrageous fortune” in a headline twice. Set behind the scenes at a Stratford-like Shakespeare festival, Slings & Arrows centres on disgraced actor/director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), who returns to the fictional New Burbage Festival after the death of a former friend and collaborator. Does the ghost of that friend and collaborator haunt Geoffrey throughout the show’s three seasons? You bet he does! Slings & Arrows is both absurd and affecting, with stellar performances from Canadian actors who went on to do big things, such as Rachel McAdams and Luke Kirby. Its three seasons are just six episodes each, and you’ll tear through them like a can of Pringles.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Amazon Prime)
The rail blockades unfolding across Canada in response to a proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in Northern B.C. have me thinking about the purpose and efficacy of protest. Hence this French film from 2017, set in early 1990s Paris and centred on a group of AIDS activists literally fighting for their lives. BPM (Beats Per Minute) largely focuses on the struggle between members of the Paris branch of ACT UP (the political action organization Larry Kramer launched in the late 1980s) and the French pharmaceutical industry, which is slow to respond to the rapidly spreading virus. Director Robin Campillo and screenwriter Philippe Mangeot were both members of ACT UP at this time, which might explain why the movie feels so effortlessly lived-in. A fictional companion to the excellent 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague, BPM is an unflinching portrait of a community in the throes of a catastrophic pandemic. It’s also a useful illustration of the power of collective anger, and the refusal to stand down.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.