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.
They say to conquer fear you must first confront it, which might explain why Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film about a deadly virus that claims millions of lives worldwide has been trending lately. As fears of the coronavirus outbreak in China continue to swirl, in late January, Contagion broke into the iTunes top 10 rental chart, an outlier among new releases and Oscar noms. Inspired in part by the 2003 SARS epidemic, the thriller bounces between continents and contingents, from World Health Organization officials to scientists to regular people quarantined at home. A rapidly spreading virus is perfect fodder for Soderbergh’s “hyperlink” style, and Contagion bounces from one megastar to the next – Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle and Kate Winslet, among others. The most harrowing aspect of the film is the decay of social order as more and more people become infected. Garbage collects in the streets; bustling cities become ghost towns; emergency services are put on hold; conspiracy theories bloom. Wash your hands, folks.
Tuca & Bertie (Netflix)
At the end of January, Netflix released the final episodes of its animated tragi-comedy BoJack Horseman, which ran for six seasons. Sadly, Tuca & Bertie, a buddy comedy created by BoJack producer Lisa Hanawalt, only lasted a single season in 2019 – but what a season. Hanawalt, who created the unique visual style of BoJack Horseman (set in a version of Hollywood where anthropomorphic animals live alongside people), has created another colourful, chaotic world where creatures look like animals, but grapple with very human ordeals. The show – which originated as a webcomic on the literary site Hazlitt – centres on two 30-year-old “bird women” and friends (voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong) who live in the same apartment building. Inventive and affecting, Tuca & Bertie has a loopy animated style that masks its often serious subject matter.
Class Divide (Crave)
If you’ve got Ontario school strikes on the brain – or the general rising inequality of life in Canada, and the world – this HBO documentary from 2015 might be a good choice. Class Divide tells the story of an elite private school in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan, where the film’s director, Marc Levin, has lived for decades. As the area transformed from a postindustrial bohemia to a creative-class paradise to a playground for the rich, inevitable tensions arose. Class Divide focuses on a handful of kids who attend the school, as well as a few prospective young students who live in a nearby public-housing building that overlooks it. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the kids on both sides of the street are fully aware of, and troubled by, the vast gulf that divides them. And this was before the existence of the massive Hudson Yards development, a fortress of luxury condos and shops. Class Divide tells what has become a maddeningly familiar story, but as with most great documentaries, god is in the details.
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