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Toronto artists and cultural figures tell us what they're streaming and renting online while stuck at home
It’s starting to sink in, isn’t it? We’re all looking at a lot of downtime and scrolling through social media just makes things worse. Fortunately, we have literally thousands of movies and TV shows available to us via streaming services. NOW reached out to various cultural figures in Toronto to see what they’d recommend to pass the time. Here’s what they’re watching.
Sorry that it’s way more than five, but this is what I’ve watched so far.
Juliet Of The Spirits (Federico Fellini, 1965) Looks like Tati. Streaming on the Criterion Channel
Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004). Available for rental and purchase on iTunes
Limite (Mario Peixoto, 1931). Streaming on Criterion Channel.
Writer/producer, The Beaverton
I went with all comedies because in times like these, to quote Harris Wittels, “I just think motherfuckers wanna laugh.”
1. Avenue 5
Armando Iannucci is a known comedy genius… and also maybe a soothsayer? After unintentionally predicting a ton of cultural and political trends with The Day Today and Veep, he released this eerily prescient HBO series right as Coronavirus started to spread. A space cruise ship is knocked off course, causing passengers to be stuck in isolation and panic to spread rapidly. Unfortunately the only available leaders are an ineffectual hairpiece (Hugh Laurie) and an egomaniac businessman who is desperate to avoid being blamed for the whole thing (Josh Gad).
If all that sounds too real you’ll still enjoy Zach Wood’s gleeful nihilism as he tells the passengers they’re all already dead, so why not try one of the ship’s signature cocktails?
Streaming on Crave+
Funny, sex-positive, pro-LGBTQ and cringey in an enjoyable way (at least until one of the episodes deals with a sexual experience/failure you remember from your own teenage years) this British series is a delightful way to spend some of your suddenly abundant free time. Plus, at this point in self-isolation you’ve probably gotten sick of your regular porn. And no matter your sexual orientation I can guarantee that Gillian Anderson crisply and politely describing various sex acts is about to be your new fetish.
Streaming on Netflix
My friend and Beaverton colleague Wendy Litner created a truly charming web series about that classic comedy topic: infertility. Season 1 follows a young couple as they try to conceive a baby with in vitro after failing to do so the fun way. Through hormone injections, attempts to produce a sample of semen in a doctor’s office and listening to a mountain of unwanted advice on how to get pregnant, they manage to persevere by relying on each other and throwing the odd rage fit at an infertility support group.
The show’s heart carries through to the second season as they go through the even more complicated world of adoption. Sincerely, if the last shot of season 2 doesn’t make you tear up then you are dead inside.
Streaming on CBC Gem
4. No Laugh Newsroom
Look, sometimes when you’re bored you just want to see people doing and saying ridiculous things. Fortunately CollegeHumor is here to satisfy this need with a whole web series seemingly based off the “Ron Burgundy will read anything you put on a teleprompter” scene from Anchorman. Comedians playing newscasters have to read ridiculous lines off the prompter that they have never seen before – and they lose points every time they laugh.
It’s a simple concept but it leads to truly great comedy moments like when one performer’s lines are all just dialogue from Fat Bastard in Austin Powers 2 or when one breaks so hard she ends up sounding like Jimmy Stewart. The best episode is when, instead of jokes, the writers devoted a whole episode to revealing true, very embarrassing, facts about one of the comedians, and we get to watch him react in real time. Most of the episodes are on YouTube but if you want to see more and support independent web comedy you can sign up for Dropout, CollegeHumor’s streaming service that features a ton of great shows like Um Actually, Dimension 20 and Total Forgiveness.
Streaming on YouTube
5. Slings & Arrows
I have no idea why this show is not constantly described as the greatest Canadian comedy of all time, and the best thing Mark McKinney has ever done. That’s right, I just put it ahead of Kids In The Hall. Fight me, Internet! But first go watch this truly hilarious, insane, wonderful TV show about the behind-the-scenes antics of a Shakespearean theatre company. Paul Gross has never been funnier (well, maybe in Passchendaele but that was unintentional) and Martha Burns steals every scene she is in. It has no thematic tie-in that I can find to our current situation it’s just really, really funny.
Streaming on CBC Gem
Actor (Locke & Key) and filmmaker (Lira’s Forest)
We’re all thinking about family right now, so here are five movies about that.
4. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher, 2014). Streaming on Criterion Channel
5. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2013). Available for purchase on iTunes (where it’s misfiled as a TV show)
Actor (The Knick, Vikings, Disappearance At Clifton Hill)
The Good Place – How they managed to make a TV show about moral philosophy so funny and engaging is a feat worthy of the world’s great philosophers. Seasons 1-3 streaming on Netflix all four seasons available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) Come for Paul Newman, stay for Robert Redford with the music of Burt Bacharach. Streaming on Crave with a subscription to Starz, and available for rental or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft and Cineplex
Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000) You thought you were lonely. Streaming on Crave with a subscription to Starz, and available for rental or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube and Cineplex
Actor/screenwriter/producer (Great Great Great)
3. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2015). Streaming on Crave with a Starz subscription, Amazon Prime Video, Tubi and Shudder, and available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube and Cineplex.
Director (End Of Days Inc., Blood And Water)
Here’s a handful of recommendations that satisfy some of my various movie interests:
Just Wright (Sanaa Hamri, 2010) Shiny rom-com. Streaming on Crave with a Starz subscription (but only until March 31), and available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube and Cineplex.