You’ll probably never have enough time to see all of the TV and movies that pique your interest. In order to decide which projects are worth our precious time, some trust the opinion of a pop culture obsessed (and often slightly pretentious) friend, and some just pick whatever Netflix recommends.
Film festivals can also provide some excellent curation for what’s out there. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City showcased 96 films and 21 television episodes featuring outstanding performances from A-list talent such as Ewan McGregor, Arrested Development actress Alia Shawkat, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Westworld actor Jeffrey Wright.
If you couldn’t make it out to New York City, don’t worry. Digital Trends picked out the six best films and TV shows from the festival that you’ll be able to sit back and stream this year.
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
This gripping HBO documentary delves into the untimely death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year old Black woman who allegedly hanged herself inside a Waller County prison. Her death sparked nationwide protests about police brutality, and Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland is as much a documentary as it is the criminal trial Bland’s death never received.
You don’t just hear the Waller County police force’s account of how Bland’s dead body was found. You see her lifeless body spread out across the ground for the first time ever. You don’t just hear her family recount the emotions they felt when they first found out from a doctor that Bland’s wounds were not consistent with that of someone who was hanged. You are a fly on the wall in the confidential meeting, and see the pain pour out of their eyes.
Say Her Name is one of those documentaries so good it’ll make you cry.
Available Fall 2018 on HBO Go and HBO Now:
There’s a rule in improv comedy known as “yes, and…” that mandates those improving a scene must go along with whatever scenario the other spontaneously brings up, and add to it. Director Miguel Arteta made a 93-minute homage to that rule in the form of a love story. In Duck Butter, Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa) go from strangers to spending an entire day together, having sex every hour on the hour, after agreeing to a series of requests from each other that constantly escalate in emotional severity.
Beyond the sex, Duck Butter has an intimate feel to it, as if you’re watching a video diary of two women going through the ups and downs of trying to cram a meaningful relationship into 24 hours. Shawkat’s performance earned her the Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film award at the festival, and it is much deserved. You’ll come away from Duck Butter with a new view on the veteran actress, and the meaning of “duck butter.”
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime’s Zoe is sci-fi love story set in a world where falling in love is as easy as swallowing a pill, and the viability of a relationship is determined by a computer program. The Drake Doremus-directed film centers around a relationship between lead designer Cole (Ewan McGregor), and Zoe (Léa Seydoux), two colleagues at the company that makes that futuristic technology, along with humanoid robots meant to be lifelong companions for people, a la HBO’s Westworld.
McGregor plays Cole with a cold pragmatism typically reserved for computer geniuses trying to automate humanity. You probably can already tell what the twist of the film is, and that’s ok, because Zoe is not structured around a big, final reveal. Rather, this film excels at using the sci-fi elements of the plot to elucidate the complexities of love and humanity, in a way unlike many sci-fi films covering the same topic.
When you hear the term “enhanced” in sports, it often carries a pejorative connotation, evoking memories of the steroid era in baseball of the late 1990s. The first episode of ESPN’s six-part documentary series Enhanced explores the next unnatural phenomena taking over sports: data.
The episode does an engrossingly compelling job of outlining the future of data science in sports by delving into how engrained it already is in your favorite pastimes. We see how the Houston Rockets of the NBA used surveillance equipment made for Israeli anti missile defense to track players’ movements on the court, and how the Houston Astros of the MLB fired its entire scouting team in favor of algorithms picking the team’s future players.
National Geographic’s historical drama series Genius has been a history book come to life since its debut at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival with its inaugural season about the brilliant and precarious life of Albert Einstein. This season, the life of Pablo Picasso is the focus, with Antonio Banderas portraying the iconic artist late in his life. In typical Genius fashion, the first episode jumps between Picasso at the ages of 9, 13, 18, and 57, with each age building upon the mythology of Picasso from prior years.
In the first episode, Picasso is met with the gruesome effects of fascism in Spain and is compelled to create a massive painting at the Spanish Pavilion as a political statement against Spanish general Francisco Franco Bahamonde. The episode expertly shows how a precocious pre-teen’s prodigious talents catalyzed the irreverence of a teenager fighting against restrictive traditionalism in the art world, in order to contextualize a middle-aged Picasso’s decision to make this grand political statement.
Genius: Picasso could end up being one of the best dramas on TV in 2018.
Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story
The death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman in February 2012 engulfed the nation in racial tensions, and inspired Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story . The first episode of the documentary series, executive produced by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, recaps the events that led to Martin’s death and the civil unrest that resulted from it.
An ominous tone permeates the entire first episode of the series. Even when Martin’s family is reminiscing about his younger years with childhood pictures, the music soundtracking these moments is dark and brooding, as if to let the viewer understand that danger is always lurking. You’ll be clamoring for the next episode after the first episode ends with Martin’s father poignantly proclaiming “we opened up Pandora’s box. I had no idea what was going to happen.”