Only halfway through the year, and there’s so much quality film and TV to catch up on, all available to watch right now.
2019 for both movies and TV has been unquestionably good, and this list really doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of all the quality viewing there is out there to choose from.
But hopefully this is a good place to start. Sound off in the comments with your faves of the year so far!
5. ‘Her Smell’
The phrase tour-de-force is overused, but Elisabeth Moss’ performance in Alex Ross Perry’s punk rock drama deserves it. She plays a Courtney Love-esque rocker who’s spiraling out of control without a care of who she hurts along her blazing path of self-destruction.
The movie plays out in four distinct acts and each extended sequence is absolutely hypnotized. You can’t take your eyes off Moss, and the sound design, with the rhythmic thudding backstage at a concert, makes sure to keep you pulled into her inescapable vortex.
Her Smell is now available on VOD.
4. ‘High Life’
A haunting, elliptical, beguiling intergalactic odyssey that could only be conceived by Claire Denis, this space drama starring Robert Pattinson is bound to keep you up at night. The movie claws deep to get to the core of what makes us all human, and we might not like what we see. It’s dark, disturbing and quietly contemplative on top of being rigorously sexual and shocking.
Oh, and there’s this: Juliette Binoche stars as a space witch who uses something dubbed the “f*ck box.” I’ll leave it at that.
Jordan Peele’s sophomore feature is a powerful and impressive followup to his Oscar-winning debut, Get Out. More ambitious in its scale and themes explored, the writer/director swings for the fences and doesn’t miss his mark. He proves himself to be one of the most exciting filmmakers working today and that his well of imaginative and horrifying creations is far from tapped dry.
No matter how you look at Us, from political allegory to a home invasion thriller, there are so many layers to this thing, it’s simply overwhelming. And it’s all centered on a towering and unforgettable performance from Lupita Nyong’o, who’s given the best material to sink her teeth into since her Oscar-nominated role in 12 Years a Slave.
2. ‘Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé’
Arguably one of the greatest concert documentaries ever made, Homecoming lets us relive the groundbreaking, record-setting headlining Coachella performance by Beyoncé from last year. From a sheer directing perspective, the showcase is stunning, immaculately cutting between the two nights of the performance, signaled by the costumes flickering between pink and yellow.
Beyoncé had the foresight to know her Coachella (or Beychella, rather) performance would live on beyond the live debut as she knew exactly where she wanted cameras placed during the stage performance and how it would be utilized and cut into a documentary later on. And how blessed we are to be able to rewatch it again and again.
Homecoming is absolutely electrifying as a stage show and as a documentary, where we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how it was all conceived, enriching the cultural significance of what Beyoncé and her team achieved. Beychella was a movement, and now it’s forever captured.
Homecoming is now streaming on Netflix.
The directorial debut from Olivia Wilde is already on its way to becoming a cult classic. Putting a female twist on the classically male-driven last day of high school odyssey movie (see Dazed and Confused and Superbad), the breath of fresh air that is Booksmart in its casual progressiveness and inclusivity really makes you wonder what took us so long to get here.
Beanie Feldstein is firing on all cylinders from her breakout in Lady Bird, and here she fully comes into her own as a comedic performer. Similarly, Kaitlyn Dever, an actress we’ve seen for years (Justified, Last Man Standing) breaks out into a performance that’ll warm your heart. The supporting cast is also insane, from Billie Lourd doing her mom, the late Carrie Fisher, proud to Noah Galvin absolutely nailing his post-network sitcom career.
The comedy is an unabashed delight, laugh-out-loud hilarious, big-hearted, inclusive, feel-good where even in high school there are no real villains, and all it really takes is to let your guard down a bit and get to know the people around you. And that’s a simple life lesson we could all use.
Booksmart is now in theaters.
5. ‘Russian Doll’
From co-creators Natasha Lyonne, Leslie Headlund and Amy Poehler, Russian Doll is a great head trip that merits a second viewing almost immediately. Like Groundhog Day but way more morbid, it follows Nadia as she keeps reliving the same day over and over after she keeps dying. The role is tailor-made for Lyonne, and among the dark humor, there’s a potent undercurrent of rich melancholy.
This is the type of show where you think the premise can only go so far, but the intricate puzzle that gets created provides the writers a playground of possibilities full of moral quandaries.
Russian Doll is now streaming on Netflix.
4. ‘Tuca & Bertie’
The latest Netflix foray into adult animation has been described as a cross between Bojack Horseman and Broad City, and it’s the perfect description. The comedy is as existential and thoughtful as the former with the New York-specific antics and female friendship of the latter.
From a producer on Bojack Horseman, Lisa Hanawalt created the show, and it features the voice cast of Ali Wong, Tiffany Haddish and Steven Yeun. The rest of the voice cast is stacked across every episode, and particularly gleeful is the repeated use of Nicole Byer in a slew of hilarious cameo roles.
As Tuca and Bertie go through their misadventures together, the show forms a tapestry of wacky visuals and a distinctly drawn world that is a pleasure to live in across the show’s first season. And the way it tackles issues like sexual trauma, co-dependency and millennial angst is just the cherry on top.
Tuca & Bertie is now streaming on Netflix.
3. ‘Better Things’
Pamela Adlon’s FX comedy Better Things has always been great, and the show’s third season is easily its best. Somehow here is a series that only gets better with age, like a fine wine. With every episode directed by Adlon, and many episodes written or co-written by the actress, the show knows exactly the story it’s telling.
Every episode plays like a series of vignettes, dropping into moments that are already in progress, and Adlon trusts the audience to use context to catch themselves up and be fully in the moment. As an audience member, it’s easy to put your trust in Adlon because it doesn’t matter if you’re unsure where the next moment or scene will take you, chances are high you’ll love where you end up.
Better Things is available to watch on FX.
2. ‘The Other Two’
From former SNL head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, Comedy Central found the perfect show to fill the void of Broad City ending, and it’s in this snappy, hilarious and pitch-perfect comedy. Starring Helene Yorke and Drew Tarver as siblings witnessing the rise to fame of their pre-teen younger brother, the two get swept up in their own drama of show business.
The material is ripe for pop cultural witticisms, and the insanely sharp writing does not disappoint. Lobbing barbs at the industry left and right, you’ll be laughing so hard at one joke that you’ll have to double back to catch the next gag you laughed over.
And beyond the topicality of it all, it’s also unassumingly one of the gayest shows on TV right now. Cary is gay, and an episode where he delves into the world of Instagays is spot-on satire, and a conversation about eating pizza is a cultural touchstone unlike anything we’ve seen before on TV in terms of queer representation.
And this is all without even mentioning Molly Shannon, who gives an unsurprisingly laugh-out-loud performance. What might come as a surprise, however, is the level of depth she plumbs here, similar to her performance in Chris Kelly’s debut feature Other People.
The Other Two is now available to watch on Comedy Central.
It’s really hard to talk about or even think about the immense accomplishment that is the second season of Phoeber Waller-Bridges’ masterful comedy without getting light-headed. Season 1 was already a raw, biting and sharp-tongued dark comedy delving into notions of trauma, addiction, familial tensions and self-discovery.
It took a few years to get a follow-up, but it was worth the wait. Labeled in the premiere episode as a love story, we’re immediately thrust back into the life of Fleabag and her dysfunctional family ties. And with them is the Priest, never given a name, and played by the exceptional Andrew Scott.
Across the tight six episode season, we follow Fleabag and the Priest’s courtship, and while it sounds simple enough, what unfolds is revelatory and transcendent. The emotional arc of the season builds into a crescendo of exploring just what it means to make a human connection. It’s ethereally poignant and, beyond that, the entire season is also gut-bustingly funny.
We’re going to be hard-pressed to find something so singular and original in vision and execution this year than the second season of Fleabag.
Fleabag is now streaming on Amazon Prime.