At one time or another, most of us has found ourselves at a moment when we just scroll through the endless titles on Netflix Instant trying to find the perfect movie or television show to watch so we can ignore life’s hardships like homework and for introverts like me, a social life. So, to steer you into the right direction so you don’t find yourself spending the night scrolling through titles than actually watching anything, some of the Fringe writers have shared their picks of what to watch:
1. Orange is the New Black
Horrifying, nerve-racking, hilarious, and heartfelt are just some things I think of when I think of Netflix’s original series, Orange is the New Black. Focused around the true experiences of Piper Kerman’s experience in a women’s prison, Orange is the New Black will hook you in the first five minutes and keep you throughout the whole first season.
The series centers on the resilient protagonist, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who is sentenced to 15 months in an all-women’s prison for transporting a suitcase full of drug money to her wicked ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). During her journey she meets and explores friendships and even some relationships, with her dynamic, and often times frightening inmates.
The second season premiers on Netflix on June 6, so I recommend starting the first season soon! It’s addicting.
– Mary Jo Cantino
Louie presents the singular vision of comic Louis C.K., who in recent years has become a household name for his wealth of hilariously observant and self-deprecating humor. He takes his humor and blends in with a fictional version of himself as a single father and comedian living in New York raising two young daughters.
What’s most impressive is that, for this show, Louis C.K. does it all. He writes, directs, produces and stars (whew). The show experiments with format and tone, so there’s no laugh track and no bullsh*t sitcom clichés. Louie is undoubtedly a perfect break from the usual comedy mold.
Make sure to catch up on Louie before its fourth season premieres May 5th on FX.
– Matthew Heimiller
3. Sons of Anarchy
If you like your entertainment to contain a little hell raising, the show for you is the FX Series Sons Of Anarchy. This show’s modern day cowboys on their steel horses do not follow anyone’s rules but their own and those of their brothers. The Sons, also known as SAMCRO, are the Redwood Originals that dwell in the comforts of Charming, California. Jackson “Jax” Teller is the show’s main focus, leading a chameleon life between heading an outlaw motorcycle club and being a husband and father later in the series. Watching the conflict between rival club members as well as the personal battles of those same members, it’s easy for literally millions of viewers to connect with the outlaws. According to Hollywood Reporter, “the 10 p.m. premiere of Sons of Anarchy‘s sixth season averaged 5.87 million viewers, up nine percent from last year’s previously record-setting return.” I guess we all have a little rebellion in us.
This series not only involving the culture of the wild west, I cannot help but to shed light on another American tradition of oral tradition music. Throughout the series there have been many renditions of music of the subculture, ranging from “John the Revelator” by Son House, “You Are My Sunshine” by Mississippi John Hurt, “House of The Rising Sun” by Lead Belly and “Sittin’ On Top of the World” by Mississippi Sheiks to name a few. The inclusion of blues music not only gives this series a feeling of authenticity but incorporates another well-known feature of American history. By also hearing the music and words of what originally made the foundations of American music, you cannot help but feel completely submerged in American culture when the Sons crank the throttle on their Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glides. So if you are getting sick of watching the everyday lives of wives with broken homes or the good ol’ boys of our modern day society, I encourage you to submerge yourself in the lives of the underworld.
– Elizabeth LaPointe
4. Earthlings (on DVD only)
Earthlings exemplifies what a documentary should aim to accomplish–a thorough examination of some overlooked piece of our world that we hope to rediscover through a closer look. The film explains five main ways in which humans use animals to serve their own interests, and thereby disregard those of animals. Such discrimination against members of other species, based on the opinion that the human species is superior on the whole to other species, is termed “speciesism,” and humans are only now beginning to see how deeply embedded it is in everyday living. The education provided by Earthlings can be used as grounds for remedial practices leading us to more virtuous treatment of animals. After all, we all share a home on planet earth.
The first category of mistreatment explored is the use of animals as pets, and those flawed measures taken by society to make them available. The information here includes the unfortunate conditions of puppy mills, breeders, pet stores, and pounds. Second is the most commonly known use we have for animals: making them into food. Much of the information offered in this portion will likely be a surprise to many: though more of us these days are aware of the animal abuse involved in the production of meat and dairy products, we remain terribly uninformed of the specifics of that process, especially the details of slaughter and conditions animals endure on their way there, as well as the damage humans cause to the ocean due to exploitation of marine life.
Animals’ lives are also exploited for production of clothing, for trivial entertainment for humans, and of course scientific research. Earthlings investigates the harsh realities of these uses, peeling back the layers of excuses humans collectively make in order to continue in the same fashion. While it may be easier to read about these topics rather than view footage of these careless practices, the visual evidence will likely do a better job of communicating a need for change. Our willingness to participate in a system with such profound effects, about which we know so little, is a plain statement of indifference toward equality among earthlings. If ever a documentary has been a successful agent in interrupting uninformed attitudes, Earthlings should be it.
– Maddy Hughes
5. Black Sabbath
Mario Bava’s portmanteau classic Black Sabbath (1963), a.k.a. I Tre Volti della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear), consists of three segments, all presented by genre veteran Boris Karloff, who is the star in arguably the best of the three “The Wurdulak”–a Russian vampire fable. The first presented in the American cut (which happens to be the one version on Netflix) is “The Drop of Water,” about a London nurse who is haunted by the apparition of a dead medium after having stolen her diamond ring. The finale of this segment is truly frightening: the apparition bears a close resemblance to the main character Regan from The Exorcist (1973), whose director William Freidkin is a Bava fan. Second is “The Telephone,” an adult noir thriller with suggestions of a lesbian subtext between the two female leads, containing little traces of the supernatural and all within a single setting. Lastly, “The Wurdulak” is based upon a story by Tolstoy and visually resembles the painted vistas of Aivazovsky. Along with Boris Karloff, who portrays a possessed grandfather, Mark Damon is the only American actor in this film (though his lines are dubbed by a pre-Star Trek William Shatner).
Black Sabbath maintains a lasting significance not only because of its title (that inspired that one band’s name), but also because it is considered to be the first color Italian “Giallo” thriller. Giallo refers to the many tawny-tinted mystery paperbacks that were popular around Italy during the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, often sporting lurid covers of scantily clad women being chased by some masked assailant. These films were basically slasher films if you added a Ten Little Indians story and plot structure, with groovy euro-beat soundtracks and gore fetishism via Technicolor; Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) perhaps being the most quintessential film of this mode. Bava is often viewed as the grandfather of the slasher genre, many of his Giallo thrillers having been plagiarized. You will be floored by the briliantly fluid use of bold color, as magenta, green, blue, red and gold all can be found within a single frame…simply because it’s gorgeous.
– John Sammis
6. The United States of Tara
A suburban family overcoming their mother’s dislocation identity disorder sounds like it has all the makings of a melodramatic awards bait series but in reality is one of the most honest and touching shows in recent memory. To sell The United States of Tara as a show about multiple personality disorder would feel false; you come for the drama but stay for the characters. The best “binge watch” shows are those with well-developed characters and “Tara” has plenty of them. Available in its entirety on Netflix, United Stated of Tara is lead by powerhouse actress Toni Collette (Tara) with one hell of a supporting cast including Short Term 12‘s Brie Larson, Rosemary Dewitt and the shockingly excellent Patton Oswalt.
While well-known Netflix recommendations like Dexter ask you to sludge through multiple seasons of hour long episodes, Tara offers a serving of 36 half-hour episodes spread conveniently over three seasons. Once the pilot hooks you in, you’ll have no problem burning through the show in a matter of days. Take a leap of faith and give Tara the chance it deserves.
– Jack Feria
Subtly humorous, dark, and powerful, the film C.O.G. is a foray into the gloomy realities of America’s deeply conservative rural backcountry. C.O.G. follows the story of Samuel, played by Jonathan Groff (Glee, Spring Awakening), a naïve Yale graduate who travels cross-country by bus in order to experience life as an apple-picker in rural Oregon. The film paints a shadowy tale in which conceptual threads of sexuality, immigration, and religion are sewn meticulously into the plot. After falling out of favor with the apple orchard’s migrant employees, Groff quickly becomes entwined in the lives of the town’s devoutly Christian residents.
Groff’s character is surprisingly likeable considering his insufferable pseudo-intellectual nature. He’s an extremely relatable character; struggling with his sexuality and trying to find his place in the world. The feelings of alienation which encompass most of the film are ones that most college students can emphasize with; finding friends and struggling to understand your new home. C.O.G. is a worthwhile choice because it paints such a genuine representation of reality. With a rich color palette and splashes of humor, this film is one that sticks with the viewer long after you have closed your laptop.
– Mac Writt
8. Prince Avalanche
David Gordon Green’s latest dramatic effort, Prince Avalanche, is far removed from his comedies such as the passable Pineapple Express, the adolescent fairy tale Your Highness and the trite Adventures in Babysitting-inspired “comedy” known as The Sitter. Prince Avalanche, which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a remake of the Icelandic film Either Way, and stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two mismatched highway road workers in the 1980s that spend their summer away from the lives that they left behind.
It may not seem all that appealing of a film at first, but it’s a small, low-key film that keenly focuses on its two central characters, building off their differences and quirks as they move down a seemingly endless road.
I personally think David Gordon Green is much more impressive with his more “serious” films such as 2003’s All The Real Girls – starring a young Zooey Deschanel way before her New Girl days – and 2007’s Snow Angels starring Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. This film is undoubtedly observant of character, as well as its isolated landscape. Also, the performances from usual funnyman Paul Rudd and the always-surprising Emile Hirsch are unsurprisingly delightful and at times humorous as well as tragic.
Oh, and if you’re not already familiar with the instrumental alternative rock band Explosions in the Sky, you’ll most definitely want to become familiar with them after you watch this film.
– Colton Dunham
9. Frances Ha
Out of all of the films that I’ve seen last year, Noah Baumbach’s latest film Frances Ha has stuck with me the most. It’s a witty and upbeat film that keenly zooms in on a young 27-year-old aspiring dancer by the name of Frances (Greta Gerwig) who can’t seem to get her life together, but that’s okay. In its central narrative core, Frances Ha is an intimate platonic love story between Frances and her roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner). As the film opens, Frances and Sophie playfully fight each other and it’s shortly after this point when the close bond between Frances and Sophie could easily be compared to the closeness of a romantic couple. They eat dinner together, they smoke together by a windowsill, they comfortably lay in bed with one another and they offer insight into each other’s lives and ambitions.
Eventually, however, they’re split apart when Sophie tells Frances that they won’t be renewing the lease because she’ll be moving in with her boyfriend. The barely employed Frances cannot possibly afford to live in such a place so the once inseparable pair is forced to split apart. Their separation forces Frances to be on her own as she struggles to make the transition into an unidentifiable existence with nothing but optimism.
Gerwig is an absolute revelation as Frances, a character who is similar to the titular characters in Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg – which Gerwig also appears in – because she is flawed, which make her more human and less artificial. She’s undoubtedly socially awkward and sometimes off-putting but she is far more kind-hearted and likable.
As I noted in my review of the film last year, Frances Ha is not just a great film; it’s a small-scale, black and white masterpiece.
– Colton Dunham
10. American Horror Story
This horror/thriller is a must on anyone’s list of shows. The cast is filled with talented actors like Taissa Farmiga, Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto, Dylan McDermott and many more. The show is considered an anthology series, with each successive season called “Murder House”, “Asylum” and “Coven.” This means that each season is a different story itself with most of the same actors playing different characters.
After recently finishing up the third season on television, the show has been renewed for a fourth season that’ll be titled American Horror Story: Freak Show. However, Netflix currently features Seasons 1 & 2. “Murder House” takes place in modern day Los Angeles, following a family that moves into a house that is haunted by its former occupants. “Asylum” takes place in 1964 Massachusetts in a mental institution for the criminally insane, following the lives of the patients. “Coven” takes place in the 1800s as well as 2013 New Orleans, where a battle between witches and voodoo practitioners is occurring. Each season’s storyline contains thrills, keeping the audience always engaged in each episode and on the edge of their seat.
– Bo Bayerl