If you’re dying for distraction, laughs, or just escapist bullshit, this is the list to get on. Here’s a bunch of films that I love, like, hate-to-love-but-love-anyway, and can’t stand. They’re all recent(ish) -- we’re not diving into the vault for this one. These bangers are just the pieces that I could watch a dozen times without getting tired of the plot, actors, or dumb one-liners.
So stay in, watch a film or three, and come back next month.
Jupiter Ascending (Netflix)
If you think that I’m ever going to stop screaming about Jupiter Ascending you are sorely mistaken. The middling-to-bad dialogue! The intense space opera plot! The no-holds-barred panache of Eddie Redmayne’s performance! The absurd dedication they showed tarting up bicon Channing Tatum for no reason. We didn’t need him to be a part-wolf, pack-bound, tortured space marine with wings, but we are certainly, immensely grateful. If you haven’t seen Jupes yet, it’s worth it for the bonkers story (involving space reincarnation, family drama, and a fake marriage plot!) and the really, truly incredible design. That’s got to be the selling point here. It straight up looks amazing. It is an amazing visual world, a must-watch because of its extravagant and wild production. It’s the space future Fifth Element laid the groundwork for: bright and beautiful, huge and over-the-top, full of pop and politic. Watch it for everything you’re not supposed to notice in a space opera.
The Death of Stalin (Netflix)
If you missed this absolute gem in theaters now is your chance to tune in. After Stalin’s death, a group of his closest advisors must get together and choose the next leader of the un-free world. It’s a hilarious comedy of errors, full of old-school comedic actors and absurdist spy antics. This is a look into the most batshit, inane, asinine policy-makers ever to walk on earth, (save for the current sitting president) and a brutal evisceration of politics everywhere. Stalin will make you laugh, cry, screech, and go running for the history books. It’s Wes-Anderson-meets-Taika-Waititi-in-the-USSR, and it will take your mind out of America for at least an hour.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Netflix)
I don’t think this one needs much explanation. Watching this feels like a warm sweater on a cold day. It’s a drink in the desert; it’s comfort food in animated, hi-action neon, with a soundtrack that fucking slaps. There is nothing wrong with this film. It’s perfect. And I could watch it every day for the next two months. I know what’s going to happen and it will just always hit me just so every single time. When Gwen gets her introduction; During Mary-Jane’s press conference; When Miles jumps off the building; all of it just gets me; it fucking wrecks me. I know everyone’s seen this film, but this is just one person’s reminder to go and rewatch one of the best films of the decade, as a treat.
Over the Garden Wall (Hulu)
Maybe you heard about this animated series when it came out in 2014. Maybe you watched a few episodes, (or all of them, twice,) but it’s very likely that you haven’t watched this miniseries in a while. It’s time to get lost in the woods, fall into a parched world full of creepy, weird, musical, bizarre Americana folktale horror. This is a series that slowly unravels, that takes its time with the reveal, that inch-by-inch and step-by-step explains itself, but only as much as needs explaining. There are mysteries and myths, strange tales, and metaphors for trauma, strength, and love. You can watch this show a dozen times and still never quite feel at ease or confident that you know what’s going on. It’s absolutely, unendingly rewatchable, and it’s exactly what you need to feel strangely welcome in the dark woods.
Logan Lucky (Amazon Prime)
Everyone loves a heist movie and this West Virginia hillbilly holdup does not disappoint. Unforgettable characters, bad (amazing) accents, and dark comedy make Logan Lucky the film to take your mind off of the world around you. It stars my unproblematic fave, Channing Tatum, alongside the absolute darling Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig with a buzzcut and more tattoos than your average hipster. Oh! And Sebastian Stan makes an appearance. Honestly, we just love to see it. Logan Lucky is clever and silly, it’s funny and immersive, it’s non-stop and it’s great. There’s everything right with this film, with grounded problems and absurd solutions, weird adventures and hilarious cock-ups, and seriously, I just love this film. It’s heartwarming! Watching Logan Lucky is like drinking sweet tea on the porch as a street race goes by. It’s good.
Revolutionary Girl Utena (Funimation)
I couldn’t let a list of rewatchable movies and shows pass by without mentioning an anime that left me in the dust. I didn’t watch Revolutionary Girl Utena in the nineties when it first came out in the US, but if I had, I might have realized a few things a bit sooner. Utena, the titular character, is a young woman (maybe?) who wants nothing more than to be a prince (gay!). To that end, she duels members of a secret society in order to protect another young woman, Anthy Himemeiya, who is known as ‘The Rose Bride.’ Utena and Anthy end up living together, falling in love, and exploring the dark hypocrisy of good intentions as they continue to fight duelists who use increasingly underhanded methods to hurt Anthy.
Oh, and all of this happens at a Japanese high school.
This show is wild, y’all. It falls right into the surreal, strange, girl-power animes of the nineties, with weird frameworks, strange sets, and absolutely unpredictable bullshit at every single turn. The lesbian romance is undeniable, as is the gender non-conformity of Utena, who refuses to be a bride, princess, or trophy, even as others at the school try to push her into those roles. I just have to explain all of this because the anime is absolute batshit in the best way. You can watch it ten times, and still find new symbols, metaphors, and meanings every time, and know, without a doubt, that Utena and Anthy are 100% lesbians in love. Also if you want an RGU playlist LMK - I have one that’s goddamn fire.
Russian Doll (Netflix)
When Russian Doll hit Netflix, it blew up. It was all anyone could talk about for months. Nowadays, the series has never been more pertinent as its two main characters live their day to day lives over and over and over. Around them the world rots, caving in on itself, erasing parts of itself from existence. The repetitive reality of the world - the unfairness of it - is a cathartic siren song for the hellscape that we find ourselves surviving in. We are all Natasha Lyonne, smoking in a dirty apartment, wondering when the fuck will this pity party be over. While Russian Doll was basically an extended Black Mirror episode for most of the series, its hopeful ending, with its two main characters walking through Central Park, celebrating, is the reminder we need to keep moving through it. It’s the ending we need, and if we play our cards right, it’ll be the ending we deserve.
Linda H. Codega
Linda is a twenty-something millennial living and working in the Hudson Valley who loves fandom, pop culture, sailing, tarot cards, and crying in movie theaters. If you want to listen to them talk about pop culture, the repeating cycles of media, and those stories that we can’t get out of our heads, you can listen to their podcast, Retronym, on iTunes.