And finally, we’ve made it out of 2016 in one piece—well, mostly. Normally, the start of a New Year gives people the chance to look ahead with optimism and positivity to what lies ahead, but the last twelve months have been such a soul-destroying experience that we’ve come up with something different for 2017: a list of ten things for you to steam on Netflix to prepare for what lies ahead. It’s going to be a bumpy road, so consider the following selections a chance to practice some of the emotions that await.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE: ESCAPE CLAUSE (1959)
Pretty much the definition of a “Be careful what you wish for” story, this almost-50-year-old TV episode gives a man eternal life and then shows him quite why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. If only we could think of a public figure who’s about to learn a similar lesson about a long-held ambition…
BOB ROBERTS (1992)
Talking of contemporary politics, even if revisiting Tim Robbins’ political satire mockumentary wasn’t always a good idea, it would certainly be the case right now for obvious reasons. Roberts is a conservative populist who ends up becoming far more successful than anyone expected, despite being clearly ridiculous. But who could that describe…?
Staying with political satire for a moment, Warren Beatty took on politics, healthcare and a democratic establishment at a loss about how to modernize itself in this late ‘90s slice of filmmaking. There’s a lot of heavy-handedness that betrays good intentions that end up misguided, but it’s hard not to watch this today and feel as if a lot of these conversations are still ongoing.
What could be more 2017 than a movie about disaffected people coming to terms with their unhappiness in a time of near apocalypse? It’s almost as if Lars von Trier knew exactly what was coming when he made this critically acclaimed art house flick, except that he called 2017 “a rogue planet about to crush all human life.”
UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)
The surreal plot of Shane Carruth’s second feature might not seem like the world that we’ve all shared for the past twelve months — less unknown, complex parasites infecting us, as far as I can tell — but there’s something about the melancholic, dream-like feel of the movie that feels seems right, despite everything. Maybe we have all been infected by parasites, after all.
PUTIN’S HIDDEN TREASURE (2014)
Let’s take a break from the metaphors and the feels for a second, and get into some facts: there’s almost no way that Vladimir Putin won’t be one of the major players of the next year, so this documentary — which suggests reasons for his rise to power more nefarious than “good policies and hard work” — should perhaps be required viewing.
If you’re worried about being too old to contribute, this movie — co-written and directed by Jennifer Phang, who seems poised to break through as a vital SF director as a result — is likely to help put your mind at rest by distracting you with dreams of simply transferring your mind into a new, younger body instead. Not that things always work out perfectly…
WHITE GIRL (2016)
Like the flip side of Lena Dunham’s Girls, White Girl takes a look at the world of contemporary young women and decides that they’re selfish, self-centered and just bad news to be around. Especially when sex, drugs and race are folded into the mix. But there are certain things that white girls can get away with that others can’t, as you’ll see.
Ava DuVernay went from Selma to this documentary about modern incarceration in the United States, with a title referencing the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution — that’s the one that outlawed slavery, if you’re wondering — just as a heads-up that perhaps the U.S. has to reconsider the way it deals with crime and punishment.
BLACK MIRROR: HATED IN THE NATION (2016)
Of course, when it comes to punishment, things could be worse… as shown in this episode from the most recent episode of the favorite updated Twilight Zone anthology, in which drone warfare gets very, very small indeed — and taken advantage of for the most mundane of reasons.