aylight is in short supply, the weather’s grim and the lockdown blues are kicking in – at least there’s plenty of streaming material to bide the time.
Here are the films, TV shows and special streaming events on our cultural radar right now, plus some of our favourites from recent weeks that you can catch up on…
Ten years after Kevin Macdonald’s film made from ordinary people’s footage from one day in 2010, the 2020 version is released on February 6 on YouTube Originals after receiving more than 300,000 submissions from 192 countries, in more than 65 languages. Watching the births, proposals, marriages, dinners, breakfasts, reflections, protests and deaths that make up a day on this planet is a moving and unifying experience.
The time is right for this Netflix Western, released on Feb 10 and starring Tom Hanks. It’s 1870, five years after the US civil war, and the film’s baddies are white supremacists, still waving the Confederate flag. Um. Hanks’s grizzled captain must shepherd an orphaned girl to her relatives across dangerous country, but will either of these damaged people find their way home?
Netflix, from February 10
’s prize-winning debut play, exploring masculinity in a young offender’s institution, won huge acclaim and a West End transfer — but then the pandemic hit. Instead the , allowing audiences another chance to encounter this talented new voice who seems set for big things.
Musicals: The Greatest Show
Missing Les Mis? Dreaming of Dreamgirls? This celebration of all that musical theatre has to offer, screening on BBC One at 7.40pm on Sunday, is just what the doctor ordered. Presented by Sheridan Smith and filmed at the Palladium, it features chat and performances from Michael Ball, Idina Menzel, Ramin Karimloo, Layton Williams and Kerry Ellis.
Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili’s unsettling debut, set in a provincial town in the Caucasus mountains, follows Yana, the wife of a Jehovah’s Witness leader whose community is under attack from an extremist group. Available on Mubi, the film is Georgia’s Oscars entry for 2021.
This digital celebration of world class dance is a collaboration between Sadler’s Wells and the BBC, and its three episodes are on iPlayer. It features work from artists and companies including Akram Khan, Jonzi D, Matthew Bourne, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, English National Ballet and Candoco Dance Company. A treat for dance lovers.
This unusual documentary about a disillusioned comedy writer who stumbles upon the forgotten world of industrial musicals has just arrived on Netflix. It’s a peek behind the curtain at a very different time, when American sales conferences opened with song and dance numbers and had lyrics like “come on and spread the word to every sales creator, get the news on each new refrigerator”. Quirky and charming.
Arlo Parks: A Pop Star in a Pandemic
At the start of 2020, the BBC gave Arlo Parks a video camera to record the making of her debut album. Then Covid hit. The documentary, now on iPlayer, captures an extraordinary year for Parks — one that didn’t play out as planned but still featured some incredible moments, including a breathtaking performance to an empty field from Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage.
Thismakes gripping viewing of every second of Truman Capote’s decline and fall. First-time filmmaker Ebs Burnough uses audio tapes made in the late Nineties by the American journalist George Plimpton, featuring everyone from Lauren Bacall to Norman Mailer. She bulks these out with new witness accounts, most memorably from Kate Harrington, the young girl Capote effectively adopted when he became her father’s lover.
It’d be a crying shame, if not a sin, to miss this much-anticipated five part TV drama from Russell T. Davies. Starring Olly Alexander, it follows a group of young gay men and their best mate Jill (Lydia West) as they pursue their dreams just as the shadow of Aids begins to darken their existence. It’s funny, riotous, shocking and utterly devastating.
Channel 4, Friday at 9pm; All4
This six-part dramatisation of the investigation into the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, which starts tonight on BBC Two, turns all the true crime tropes upside down (the murderer is never mentioned by name, for one thing) – and is much the better for it. Directed by Oscar nominee Tobias Lindholm and created in close collaboration with Wall’s family, it’s a compelling, moving watch that never feels exploitative, focusing on the dogged work of the investigators who eventually brought the killer to justice.
BBC Two, Friday at 9pm; BBC iPlayer
Some will accuse this fascinating documentary on Dogwoof on Demand by filmmaker Hao Wu of being Chinese propaganda, but it was an unofficial production. It observes the struggles of Wuhan medical staff, patients and their families as they try to get a handle on Covid. The doctors and nurses are charming and many chose to come from elsewhere, inspired to help out. It’s rather inspiring.
David Mitchell and Robert Webb return in the latest installment of this Channel 4 sitcom —. The series is full of hairpin turns in the plot, with Mitchell’s Stephen trying to one-up Webb’s Andrew, his mischievous former foster brother. It’s frequently hilarious (with lots of good swearing, if that’s your thing) and with six episodes spanning barely two hours, it’s entirely bingeable.
Anyone suffering from the Sunday sads at the moment (spoiler alert: everyone) may want to tune into ITV’s new flagship drama, Finding Alice. Starring the queen of British telly, Keeley Hawes, it tells the story of a woman coming to terms with the grief of losing her husband, only to find he had left behind a lot of secrets.
ITV, Sunday at 9pm, ITV Hub and BritBox
This fascinating documentary, available online, seeks to expose and raise awareness of the reasons for the suicide of the American actor Robin Williams in 2014. It was only after his death – which was preceded by a decline into paranoia and confusion – that his wife found he had been unknowingly suffering from an exquisitely cruel – and alarmingly common, though rarely diagnosed – form of dementia. Terrifying, but also a reminder of an extraordinary mind.
No festival film in 2020 attracted as much buzz as. Her collaboration with Kemp Powers (they have expanded his 2013 stage play, set on the night that Cassius Clay celebrated his 1964 win over Sonny Liston by going to a motel with Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X ) cost just $16.9 million, yet is being talked up as a ground-breaking awards contender. Should you believe the hype? Yep, King’s the greatest, and Londoner Kingsley Ben-Adir brilliantly conveys X’s careworn intensity.
If you’re not already watching this absolutely terrifying, twisty, turny thriller on BBC One about Charles Sobhraj, a conman and serial killer who terrorised the Hippie Trail in the 1970s, you should be. Tahar Rahim is the titular snake, who was eventually brought to justice by a decidedly square Dutch diplomat (Billy Howle). It’ll make your heart race.
If someone suggested that Nicholas Cage front a programme about swearing from a cosy fireside you’d think they were f***ing drunk. And yet here it is, a series on Netflix. Cage, a bunch of comedians and a selection of game but serious academics investigate the use and origins of the “silly putty” of the English language.
Closed after one preview of its first ever panto, the National Theatre has hitched up its bloomers and put it online (oh yes it has, etc). Updated for 2021 by director Jude Christian and improv queen Cariad Lloyd, the classic London tale is available to stream worldwide onfrom Monday January 11 for six weeks.
The most unhinged light entertainment format to grace ITV’s Saturday night schedule is back for round two and better than ever, with a new cohort of singing celebrities disguised in bonkers costumes. It’s up to the panel of famous faces, including new judge Mo Gilligan, and viewers at home, to piece together the clues to work out who is lurking behind the disguise (singing sausage, anyone?). The first two episodes have unmasked Sophie Ellis Bextor and actual Spice Girl Mel B, so all bets are off as to who else signed up in a fit of lockdown madness.
Pixar’s latest was released exclusively on Disney+ on Christmas day, and tells the story of a failed jazz pianist who finds himself in a sort of limbo, a soul without a body, after falling down a manhole. The studio’s first film with a Black lead and a Black-led animation team, it’s also a classic Pixar triumph with laughs, tears and surprisingly deep ideas.
In a year that’s thrown the theatre world into crisis, this documentary about high school kids entering the annual August Wilson monologue competition is a testament to its power to change lives. It’s also a timely reminder of the playwright’s incredible legacy, that serves as a great primer for Netflix’s film adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
We’ve just started this sweet Japanese series, set in a Tokyo diner open from midnight to 7am and overseen by the benevolent chef, Master. Characters come and go, their stories overlapping with humour and melancholy. It doesn’t benefit from Netflix’s usual production values, but it’s weirdly addictive, like Master’s pork miso soup.
Rose Island trailer on Netflix
The tale of the Republic of Rose Island has been consigned to the footnotes of Italian history, but that’s about to change thanks to this colourful Netflix movie, which is also the streaming service’s first Italian original film. It tells the true story of maverick engineer Georgio Rosa, who decided to build his own independent island in the Adriatic Sea, just outside Italy’s territorial waters. His small but perfectly formed republic boasted its own post office and currency, but quickly sparked the ire of Italian authorities.
This nuanced, unconventional Amazon thriller takes the traditional crime drama genre and flips it on its side by focusing instead on the viewpoint of the errant fugitive’s wife, left vulnerable by his betrayal of his partners. Mrs Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan is terrific as a woman still floundering for her own identity, opposite the always charismatic British actor Arinzé Kene as the man tasked with keeping her safe.
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
The first interlocutor to appear with MacGowan in this reverential documentary about the musician is Gerry Adams, in a fireside chat. It’s startling and sets the tone for a film that presents him as formed from the earth of Ireland.
David Fincher’s biopic of Herman J. Mankiewicz, writer of Citizen Kane, is gorgeous, clever and stunningly cast, with Gary Oldman in the title role (even if he is 30 years off).
This Seventies-set drama on Prime Video about a gay man (Paul Bettany) and his niece (a pleasingly understated Sophia Lillis) returning to their homophobic hometown after the death of his father – accompanied by his flamboyant partner of 10 years (a delightful Peter Macdissi, and no, the family are not aware) – is a compassionate look at how fear breeds hate, hate breeds guilt, and love saves lives.
For his first post-Star Wars role, John Boyega has teamed up with Steve McQueen to tell the story of Leroy Logan, one of few black officers serving in the Met in the Eighties. Red, White and Blue is a galvanising watch, rooted in the complex dynamic between Boyega and his on-screen dad Steve Toussaint. It’s part of McQueen’s Small Axe series.
The second part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series is a love letter to the blues party scene of the Eighties, playing out over the course of one big night (and the subsequent Sunday morning headache…) 17-year-old Martha (inspired by McQueen’s aunt, played by Amarah-Jae St Aubyn) sneaks out of her window to head off to a flat in Ladbroke Grove where the bass makes the walls shake. This gorgeous film will have you pining for packed dancefloors.
English football legend Jack Charlton, who died this summer, never did get a knighthood. And after watching, you’ll understand why. Charlton backed the miners in the 80s, and managed Ireland at a time when they were seen as a joke. He sided with the underdog, with the full support of his wife, Pat, and their three children, and the Charltons’ commitment to doing the brave thing, as opposed to the easy thing, is laid bare in the film.
From the team behind the award-winning For Sama and filmed over five years, this is another gripping, emotional real life story. Iranian couple Leila and Sahand are seeking asylum with their son Mani, who was conceived while both were married to other people. Fearing discovery – which would result in execution for them both; stoning to death for Leila – they seek a new life in Turkey. Their difficult journey is captured unflinchingly in this must-watch documentary.
If you’re not already hooked on this Netflix miniseries, get a move on. The story of an orphan chess-whiz (a mesmerising Anya Taylor-Joy) battling encroaching drink and drug addiction while taking the male-dominated game by storm is grippingly told and never falls into depressing ‘woman in a man’s world’ cliché. A great supporting cast and ravishing design round out a satisfying watch.
Essex sensation Anne-Marie was all set for a huge arena tour in 2020. “And then,” she says in this new YouTube documentary, “corona happened”. How she dealt with that loss, and how the enforced break encouraged her to confront her own personal demons, is explored in this candid, straight-talking film. It’s an intriguing look behind the curtain at an artist on the rise, and not without its light-hearted moments.
approaches the life of trail-blazing jazz singer Billie Holiday from the most oblique of angles. It is filtered through the eyes and preoccupations of part-time journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who spent years interviewing Holiday’s lovers, colleagues and family. The Holiday who emerges from this portrait is creative, bisexual and brave.
as Italian-Jewish Madame Rosa, a former prostitute, whose tiny flat in the port of Bari is full of children, including cynical Senegalese orphan, Momo, played by gifted newcomer Ibrahima Gueye. Blazingly alive, even when catatonic, Rosa might be dismissed as a mother courage. In Loren’s wiry hands, she is something much more disturbing: a lank-haired lady Lazarus, with venom to spare.
I can’t remember the last time I saw such a beautiful hand-made animation as this sweet fantasy on Apple TV+, about a hunter’s daughter in 17th century Ireland who meets a strange girl living with wolves in the woods. Religious intolerance, the oppression of women and the relationship between fathers and daughters are all touched on but ultimately it’s just a lovely story of bravery and open-heartedness.
is reminiscent of other deliberately excruciating movies in which uptight, middle-class singletons lose the plot (see Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann). The end result though, is closer in spirit to Eric Rohmer’s gentle classic The Green Ray. The new thing that London-born Arab director Zeina Durra brings to the table is a fresh perspective on how sexual and racial politics can rebalance a relationship.
Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player
Is This Coercive Control?
This documentary, on iPlayer, is BBC Three at its best: a group of 18 to 25-year-olds watch a specially created film about a fictional couple’s relationship and discuss whether what they see constitutes coercive control, which became illegal in 2015. Presented by journalist Ellie Flynn, surely the big-hooped successor to Stacey Dooley, it quickly becomes depressingly clear how little understood the issue remains.
We loved this ultra-low budget New Zealand production (available on Amazon, GooglePlay and AppleTV) that pairs a hapless stoner who can see ghosts with a recently deceased cop to solve an increasingly ridiculous murder mystery. Adorable nonsense.
Amazon, GooglePlay and Apple TV+
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb
Join the all-Egyptian team of specialists excavating one of the country’s most important burial sites as they close in on the mysterious incumbent of a stunningly ornate tomb in this Netflix doc. Will the bodies still be there? How did the family die? And who was the man whose name is all over the walls? Fascinating, funny, beautifully made and rather moving.
The Forty Year-old Version
The debut film from multi-hyphenate Radha Blank should be getting way more love. Shot on 35mm black and white film, Blank stars as a talented playwright who finds that she is only accepted by the white theatre establishment if she lets them co-opt her creations. In a burst of frustration, she becomes a rapper instead. Written, directed and produced by Blank, it heralds the arrival of an unmissable new voice.
This fresh twist on the classic haunted house tale from first-time director Natalie Erika James is a masterclass in building tension. Emily Mortimer stars as a woman dragged back to her family home when her elderly mother goes missing. Are the notes she has left around the house further proof of her decline into dementia or evidence of something more sinister? There’s jump scares aplenty, but it’s James’ exploration of ageing and loss that will really stick with you.
What the Constitution Means to Me
You’ll soon get over any reservations about watching theatre on a screen (why is everyone shouting so loudly?) when you watch this superbly captured recording of Heidi Schreck’s recent Broadway hit. In 100 minutes, she explores how she fell out of love with the American constitution, in a way that is gripping, personal and audacious. You’ll wish you were in the room.
The Painter and the Thief
When Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova had two of her most important paintings stolen from an Oslo Gallery, she had a surprising reaction: she tracked one of the thieves down and made friends with him. This often jaw-dropping documentary from director Benjamin Lee is full of fascinating tensions borne from her decision to choose empathy over anger.
Mogul Mowgli is one of the, which is great news for anyone who loves Riz Ahmed. Whether you’re into his music (he’s a fab rapper in real life), or his acting, this film feels like a summation, as well as a canny dismantling, of everything that’s gone before.
Elisabeth Moss is scary, absurd and utterly magnificent in this, which also boasts brilliant supporting performances from Michael Stuhlbarg (as her philandering husband Stanley) and Odessa Young (as Rose, a pregnant newly-wed who moves into the couple’s home and starts to fascinate Jackson).
Francois Ozon’s sun-drenched adaptation of Aidan Chambers’ 1982 novel Dance on My Grave is, the director says,. The story of two teenage boys and their intense summer fling wobbles occasionally as it treads the line between tragedy and hope but Ozon captures the fierceness and cruel imbalance of young love perfectly, and the two central performances are flawless.
The script of this co-production between Sony Pictures and China’s Pear Studio starts out a little flat (it’s no Pixar) but things pick up when our grieving heroine, young Feifei, builds and launches a rocket to visit the moon goddess, who is basically an intergalactic pop lunatic. The songs get better too. It’s also a bit of a love letter to Chinese food, which is right up our street.
This endearing documentary transports you to a simpler time, when your biggest woe was sacrificing endless weekends to bumper-sized hen and stag dos. Available to stream on iPlayer, it takes you inside the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, a brilliant Scouse institution boasting 24-person rooms decked out in jaw-dropping fashion – one looks like the set of Jungle Run, another has a plunge pool running down the middle. It’s absolute carnage, but the lovely staff and heartwarming guest stories make it perfect comfort viewing.
A short record of bombshell royal interviews
“There is no matter that is off boundaries.” The promise of a no-retains-barred choose on palace drama has designed’s headline-hogging , which debuts in the United States on Sunday and is set to air on ITV on Monday evening, a person of the most predicted royal convey to-alls of all time.
In sitting down down with Winfrey to share their story, the Sussexes be a part of a prolonged line of royals who’ve opened up about life driving palace doors on television – usually to explosive outcome.
From an ill-advised lament about the family’s funds to the on-air revelations sent by equally of Harry’s moms and dads and indeed,that Newsnight interview, these are some of the most memorable royal Television times of all time…
Royal Household documentary, 1969
Alright, it’s not strictly a simple interview – but the Queen was so unconvinced by this enlightening BBC movie, which marked the very first time that cameras were being invited driving the scenes at the palace, that she blocked it from staying recurring quickly soon after. Royal Household was filmed in excess of the class of 75 days, across 172 separate spots, and featured candid scenes of Prince Philip barbecuing at Balmoral, Prince Charles participating in the cello and Her Majesty pondering out loud whether or not her youngest son’s ice product would “make a mess on the motor vehicle seat.”
The two-hour documentary was meant to solid the Windsors in a more relatable light, but it arguably finished up satisfying that mission much too perfectly. David Attenborough, then controller of BBC Two, reportedly advised the director that the film was “killing the monarchy,” as “the complete establishment relies upon on a mystique.” It appears to be that the Queen agreed with his assessment, as Royal Loved ones has not been broadcast since 1972 and stays some thing of a white whale for royal admirers (though it did briefly crop up on YouTube very last summer season – only to be instantly eliminated). After once more, if this seems vaguely common, that is probably many thanks to The Crown,” which devoted an episode to imagining the activities surrounding filming.
Prince Charles talks to Jonathan Dimbleby, 1994
Charles and Diana had presently declared their separation again in 1992, but the Prince of Wales’s sit down with his biographerJonathan Dimbleby for an ITV distinctive bulldozed any illusions that their relationship experienced ever been a fairytale. Charles at last admitted what had been rumoured all together – that he had been unfaithful to his spouse – but made guaranteed to consist of a big caveat, stating that this had only transpired when their connection “became irretrievably broken down, us both of those getting tried.”
It was a bombshell that would have dominated the subsequent day’s papers on any other occasion – right up until Diana built a spectacular appearance at a Vainness Good get together the identical evening carrying the notorious off-the-shoulder ‘revenge’ costume, and photographs of the smiling People’s Princess pushed Charles off the entrance web site (“The Thrilla He Still left To Woo Camilla!” screamed one particular headline).
“There ended up 3 of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Even if you have never ever watched Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales in complete, you’ve nearly definitely listened to her utter these text, which sent shockwaves all around the world in 1995. As properly as discussing her husband’s infidelity – and admitting to an affair with James Hewitt – Diana reviewed all the things from the pressures of royal life to her experiences of bulimia and article-natal melancholy. She also revealed that she’d been concerned in the making of Andrew Morton’s bombshell biography (“I was at the conclusion of my tether. I was desperate”).
The tide of public impression was previously in her favour, but her candour in the Panorama particular absolutely aided crown Diana as, in her words and phrases, “the queen of people’s hearts.” A report previous year, on the other hand, claimed that falsified financial institution statements, implying that users of royal employees had been paid out to leak information, were proven to Diana in a bid to secure her participation. The BBC introduced an investigation into the allegations shortly immediately after, vowing to “get to the truth of the matter,” although the law enforcement have considering that verified that. The journalist has not however addressed the scenario as he is at the moment recovering from a coronary heart operation.
Sarah Ferguson talks to Oprah Winfrey, 1996
Meghan’s chat with the queen of chat demonstrates is not the initially time that Winfrey has secured an exclusive interview with a Duchess with a tale to share. Back in 1996, shortly just before her divorce from Prince Andrew was produced formal pursuing a 4-year separation, Sarah Ferguson appeared on Winfrey’s demonstrate to spell it out that royal life “is no fairytale.” She railed in opposition to the “vicious” British tabloid procedure of her and her sister-in-regulation Diana, bemoaned the “very dark” 30 amp light bulbs utilized in the palace and discovered that she’d been reprimanded for opening home windows much too extensive.
The pair evidently struck up a rapport, as Fergie returned to drink tea and consume scones on the programme a couple a long time afterwards in 2010, she gave Winfrey her very first job interview immediately after currently being embroiled in a cash for entry sting.
Prince Andrew talks to Emily Maitlis, 2019
Forged your minds back again to November 2019, when actual-existence royal drama managed to firmly upstage the brand new sequence of The Crown that experienced only just landed on Netflix. Airing in a primary time slot on a Saturday night, Emily Maitlis’s grilling of Prince Andrew was excruciating, simply cannot-glimpse-away viewing that set the gold normal for vehicle crash interviews. The Duke of York maintained that he did not regret his friendship with convicted sexual intercourse offender Jeffrey Epstein (their association was “actually incredibly helpful,” he stated, though Epstein’s New York residence was “a effortless position to stay”), informed Maitlis that he had hardly ever satisfied accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre as he was attending a children’s birthday party aton the evening in issue (the restaurant’s TripAdvisor site was later flooded with bogus critiques) and claimed he was physically incapable of sweating right after an incident involving “an overdose of adrenaline” all through the Falklands War. Maitlis later on explained she channelled Line of Obligation anti-corruption officer Kate Fleming although the tape was running. Prince Andrew has regularly denied the allegations created by Roberts Giuffre.
Months right before ‘Megxit,’ this interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby was an early warning indication that all was not perfectly with camp Sussex. In a particular hour-prolonged movie subtitled An African Journey, Bradby followed the couple on a tour of Southern Africa, their initially with their infant son Archie. In a peaceful second in between charity engagements, Bradby asked the Duchess how she had been coping with intense media scrutiny when grappling with new motherhood. “Not a lot of individuals have questioned if I’m Ok, but it’s a extremely authentic matter to be heading through at the rear of the scenes,” she stated, visibly emotional. Elsewhere in the movie,alluded to rumoured tensions in between him and his older brother William, noting that they will “always be brothers” but were being “certainly on unique paths at the minute.”
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