what to netflix and chill to this holiday season
We dig up the hidden gems from the streaming site, so you don’t have to.
Rarely (if ever, truthfully) is a TV service so good it becomes a synonym for sex, but that is what happened to Netflix in 2015. After originating on Twitter (the regular addition of the winking emoji gave the game away) the phrase Netflix and Chill was added to the Urban Dictionary in April and by July, even Netflix themselves had leapt on the meme bandwagon, adding their own take to their Tumblr. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj got on board and in August B.o.B released a single of the same name. Now, even parents know what it means when their teenager makes plans to Netflix and Chill. So it's safe to say that Netflix has been one of the cultural milestones of the year. Whilst subscribers may think they've exhausted all that the site to offer with a binge weekend of Jessica Jones and the annual consumption of House Of Cards, there's always something else to stream, so we've done the Netflix delve for you. Here's the good stuff.
1. What Happened, Miss Simone?
Marvel at Nina, with her fabulous, bright outfits and that voice, but also learn about her connection to the Black Panthers, her abusive relationship and her struggles with depression. What Happened, Miss Simone? keeps your attention in a way that many documentaries do not.
2. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's
Watch Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs pay homage to Manhattan's high-end fashion mecca. Special mention goes to Joan Rivers, bursting the designers' bubble with her own inimitable damning verdict: "People who take fashion seriously are idiots."
3. Friday Night Lights
In the US, calling Friday Night Lights a hidden gem is akin to saying the same of EastEnders to a household in Dagenham. Ostensibly the story of a high school football team, one of the most consistently brilliant TV casts ever collated (Connie Britton, Jesse Plemons, Kyle Chandler etc) plus a certain type of teen emotional drama means that there is no show more likely to make you invest in all five seasons.
4. Top Of The Lake
Set in New Zealand, this is the Wuthering Heights of the mini series world as the setting is just as fundamental to the show as the plot. Detective Robin Griffin (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) heads back to the small town she came from and gets caught up in the mystery of a missing local 12 year-old. What comes next is a complicated unravelling of dark local secrets. By the end you'll be recoiling in horror at what you've just witnessed. Once the recovery period is over though, you'll become evangelical about Top of the Lake's class and beauty, and about the excellence of Moss's performance.
5. Frances Ha
Directed by Noah Baumbach and featuring Greta Gerwig as the eponymous 20-something lead, this is an uncatogorisable muddle of a film with a big, messed up heart, which is hard not to adore.
6. The L Word
Groundbreaking at its time for the simple act of making lesbians present in a TV landscape in which they had been notably absent, The L Word created people you knew and stories you had lived. It more than survives a re-watch.
It's often categorised as Mean Girls with a perm but this tale of a high school clique (all the girls named Heather) is far darker, with important social commentary. Also features vintage Christian Slater and late 80s Winona (now the face of Marc Jacobs Beauty), if you fancy some nostalgia.
This movie from the Coen brothers will make you feel joy, if of a dark, comedic kind. Now more familiar in its TV form, Fargo is the beautifully odd and highly stylised story of a car salesman (William H. Macy) who employs criminals to kidnap his wife, in order to blackmail his father-in-law and his subsequent investigation by homicide detective (Frances McDormand). There is much that makes this movie distinct, not least the Minnesota setting with its chill, its accent and the eerie juxtaposition between "Minnesota nice" attitudes and brutal, unrelenting violence.
9. Bill Cunningham New York
Take a break from scrolling Instagram to watch the grandfather of street style, 82-year-old photographer Bill Cunningham, at work in New York. Regularly ending conversations at a midway point to run in front of a cab for the perfect shot, his fervour is infectious and his life beguiling. Living in an apartment in Carnegie Hall filled mostly with filing cabinets full of negatives, there may be a sadness in this movie (Bill is dedicated to making gay men present in the media and yet never acknowledges his own sexuality) but it is overall utterly life-affirming to see a person so in love with their work.
10. Tiny Furniture
You'll spot not only Hannah, but also Ray, Jessa and many tropes, which Lena Dunham later went on to use in Girls. Extremely watchable from that perspective - for Girls fans at least - but also because it's Dunham, and as we now expect from her, that means a film that is brilliantly raw (it's shot on a handheld camera), darkly comic and more honest than most other TV and movies being produced today.
11. We Are The Best!
This the fictional tale of a group of Scandinavian teenage girls who start a punk band, despite minor obstacles (no instruments, only having one song about PE) in order to stick two fingers up at the boys who won't let them join their group. There's no major plot development or twist and they don't morph into a world class outfit; it's simply a sweet coming-of-age ode to misfits, messy families and mates.
If you haven't watched Noughties classic Skins - essentially, a tale of your years in Sixth Form x200 - now is the time. Arriving on screens at a moment when teen TV was in a glossy state of The OC-style Americanism, it was a trailblazer, packed full of grit and - thanks probably to a writing team whose age averaged 21 - portrayed genuine voices of youth. Like strong teen TV shows like Grange Hill before it, it also launched the careers of numerous major actors, including Nicholas Hoult as Tony Stonem and Dev Patel as Anwar Kharral.
13. Muscle Shoals
Oh the soundtrack. The soundtrack! Aretha, Etta James and the Rolling Stones all feature as the film tells the tale of Muscle Shoals, a tiny town in Alabama whose segregationist society was challenged when it became a magnet for all kinds of music and musicians, spanning from the 1960s to the present day.
A sci-fi Twin Peaks in the strength of its fandom, Firefly disciples still campaign for a reboot of the Joss Whedon (Buffy) show, 13 years after it was canned after one season. It's quirky - set on board a spaceship 500 years in the future - and truly great TV with the sharp dialogue that Buffy fans will recognise straight away and richly-drawn characters; especially impressive since it only had one series to mature.
15. Fish Tank
Early Fassbender is an easy win for a film, but to sell it on Michael alone would be a huge disservice to a beautifully made piece of cinematography, based around 15 year-old Mia and the sexual relationship she has with her mum's boyfriend. The subject matter is dark and the film is complex; reminiscent of This Is England, or the best of Ken Loach. Its performances will stay in your mind for days.
Text Caroline Corcoran