The Berlin Film Festival is sadly coming to an end. The winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film, the prestigious Berlinale award, will be announced later tonight.
I couldn’t be happier about how this edition went. I cried my heart out at a Danish movie, walked the wrong way in Berlin for about half an hour trying to process a Norwegian one, and absolutely loved new productions from the U.S. such as Jonah Hill’s Mid90s and Guy Nattiv’s Skin.
A dedicated list will follow of our top movies from the festival and what you should expect from releases in 2019. For now, I leave you with two visceral picks that are already available for streaming. I hope they will bring you closer to what the past two weeks at the Berlinale have been for us.
Long live challenging film and TV!
OUR TOP MOVIE OF THE WEEK
A chilling and dark movie to be especially appreciated by true suspense lovers.
At the funeral of the family’s matriarch, no one is grieving except the granddaughter. The kid doesn’t exactly elicit empathy - her looks and behavior are creepy, and will only be more so as the movie progresses. When not grieving is unusual, and grieving is very unsettling, you can tell what kind of family (and movie) this will be.
But, to say Hereditary is a horror film wouldn’t be doing it justice. It's a thriller that borrows from the genre of horror but doesn't quite obey its laws. It has very few sound effects or music for example. The suspense and thrill come directly from the story.
This movie twists and turns, and even misleads you at times. One thing is for sure, if you like Hereditary, you will want to immediately replay it.
📰 In an article titled “Hereditary Delivers a New Kind of Horror”, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker called it “genuinely terrifying” and rightfully warned: “for viewers recuperating from a wounded childhood, or from a festering relationship, [Hereditary] could scrape too close to the bone.”
📺 on Amazon Prime; 🍅 rating: 89%
OUR TOP TV SHOW OF THE WEEK
The Break (La Treve)
Season two of The Break premiered on Netflix this week.
The body of a footballer from Togo is found in a small Belgian village. Suicide is suspected, but things don’t quite add up. Recordings of Skype sessions with his family show him happy, excited and looking forward to sending money back to them.
The seemingly quaint town where the incident takes places sees its secrets uncovered by a detective from Brussels. The farm where the body was found harbors Nazi symbols, 100-year-old weapons, and um.. a dominatrix.
If you liked Broadchurch or Happy Valley, you will love The Break. It’s a true hidden gem that sports a production value rivaling the biggest U.S. hits. A good reward for anyone willing to turn on the subtitles (or the dub).
📰 Critic John Doyle wrote for the Globe and Mail: “powerful, plausible and anxious to poke around in small-town attitudes and prejudices in Belgium -- thereby standing in for all of Europe away from the capital cities -- the eight-part series is gripping, finely crafted, modern noir storytelling.”
📺 on Netflix everywhere; 🍅 rating: 100%
Readers’ top picks
A Man Called Ove on Amazon Prime is our readers’ favorite movie this week. This Swedish gem is about a man who decides to commit suicide but his plan is continuously interrupted by his own do-gooder attitude for his community. It might seem like a tough watch but it is really heartwarming.
Goliath also on Amazon Prime, one of our recent newsletter picks, is readers’ favorite TV show this week. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a lawyer down on his luck who makes a big come back. Season 1 is amazing, season 2 is not as good.
We’re still optimizing this section. Instead of listing the most popular titles by streaming platform, we now present you with our readers’ top movie pick and then top TV show pick (just like our staff’s picks). For all feedback, please feel free to respond to this e-mail.
New titles worth your time
The Dragon Prince, a popular Netflix animation, is coming back for season 2 today. Slate called it “of Avatar's caliber”, full review here. For fantasy fans only.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is coming to Netflix tomorrow. It’s one of Judd Apatow’s most successful creations, having drawn $177 million in box office out of a $27 million budget. It stars Steve Carrell, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill in one of his earliest performances (his funny two-minute scene is on Youtube).
Lorena is an anticipated new TV show that premieres on Amazon Prime today. This four-episode docu-series is produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out) and is about the Bobbit case. Lorena Bobbitt had sliced off her husband's penis after years of abuse, which drew mainstream attention back in 1993. This new show tries to investigate her case from a different angle (domestic abuse and sexual assault).
Great titles that will soon expire
No notable titles expiring from Netflix this week - for the average viewer, I must say. For younger audiences, Girl Meets World expires this Tuesday (a rather successful spin on the classic 90s show Boy Meets World).
For the very nostalgic, the 1978 movie Piranha expires this Wednesday, February the 20th. If you liked Jaws, you will love Piranha. They’re pretty much the same movie except with a different fish.
No notable titles expiring on Amazon Prime this week.
Berlinale update: Mistakes
Long read by Melina Buckley.
One of the many fun sides of the film festival are the exclusive workshops. In this week’s update, I want to share with you my notes from a series of events on the theme of mistakes and how to fail better. This was as part of the Berlinale Talents Program, a section of the festival designed to help young filmmakers.
Four members of this year’s International Jury shared their experiences with mistakes and the creative process. Sandra Hüller (Requiem, Toni Erdmann) and Sebastiãn Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Everybody Knows) highlighted the importance of seeking out and creating environments that allow for the possibility of mistakes.
Hüller said that it helped her to imagine career/life alternatives in the case that she failed completely: having other possibilities in mind gives her the courage and freedom to experiment and to test boundaries. Lelio said the best film moments come from the “sparkles” captured at the crossroads of what you prepare for and plan and what you try.
All agreed that as important as research and preparation are, films take shape as you are making them. In an interview/discussion, David Lowery (A Ghost Story, The Old Man and a Gun) shared the role of music in his creative processes under the theme of the joys of trial and error.
Then came the last speaker to turn things around: James Shamus (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm). He referred to learning from failing as “structural asshole-ishness of an impossible lesson”.
He blew up the Berlinale theme on mistakes showing how it was misguided and that the cultural imperative “to fail better” serves to reinforce the precariousness of newer filmmakers and the broader agenda of anxiety capitalism. Heavy stuff, I know - but he nailed it.
He urged us to challenge this narrative through radicalization, solidarity and acknowledging that we learn more from successes.
Art, and success, derive from craft, content, and authenticity, NOT mistakes and failures.
That’s it for this week folks, I hope there is something in there for you.
As you may have noticed and due to timing constraints with the festival, we weren’t able to arrange a custom illustration for this week’s issue. Our newsletter artist will have his pens ready for the next one.
The next edition will be in your inbox on Friday, Feb. 22.