Lifestyle & Culture

Now Watch This: Life Is But a Stream

IF YOU’RE LUCKY, you’re a friend of Pamela Bowen, who with her husband Charlie Bowen wades through a ton of cultural and historical online offerings every month and—this is the important part—keeps a running tally of what’s been watched or listened to and what they’ve learned therefrom. 

But if you’re reading this, you’re a friend of MyLittleBird, and that’s all to the good because we’re going to start running  outtakes from Pamela’s voluminous annotated lists on a periodic basis (translation: whenever she lets us!). Here’s a taste. Earlier “Now Watch This” columns featured shows available through Amazon Primelectures on history and art, plus travel itineraries Zoomed live by seasoned travel guides.

Pamela suggests MLB readers send in their own recommendations: “Whenever somebody asks what to watch online in a Facebook post, it always gets lots of responses,” she points out. Great idea! Then we’ll all get tips from trusted sources—just leave a recommendation or two in the Comment box and send it along.

Meanwhile, Pamela’s report on April streaming.

By Pamela Bowen

  • A fascinating new Ricky Staub film is Concrete Cowboy on Netflix. Critics describe it as “Nomadland” with stirrups. The movie shows us a little-known branch of African American culture—Black cowboys in North Philadelphia whose way of life (and the horse stables) for the past 100 years are threatened. As in “Nomadland,” real members of the community play themselves alongside big-name actors like Idris Elba, Jharrel Jerome and Lorraine Toussaint.
  • During the Screen Actors Guild awards, we got curious about Ted Lasso, which got a lot of attention. We’d never heard of it. Turns out it’s a comedy series on Apple+ about an American football coach hired to coach a professional soccer team in Britain. I’ve never enjoyed comedies unless they’re really good, and don’t care about sports, and figured this show would be a bunch of clichés. But we gave it a chance. I got hooked before Charlie did. The writers are very clever and the actors are excellent and there are surprising plot twists. Well worth your time.
  • We watched Exterminate All the Brutes on HBO after seeing its amazing trailer. It’s by Raoul Peck, who is best known in the US for I Am Not Your Negro, his Oscar-nominated 2016 film (also available on Netflix). This docuseries is Peck’s attempt to unearth what he has called an “origin story” for white supremacy, according to an online review, which continues: Citing Rwanda, he argues that the conditions that enabled the Holocaust were not unique, and that humanity will keep committing atrocities until we take a stark look at our history and choose not to repeat it. Time magazine says of it: “Part personal essay, part investigation, the docuseries Exterminate All the Brutes is a striking piece of nonfiction work that has the intellectual rigor of an advanced history course, and asks that viewers keep up with its many ideas and horrors over the course of its four hours. Raoul Peck picks and pulls at every connecting fiber throughout history, finding several lines through the ages of how hateful dogma begat public policy, systemic murder, and cultural genocide. If you finish Exterminate All the Brutes without re-examining the hundreds of hours spent in history classes, then you didn’t pay attention to Peck’s lesson.”
  • Challenger: The Final Flight is an amazing Netflix limited series re-living the 1986 Space Shuttle explosion. It’s worthy of watching, whether you remember the event or weren’t born yet. Of course, we remember it well. I was at Jim’s restaurant next door to the newspaper where I worked then—The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia—with a fellow editor and a reporter. We had just ordered lunch when a waitress came over and told us the newsroom had called with the news. The editor went back immediately—to meet with bosses and figure out how to do whatever it was we were going to do. The reporter and I gobbled down the meal and took the editor’s lunch back to her. They had decided to put out an extra. At this time of day, there were a number of reporters in the newsroom, but copy editors wouldn’t normally report for another four hours. But since I, the current features editor, had been a copy editor, I was given the job of gathering and editing all the Associated Press and Gannett wire copy, putting them in a separate queue for quick access. This was a constant job because the wire services kept sending updated versions of these stories in addition to new stories. After an hour or so, the news editor arrived and dealt with the stories in the queue and the photos I’d collected, and he laid out all the pages in the system. Then he and I wrote headlines and captions. At the last minute, he edited the main story and set the whole thing in type. Apparently nobody proofread that page, or the main story he had edited. The problem was that The Herald-Dispatch was a morning newspaper, but this edition was to be published the same day, not the next morning. But the editor had automatically changed “Thursday” to “yesterday” in the first sentence of the main story. I was furious! But the extra was a big success. Reporters, secretaries, ad sales staff etc. grabbed a stack of papers and sold them on the street.
We like to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as we can before the winners are announced, and we’ve done a good job this year. Our latest:
  • Promising Young Woman is a controversial movie that got mixed reviews, and I was hesitant to watch it because of the subject matter—rape and revenge. But despite some dark humor, it wasn’t what I’d describe as “intense.” Carey Mulligan is perfect (despite one sexist male reviewer criticizing her as not being pretty enough for the role), the plot is fascinating and the ending is satisfying. It’s on Prime and other services for $6.
  • We loved News of the World, although it’s not the best movie of the year by a long shot. The story, set right after the Civil War, has Tom Hanks earning a living by traveling to remote Western towns and charging admission to his reading of newspapers from all over the country. It was a form of entertainment in places pretty much cut off from everywhere else. Hanks is excellent, of course, but the 12-year-old girl he gets saddled with steals the show, although she rarely speaks. (She’s played by German actress Helena Zengel.) The Roger Ebert website reviewer commented: “There’s something comforting about giving yourself over to an undeniably talented group of artists for two hours and just letting them tell you a story.” It’s on Prime and other services for $6.

4 thoughts on “Now Watch This: Life Is But a Stream

  1. Holly Pollinger says:

    Glad to see that you are culling online streaming for us! What a pleasure knowing that we have these “curated” choices when we relax at the end of a day. No more littering the couch with ripped out pieces of the paper with suggestions of things to watch ..

  2. Janet Kelly says:

    I had not heard of that, but I do like Carey Mulligan and Ishiguro. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Kathy Legg says:

    And while I’m on the subject of Carey Mulligan . . . it’s worth checking out the film Never Let Me Go, based on the novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro. I found the novel incredibly unsettling and the film likewise, but Mulligan is, as always, mesmerizing.

  4. Kathy Legg says:

    Carey Mulligan NOT pretty enough! What a chump. On so many levels.

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