The annual award frenzy in the world of cinema has started since the nominations for both the BAFTA and the Academy awards are now done and dusted. Platforms are acquiring screening rights at top speed and by the time of the award ceremonies, you are likely to have found ways to stream films, documentaries and shows that have made it to the nomination lists.
#WFH, however, brings to you the lesser talked about and hidden gems available across multiple platforms. This weekend's recommendations are as much about entertainment as about education.
Emerald Cities (1983)
This freakball of a film is sure to blow your mind with its whimsicality. The plot is simple: a man in a Santa suit is looking for his runaway daughter and gets killed by gunman on a busy street.
The psychedelia that the film is able to create around this plot, however, is complex, heady, and sometimes confusing. It is accentuated by the songs of two of 80s popular Punk bands—Flipper and The Mutants.
Emerald Cities is about Christmas and consumerism, aspirations of the youth, paranoia around the Soviet Union, and anarchy.
The film subverts conventional filmmaking and uses non-actors, street interviews, TV clips, and live band performances to take the narrative forward.
There is nothing predictable about the way the film progresses and this element of surprise is what keeps your eyes glued to the screen.
With the US and Russia again dangerously close to a confrontation over Ukraine, the film also serves as a little refresher to the Cold War era and the hysteria around real and imagined enemies.
Director Rick Schmidt, internationally acclaimed for making low to no-budget films, makes an ironical appearance towards the end, making for a tasteful denouement for this anarchist riot of a film.
Perfect for a Friday evening.
Where to Watch: Mubi
From the US of the 1980s, come to the contemporary Istanbul and meet Meryem, Pari and Gulbin. These three women are linked to each other in an overlapping patient-therapist relationship. Meryem, a young religious house cleaner, sees Pari, a mental health therapist, after a recurring spell of inexplicable fainting incidents. Pari, in turn, has Gulbin as her therapist.
However, the lives of these three women are linked in ways that are not apparent to even them. Meryem's employer, Mr Sinan, is romantically involved with Gulbin as well as a friend of Pari. There are some contrivances but they are not too far fetched or invite the viewer to willingly suspend her disbelief. It is not so uncommon for people's lives to overlap in big cities, that are sometimes as small in scope as villages.
Ethos explores the tensions of identity in present day Turkey as it drifts away from Ataturk's clinical secularism to Erdogan's religious fundamentalism. The city of Istanbul has always inhabited two worlds—traditional and modern—simultaneously and the show explores how these two worlds collide and coexist.
Through the vocabulary and premise of mental health, Ethos delves into the bifurcated psyche of a society where religiosity and secular modernity often operate at cross purposes causing rifts within. In its slow-burning six episodes, the show makes an attempt to understand the fragmented elements of a society, family, as well as the individual.
The show can be seen as an education module to understand the present day Istanbul, at the same time entertaining the viewer with its sensitively filmed narrative and powerful performances. It makes for a satisfying binge watch session on Saturday.
Where to Watch: Netflix
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
Fine, it is in the Oscar's race this year and not-so-hidden at the moment. And yes, it is about the eyes of the protagonist: permanently lined, with huge, campy lashes. What they see, choose to see, and unsee.
This biopic—based on the 2000 documentary of the same name by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey—tells the story of Christian broadcaster Tammy Faye, and her televangelist husband Jim Bakker. The duo hosted popular children's show, Jim and Tammy on Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). After a fallout, they set up their own evangelism channel Praise The Lord Network.
Bakker was eventually arrested in 1989 for fraud after a series of allegations involving sexual misconduct and financial improprieties surfaced and got investigated.
There is nothing that Jessica Chastain cannot do. Here, she is immensely persuasive and entertaining as Tammy, the woman who rose like a phoenix from her husband's shadow to be remembered as a strong LGBT rights supporter.
The film explores—or at least makes an attempt to do so—the complicity of Tammy in her husband's multiple misadventures, including an alleged rape. Did Tammy see her world to be what it really was: corrupt, politically manipulated, emotionally exploitative, and insensitive? Did she choose to stay in it for far too long? Could she have asserted herself earlier and avoided much of the ugliness? There are many aspects of the couple's life that are glossed over by the film but that, thankfully, is not a crime.
Overall, this campy ride is immensely enjoyable: start your Oscar's dose with it this Sunday.
Where to Watch: Disney + Hotstar