Choice paralysis is real and the only evidence we need sits a click or two away. Maybe the cord cutting era has largely done away with the act of channel surfing, but many of us rack up an equally large amount of idling time these days. Rather than clicking from PBS through TNT, instead we're perusing what's available on various streaming services and saving the interesting stuff to our lists. Once something hits that list, of course, there's no guarantee it'll ever get watched anyway (perhaps making channel surfing more productive in retrospect).
But, like seemingly everything, our viewing habits and rituals have changed drastically in the last month as society settles into its temporary, at-home COVID-19 reality. Around Ars, some of us have taken advantage of the extra time in proximity of a screen and hit "play" on the stuff that's forever been "eh, I'll watch it next time." Others face new realities from ever-present kids to newly shared selection duties that make us regret never revisiting those queued up films and shows beforehand.
All of us, however, undoubtedly have more time to think about how our streaming queues have been affected. These are those stories (Law & Order: SVU marathons not yet included).
tfw, you finally have three-and-a-half hours to spare
The Irishman (Netflix) is an obvious choice for a list like this: its well-reviewed, it has legendary stars, and its titanic three-and-a-half-hour runtime should be less of a burden when I cant leave the house. But, yeah, that.
This isnt a controversial stance, but Im kind of a Martin Scorsese fanboy. His highs (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, GoodFellas) are almost incontrovertibly brilliant, but Ive appreciated his genre work (Shutter Island, Cape Fear), period pieces (Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence), tortured religious epics (Silence, Kundun, The Last Temptation of Christ), even the kids movie (Hugo). The Wolf of Wall Street might be the most scorched-earth takedown of American greed, temptation, and self-indulgence put on film, and The King of Comedy might be more relevant today than it was in the early 80s. All of them are so considered, so committed on every level to furthering whatever questions Scorsese wants to ask with a given piece. I can always count on them to entertain but not pat me on the head and hand me meaning on a plate.
The Irishman is a sweeping gangster film starring Robert De Niro, so it seems to be right in Scorseses wheelhouse. Feedback from friends has been mixed, but Ill give it the benefit of the doubt. "I don't have the time" is less of an excuse these days, at least for me.
—Jeff Dunn, Commerce Editor
Outlander, and one Friday the 13th binge nightmare
I jumped on a six-month Starz subscription in January solely so I could watch season five of Outlander (Hulu) in 2020. Our family has "yours, mine, and ours" entertainment, and that one is mine, all mine. And since not even my husband's interested, I usually end up sneaking the show in during breaks, in chunks. Normally, weekday daytime hours have proven to be optimal, as the show's bare Highlander bottoms and equally naked swords are not really appropriate for children.
Except, well, you know. Schools have been closed, and my children have been home with me at all times since Friday, March 13—at which point I was still only halfway through the second episode. I've read the books, so I know what's coming, but it's driving me crazy that I have the perfect binge-watch sitting right there and can't ever bring it up.
Other shows I'm not binge-watching right now due to perpetual child presence include the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime), which has less nudity than Outlander but twice as many jokes and choice phrases I don't want to spend my time avoiding explaining.
–Kate Cox, Tech Policy Reporter
When at home, why not get weird?
For me, being stuck at home hasn't become so much a case of "working through saved movies" as it has become "watching the weird stuff I didn't know about." Case in point: the Major Lazer cartoon (Hulu).
For those who aren't familiar, Major Lazer is a quasi-Caribbean electronic dance music group consisting of three DJs: Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire. Diplo is a garden variety white dude, Walshy Fire is Jamaican, and Jillionaire is Trinidadian.
It's sort of a "concept" music group, with album images and occasionally musical themes revolving around the exploits of a burly, quasi-military Jamaican dude whose right arm has been chopped off and replaced with an enormous laser cannon. The actual songs are all EDM club bangers, heavily influenced with Caribbean beats and instruments.
With me so far? OK, great: now that you understand what Major Lazer is, I can tell you that Diplo broke off and made a Major Lazer cartoon—without involving (or at least without crediting) Jillionaire or Walshy Fire.
In the cartoon, the titular pseudo-Rastafarian Major Lazer smokes tons of weed and saves music, white girls, and the world, in roughly that order. All four of these elements are important plot points—themes, if you're being generous—across the entire 11-episode (yes, 11) run, now streaming on Hulu.
—Jim Salter, Technology Reporter
Goodbye me-time, my old friend
We all had our rituals. Maybe you and yours sat together to join John Oliver on Sunday nights. Or, perhaps you squeezed in some new Better Call Saul episodes in-between when your partner went to work on Tuesday mornings and when you had to log in. The old schedules have been put on hold like everything else at this point, and in my house that means something of a constant entertainment negotiation. My partner and I have a single TV but nothing representing solo viewing hours now. In the evening if we're out of mutual material these days, she picks one thing, I get the next.
So far, this has mostly worked out. She leans towards TV and likes binge-able shows without insurmountable episode totals, so we've breezed through Sex Education and Grace & Frankie (both on Netflix). The former is an easy recommendation if you enjoy teen/high school shows, since it has all the familiar beats (prom, crushes, new kids in the group, detention, etc.) but presented through a unique lens (the main character is the son of a sex therapist, and he falls into giving advice to his explorative peers). The latter has Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston playing mismatched, sexually liberated older adults. If that sentence excited you, get moving. Even if it doesn't, the show moves briskly and can be quite refreshing. (It's also easy to tune in and out of if trying to get work done).
To mix it up on my part, I'm aiming to finally empty out my movie queue, my partner's typical taste be damned. Netflix has the Spider-verse, but I've been eyeing the absurdist premise of The Lobster and know the dialogue and tone will be equally wild after finally seeing director Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favorite. Amazon Prime seems to primarily be about documentaries; she's already seen Bill Cunningham New York so instead I've got Time Zero, about the final year of Polaroid, in my view finder. And on Hulu, well, I've already pushed the kaiju-meets-Anne Hathaway genre-bender that is Colossal, which is just as weird, dark, and delightful the second time. Luckily, they picked up a bunch of movies from some guy named Bong recently and she has yet to sit down with Parasite.
—Nathan Mattise, Features Editor
Looking to the local government (of Pawnee at least)
One of my responsibilities here at Ars is staying on top of the news throughout the workday. Not a problem under normal circumstances, but given the reality of the pandemic, the last thing I want to do after dinner is watch a drama. Even The Expanse, which Ive been watching on Amazon Prime, has fallen by the wayside.
Instead, Ive been binging Parks & Recreation on Netflix. I only caught the occasional episode during its run on NBC, but the antics of Pawnee, Indianas best and brightest (well, not Andy Dwyer) government servants have been a welcome and hilarious distraction.
–Eric Bangeman, Managing Editor
Same hours, same movie queue
Self-isolation has had no effect on my at-home movie watching. That's because I'm still working evenings, and—even though she's working from home—The Wife has to keep basically the same hours as she did during the Before Time. She works for a NASA contractor, no big deal *cough* humblebrag.