The Year Netflix (Almost) Made It

The award season has officially started with The Golden Globes nominations, which even though is covered with movies mostly released in the last two months of 2018, we cannot stop thinking about everything we’ve watched through the past 12 months. But before start naming the best movies of 2018 – specially because I have so much to catch up on – I thought it would be interesting to talk about Netflix.

For those who have been reading Papiro & Mint for a while, you have probably noticed how I’ve always had strong opinions about the streaming service, which in my opinion, made people lazy to look for more titles than what is presented in the catalogue – specially for the low quality of movies and programs that carries the name of “Netflix Originals”. This year, however, Netflix seemed to have made very interesting moves, making me wonder: has Netflix finally made it? Let’s take a look.

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“Annihilation” by Alex Garland

From the same director of Ex Machina, Annihilation is by far the best sci-fi movie of the year. It’s a shame it didn’t get any Golden Globes nominations and it probably won’t get any Oscar ones and I think this is happening because the movie was released in February. However, Annihilation is an extremely creative and stunning film that seem to mix Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker with Under the Skin in a plot where a woman decides to enter a zone which laws of nature have been changed after a supposedly non-identified objects comes from space. Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer and staring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac, the movie mixes elements of sci-fi and horror with existentialist questions presented in a very interesting and refreshing way, living in a spectrum where the lines of artistic and genre film seem to mix in one.

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“The Alienist”

With six Emmy nominations and two Golden Globes, The Alienist was one of the most interesting limited series of 2018 – which funny enough, has been ordered a second season. Based on the book by Caleb Carr, the show is set in New Work during 1896 and talks about a doctor who decides to investigate the killings of several boy prostitutes whose genitals are cut off during the act. With an outstanding cinematography and production design, The Alienist is a dark story involving murder, prostitution, child abuse and rape in a very dark and sinister tone that isn’t afraid to take deep psychological approaches. With amazing performances by Daniel Bruhl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans, The Alienist is one of the must-watch and feel-bad limited series of the year.

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“The Haunting of Hill House”

Probably one of my favourite shows of 2018, The Haunting of Hill House was inspired by one of my favourite horror movies: The Haunting (1963) by Robert Wise. By telling the story of a haunted mansion, Mike Flanagan did a terrific job in transforming the story of the original film into a show of a family who carries the traumas of their childhood when they lived in Hill House. The way the story is built through the episodes is simply amazing and the tone is always on point. Not mentioning there are ghost hidden in regular scenes, making you feel like there is always something else happening around of what we are watching. There is even an episode shot in one single take! Mike Flanagan has obviously full control of this project and the result is incredible, just like the performances of Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino and Kate Siegel.

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“Bodyguard”

Being by far my favourite TV show of the year, Bodyguard is a limited series of six episodes produced by BBC starting Richard Madden about a police sergeant who is promoted to be the bodyguard of a controversial government figure whose ideals he loathes. Being a mixture of Homeland with House of Cards, Bodyguard uses its six episodes in a masterful way, building conflict, tension and have an extremely realistic approach that dialogues with what’s going on in the UK right now such as Bretix, terrorism and extreme leaders. Netflix bought the rights of distribution and is not only part of the Netflix Original catalogue now but it has also received two Golden Globes nominations for Best Series and Acting for Madden. If you haven’t watched it already, do it for yesterday!

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“House of Cards” (Season 6)

The last season of House of Cards may not have been one of the best of the show but it was definitely one of the most important for Netflix. The challenge to conclude Netflix’s first show ever after the sexual harassment declarations towards Kevin Spacey was huge, which resulted on him getting fired from the team. But Robin Wright decided to bring everybody together to conclude the story with a new script where the character of Spacey was dead, which despite having its difficulties, it meant a lot for bringing the character of Robin Wright into the center of the show in a time where Hollywood is going through movements like MeToo and at the same time, creating a representation of Donald Trump’s government’s hysteria. The result is very interesting and even though its conclusion divided audiences, we can’t deny the relevance of how the show was brought back together to conclude the series that made Netflix what it is today.

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“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by Joe and Ethan Coen

If the title of this article says that 2018 was the year that Netflix almost made it, that happens because like previous years, they have produced something a little bad from someone important and this year is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by Joe and Ethan Coen. Some people are actually liking it, but I wonder if they would say the same if this film had been directed by someone else. Being built like six short-films, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs suffers from inconstancy in the quality and time of its stories – which doesn’t mean they are rich in cinematography and production design. Is a very nice attempt, but does not come even close to one of the year’s most important films.

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“Outlaw King” by David Mackenzie

From the same director of Hallam Foe, Starred Up and Hell or Highwater, Outlaw King was definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I’m not sure why so many people are not liking it, but the more I think about David Mackenzie’s new film the more it grows on me. The film tells the story of Robert the Bruce, a Scottish nobleman who decides to become King of Scotland to fight for the land’s independence from England. The way Mackenzie builds his film is very impressive, with beautifully directed scenes, a rich and detailed costume design and incredible acting from Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and specially, Billy Howle. It’s funny to imagine that medieval movies can be made like this today while ten years ago it had to be a major 3-hour-blockbuster film, like Troy. Thanks to Game of Thrones, I guess, medieval times can be more simple, realistic and tense, which is exactly what Outlaw King is.

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“The Other Side of the Wind” by Orson Welles

The fact that Netflix produced a Orson Welles film in 2018 is probably one of the most surreal things that has happened this year. The film, however, was shot in 1976 and it was never finished thanks to Orson Welles’ death and many political and economic problems at the time. After years in the editing room, The Other Side of the Wind was finally finished. The result, however, is extremely dubious. It’s very hard to imagine what Orson Welles would have though of his final film, even though the producers and editors have followed every single note written on the scripts. But you don’t need to be a genius like Welles to realise what works and doesn’t on his latest film. By telling the story of a director who is trying to raise money on his birthday party to finish his latest film, The Other Side of the Wind is messy, confusing and even boring. It’s not a bad film, as Welles uses an interesting fake documentary style to portray the Hollywood life in the 60s and the new american cinema. But are so many things going on inside The Other Side of the Wind that maybe the challenge of editing all of this is as big as what the film represents: the first Welles movie after he comes back to America that talks about the morality of Hollywood people at the time. Maybe the film was too big for Welles, but we will never know. Maybe this is as close we can get to what Welles wanted. Either way, is an extremely important not only for being finished, but for also being released by Netflix.

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“Happy as Lazzaro” by Alice Rohrwacher

On 2017, movies like Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories went through some controversy at Cannes Film Festival for the fact they were produced by Netflix and wouldn’t be released on regular cinemas. This started raising questions of the importance of cinema and the way we consume movies nowadays, what is art and what isn’t. This is a question I’m still trying to figure it out but the fact Netflix bought the rights to Happy as Lazzaro proves that even them take a chance on artistic films – and I’m so glad they did. Happy as Lazzaro is not only one of my favourites movies of 2018 but it also won a prize at Cannes Film Festival this year for its script. The movie is a beautiful tale of a boy named Lazzaro who lives in a house in the countryside where several workers work for a rich family. When the son of this family decides to run away and hide in one of Lazzaro’s secret places, several events starts to unfold where surrealistic elements take place and time and memory becomes one of the characters in the film. With an outstanding direction by Alice Rohrwacher, Happy as Lazzaro is a must-watch Italian dream-like fairy tale.

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“Roma” by Alfonso Cuarón

Winner of nothing else than this year’s Venice Film Festival, Roma is Netflix first award-winning movie that will probably give Cuarón an Oscar for Best Foreign Film or Best Director (or maybe both) – and with good reason. I haven’t watched the movie when I first wrote this article, but now that I have, I had to come to update this part because it’s simply one of the best movies of 2018. Even though a lot of people are loving it there also a lot of people finding it boring, but they probably are not very used to foreign films. Cuarón delivers an extremely touching tale about social-classes, family and memory in a stunning black and white photography that will make you remember of Fellini movies. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but the way Cuarón builds his film is definitely something we’re not used to seeing at the theaters anymore. Roma is not on theaters, however, but on Netflix, and I must say this is huge.

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“Girl” by Lukas Dhont

Another film that came out at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and that I haven’t watched, Girl was bought by Netflix after receiving the Camera d’Or award along with the Queer Palm. Being nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, the film tells the inspiring true story of a Belgian transgender woman who decides to become a professional dancer. The film is Luke Dhont’s debut and stars Victor Polster, who is also a transgender. Girl is set to be released by Netflix at the beginning of 2019.