What We’re Watching While Social Distancing

We’re all probably watching a lot more movies and shows in social isolation. Here’s the kinds of things we’ve been catching up on, or going back to for comfort. And what we’re looking forward to seeing more of.


What I’ve watched, and what I’ve queued these past two weeks includes a lot of new Netflix Original Series–and many of my favorite throwback films. In this time where we’re all practicing social distancing, I’ve found myself wanting to watch things I haven’t had time for before. That includes rewatching all the Toy Story and Harry Potter films. In addition, I’ve been feeding my love of true crime docs including my current favorite, Dirty Money, whose second season was released only a few weeks ago. And lastly, I’ve found myself going back to my childhood favorite films (Mulan, The Incredibles, and Shrek) probably as a way to “transport” me back to a time where I never watched the news.

I’ve had One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sitting in my room for a couple of weeks and seeing as how I’m confined to my home, I thought “What better time to watch a movie about confinement?” I found the movie oddly comforting because beyond exploring how different people deal with their confinement in a mental institution, it has a lesson on how to break free from your constraints – both physical and mental. I sat in for a remote movie marathon hosted by the Film Initiative, and one of the films we watched was The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was such a fun watching experience. It was fun to escape into the wacky world Wes Anderson created in the film, and I plan on binge-watching his other work leading up to the premiere of his latest film The French Dispatch. After watching a clip of dialogue from Mike Leigh’s Naked a few months ago, I’ve been itching to watch it, and now that I have a few extra hours to spare, I’m thinking it might be time to kick-off my free Criterion Channel trial with an exploration of London’s night scene.

You know that one person in every friend group that understands none of the classic film references, doesn’t watch the Oscars, and keeps a list of movies they’ll maybe watch “one day?” Well that’s me, I’m the friend. And the time has finally come for me to get “cultured” in all the old and fancy films I’ve never had the discipline to sit down and watch and see what they’re all about. I’ve started with GoodFellas, and will continue with The Godfather and Casablanca. I’m also admittedly behind on some more recent hits like Parasite (I know, I know), Dunkirk, and Crazy Rich Asians. Aside from what I’m watching for educational and social status purposes, I just rewatched a Disney fave, Tangled, and binged the first season of Love Is Blind (in 3 days). I’m now moving on to the latest season of My Hero Academia (I feel inclined, again for social status purposes, to mention that I’ve read the manga so it’s okay that I’ve waited this long). I am also watching a healthy amount of random anime and cartoon classics, because animation is soup for my soul.

Oh my sweet quarantine; despite all the bad there is some good in the form of extra free time to binge watch any movie or show of your liking. That for me apparently means watching Comedies and… Cartoons? Last week I found myself watching Angry Birds 2 despite never actually having seen the first one, turns out it was pretty entertaining and definitely very comforting. Last night’s home screening was Aladdin, but the Will Smith version that came out last year, not the timeless Robin Williams classic. I’m hoping to squeeze in a double feature tomorrow night and finally get to watch Frozen 2, following it with a childhood favorite of mine, Around the World in 80 Days. What I’ve learned about myself during this global crisis is that as someone who just can’t help but read the news during the day, I seek my comfort at night in films filled with imagination and optimism. For this reason my 7 day free trial of Disney+ is currently my holy grail and trusty provider of entertainment.

When I’m not running the cable news circuit or obsessing over doom memes, I’ve been watching a mix of personal comfort movies and catching up on some classic films I’ve wanted to watch for a while. Under the comfort films, I’ve rewatched all of Sergio Leone’s westerns (The Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in the West, Duck You Sucker) and my geeky guilty pleasure–The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (extend editions, of course!) I had only seen the first part of Mizoguchi’s The 47 Ronin before, so watched both parts. I’m embarrassed that I never seen Melville’s Army of Shadows but that’s now been corrected. The Criterion Channel has been doing a Burt Lancaster stream, so I’ve watched Elmer GantryI Walk Alone, and The Bad and the Beautiful. I had also wanted to catch The Official Story (La historia oficial) for a while, and am glad I did. Looking forward, me and the Criterion Channel are going to continue getting much better acquainted, and I’m also going to take advantage of the streaming options for new releases through local independent theaters such as The Coral Gables Art Cinema and O Cinema.

These days, when I’m not reading Camus’ The Plague, I’ve been drawn to some dark story wisdom streaming on Netflix, namely The Pianist and Mad Men. How on earth does this Holocaust film and this TV show make me feel better about our Covidian life? The answer lies in the struggles of protagonists Wladyslaw Szpilman and Donald Draper. In this particular Netflix combo, the threats these protagonists face show me that things can be both terrifying out in the world and in our psyches, but that it is possible to make it to the other side. For Szpilman, the antagonist is external, in the form of an almighty and seemingly unbeatable White Supremacist military superpower. For Draper, the antagonist is internal, arguably also an almighty and unbeatable enemy within that keeps you watching for seven seasons. Taken together, these storylines show their protagonist’s resilience and survival instincts in horrific and damning situations, all while keeping their creative talents intact! So as strange as it is, I’ve been discovering perspective and hope in darker period dramas. They quiet the Covid chaos through an emotional intensity that rivals our own, at this moment in hxstory.

While trying not to go stir crazy at home, I’ve been binging all the movies and TV shows I want. I’ve really enjoyed Netflix’s Crip Camp, a hilarious and emotional documentary about the resilience of the disability rights movement in America. I also hopped on the Tiger King hype train and dove head first into the docuseries on Netflix. I won’t lie, I watched the entirety of it in less time than I’m proud of. And yes, Carole probably did kill her husband but I’m still on the fence about whether she really fed him to her tigers. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been another go-to during the quarantine and I can’t deny the joy of binge watching Malcolm in the Middle. I also can’t go without mentioning my ultimate comfort movie — Star Wars: A New Hope. I love all of the original Star Wars trilogy but there’s something really special to me about that first film. Maybe it’s Luke Skywalker watching the twin suns setting on Tatooine, full of hope, desperation, and a sense of something bigger than himself. Or maybe it’s just the knowledge while watching that good always wins and the sun always comes up after a long night.