Best TV Streaming Now

(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Summer is here, and with it comes a pretty eclectic group of impulse watches. Whether you’re drowning out the heat with the AC or anxiously awaiting the warmth, that distinct summer feeling is already in the air. And sometimes, the only thing that satiates it is shows about people basking in the heat, same as you. Or true crime. Or fluffy comedies. Or a Twin Peaks marathon.

Okay – there isn’t one true way to get in the summer mood, but if you’re like me, and enjoy an eclectic mix of media, here are my suggestions for the best shows to binge on streaming services this week.

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Star Wars Fandom

I love Star Wars.

In our current defensive, insular fandom climate, that’s a contentious thing to admit. But I love it still, and I love its fans, and I love the warmth the movies – all of them, even the bad ones – give me, and have always given me, and will continue to give me forevermore. I’ve always been a fan, but it reached a crescendo in 2015, when The Force Awakens resurrected what had sat dormant for more than a decade. A special, familial, dreamlike pleasantness that starts with a blue serif font before catapulting my heart and imagination into a galaxy beyond.

I’m speaking so romantically of Star Wars because it’s easy to forget what brought us to these movies in the first place. As the Twitter war machine loads another round of ammunition, as the new creators are forced to protect themselves and their talent from vitriolic personal attacks, as conversations about the brokenness of fandom poison our timelines – and our spirit – we slip further and further into an empty void of endless, cyclical diatribe. Nothing changes, nothing gets better, things just dredge on with a savage melancholy that clashes diametrically with the essence of the thing we’re fighting about.

It’s called Star Wars. It’s about love.

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con of thrones 2018

Winter is here for Game of Thrones fans, who are in the midst of a great content drought; the show isn’t back until next year, and George R.R. Martin may never finish his A Song of Ice and Fire book series. But for three short days in May, those things didn’t matter, as a contingency of fans gathered in Dallas for the second annual Con of Thrones, a convention dedicated to celebrating Martin’s rich, fantastical world.

And judging from the passion radiating off of the walls of the Hyatt Regency, this is a group that could survive the longest of winters – so long as they’re in each other’s company.

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tv bits friday night lights

(Welcome to Small-Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Hello all, I’m back for another week of Small-Screen Stream, where I’m bringing you suggestions about the best TV to stream this week. There were some new releases this last week, notably the second season of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, but I’m steering clear of the more obvious stuff and going for some purely emotional choices this time around. (It’s been a rough week, if you haven’t guessed from the constant onslaught of horrible news, and we could all use an upper.)

But worry not, I also have Solo on the brain, and used that as an opportunity to sneak in some Star Wars and Star Wars adjacent choices. I hope you dig in and enjoy the offerings, and feel free to let me know the TV you’ve been checking out this week!

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Women of Solo

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: despite the best intentions of everyone involved, the women of Solo: A Star Wars Story get the short end of the stick.)

Rey. I think about her a lot. A beacon of hope in a fandom so punctuated by masculine energy. There is Leia, yes, a feisty ball of purely female spitfire, a woman who lit a spark in the original Star Wars films and who lives inside every girl of a certain age even still. But Leia was never our focal point, and Rey is. The new dawn of Star Wars entered stage left with a message loud and clear: there are other kinds of heroes in this world, and this is what they look like.

The Disney era of Star Wars is not without its setbacks, but the women have been across-the-board fantastic from the perspective of this lifelong female fan. Rey, Jyn, Holdo, Rose, the return of Leia as a general; strong signals in a hellfire of war and famine and the disturbance of peace. Trailblazers who will not be silenced no matter the boycotting hashtags or insular vendettas. To us, the women who love these movies, they are setting the stage for a new kind of intersectional fandom inclusion.

I had my reservations about Solo: A Star Wars Story, but was excited to see what it might do with its troupe of new female characters. Qi’ra, L3-37 (the first female droid with a major role in Star Wars history), Val. The marketing made them look distinctly impressive, with new energies to bring to what could otherwise be a very male-heavy narrative.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe romance problem

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Lindsey Romain takes stock of the MCU’s romance problem.)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, at best, a series of intricately laced human stories amplified and filtered through the lens of absolute power. At worst, it is a series that never hits the emotional highs and lows of its characters, favoring spectacle and applause over the metrics of human condition. Avengers: Infinity War falls somewhere in the middle of this chart. It is undoubtedly geared to deliver stadium-style hoots and hollers, but goes for the jugular in a few key moments. Youll laugh, youll cry. Its a lot of movie.

Its also a good reminder that the MCU is loaded with troubled romances that have a hard time feeling relevant. It wouldnt be much of a problem if the films climax wasnt anchored almost totally on the relationship between a young woman and a character that is essentially a sentient Siri in human skin, a couple so important that we have to buy that they would risk humanity to save their love. The highest of stakes are predicated on two characters the world probably wouldnt miss that much, but Infinity War still begs us to fret over. Even though, by my measure, it doesnt care itself about developing Wanda beyond what she provides to male narratives, or Vision beyond his omniscient but hackneyed origin story. That sort of sums up Marvel romance in a nutshell: hollow and unearned fabrications that only matter apocalyptically.

There are many layers to MCUs romance problem, so lets take a deeper look at what its done right, what it cant seem to master, and what it might do to rectify this issue going forward. Spoilers ahead. Read More »

Best Television Streaming Now

(Welcome to Small Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Ahoy, streaming fiends. We’re here with a brand new column dedicated to ready-to-watch television. There’s a mountain of content out there, so I’m here to help you keep track of what’s new, what you’re missing, and what you should catch up on before new seasons hit.

There’s a little bit of all of that this week, so without further adieu, here’s a look at the best small-screen streaming options currently at your fingertips.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: A Quiet Place is a good horror movie, even if it’s not a horror movie made for horror fans.)

A Quiet Place is an easy movie to love. It was directed and co-written by John Krasinski, star of The Office, who oozes the same sort of self-deprecating American charm that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar. Krasinski acts in the film alongside his equally likable real-life wife Emily Blunt and a cadre of cute kid actors. It has a simple, air-tight conceit: a family is forced to live in silence after the world is occupied by alien creatures who are drawn to sound. The world-building is effective, the scares all earned, and the emotional core is well-developed. The ingredients are all there, and for the most part they gel.

A Quiet Place is a good movie – but is it a good horror movie? Spoilers follow.

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The Americans is one of the most quietly relevant shows on television, but not necessarily on purpose. The series took on a new meta-level importance with the election of Donald Trump, whose tenure has been marred by his ties to Russia, an ever-growing scandal that could eventually be his undoing. On The Americans, it’s the 1980s, our protagonists are KGB spies, and the Soviet Union is about to collapse. The relationship between Russia and America is the story’s central tête-à-tête; Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by the marvelously underrated Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, who should be bathing in Emmys by now) have spent five seasons deeply undercover, raising children and assimilating into suburban consumerism unchecked.

But in the season six premiere, which aired last night, there is a foundational change in the show’s status quo, and the mounting feeling that it will all soon come to a head.

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Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Breakdown - Eddie Redmayne as New Scamander

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer made one writer so angry.)

When I was a kid, the image of Hogwarts conjured magical surreality; a cognitive awareness that this place wasn’t real in the technical sense, but alive somewhere in the crook of a collective imagination. The words of Dumbledore spring to mind: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

That’s how I’ve always seen stories. Real, because the words make them so. And, in the case of Hogwarts, real because the movies made them so, too. In the Harry Potter films, the castle took on an eerie actuality: towers like sharp teeth or open arms, depending on the slant of life. All great fantasy castles have that familial dichotomy. That’s how Hogwarts has always felt: like family, like home.

So, why did its appearance in the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer leave me completely cold? Actually, worse than cold – almost angry?

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