The Movies and TV Shows We’re Thankful For in 2017

Jim and Andy Documentary

Ethan Anderton: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

If you find yourself relaxing at home on this fine holiday weekend, please take the time to watch the new Netflix original documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. The film features footage from behind the scenes of the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, starring Jim Carrey in the lead role as the subversive comedian from the 1970s and 1980s.

During the production of the movie, Jim Carrey employed the method acting technique in order to get into character. Even when the cameras weren’t rolling, both on set and off set, Jim Carrey was either playing Andy Kaufman or Tony Clifton, the rude lounge singer believed to be one of Kaufman’s characters. He referred to himself in the third person, never responded to the name “Jim Carrey” and treated everyone on set just as either Andy Kaufman or Tony Clifton would have.

There is ample footage of Jim Carrey’s antics as Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton available because Universal Pictures had a documentary crew follow him around on set with the intention of creating an electronic press kit to show the lengths to which Carrey was dedicated to the role. Unfortunately, sometimes his behavior rubbed co-stars the wrong way, creating confrontations and uncomfortable situations with director Milos Forman, crew members and even studio executives.

This is easily one of the most fascinating documentaries I have ever seen. Not only is the footage a time capsule of the production, but Jim Carrey himself provides plenty of commentary about what was going through his mind during this time, giving insight into his method and exactly what it was like to put himself in someone else’s mindset for so long. Some moments are absolutely hilarious while others are surprisingly touching and revealing, especially when it comes to the struggles and flaws that Jim Carrey would observe of himself through the lens of Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton.

My only complaint is that while I love getting the perspective of Jim Carrey on his time spent working on this movie, I would have preferred more talking heads from the various cast and crew members who were working with him. The documentary is intentionally centered on Jim Carrey, but I would have liked another point-of-view as well. But even so, this is one captivating piece of documentary filmmaking. If you haven’t seen Man on the Moon or it’s been awhile since you’ve seen it, I recommend giving it a watch beforehand.

the great british baking show

Jacob Hall: The Great British Baking Show

I wish I could sit here and tell you about a movie that has changed my life in recent months. A movie that profoundly moved me in a way that makes me thankful to be alive. And while I have loved many movies in 2017 and have revisited plenty of old favorites that mean the world to me, I keep returning to a TV show. A British TV show. A British TV reality show. A British TV reality show about bakers. Okay, a British TV reality show about amateur bakers.

The Great British Baking Show (its American title – it’s known as The Great British Bake Off in the U.K.) is a reality competition show were a group of ordinary people with extraordinary baking skills gather in a tent and compete in challenges. The best baker gets lauded. The worst baker gets sent home. Repeat until there’s a champion. The formula is familiar – you can’t channel surf for more than 30 seconds on American television without stumbling across a cooking competition show – but the tone of this one makes all the difference in the world.

Simply put: The Great British Baking Show doesn’t have a cruel bone in its body. The hosts are sweet and goofy, but never snarky. The judges are tough and sometimes harsh, but they are always fair and seemingly intent on helping the competitors do better rather than just crushing them. The contestants themselves are sweet and just happy to be there, taking losses in stride, supporting one another, and getting along. Each episode ends with hugs. After years of watching American reality competition shows, with their snide talking heads, alliances, and petty squabbles, this show feels like a relief. Here is a competition show that isn’t just about creating delicious and beautiful food – its about people being good to each other. It’s about coming together and getting along. It’s about being nice, which feels like a lot to ask for in 2017.

Four seasons of The Great British Baking Show are available on Netflix and they will soothe your nerves like nothing else. Recent changes behind-the-scenes have led to new hosts and judges in the most recent season (which isn’t available to stream yet), so enjoy this incarnation while you can. Savor it. Bask in the warm glow of human kindness. Be thankful that this show existed.

lady bird

Hoai-Tran Bui: Lady Bird

Lady Bird is so many things: a snapshot of the early ’00s pop culture landscape, a moving portrait of teen girl ennui, a near-perfect coming-of-age film. But at its warm, beating core, Lady Bird is a story about mothers and daughters, and the fractures they sometimes never overcome.

When I came back to the States after being on vacation when Lady Bird premiered, the first thing my mom said to me was, “We’re watching Lady Bird together.” She had been waiting for me to return, even though she had recently received her own MoviePass and was anxious to use it. Now, I first have to say that my relationship with my mother isn’t nearly as strained as the one between Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf’s Marion. In fact, my mom is probably my closest movie buddy and favorite happy hour companion — though this was a new variation on our relationship that only formed after I went to college. Before then, it was my little sister who was my mom’s closest confidante, while I always felt distant and intimidated by her. Movies were what brought us together. And in Lady Bird I saw not a direct parallel to me and my mom, but a distorted reflection. Lady Bird and Marion were intensely bullish and set in their own ways, unable to see eye-to-eye except on the most trivial of matters. My mom and I were like strangers for such a long part of my life, until we found out that we both loved movies.

“Do you like me?” Lady Bird asks her mother as they shop for dresses for her prom. Marion evades her answer and assures Lady Bird that she only wants her to be the best version of herself. Hurt, Lady Bird turns away. It was a quiet moment that spoke volumes about their relationship — why they always misconnect. After we left the theater my mom turned to me, smiled, and said “I like you.” I felt a lump well up in the back of my throat. Volumes.

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