Funny film recaps

I’ve been a long time fan of The Editing Room for their hilarious rewrites of movies in screenplay format. They make fun of movie tropes and call out every cliche. Reading their abridged scripts is like watching a movie with a funny friend. — CD

What to watchClaudia Dawson
Read movie spoilers

I stopped watching horror movies a while back, because they seemed to be getting more and more graphic and I couldn’t cut it. Instead, I enjoy reading scene-by-scene spoilers for all the films I am too scared or lazy to watch. The Movie Spoiler is not the best designed site, but it’s been around for a long time and all the reviews are well written. — CD

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Get the average of film ratings

Flixmetrix is a website that combines film ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and Metacritic and gives you the average. What I find the most helpful is that I can filter my movie search by genre, and limit results to only those available on Amazon Prime and/or Netflix Watch Instantly. That way I don’t waste time flipping between services searching for a movie. — CD

What to watchClaudia Dawson
Netflix viewing activity

Netflix bases its recommendations on what you watch. If you want to change what its algorithm sees, or if you are just curious to see everything you’ve watched on Netflix, go here. You can delete a show from the list by clicking the X next to it. I was surprised to see that the oldest item on my list was Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, which someone in my family watched on 12/12/11. — MF

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Three YouTube channels

I am wallowing in the deep motherlode of enthusiasm that is YouTube. Here are three ultra niche channels that I subscribe to and keep coming back to for more. One is FliteTest, where they turn almost anything into a flying object, from a pizza box to an Ikea chair. Another is Steve1989, with 600,000 subscribers, who collects and eats vintage military rations and ready-to-eat meals (MRE). Yes, he’ll try that ancient WWII snack box. If he is happy, I’m happy. The third is AvE, a faceless Canadian who takes apart old tools and motors while delivering commentary in his own private language of creative swearing, potty-mouth talk, and the most astounding technical knowledge I have encountered. — KK

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Triple cleverness

If the genius artist Escher could make a musical 3D video it would like this one by mathematical explainer Vi Hart. You can move around in all 360 degrees of a 4-minute piece with 3 overlapping piano performances by a recurring Vi Hart. Watch the making-of video to appreciate the mathematical beauty of its recursive complexity. — KK

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Laughing at evil

For something completely different in movies, I recommend the intensely dark comedy The Death of Stalin. As the New Yorker said, its humor “is so black you could pump it out of the ground.” Normally trivializing evil is not something I could enjoy, but this story, loosely based on historical facts, is so over the top and well done, it was funny. Laughing at the horrifying atrocities seemed the only sane response. The movie skirted the soul’s edge, but it worked for me. Available to rent on YouTube. — KK

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Relive the 1980s personal computer revolution

I’ve been watching Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix, a TV series that ran for four seasons, from 2014 to 2017. It’s like a non-comedic Silicon Valley and is about a team of misfits (led by a guy who looks and acts like a psychotic Don Draper) who are trying to build a 15-pound portable computer during the PC computer revolution of the 1980s. Each season is better than the previous one. — MF

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BattleBots

My mother-in-law is 90, doesn’t speak English, and lives with us. She and I enjoy watching the new season 3 of BattleBots on Amazon Prime. This mindless machine-on-machine violence of robots demolishing other robots is universally entertaining, and spectacular. No language needed. — KK

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Low brow foods

I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch another series of cooking shows on Netflix, but I wound up devouring the entire 8 episodes of Ugly Delicious. Featuring chef David Chang, it’s a personal and idiosyncratic investigation into the kinds of foods that are taken for granted, from home cooking, to low-brow favorites like pizza, to foods that don’t get much respect, like fried rice. There’s a lot of Chang in it as he bounces around ideas (and locations around the globe), but he is honest, questioning, searching, and always interesting. — KK

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Going transparent

I really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ fictional book The Circle, but the movie is even better. This is a disturbing forecast of where always being on social media will take us. A place so transparent, it may be too clear. Much like a Black Mirror episode, but more plausible. The villain, deftly played by Tom Hanks, is likeable and relatable. I have said some of the things he says. Set in today’s Silicon Valley with perfect pitch, the story seems inevitable. If you are clicking on your phone more than 3 times a day, you should watch this. The Circle is now streaming on Amazon Prime. — KK

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Profound comedy

I’ve been laughing in awe while watching the new sitcom series, The Good Place. It’s funny, unconventional, unpredictable, original, and deeply philosophical. What’s the point of being good? Wouldn’t heaven be boring? What’s the best answer to the “trolley problem”? Yes, existential humor! It runs on NBC, but the last two seasons are available on Netflix. — KK

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Exquisite documentary

I’ve watched my share of mountain climbing documentaries. A new one, Meru, streaming on Netflix, is among my favorites. Meru is a stone fishtail peak in the Himalayas that had remained unsummited until recently because it required climbers to haul their own 200 pounds of gear for the final overhang wall routes. The lure of this doc is that it includes an intimate record of two attempts by the same team, the first one failing within 100 meters of the summit. It also documents unbelievable disasters and horrors the climbers endured before starting the second. Because two of the three ace climbers happened to be world class photographers (one works for National Geographic), no other high adventure has been this well documented, or as beautiful. The climbers are intelligent, warm and humble — and obsessed. Meru is a stunning experience, expertly crafted, comprehensive in capturing all moments, yet briskly edited, and a joy to watch. It entails the most innovative, thorough, and brilliant photography I’ve seen in any documentary. — KK

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The Story of China

We are entering the century of China. Our collective future is dependent on its future, and China’s future is highly constrained by its past. By far the best history of China so far is a 6-part BBC experience now running on Amazon Prime by the peripatetic historian Michael Woods. The Story of China boasts incredibly high production values, filmed in China. A thousand-year history is grounded in visits to the actual places where it happened, making it visible and intimate. More importantly this program presents an understandable history that sadly even most Chinese today are ignorant of. Woods is a likeable host who will make you smart. I consider The Story of China essential viewing. (His Story of India is likewise great.) — KK

What to watchClaudia Dawson