Staff Recs: Best Netflix Originals

Daniella Nichinson, Nicole Rosenthal, Melanie Pineda, Ryan Mikel, Alex Cullina, Guru Ramanathan
Screenshots from some of the shows mentioned. From left to right: "Alex Strangelove," "Mudbound," "Ozark," "Nailed It!" and "Sacred Games."

Let’s face it: streaming services have completely shaken up the entertainment industry, from Spotify and Apple Music to Hulu and the matriarch of them all, Netflix. The streaming service has grown from a home rental service to greenlighting and distributing its own in-house productions, known as Netflix Originals. With Emmy Award-winning series like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” and Academy Award-nominated projects like “Mudbound,” “Icarus” and “13th,” there’s no denying that Netflix has caused quite the stir in the entertainment world, notoriously upsetting the prestigious Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for going against “the model of film lovers.”

But Mr. Thierry Frémaux (festival director), Netflix’s model has made the art of cinema more accessible to all film lovers, and in our opinion, is looking toward the future of cinema, not the demise of it. To prove this, we have selected our picks for some of the best Netflix Originals in both film and television.

“Ozark” Season 2
Daniella Nichinson, Arts Editor

Say goodbye to Michael Bluth and hello to Marty Byrde. Jason Bateman returns to the brooding world of the Ozarks, which has only grown darker and more sinister in the show’s absence. Season 2 finds the Byrdes still tangled in a web of drug cartels, murderous locals and family tension. It’s not a matter of who’s good and who’s bad, but a matter of which shade of dark to root for. With a gloomy, murky atmosphere that is the ideal backdrop for crime, “Ozark” continues to ask the question, “Will Marty ever be able to dig himself and his family out of a hole that keeps getting deeper and deeper?”

“Evil Genius”
Nicole Rosenthal, Music Editor

Netflix’s summer smash “Evil Genius” proved worthy of its buzz, ricocheting truecrime aficionados like myself on a decades-long mystery rollercoaster that will leave even the most experienced sleuths scratching their heads. Initially following the story of the 2003 collar bomb incident in Erie, Pa. which resulted in the gruesome death of a pizza delivery man, “Evil Genius” spirals quickly into a thriller investigating a diabolical couple, a questionable victim and a shocking conspiracy. For fans of “Buzzfeed Unsolved,” “Criminal Minds” or “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” look no further for your next binge-watch. So, buckle your seatbelts and grab your tinfoil hat, because this four-hour miniseries will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time – and keep you questioning everything.

“Nailed It”
Melanie Pineda, Deputy Opinion Editor

Do you love baking shows, but constantly feel like you could never stand a chance against all those professional chefs? Then “Nailed It” is the show for you. Watching amateur bakers and their hilarious fails will make you feel like a pro in the kitchen. Trust me, you could probably make ice better than the contestants featured on this baking show. Nicole Byer’s bubbly personality as the show’s host also makes “Nailed It” just the perfect level of binge worthy.

“Mudbound”
Ryan Mikel, Arts Editor

Keeping it in the NYU family, writer and director Dee Rees (‘07) and Rachel Morrison (‘00) brought “the American dream vs. the American reality” to Netflix this time last year with their gray-tinted period drama “Mudbound.” The film, based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan,” follows two families in rural, post-World War II Mississippi and examines race and trauma through a two-hour Welles-inspired epic that earned four Academy Award nominations. Aside from the technical mastery from Rees and Morrison, actors Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige turn in astounding performances which garnered them a Screen Actors Guild nomination for best acting ensemble.

As a former resident of Mississippi, I can vouch for the Southern dialects adopted by these stars. While the runtime can prove a daunting task, “Mudbound” in its entirety is a visual feast with master classes in acting, cinematography, directing and writing, plus a gargantuanly important story for the day and age we are living in. Rees and Morrison make me proud to attend NYU. Look at what our community can do.

“Sacred Games”
Guru Ramanathan, Film & TV Editor

Netflix’s first original Indian series, “Sacred Games,” blew past all expectations this summer, as a binge-worthy gangster drama that puts even some Bollywood films to shame. The series alternates between crime lord Ganesh Gaitonde’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) rise to power in the 1980s and the present where the troubled Inspector Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) is thrown into a race to save Mumbai in 25 days after a disturbing phone call with an older Gaitonde. The past and present storylines are directed by prominent Indian directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. “Sacred Games” is shot like an eight-hour movie, but do not expect the bombastic song sequences from the usual Bollywood fare or the soap opera-approach of many Indian TV shows. The filmmakers exploit the freedom Netflix has showered upon them, making “Sacred Games” a gorgeous, gripping and gory series that has often been compared to another Netflix favorite, “Narcos.” The show is further elevated by strong performances and neat writing that make every episode a blast to watch. The season finale’s major cliffhanger will leave counting the days to the next season.

“Alex Strangelove”
Alex Cullina, Film & TV Editor

With recent buzzy movies like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “The Kissing Booth,” Netflix has single handedly brought about a mini-renaissance for the romantic comedy. And while you might not have heard of it, “Alex Strangelove” is among the best of them. Alex (Daniel Doheny) is a smart, ambitious high school senior, with a good group of  friends and a great girlfriend, Claire (Madeline Weinstein). But she begins to suspect something’s amiss when he continually declines her offers to “devirginize” him, and after he meets the intriguing Elliot (Antonio Marziale) at a party, he begins to question his sexuality. For a teen rom-com, the film is surprisingly racy in a way that feels refreshingly true-to-life, with plenty of cursing and frank talk about sex. Although the production values are a little low-rent, and the script sometimes edges towards being hokey, the film is lovely, warm and definitely worth a watch.

 

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