Welcome to our nineteenth installment of Sunday Streaming Suggestions!
Writers Jack Martin, Sarah Smith, and Evan Northrup have delivered a fresh slate of streaming suggestions for your Sunday.
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
We all know the story of the actor or actress who can never outgrow the fame of their initial role. You know who I mean. The Topher Graces (Eric Forman on That 70’s Show) of the world; the people whose names become so synonymous with a single character that they can never find success outside of it. If you had asked me a year ago if Kaley Cuoco would be one of these bittersweet stories, I would have said yes. For 12 years Cuoco played Penny, the iconic girl-next-door role on The Big Bang Theory—the most popular sitcom in America. In the eyes of America, Cuoco was Penny and Penny was Cuoco, and I didn’t think anything could change that. Then I saw The Flight Attendant.
The Flight Attendant is a new HBO Max series about a flight attendant, played by Cuoco, who wakes up next to the body of a dead man in a hotel. From there the plot funnels down a winding tunnel of espionage, betrayal, sinister plots, love, and dark memories of the past. The show is edited together in a style unlike anything I have ever seen before. They often have multiple moving panels of footage on the screen at the same time, and use fast forward and other effects to simulate dream state, paranoia, and the influence of alcohol in the most effective and creative way I’ve seen since the Travolta driving scene in Pulp Fiction. At the center of all this creative style and storytelling is Cuocu. Her phenomenal acting binds the story together, making it dramatic, heartbreaking, and funny all at the same time. With her Golden Globe-nominated performance in The Flight Attendant, Cuoco has burst out of the box labelled sitcom, and she won’t be going back.
I May Destroy You (HBO Max)
This show is seriously unlike anything I’ve ever watched. The writing is so natural that I would believe you if you told me this was unscripted and filmed like a docuseries. The acting is SO raw and SO emotional; you literally feel the feelings with every character. Michaela Coel is a GENIUS.
I May Destroy You follows her portraying a young writer named Arabella coming up in London and struggling to balance love, work, and life. When one night she goes out with some distant friends and wakes up without recollection of what happened, she slowly starts to realize that the night may have actually been something sinister. She tackles sexual assault, grief, and coping mechanisms in a way I’ve never seen in popular media, which I think is a large part of the reason the show garnered such a cult following so quickly.
Aside from writing that far outdoes almost anything else on TV today, I May Destroy You portrays and investigates its characters so delicately and realistically that, like I mentioned before, they all seem like real people. Terry and Kwame are outstanding as a supporting cast, although I think the argument could be made that they are essentially co-stars in the series. We follow their lives as much as Arabella’s, and their storylines are equally as raw and refreshing as hers. I could go on for days about why this show is a must-watch that’s equally as culturally important as it is entertaining, but for now, I implore you to give it a go.
Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max)
Judas and the Black Messiah is an absolute force of a film. It's the first film of 2021 that I've watched, and I'll say this: it's going to be damn hard for anything else to top it.
When car thief William O'Neil (LaKeith Stanfield) is caught by the FBI, he's offered a deal: go to prison, or infiltrate the Illinois Black Panther Party, led by the charismatic and devoted Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). O'Neil becomes heavily involved with the Party, getting close to Hampton in order to provide information to agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). From there, the film becomes a tragedy, as O'Neil forms a genuine relationship with Hampton and other Party members, buying into the movement while dealing with the conflicting emotions of being a rat. Hampton, only 21 years old, deals with constant harassment and profiling at the hands of the Chicago PD and FBI—namely director J. Edgar Hoover—and falls in love with Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback), who eventually becomes pregnant with his child. It's a gripping tale of betrayal, power, sacrifice, and ultimately, the gross injustice of racism that plagues our society.
This is an important film and should instantly be at the top of your watchlist. Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are powerhouse actors, proving time and again that they are two of the best actors of our generation. Kaluuya's embodiment of Hampton is one of the best performances of recent memory; he dominates the screen with his presence. Jesse Plemons, who is always great, portrays a chillingly calm villain and showcases the evils of the inner workings of the FBI from the top down.
I'd be remiss to mention Shaka King, who directed and co-wrote the film. Give this man a Best Director nomination. Judas and the Black Messiah is the ultimate "I'm here now" statement for a filmmaker who should be receiving calls from every studio in the country. This is storytelling, and this is a story that needed to be told.