For some people, Sundays during the NFL season aren't national holidays. We at Burbs recognize this fact, and want to acknowledge that we see you. This is for you, non-football lovers. Those who want to just kick back on a Sunday, throw their phone across the room and be told a story. This is our second contribution to a weekly series with five picks from our TV and film writers.
Peaky Blinders - Netflix
If you caught my recommendation last week, this one shouldn’t surprise you too much. I love a good crime drama; add family ties and a cultural angle to the mix, and you have yourself a classic. Peaky Blinders follows the Shelby clan—a band of brothers in 1920s Birmingham, England, who serve as innovators in the fine art of organized crime. Horse races are their bread and butter—hence the show’s title—but the boys dabble in every single market they can sneak into.
The Shelbys are led by the strategic and charismatic Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). He is not the oldest in the family, but by far the most poised. His parents are out of the picture, but his Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) is a strong female figure for the family—often to the boys’ chagrin. Tommy’s elder brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) is a loveable nutcase who often serves as the group’s wildcard. Younger brothers John (Joe Cole) and Finn (Harry Kirton) gradually become valuable components of the family enterprise, while Ada (Sophie Rundle) is the lone Shelby sister. Other great performances come from actors such as Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody, and Annabelle Wallis throughout the show’s five seasons (the sixth and final season is on its way).
The show is addictive—plain and simple. There are few dull moments considering that the Shelbys are better at making enemies than friends. Nearly every episode will pull you in more than the last; it takes a different type of willpower to not let that “Next episode playing in 5 seconds...” do its thing.
First Reformed (2017) - Amazon Prime Video
Can God forgive us for what we’ve done to this earth?
This is a question I’ve pondered far too often since watching Paul Schrader’s religious 2017 thriller. In First Reformed, audiences are introduced to Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke)—a Protestant minister running a withering historic church in upstate New York. Upon being exposed to the realities of environmental extremism, Reverend Toller spends the majority of this immaculate picture questioning his already strained faith with Christ.
Schrader, co-writer of Scorsese-cinema-classics Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, brings a number of compelling factors to the table in First Reformed. However, one in particular stands out far above the rest: the harrowingly natural, real human dialogue. First Reformed exhibits mostly one-to-one interactions; conversations between masterful actors/actresses Ethan Hawke (in arguably his greatest performance), Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer and more do Schrader’s disturbingly realistic script further justice.
Paul Schrader plants a seed in your head with this A24-produced triumph. It’s a story that feels uncomfortably possible—one that sheds light on the commonly ignored dichotomy between religious faith and nature.