What to Watch: A Cult Documentary and Tribeca Shortlist
From "Wild, Wild Country" to the Tribeca Film Festival's best, you'll be entertained all weekend.
Welcome to What to Watch, a series where we tell you the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services.
Wild, Wild Country: Netflix
As a passionate devotee of everything and anything true crime and cult-related, I was surprised that I had never heard of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (aka Osho, Acharya Rajneesh, Rajneesh or Bhagwan), the leader of the controversial Rajneesh movement. In the early 80s, Bhagwan instructed his disciples, led by his personal secretary/ human Molotov cocktail, Ma Anand Sheela, to find land in America in which thousands would be able to come and meditate at the supposedly peaceful commune. The land chosen was a 64,229-acre Oregon property adjacent to a small, conservative town of retirees in Antelope.
You might think you know what’s coming next: the clash of the locals with this new group practicing free love and open marriages. But that’s not even the half of it. In the six-part docuseries, currently streaming on Netflix, you’ll find a host of horrific behavior on all sides: election fixing, bombings, guns, bioterrorism, paranoia, FBI raids, drugs, attempted murder and the kind of scapegoating that will have you wondering which of the many, many players in this story is the one you should be rooting for. (Spoiler alert: probably no one.)
Tabula Rasa: Netflix
If you liked the German time-and-mind-bending thriller Dark, you will love Danish psychological thriller, Tabula Rasa. A famous singer, Annemie D’Haeze, develops short-term amnesia after a car accident and moves with her husband and daughter to her old family house, which is where things really start to get weird. Red dust blankets Annemie whenever she begins to forget the previous hours’ (or days’) worth of events, but that doesn’t even begin to cover the weirdness. The show opens at a mental hospital, where Annemie is being kept, locked up, the only witness (and suspect) in a disappearance of a local man she can’t remember meeting.
The show has enough horror elements to go beyond your typical Gaslight and into truly terrifying imagery, so reader be warned: this show is not for the faint of heart. And while it has subtitles, it does not allow for English dubbing, which can also be a little difficult for anyone visually impaired.
Srugim: Amazon Prime
If you wanted to see a television drama that actually makes you feel good about humanity, check out Srugim, an Isreali production that aired from 2008 to 2012. Originally, the show fixed its gaze on five Observantly religious Jews who deal at first with cringe-worthy bad dates and soon moves to marriage, divorce, social advancement, death…the whole circle of life. Both the locale and the religious aspect do not overshadow the more relatable elements of the program, and you might just walk away with a better understanding of how a foreign culture can parellel our own.
Jane: National Geographic
I shouldn’t even need to sell you on Jane, or even tell you the last name of the woman who this film focuses on with previously unseen footage. If you are the kind of person who does not like animals, or Gorillas in the Mist, skip it, but for the rest of us…it will feel like an unexpected, early Spring present.
Big Dreams, Small Spaces: Netflix
I have what might be referred to as a black thumb (I’ve managed to kill cacti and air plants with equal aplomb), so I turn to Monty Don and his team to lead me through the lives of British horticulturalists, as he teaches them how to make their outstanding gardens even more lush and vibrant. Thank goodness, it doesn’t seem like I can kill these Big Dreams just by watching from afar…but I’m certainly jealous.
Sneaky Pete: Amazon
David Shore (House, NYPD Blue) and Bryan Cranston (yep, that guy) created a story about a con man Marius Josipović (Giovanni Ribisi), who steals his cellmates’ identity to escape his shady past. This may seem like a straight-forward premiere, and Shore left early on, to be replaced by Graham Yost (Speed, Justified, The Americans), which honestly brought some much-needed stakes to the program, which ended its first season on a nail-biting cliffhanger of a kidnapping and $11 million in stolen cash.
Season 2 is even more tense, as the various side-characters get involved in their own self-created rocks and hard places. I’d call it Fargo-esque, or maybe Ray Donovan (Marius certainly could use a Donovan about now), but Sneaky Pete never lets you catch your breath long enough to make these connections. At least, until you’ve binged the whole thing.
Favorite New Streaming Service: Tribeca Shortlist
With Tribeca Film Festival right around the corner, not all of us are lucky enough to live in New York. So how do we see the cornucopia of Hollywood’s best indies and future blockbusters? Impress your friends with your wide array of cultural knowledge with Tribeca Shortlist, a streaming service dedicated to preserving the art of film and recognizing the creators who bring us both the classics and under-the-radar gems.