For Your Netflix Weekend: Documentaries

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Note: This post is the second in what I’m hoping to make a weekly feature. Do you plan to spend a weekend night or two watching Netflix, then instead spend most of the night trying to decide what to watch? This is for you. Recommendations from me. I’m including runtimes, links to IMDb profiles and basic topic info, where I can. Let me know what else you’d like to see. Thanks!

Something very exciting is happening this weekend in my college town, Columbia, Mo.: The True/False Film Festival. It’s a four-ish-day extravaganza centered around documentary films. I went three times while I was in school and had such a great time, seeing great movies and learning a lot. If ever you have the chance to go, please do.

This year, I can’t make it to True/False, so I’m planning to make up for it by having a little Netflix documentary film festival of my own. And you should, too! Even if you’re “not a documentary person.” Before I went to my first True/False, I wasn’t, either. I hadn’t seen many documentaries, and I had it in my head that they were boring. Wrong! So wrong. True/False taught me how fantastic they can be, how they can be just as gripping as “normal movies,” how they’re inspirational and entertaining as much as they are educational or informative. I learn, I laugh, I cry, I cheer, I get angry. Documentaries are great.

I’m going to give you two lists: Documentaries I’ve seen and loved, and documentaries I want to see. Use them to plan out a festival of your own! One of the things I love most about documentaries is that they’re generally pretty short, so you can get two or more in a night, if you want. Everything listed was on Netflix as of Feb. 26.

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For Your Netflix Weekend: House of Cards

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(Actual tweets by my friend Zach, in response to messages I sent him while watching House of Cards season 2.)

Note: This post is the first in what I’m hoping to make a weekly feature. Do you plan to spend a weekend night or two watching Netflix, then instead spend most of the night trying to decide what to watch? This is for you. Recommendations from me. Let me know what else you’d like to see. Thanks!

If you’re already watching House of Cards, this post is not for you, because I know you’re not struggling to pick something to watch. By the time you’re reading this post, you’ve probably already watched half of the new season.

If you haven’t watched it yet, seriously, go, watch it now. Season 3 launches today (Friday), and if you try hard enough, you can watch through the weekend and be caught up in time to freak out over it with your classmates and coworkers on Monday.

House of Cards is the original Netflix original. It tells the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a congressman from Georgia who gets passed over for Secretary of State in the pilot, then spends the rest of the first season getting his revenge. He wreaks more havoc in season 2, and I’m a little scared to see where season 3 goes. Frank is brilliant, but he’s terrifying. He’s power-hungry. He’s ruthless. He’s polarizing. I think that you can tell a lot about a person by what they think of Frank – if he’s your favorite character, sorry, I will probably always be a little wary of you.

So, you have terrifying Frank. And you have his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), who is his match in so many ways – just as powerful and ruthless, even if she’s more quiet about it – and who wears some amazing clothes, oh my gosh. You have Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), the eager young journalist who is smart and determined but also fairly naive. You have Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly),  Frank’s right hand, who is very loyal to Frank, which is scary. You have Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), the troubled, drug-addicted congressman, and Christina Gallagher (Kristin Connolly), the younger campaign worker who loves him. And so many other wonderful characters.

This show is smart, suspenseful and just the right amount of terrifying. There’s political drama, rivalries, betrayals, affairs and deaths. It’s perfect for people who love politics or journalism or ruthless people or great businesswear or just good stories. It’s high-quality — David Fincher of The Social Network/Fight Club/Gone Girl was involved at one point, and Spacey and Wright have won Golden Globes for their performances (check out Spacey’s lovely acceptance speech, which gets great starting at about 1:20). It’s the perfect binge-watch show, even though it has 55-minute episodes, because it keeps you on the edge of your seat. And you will have feelings. So many feelings.

House of Cards, Netflix original. 3 seasons, 39 episodes, 55ish minutes each.