Binge-r #131: The OA + Jackie
THE OA S2
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All eight episodes now streaming
If you haven’t seen the first season of Netflix’s metaphysical mystery, start by reading my introduction to it from BINGE-R #3 back in December of 216 [full review here]. My admiration for Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s series, which disregards the conventions of episodic storytelling in delving into the fantastical flights and grounding trauma of Prairie Johnson (Marling), a once blind teenager who returns with no memories but her sight after being missing for seven years, hasn’t abated. The show, smartly directed by Batmanglij, is both out there – really out there – and intimately grounded. When people say they want something different from their Netflix account, I direct them to The OA.
For those of you who are ready for a second season, you’ll find reassurance from the first episode, which naturally doesn’t feature a single character or element from the first season for longer than you’d expect. The cold open instead follows Karim Washington (the naturally engaging Kingsley Ben-Adir), a San Francisco private investigator – he even lives on a boat – hired by an illegal Vietnamese immigrant to find her missing granddaughter. The quest takes him into a gaming underworld where an anonymous puzzle called Q Symphony by obsessed users is a gateway to both a dream factory and a new incarnation for Prairie – who was shot at the end of the previous season – and those she was imprisoned with.
Without being specific, the new episodes further the mix of off the grid culture and the arcane that fascinates Marling and Batmanglij. With the latter’s direction taking full advantage of the slopes and steps of San Francisco to emphasise new planes, recurring elements such as Near Death Experiences are reconfigured, although the idea of Prairie, or it could be Nina, being once more under the custody of the coolly monstrous scientist Hap (Jason Isaacs) does feel repetitive. Too few shows have messed with the idea of what a season is since The OA first did it, and I’m happy it’s back in what initially appears to be assured and convincing form. See you on the other side.
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
Jackie (Netflix, 2016, 100 minutes): “Objects and artefacts last far longer than people,” says Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), speaking to a reporter just after the 1963 assassination of her husband John, the 35th President of the United States of America, and in Pablo Larrain’s striking historic study the widowed First Lady melds her grief with the desire to establish her late husband’s legacy. Portman plays Jackie with an airy refinement and affected voice – the performance is mannered to the point of artificiality, which suits the otherworldly situation she finds herself in. Larrain’s dissonant direction establishes her as a figure divorced from her surroundings, whether it’s the empty family quarters in the White House or the sea of graves in a fog-bound cemetery. Fearful of living in penury (as happened to Mary Todd Lincoln), Jackie’s caught between her private despair and public persona, and despite a brief second act dip the film is sharply fascinating.
New on Netflix: Triple 9 (2015, 115 minutes) is a grim crime thriller from The Road director John Hillcoat, with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson as corrupted figures colliding in Atlanta; After 27 years Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough Reservoir Dogs (1992, 99 minutes) has escaped the movies it influenced to simply be a pithy, sharp deconstruction of the heist genre and the false comforts of crime movies.
New on SBS on Demand: Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur used the crime epic as a structure to lay bare the inequality of his Indian homeland with Bandit Queen (1994, 102 minutes), the real life story of Phoolan Devi (Seema Biswas), a lower caste woman who took revenge on her seral sexual abusers through a criminal gang she took over. The movie is both sweeping and brutal, taking to historic events with slashing recreation.
New on Stan: The relationship between teacher and student has rarely been more brutally illustrated than in Damien Chazelle’s compelling Whiplash (2014, 103 minutes), with J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller as the demanding instructor and obliging hopeful; Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich play out the obsessive romance which resides beneath political assassination in the engrossing Secret Service thriller In the Line of Fire (1993, 124 minutes).
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