'Quarantainment': Atlanta Arts Critics On What To Stream In Quarantine
A few weeks ago, screen time was blamed for keeping us apart. Now that millions of people are sequestered in our homes, our screens are bringing us together. Americans are finding new ways to find connection, community and relief from home.
Two Atlanta-based arts critics and writers, Jason Evans and Kelundra Smith, joined On Second Thought to share some reflections on the new age of streaming amid coronavirus, and recommendations of what to do for "quarantainment."
"On Second Thought" host Virginia Prescott speaks with Kelundra Smith and Jason Evans.
Evans pointed to multiple new docuseries that Netflix has released in 2020, including Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, as well as one that might feel awfully familiar amid the coronavirus pandemic. It's called... Pandemic: How To Prevent an Outbreak.
"People should understand: it's not about what we're currently experiencing; at least not exactly," he explained of Pandemic. "This is about scientists and doctors investigating and looking into other pandemics. It helps with your understanding of what the doctors and scientists and health workers are going through."
But he warned that it's not a great idea for someone who is looking for a distraction from the current crisis: "There are a lot of people out there who sort of want an escape — and Pandemic is not an escape."
Smith's recommendations varied from brand new shows like Netflix's Self Made, which was inspired by the story of Madam C.J. Walker, to classic films, like Do The Right Thing or The Wiz.
She also noted how there is a vast selection of other content — outside of movies and television — also becoming available. That's because theatres, operas, museums, musicians and more are making their performances available online. For example, you can stream productions from The Metropolitan Opera or go on virtual visits of world-famous museums.
And, Smith noted, there's plenty of great content available from Georgia's own arts scene.
"It's great to be able to see performances from Europe and from Broadway and stuff like that, which is all available now as well," she said. "But we really want our local arts ecosystem to remain healthy during this time. So I'm encouraging people [to] like, if you watch, make a $5 donation, if you are able to. Because that goes a long way in sustaining our local arts organizations down the road, when we are able to get back out [of] the house."
KELUNDRA SMITH'S LIST
- The Center for Puppetry Arts
- Museum of Design Atlanta
- The High Museum of Art
- Dad's Garage
- The Alliance Theatre
- Georgia Ensemble Theatre
- Synchronicity Theatre's Wayfinding
- Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse
- Self Made (Netflix)
- All American (Netflix)
- Black Lightning (Netflix)
- Do The Right Thing (On-demand)
- School Daze (Crackle)
- Crooklyn (Hulu)
- The Wiz (Hulu)
- The Wizard of Oz (On-demand)
- Funny Girl (On-demand)
JASON EVANS' LIST
- Pandemic: How To Prevent an Outbreak (Netflix)
- Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix)
- I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix)
- Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
- Russian Doll (Netflix)
- Parasite (On-demand)
- Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (On-demand)
- 1917 (On-demand)
- Ford vs. Ferrari (On-demand)
- Knives Out (On-demand)
- Free Solo (Hulu)
- Rick and Morty (Hulu)
- The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
- Batman and Bill (Hulu)
- Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
- Hunters (Amazon Prime)
- The Boys (Amazon Prime)
On how streaming services are responding to the pandemic
Evans: They're throttling back their services, believe it or not. The European governments asked Facebook, YouTube and Netflix to calm their streams down a little bit, to reduce the volume of content on the streams, because they were afraid it was going to break the European internet. Each agreed to take things down just a little bit, about 25 percent. It still means that people can get full HD when they watch these different programs. But we here in America should be aware that we are taxing the internet, when we're streaming. And oh my gosh, we are streaming like we'd never have before. I mean, streaming was already huge. But this has launched us into the streaming era in a way that, you know, years and years of use would have — but compacted into just a couple of weeks.
On the new Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Evans: It's a docu-series, so this isn't made up. This is real. And it feels made up! It feels insane! It's about a guy, a rancher from Oklahoma who lives with 200 lions, tigers and bears — oh, my. And his rival is a woman from Florida who thinks that big cats don't belong in cages. And it brings in this whole community of people who own exotic animals, and they're just the strangest people you will ever meet. At one point, we're talking to a guy who has two prosthetic legs, like he lost both of his legs, and he says that he lost them in a zip-lining accident — and the show doesn't even explore that! It's like, okay, that's not even crazy enough for us to discuss on the show, because the show has drug lords; it has polygamy; it has a guy who uses tiger cubs to lure women into threesomes; it has attempted murder. It is five of the most insane hours of TV you will ever watch. And it's a perfect distraction in a time like this.
On re-watching classic movies, and helping younger friends and family discover them
Smith: I was talking to one of my friend's younger sisters, and she is being introduced to Spike Lee films over the course of this. She's Gen Z and I'm a millennial, and so she's a bit younger than me. And so I realize that, you know, the Spike Lee era might have just passed her by. And so she watched Do The Right Thing for the first time, and then I told her, I was like, “Go ahead and go down the rabbit hole; watch School Daze, watch, you know, Jungle Fever, watch Crooklyn, watch them all.” And then, of course, if you're talking about really classic, classic films, if we're taking it further back, there's never, to me, a bad time to watch The Wiz or The Wizard of Oz to make you feel good. We might all want to be in Oz if we're in the house much longer. I recommend both of those.
On how local arts organizations are using their resources to sew face masks to donate to hospitals and healthcare workers
Smith: I have to say that local arts organizations have stepped up so tremendously. Not only to provide entertainment for people during this time, but — folks may not know — a lot of the costume designers and props designers at these various theaters in town are currently making surgical masks and sending them to hospitals. The Atlanta Opera is doing this; The Alliance Theatre is doing this. I mean, it's really incredible that our local makers are really like... I mean, they’re sewing them together and they're sending them to doctors and hospitals. So kudos to them for that.
On the need for a connection even during the quarantine
Evans: Netflix now has a way that you can literally watch something at the same time as other people, and then afterwards you can all get together and discuss it. As you know, I'm very involved with the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. One of the things I say about the festival is: the discussions that we have after the films is one of the most valuable things that you get out of those movies. And that's one of the things that I'm missing right now. I think that communal sharing of information, of perspectives is something that is going away because we're all staying indoors, as we are supposed to. But that's all the more reason why we need to get together, whether it's phone calls, whether it's video chats, whatever service you may be using. We need to connect with other people. We need to share our perspectives on what we're experiencing and what we're thinking about and all that kind of stuff. I recently, [...] one of my dear friends contacted me and said, “Hey, we're gonna have a Zoom cocktail party.” And there were six couples. We all got together; we all sat down on our couches. We had cocktails; we had appetizers. My wife and I actually got dressed up. She put on makeup for the first time in a couple days. And we had a delightful hour or so of sharing our lives. And it was great! It was a ton of fun! We said — as soon as it ended, we all said, “That was the best thing in my entire weekend. We're doing it again next week.” And I think everyone needs to try and do that. Reach out to people. Just because we're physically cut off, we shouldn't be emotionally cut off from them.
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