Picks of the Week is Women and Hollywood‘s newest resource. W&H writers are often asked for recommendations, so each week they’ll spotlight the women-driven and women-made projects—movies, series, VOD releases and more—that they’re most excited about. (Sign up for the Women and Hollywood newsletter at womenandhollywood.com to get each week’s picks delivered to your inbox!)
Netflix Pick of the Week: “Orange Is the New Black“
Created by Jenji Kohan
Throughout its run, “Orange Is the New Black” has been the rare show that inspires audiences to laugh, cry and think in equal measure. For every Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) one-liner or Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) malapropism there’s a tragedy, like Poussey (Samira Wiley) and Tricia’s (Madeline Brewer) untimely deaths, or an absolute gut-punch, such as Blanca’s (Laura Gómez) transfer to an immigrant holding center.
“OITNB” is also a series that—for better or worse, depending on your perspective—grants each of its characters a degree of humanity. There are villains and there are heroes, but everyone is nuanced and complicated. Institutions themselves are the only true evil to be found in Netflix’s flagship series.
This aspect is probably what I’ll miss most about “OITNB.” Its upcoming seventh season is its last and, crucially, takes aim at the cruelty of ICE and our country’s immigration policies. Those storylines are just as stomach-churning, as you’re imagining—and so, so important.
As much as I prefer my favorite shows end on high notes, a part of me wants “OITNB” to keep going forever, to keep addressing our failing institutions with its trademark humor and rage. However, Jenji Kohan’s masterpiece (I’ll passionately defend all of it, even Season 5) is coming to an end. Stories that had apparently been dropped come back into play, the long-term effects of incarceration and the realities of lifetime incarceration are explored and newly-released inmates realize true freedom is still not within their grasp.
The world of Litchfield is as compelling and agonizing as ever—and I don’t want to say good-bye. (Rachel Montpelier)
“OITNB’s” seventh and final season hits Netflix July 26.
Hulu Pick of Week: “Veronica Mars“
Veronica is back, and she’s as biting and bitter as ever. After years of hoping and dreaming and crowdfunding a feature, Marshmallows’ dreams have come true: a fourth season of “Veronica Mars” has arrived.
Veronica (Kristen Bell) is back in Neptune indefinitely. The town she grew up hating remains home, and she’s once again working with her dad, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), at Mars Investigations.
Veronica is still very much the teen we were first introduced to, and that’s a problem. Well into adulthood, she’s still struggling to grow up in some ways, and seems to be emotionally and professionally stagnant. She’s been in a committed relationship with Logan (Jason Dohring) for years and still snoops through his bag. She can’t sit through a dinner with Wallace’s (Percy Daggs III) family without constantly looking at her phone for updates on her latest case. She hasn’t learned to trust, or to be present. Logan is in therapy and working to address his dysfunctional behavior while Veronica sniggers at the sidelines.
The mystery at the heart of the season leaves much to be desired. An emotionally resonant case—and/or one that was less convoluted—would have made for more a more engaging ride. Still, it’s wonderful to have Veronica back, and she’s as brilliant and quotable as ever. (Laura Berger)
Hulu’s revival of “Veronica Mars” is now streaming.
Feature of the Week: Share
Written and Directed by Pippa Bianco
Share, written and directed by Pippa Bianco, feels in some ways like a horror film. It’s the story of 16-year-old Mandy (played by Rhianne Barreto), who wakes up on the lawn outside her house one morning with no memory of how she got there and a large, mysterious bruise on her back. She knows something happened to her, but has no idea what.
As the movie unfolds, Mandy is shown every girl’s worst nightmare: a video of her passed out at a party. She attempts to figure out what happened and her life begins to unravel. Her parents get involved. The police and the school get involved. She becomes ostracized at school. In short, it’s hell.
Parents of teenagers, both boys and girls, should watch this film together and talk about it. This is a cautionary tale with so much opportunity for discussion. That would be its greatest gift. (Melissa Silverstein)
Share premieres July 27 at 10 pm ET on HBO. It will subsequently be available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.
Documentary of the Week: For Sama
Directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts
For Sama is a groundbreaking documentary. First, it gives us the war in Aleppo from a woman’s perspective. Co-director Waad Al-Kateab is literally holding the camera, showing us what she is seeing and experiencing for five years in Aleppo, Syria—and it is not pretty.
This doc is about the civilians who are on the ground, fighting for their country and their city and their lives; it is also about the doctors and what a war against a population looks like. Families and friends carry injured bodies to the hospital; doctors fight vigilantly in a virtually unwinnable situation.
Even though war and death are an all day, every day routine, life goes on. Waad falls in love, marries and gives birth to a daughter, Sama. You see her hold Sama on her lap as she films her apartment being shelled. You see Sama scream from the noise and impact. It is heartbreaking, and you can’t take your eyes off of it.
Waad makes the difficult decision to escape Aleppo, and smuggles out 15 hard drives of footage, which would eventually become this film. She is a truth-teller in a way we have not seen before. (MS)
“For Sama” opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on July 26. It will expand to other select cities in the coming weeks. Find screening info here.