Even at a remove of almost 50 years, and even with Aretha Franklin's album Amazing Grace firmly established as a familiar classic in the canon of recorded music, the movie is a staggering thing to behold, and is probably the greatest filmed document of American gospel music that has ever been captured. While everyone’s relationship with God (or lack thereof) is different, I don’t think there’s anybody who can sit through Amazing Grace and not pick up on something recognizably holy in this music. Whether it’s proof of a divine creator is entirely up to you; for me, it’s more than enough that the music itself is capable of attaining the quality of what we generally think of as divine.
(Now Streaming, Hulu, $5.99 per month, free trial here) NED LANNAMANN
Saturday Night Live
There's almost nothing about regular life that COVID-19 hasn't interrupted. Going to the movies, going to a concert... going outside at all. Also interrupted? The steady sketch comedy comforts of tuning in "Liiiive, from New York!" on Saturday night! But after announcing season 45 (!) was suspended indefinitely, a new, "remotely-produced" (read: Zoom'd) episode of the show went online at 11:30 pm on Saturday! Just like normal! And in keeping with that sense of normalcy, you're probably waiting until Sunday morning to find out which sketches are actually worth watching on YouTube, and then clicking on only those!. God it feels good to slide back into routines from what already feels like a lifetime ago. Who'd have thought anyone would be happy to see Colin Jost's face again, right? Right.
(Now Available, YouTube, free)
What the Hell... Let's Tidy Up with Marie Kondo
Maybe you've already done this once. Maybe you only did it halfway that one time—Ms. Kondo's program is sort of like the P90x of how-to-clean routines. You know what? That's ok! Honestly, being on lockdown kinda prevents one of the big steps of the KonMari method, because you can't take all the stuff you're throwing out to a thrift store afterwards (since they're closed and all). But there are still some really useful ideas provided, and after about a month of being hunkered down, tearing everything up and putting it all back together as neatly and joy-sparkingly as possible might be a good way to spend the day! You don't have to do everything she says exactly to the letter. Improvise your own tidying solutions on the fly! Plus maybe you'll finally learn how to fold a shirt correctly, who knows.
(Now Streaming, Netflix, $8.99, free trial here)
Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh
It's not often that a stand-up special can be described as "sweet," but that's one of the minor miracles of Gary Gulman's hourlong on HBO, The Great Depresh. A lot of people are feeling that crush during this crisis, and Gulman's ability to shine a light on his own struggles with depression while still being positive, and uplifting, and most importantly hilarious, makes this set (sprinkled with documentary-style cutaways to scenes from his private life) a must-see while sheltered in place.
(Now Streaming, HBO Now, $14.99 per month, free trial here)
The Tiger King and I
Been noticing that there's a recent groundswell of negative attention focused on the quarantine-fueled success of Netflix's Tiger King? Hoping that you can get in on squeezing every last sour drop of schadenfreude before a backlash of (checks notes) "decency and basic human compassion" swallows this shitshow whole? GREAT NEWS: Netflix is providing one last bite of the poisoned apple via a Tiger King after-show hosted by Joel McHale, a veteran of looking at human trainwrecks and pouring gasoline on their dwindling fires as the host of E! Network's The Soup. He was also on a show about junior college too, apparently. ANYWAY: Special guests will include one of Joe Exotic's ex-husbands, a reality show producer and his wife, and Saff. Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!
(Now Available, Netflix)
While currently enjoying ridiculous success with its full-tilt resurrection of early-'00s trash reality programming, Netflix was once, long ago (read: 2017) celebrated for resurrecting a Hollywood style effectively killed by the Disney blockbuster: Mid-budget, low-key, thoughtful movies for grown-ups. Sometimes they were rom-coms (Set it Up) sometimes they were powerhouse memoirs by acclaimed directors (Roma), but amidst all the tiger-striped madness and blind dating currently on the platform, Netflix has returned to that well with Uncorked, a wonderfully-cast, wonderfully-written-produced-and-directed story by Insecure's Prentice Penny, about a son (Mamoudou Athie) who doesn't want to follow in his father's (Courtney B. Vance) barbecue-slinging footsteps. He wants to be a sommelier. His dad thinks that's snobby. He knows it's his dream. The conflict resolves wistfully, comedically, and beautifully. It's a tall bottle of feel-good that's very needed right now. Drink up!
Now Streaming, Netflix, $8.99 per month, free trial here)
African American sci-fi and fantasy author NK Jemisin has earned an impressive number of awards for her works. In fact, she currently stands as the only person to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row, for all three of the books in her Broken Earth series (2015’s The Fifth Season, 2016’s The Obelisk Gate, and 2017’s The Stone Sky). She has an incredible knack for creating sympathetic, believable characters within the truly unbelievable, fantastic worlds she builds, which makes sense considering her background as a psychologist; she only stopped practicing to focus on her writing full time in 2016. The City We Became is the first in a brand-new trilogy in which “every great city has a soul,” some cities like NYC have several, and five of its avatars must come together to save it. NYC, that is.
(Now available, ebook and audiobook at MultCo Library w/ card; Powell's.com, $28) LEILANI POLK
Known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway hip-hop musical Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. and his spectacular voice are national treasures. His perfect pitch, tone, and insane vocal control are the only reason I ever unmute during a commercial break; whenever that damn Nationwide Insurance commercial comes on, I simply must be reminded that they are on my side. He also dropped a really lovely Christmas album a couple years ago, and recently starred alongside Janelle Monáe and fellow Tony-winning Broadway superstar Cynthia Erivo in the terribly underrated Harriet. His concert at the Hawthorne was one of the first big postponements here in Portland, but you can still get a taste of what being there would have been like via this episode of PBS's Live from Lincoln Center.
(Now Streaming, PBS.org, free) JENNI MOORE
A Case of Distrust
Everyone loves themselves some true crime podcasts and Netflix documentaries. But why not play one for a change? 2018's A Case of Distrust is specifically designed by creator Ben Wander to scratch the noir itch, taking a damn good mystery, building a compelling point-and-click game around it (remember those?), and then art directing the hell out of that; filming the actions, and then rotoscoping the footage so the game plays as if you're controlling paper cut-outs as they move through a shadowy world of liars, criminals, and very mouthy cabbies in mid-'20s San Francisco.
(Now Available, Steam, Nintendo Switch, $14.99)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The nightly talk shows have been at the front line of the entertainment world's attempts to figure out how livestreaming itself can work (attempts that are coming a good four-to-five years after semi-professional high-school age "gamers" began collecting million dollar checks to screech non-sequiturs and slurs over immaculately-produced Fortnite and Minecraft footage but anywayyy). The results have been mixed, but the one show that seems to have improved under these circumstances is This Week Tonight. Maybe it's because his style of comedy just works better when his delivery isn't being interrupted by (often forced) applause breaks and cheers, but there's a lot to be said for this version of the show feeling like a very smart and funny friend is visiting your living room and just going off.
(Now Streaming, HBO Now, or Just Watch the Best Bits on YouTube, free)