Month: January 2016

Monday’s Best Reviewed: Jane the Virgin

A busy Monday of reviewable shows and, with one glaring exception, yesterday’s television was well-received. The X-Files second offering after its decade-plus hiatus earned much better reviews than its pilot (expectations can be a…). Syfy’s adaptation of Lev Grossman’s popular novel series The Magicians was welcomed with an absolute thud, and the lowest grade we’ve seen yet (in two whole days of tracking). Lucifer‘s buzz was so blah that I could only discover one review of it. However, the day was owned by shows with female heroes.

Monday January 25th’s Best: Jane the Virgin (9.2/10)


Terrific use of Gramma “Glamma” Rita Moreno, honest emotions, and a host of secrets revealed helped earn the generally beloved drama Jane the Virgin best of night with “Chapter Thirty-One.” Vulture loved the manner the Jane stories — her starting a role as TA and her sleep-training her son — are “woven together” by basketball. TV Fanatic called Rogelio’s tender exchange with his mom “a lovely, unselfish choice for the character.” AV Club harbored some reservations, but commended the “small victories” as necessary for “finding ways to bring more emotional honesty to the sweeping, telenovela-inspired moments.”

The Rest of the Night:

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – 9.2 (but a lower 9.2)

The most adventurous show on television was eked out by a decimal, as CEF‘s Winter Premiere earned high praise — the highest from AV Club who gave it props for “mostly stick[ing] with what works: a funny song, jokes that come out of left field, lots of awkwardness, and the occasional moment that punches you right in the gut.”

Supergirl – 8.5

This surprising superhero story flies on — with IGN touting it as a “dark, emotional episode,” “a good, if heavy-handed, bit of television.”

The X-Files – 7.8

The ballad of Mulder & Scully 2.0 rebounded on its second episode in two nights, or as AV Club put it, it got “some of its groove back.”

The Magicians – 5.9

Pans all around for the debut of the awaited Syfy series, including Vulture‘s disappointed observation that fans will want to “take [their] dog-eared copy of Lev Grossman’s arch, explosive novel and toss it into a water square at your closest welters pitch,” due to the show’s tonal disconnect from its original, YA cult fave source. Although they did give it a relatively hopeful 3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday’s Best Reviewed: Galavant

This new feature will scour the internet for reviews of the previous night’s programs to see what shows we might first want to catch up on our DVR’s or favored streaming site. Or just have our suspicions confirmed that, yes, last night’s episode of Blah Blah Blah was no-good, awful, piece of trash. In any case, we’ve taken the ratings, put them through our hackily derived, pointless formula and here ya go…

Sunday, January 24’s Best: Galavant (8.6/10)


Dan Fogelman’s little medieval musical comedy that could beat out the return of Mulder & Scully, the Gallagher family’s continued depravity, and good ol’ reliable Downton to fairly easily capture the top-reviewed show of last night. The AV Club avers that the program has “earned its darkness,” and showed “balls” of which its pilot could never have dreamed. IGN was a bit less glowing, liking the double episode overall, but adding that the “second half-hour didn’t quite hold the momentum of the first installment.”

The Rest of the Night:

Shameless – 8.5 

Frank’s debauched affairs got nice write-ups where they did, but I could only find two reviews. AV Club gave it a solid B+ and dubbed it “a definite improvement over last week’s outing,” but lamented the catch-22 in its need to reinvent itself — as they do, the situations become more contrivance.

Downton Abbey – 7.7

The soft-spoken Brits earned solid reviews for this mostly transitionary episode where Thomas the Evil Footman learned it’s hard out there for a butler (particularly when he’s a jerkface) and the hapless Daisy went about saving her one time father-in-law.

Billions – 7.5

AV Club calls the second episode of this Showtime Paul Giamatti/Damian Lewis drama about Wall St. hijinks (but serious ones) “much improved” from its disappointing debut.

The X-Files – 6.7

Everybody wanted so much to believe in this reboot (well, technically a very late arrival of Season 10 of the original) of one of the best shows of the 1990s, featuring the original cast, but reviews of its opening episode have been tepid to say the least. We’ll let you hunt down the reviews, but here’s hoping tonight’s episode brings back the quirky sci-fi, shady characters, and snappy interplay between the leads which made The X-Files legend.


Screen Scholars’ Favorite Episodes of 2015

What defines a great episode of television can range from a grand concept outside the program’s usual structure to a show that perfectly captures the spirit and characters of the series’ universe. While they often have a social mission, sometimes they are simply a well-executed, deftly written snapshot of a compelling moment or characters’ turning point. Our list of favorite episodes of 2015 contains all of these types of shows and more.

Warning: Abandon ye all hope of avoiding spoilers once you pass this point!

Broad City


Episode: “St. Mark’s”
Originally Aired: 3/18/2015
Watch at: Hulu

Few television shows inhabit the city in which they live as Broad City does New York City. Its remarkable second season is practically a love letter to the passive joys of the city that always brings the drama, seen through the eyes of two blissed-out, critical, yet adoring natives. If the opening subway stride brilliantly set the season up, Abbi & Ilana’s stroll through one of NYC’s supremely bohemian boulevards — one that’s famously and undeniably feeling the strain of rampant gentrification — wraps up the season in a manner that exquisitely fits the Broad City universe. St. Mark’s Place is a wonderfully messy mix of surviving tattoo parlors, t-shirt and sock salesmen, cartoonish creations like Treeman, obnoxious bridge-and-tunnel gawkers, street urchins with trust funds, archaic poets and hipster wannabes, foodies, soused frat boys chasing discount beer deals, and so on — basically, it’s the good and the bad of many eras of a mutating urban center all mingled together. And it provides perfect backdrop for the imperfect Broad City duo — a pair of pals trying hard to navigate life in a city that can be unbending to say the least. More than anything, Abbi & Ilana find it in friendship, a bond ideally illustrated by their adventures in “St. Mark’s,” particularly by an ending which veers away from comedy as the two cuddle under a blanket on the city street sharing some very simple and earnest hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. It’s an honesty and openness few cool comedies could pull off. Broad City does.
Jason Thurston



Episode: “Loplop”
Originally Aired: 12/7/2015
Watch at: Amazon Prime

As is the case Fargo’s episodes, there’s a lot going on here; Ed and Peggy are trapped in a cabin with Dodd, the cops are hot on the trail, the mobs are unhappy and clueless, and two steps ahead of everyone is Hanzee.
“Loplop” is truly Hanzee’s episode (sorry, Peggy). In spite of hallucinations and trade deals, he is always out there. Stalking through the wilds of Midwest, Hanzee. Reflecting the massacre of Native Americans, amid puke, Hanzee. (The plaque commemorating the hanging of Native Americans was a nod to this, right?) Demanding answers and meteing out justice, Hanzee. Killing anyone who crosses his path, from the seemingly innocent to the definitely-had-it-coming, Hanzee. Plotting, I am sure of it, from state to state, the ends of his adopted family—because no one cares about Dodd, not this much—Hanzee.
Hanzee is compelling in his mystery, and there are little answers in this season, or the next after he ascends the throne of the Fargo mob as Moses Tripoli.

But when I think of Hanzee, I think of him as a singular man—a singular man—stalking through the wilderness and across the suburban baseball fields, into and out of the ether, a man unnoticed and absolutely untouchable.
Katherine M. Hill

Inside Amy Schumer


Episode: “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer”
Originally Aired: 5/5/2015
Watch at: Hulu

It takes a certain type of metaphorical balls to make an important piece of satire using a half-century old black-and-white movie to affect mainstream social change — not to mention one that makes a strong feminist statement which doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. However, Schumer could do very little wrong in 2015 (this year seems to be a bit different, fwiw) and the highlight of her spectacular third season was this pitch perfect, star-studded parody of the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men.

As the show sheds its multi-sketch format for one continuous story/bit, John Hawkes shines in Henry Fonda’s role as Juror #8. This time the one-man army heroically advocates — against an 11-man sea of dissent — the basic notion that Amy Schumer is attractive enough to “deserve” to be a movie’s leading lady. While the tightly wound thirty minutes does not spare the gut laughs (including dryness king Kumail Nanjiani’s response to a dildo which takes the place of the original movie’s switchblade), the episode hits its points on about every front. Schumer doesn’t merely lay herself bare to a barrage of the petty critiques and body shaming which have haunted her career, but takes on the clear absurdity in the double standard where women have to adhere to a Nurse Ratched-strict list of ideal looks guidelines that men like Hawkes and Dennis Quaid and many others in her stacked jury do not. And again, the episode is simply funny and a spot-on homage to the original — not an easy task; one which makes it perhaps the most impressive episode of television from 2015.
Jason Thurston

The Jim Gaffigan Show


Episode: “The Bible Story”
Originally Aired: 11/9/2015
Watch at: Amazon Prime

In his moderately successful mainstream career, Gaffigan has made no secret about (and created some hilarious longform routines around) the factor religion — specifically: Catholicism — plays in his life. However, much of the narrative success of the first season of his enhanced autobiographical sitcom has been in not making a big deal about it, even with a priest in the main cast. The show’s also been strong in its commitment to realism, letting its strong characters and conversations naturally drive the stories. Of course, its best episode throws all that out the window.

Circumstances burden Gaffigan with a ginormous Bible at a comedy nightclub, a book he accidentally holds up as if a talisman when a fan takes a pic with him. The photo goes viral, then macguffin, as the genially neurotic comic’s attempts to alternately embrace and explain away his faith — including a visit to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show — dig him in deeper, earning him famous enemies on all sides of the debate. The episode reaches a fever pitch in a marvelous montage when hiding in bed, Gaffigan flips through the channels, as everyone from Rachel Maddow to Bill O’Reilly to Nancy Grace brutally destroy the defeated comic. It’s a silly high-concept episode, but it works as both a fun ride and an examination of the media’s tendency to latch onto the most provocative parts of a story and twist it to its own intent, to the point any deeper meaning or sense is long lost.
Jason Thurston

Mad Men


Episode: “Lost Horizon”
Originally Aired: 5/3/2015
Watch At: Amazon Prime

One of the most memorable episodes and gifs of the season, maybe even series, is centered around gasp, Peggy??? Sorry Don, we’ve had enough of your self-absorbed melancholy. Yes, you are being reduced to one of many and you are no longer the star of the show so go out west and do some soul searching. This episode is for women everywhere trying to find their place in a male-dominated world and workplace.  While waiting around at the old office because there was no office for her at McCann, Peggy is begged by Roger to hang out. One last drink for the road he says. Ha, famous last words! They have a drink or five, manage to roller-skate around the office and have a heart to heart. It’s kinda sweet the way Roger offers up some fatherly advice which becomes the collective “a-ha” moment for all women watching.

We already know from Shirley’s wise observation that “advertising is not a very comfortable place for everyone” as she throws in the towel before the acquisition. Joan is finding that out during her first week at McCann. Even in her high position she is told she is not even entitled to her own emotions and is pushed out of the company for half of what is owed her. Peggy knows that first-hand also, but still timidly kept on the good fight, trying her best never to disturb anyone with her presence. When she declines Roger’s offer to take the pornographic octopus painting because she has to, “make men feel at ease,” Roger retorts “Who told you that?” … OOF. Point taken. It seems everyone’s future is dismal at this point. But when a rebellious, thick-skinned Peggy 2.0 walks in to McCann a few days later — hangover sunglasses on, cigarette toting, carrying the octopus painting under her arm (LIKE A BOSS) we can rest assured she is ready to take on whatever the agency has waiting and SC&P will continue to live on through her.
Navani Otero

Master of None


Episode: “Parents”
Originally Aired: 11/6/2015
Watch at: Netflix

As heartwarming as it is funny, this episode successfully portrays the dynamic of second generation immigrant kids with their parents. And who better to showcase what that relationship looks like than Aziz’ real parents portraying his fictional family?  It’s this subtle authenticity they brought to the screen that earns it a spot as one of the best episodes of the year.

After dodging their parents requests to hang out, Dev and Brian finally decide to double date and all go out for a meal. Up until this point, neither of the sons had really bothered to ask about what it was like for their parents to move to America. Instead of the grandiose, happy tale they probably expected, they hear how Dev’s mom sat on the couch and cried, how both his dad and mom feared answering the telephone because of their accents. Brian’s dad shares this affliction. Both Brian and Dev leave truly affected and with a new appreciation for their parent’s struggle. It changes their relationship for the better. Dev puts in a weekly reminder in his dad’s iPad to have catch-up call, which Papa Ansari had been struggling to use throughout the whole episode. Then all our hearts melted and we called our parents immediately.
Navani Otero

The Nightly Show


Episode: “Episode 51”
Originally Aired: 4/30/2015
Watch at: Comedy Central

When I think of The Nightly Show and I look back on Larry’s short tenure on air, what I remember with the most warmth is his sit down with Baltimore’s gang members during Baltimore tumultuous spring. Larry finally brought humanity to the crisis and Baltimore’s own people, when other network were making a real mess of journalistic integrity. (You can see Larry’s critique of that here. Watch his segment at the Double T and ask me about The Wire like some asshole who thinks the show is hyperrealistic yet not a city where people live.)

This is Larry at his best. He’s funny (“when have property taxes elicited laughs like this”) and he’s serious and respectful, too. Larry doesn’t pander or patronize, and what we get is a first rate interview the newsmen couldn’t get.
Katherine M. Hill

Parks and Recreation


Episode: “One Last Ride”
Originally Aired: 2/24/2015
Watch at: Netflix

When Six Feet Under pulled off its near-perfect finale, it extended to the furthest future, to celebrate the remainder of the Fisher family lives through their moments of death. The vastly sunnier Parks and Recreation plays off this tactic for its finale, however with its own fitting twist. As indefatigable politician Leslie Knope hugs each of her fellow Pawnee travelers, we see their life paths through to each character’s happiest of moments (only one whose real death we witness is L/G/B/Terry — and it’s on his 100th birthday, surrounded by his ageless, loving family of Christie Brinkleys). While all the outcomes exhibit characters’ achieving absurd levels of success, these triumphs are earned by individuals established as most deserving of human beings.

One nice touch: Jon Daly’s drunk from the first scene of the first episode, returns to the slide he clogged up then, now as a cleaned-up citizen demanding repairs — as good a parallel as any for a show which began about as laggard and poorly reviewed as any, only to transform into one of the most marvelous and iconic programs of all-time.
Jason Thurston

Playing House


Episode: “Knotty Pine”
Air Date: 8/18/2015
Watch on: Amazon Prime

Emma and Maggie spend extracurricular time with their nemesis, Bird Bones, and dedicate themselves to keep her married to Mark. Their dedication almost overshadows the quiet, lonely agony Mark and Bird Bones are suffering at home (“It’s not a train set, it’s a tabletop railroad modeling system set in a miniature Pinebrook.”), which Playing House treats with unexpected grace and gentleness. Mark and Bird Bones break up quietly, privately, and because Playing House is the joy we were promised in a post-Bridesmaids world, Emma and Maggie pick up the pieces…with humor, kindness, and fro yo.
Katherine M. Hill

The Walking Dead


Episode: “JSS”
Originally Aired: 10/18/2015
Watch at: Amazon Prime

The sixth season of Robert Kirkman’s basic-cable changing zombie series was its usual hit-or-miss mix of thrillride and stuttering over-exposition. However, when it was on, it shined with a brilliant intensity few shows can match.

“JSS” sets up a quiet day in Alexandria with Carol wryly, and with no shortage of passive aggression, discussing dinner plans with the town’s residents. With most of our featured players handling an undead crisis a few miles outside the fort’s walls, the plot proceeds quietly for a half-hour, until Carol places a casserole in the oven; as the uber-warrior masquerading as a housewife crouches into the left of the screen, we focus on an Alexandrian innocuously smoking in front of her house. Without warning, she is gorily macheted to death by a hooded attacker. From there all chaos breaks loose as the frequently foreshadowed Wolves attack the compound, Carol clashes with Morgan over his non-killing policy (while she does her usual kicking of ass), an attacker’s truck’s horn draws zombies, teenaged Enid suspiciously leaves town and Carl(lll!), and the overwhelmed Alexandrians try their best to save their own.

And just as quickly as it started, it’s over. As Carl removes Carol’s now-cooked casserole from the oven, the viewer is left to ponder our own ethics and philosophies vis a vis human life. How would we react in kill-or-be-killed times? Oh, we also wonder just how the heck the gang is going to get themselves out of the latest fine mess.
Jason Thurston

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp


Episode: “Electro/City”
Originally Aired: 7/31/2015
Watch at: Netflix

If the initial conceit back in 2001 of mostly 30-somethings playing raging teen camp counselors seemed a longshot, what exactly would you call the odds of the same cast returning a decade-and-a-half hence — to create a prequel. Yet it works — and not totally b/c Hollywood stars like Rudd, Cooper, and Banks are ageless, but mostly due to its unlikely ability to add a real heart and compelling plot deep within the wall of broad farce.

The center of that story is the gang’s bizarre ultra-1980s musical, planned throughout the season, performed in the sixth episode. It’s both strikingly prepared to fit with the culture of the time to the point you’ll find yourself checking the internet, sure of its existence, and so peculiarly plotted as to blow your mind if you try to piece together just what the hell is going on upon the stage. More impressive is the ensemble’s ability to weave almost a dozen subplots into this performance, with all climaxing in one impressive wave — of course, right as the play-within-the-series reaches its crescendo.
Jason Thurston

You’re the Worst

you're the worst

Episode: “Other Things You Could Be Doing”
Originally Aired: 12/2/2015
Watch at: Hulu

What a whirlwind this season has been. My new favorite couple Gretchen and Jimmy are certainly have a bumpy ride which all gets magnified in this tumultuous episode. The two have officially taken a break after her manic depression set in leaving Jimmy totally blindsided. Gretch has since moved in with her bestie, the only other person who seems to be familiar with this side of her. Gretchen has reached an all-time low causing a never-ending feud with her clients (Sam, Shitstain and Honeynutz), pulling out a gun on someone and then balling up in the fetal position back at Jimmy’s in the dark.

Jimmy has given his all but after being pushed away for so long he strikes up an emotional and physical affair with the local bar maiden. She offers him up a romantic getaway to have a romp and he bites. Jimmy goes home to pack a bag and sees Gretchen there crawled up in a ball in the dark. He realizes he can’t just leave her like that. So, he makes a decision and off to making a fort he goes and crawls up beside her. When Gretchen finally wakes up and sees he is there and never left she cries like a baby, signaling that she can actually feel again, and of course I am crying right along with them. “You stayed?” she asks. Omg, he did! At that point you realize Jimmy really loves her even if he hasn’t come to terms with it himself yet. Never have I seen mental illness explored in such a human way where no one is demonized, you feel for everyone involved and you somehow get through it. Maybe love does conquer all.
Navani Otero

Our Top 30 Shows of 2015:

I Mean, Weiiiiiiird!



So, Kid Cudi’s reign as second banana to Scott Aukerman would appear to be over practically before it began. While I found Kid Cudi’s wryly hip take on the bandleader role to be a nice counterweight follow-up to Reggie Watts’ iconic absurdity, is there anyone who grew up in the…well, any of the past four decades who wouldn’t be excited to Pee Wee Herman-on-crack levels to see “Weird Al” Yankovic paired to a favorite show? I suggest that they would not (sorry Kid, we’ll always have Day & Nite)!

Well, apparently the Weird One is coming to IFC’s ultra-quirky version of Aukerman’s only slightly-less quirky podcast.

Perhaps the program’s most frequently recurring guest, Paul F. Tompkins had a fascinating meet-cute with the foremost practitioner of parody. See below…

What to Watch: 01/25/2016

This Monday is all about second chances, whether that’s the second episode of the second run of Mulder & Scully, the second chance to see slapstick that was marathon’d last week, or the second chance to get a relationship right. Ok, that last one is a far cry from the actual show, but we were so close to a symmetry, dammit!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend [CW, 8p]
It’s back, it’s back! Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom is back as lovesick Rebecca, who rents a party bus to impress her crush’s friends. Buckle in, it’s at least three hours to the beach!

The X-Files [FOX, 8p]
The second episode of the miniseries airs on its regular day and time. In this ep Scully and Mulder are on the hunt to find out what drove a scientist to commit suicide when they stumble upon a secret lab where genetic experiments have gone haywire.

Angie Tribeca [TBS, 9p]
Even if you’ve already watched all 10 episodes (they were all shown in one sitting and are available on demand), there’s so much new to catch in Angie Tribeca‘s Police Squadesque madcap, joke-a-second barrage, it’s worth viewing as many times as possible. Rashida Jones is a national treasure!


Watch the bakers bake (and the panda’s…panda{?}) on a Kung Fu Panda-themed episode of Cake Wars on Food Network…Superstore wobbles along on TBS, succeeding especially when America Ferrera and the gang are allowed honest moments in this often insincere sitcom…Lucifer (on FOX) looks kinda ridiculous, but our secret Satan is played by Tom Ellis, who was excellent as Miranda Hart’s supersweet but beyond star-crossed love interest in Miranda

What to Watch: 01/24/2016

The NFL definitely hovers inescapably over tonight’s lineup, as its the penultimate week of games that mean anything. If you are uninterested in the American game of warriors, but would still love to stare at a screen, there’s some choice cuts out there — not least of which is the unlikely return of one of the premiere cult classics of all time, a once-unfathomable event for those who want to believe. There’s also THE classic British soap opera on its inevitable march to the end, and NBC’s airing arguably the best comedy of this decade.

The X-Files [FOX, 10p]
I do believe! I do believe! The X-Files miniseries revival is here and so is my teenage nostalgia. Mulder, Scully and the whole gang are back together to help explain the unexplainable.

Downton Abbey [PBS, 9p]
While I’d even more highly recommend time tunneling back to last week for the wedding of true minds Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, but this week should up the intrigue factor. Moreover, it portends to be a huge episode for the ever-put-upon maid Daisy, whose heroic, but overzealous, defense of Mr. Mason — a charge she apparently will not be giving up soon, even if the price is her job.

Bridesmaids [NBC, 8p]
Football ruins everything, but Kristen Wiig won’t let us down.


If you disagree with Katherine vis a vis football and its effect on everything, there’s a pretty great game in the NFC Championship tonight as the stifling Cardinals defense tries to rein in Cam’s Superman Show (it’s on FOX before Fox & Scully)…the so far not-too-too-bad Mercy Street airs its second episode tonight, after DowntonGalavant continues to sing and dance and joust, if that’s your sort of thing.

Incredible Documentaries That Lost the Oscar

This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are packed with goodies: all five films have received buzz on their own merits, and deserve to win. 124 films were up for nomination, making it a true honor to be in the running. It’s as tight a race as Best Picture, yet only one can win, a loss for the four excellent films. (Cartel Land, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom are streaming on Netflix; Amy and The Look of Silence are for rent on Amazon.)

Let’s take a look at shocking losses of the last 5 years.


Restrepo was nominated in 2010, but lost to Inside Job. Restrepo is, perhaps, better remembered. (Its 2014 sequel is Korengal.Restrepo follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company over the course of a year in Afghanistan’s deadliest valley, Korengal. Available on Netflix.


Pina lost in 2011 to Undefeated, a documentary about a high school football team. A critical darling of art lovers worldwide, it is inevitably playing in New York City at any given time. Wim Wenders’ 3D ode to the choreography of Pina Bausch features her best noted work, performed in the city of Wuppertal. The camerawork and cinematography are outstanding. (Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club was nominated and lost in 1999.) Available on Amazon Video (free with Sundance Doc Club).


Paradise 3: Purgatory was also nominated in 2011; it’s the third installment in a series of compelling documentaries following the West Memphis Three. Wrongly imprisoned for 18 years, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin were suddenly released two months before the film’s HBO premiere; Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky focused then on the lives of the Three after the release after their Alford plea. Available on HBO Go.


How to Survive a Plague, the 2012 documentary about the actions and efforts of ACT UP and TAG in the early days of the (STILL ONGOING) AIDS epidemic lost to the very good Searching for Sugarman. But given the demographics of Oscar voters, it’s more than fair to say that its loss is entirely political. Available on Netflix.


The Invisible War is also from 2012. It explores the rampant sexual assault in the military, the lack of effort to stop it. Women are more likely to be raped than killed by enemy fire. The Invisible War won both a Peabody Award and an Emmy. Available through Amazon Video (free with Prime).


The Act of Killing lost the 2013 honor to 20 Feet From Stardom. Both were perfectly deserving. Killing finds the perpetrators of the 1965-1966 Indonesian massacre. Two of the men rose through the ranks of the death squads and killed over 1,000 innocent people in an enormous ethnic cleansing; today the men are proud, unapologetic, and in positions of political power. During the re-telling of the crimes director Joshua Oppenheimer has one of the men reenact the events, which is bizarre and horribly affecting. This year’s nominee The Look of Silence is Oppenheimer’s follow-up. Available on Netflix (theatrical release and director’s cut).


The Square was enormously popular upon its Netflix release in 2013, but likely suffered the affects of Netflix seeming less legit than the cinema. (This seems to have affected Beasts of No Nation, despite Netflix’s best efforts, though the Oscars’ inability to recognize Black actors didn’t help.) The Square examined the Egyptian Revolution; it won three Emmys. Available on Netflix.


Virunga was also released on Netflix. It lost the 2014 Oscar to CitizenfourVirunga follows four people in Congo’s Virunga National Park protecting gorillas from war, poaching, and deforestation. The popularity of the documentary resulted in scrutiny against Soco International (who agreed to stop exploring the area for oil drilling). The film won many awards, including a Peabody. Available on Netflix.

Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated: the epically long ShoahGrey GardensGoing Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Prophet’s PreySenna, and Let the Fire Burn, the reason I wrote this article. (It’s so good! You can fin it on Netflix.) The exclusion of Hoop Dreams resulted in a change in the nomination system. The works of Errol Morris and Michael Moore are usually overlooked as well. (More did win for 2002’s Bowling for Columbine, and Morris shared a win with Michael Williams for 2003’s The Fog of War.)