Shelf Survey: The Best Things We Watched In June 2020

New releases and classics top our what to watch list

We’re all just blasting through quarantine keeping ourselves entertained with brand new streaming releases and old favourites as we patiently wait for cinemas to re-open safely.

Some of us have been digging deep and making the most out of Criterion Channel subscriptions. If you have time on your hands and aren’t sure where to start when it comes to the Criterion Channel’s streaming offerings, see what That Shelf’s writers suggest as part of the streaming site’s essential viewing.

Check out the suggestions below and find out what That Shelf’s writers were loving in June. You can find out what great flicks you might have missed by looking back at previous monthly surveys here.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

We’ve been fans of Studio Ghibli for ages, yet somehow, haven’t yet seen the entire catalogue of films from the famed animation studio, largely due to limited availability of decent copies in North America. Now that these films have been added to Netflix Canada, a marathon was inevitable. We started chronologically, with a new-to-us gem that combines suspense and action with gorgeously imaginative visuals (and a bangin’ 80s synth-heavy soundtrack). If you need something right now that draws you into another world, hit up Nausicaa on Netflix and be transported! – Jenny Bullough

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Where to watch it:  Netflix, DVD, Blu-ray

 

Boys State (2020)

This year’s Grand Jury Prize winner for American Documentary at Sundance might be the doc of the year. Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, the film follows four teens as they compete among 1100ish participants in Texas’s Boys State, which tasks them with former a mock government from the ground-up. It’s a fascinating microcosm of American politics and the polarization of the USA, as well as a very provocative essay on the failings of a two-party system that invites divisiveness and opposition. The film is also superbly shot with a laudable range of coverage that affords an immersive view of the political theatre as the boys align themselves with parties, debate policy, and engage in epic takedowns of one another via Instagram. At the heart of the film is the heroic Steven Garza, a Bernie Sanders-loving idealist who isn’t afraid to advocate progressive politics in the face of his verbose gun-loving conservative competitors. The highlight of the film is the moment in which Steven finds his voice when delivering an articulate and energizing speech. It calls to mind the moment from Knock Down the House in which AOC found her mojo on the debate stage and captured the attention of her constituents through her convictions. Boys State gives Americans some much-needed hope for the future. – Pat Mullen

Where to watch it: on Apple TV+ August 14

 

8:46 (2020)

Dave Chappelle’s seemingly free-flowing meditation on police brutality and the state of the world right now wasn’t funny but it was necessary. We get to learn more about Dave’s past and actual beliefs while he puts into words what I was definitely struggling to convey. – Daniel Grant

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Where to watch it: YouTube

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

My main man Spike Lee doing his thing and revisiting Vietnam from a new perspective with thrills, spills and bellyaches. Oh and Delroy Lindo’s performance that is all MAGA. – Kaleem Aftab

Follow it up with My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Da 5 Bloods is a powerful indictment of America’s racial divide. It’s smart and thrilling, but also infuriating — My Neighbor Totoro is the perfect comedown; the ultimate feel-good movie to help me decompress. – Victor Stiff

Where to watch it:  Both films are on Netflix

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Crawl (2019)

Crawl is indulgent and unabashedly manufactured summer fun. Watching the alligators attacking during a hurricane, while in the middle of a Midwestern thunderstorm myself feels just as summery as a light beer mixed with lemonade (seriously, try it). Both leads (Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper) sell the hell out of their performances without a hint of irony or winking at the screen. And, the fact that the adorable dog, Sugar (Cso-Cso) makes it through the ordeal unscathed is just an extra treat. – Deirdre Crimmins

Where to watch it: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video

 

Devil In A Blue Dress (1995)

Devil in a Blue Dress combines the ethically murky noir of Chinatown with a more daring take on inequality in America’s supposedly greatest hour, the 1950s. Denzel Washington is so effortlessly graceful as Easy Rawlins, it’s still upsetting that there weren’t several more films featuring Mr. Washington as the untaught detective and Don Cheadle’s psycho sidekick Mouse. As great as you’ve heard this film is, I promise it’s been undersold. If the film is cooling its heels in your queue, bump that to the top right now. – Colin Biggs

Where to watch it: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, DVD

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Batman (1989)

I love this movie just as much as I did when I saw it as a kid. I have such adoration for Burton’s campy Gotham which is also highlighted by the performances, especially Jack Nicholson’s Joker. I’ve also been known to take part in heated debates and strongly hold firm, that Michael Keaton is, indeed, the best Batman. Batman has been a film I watched so many times it feels like an old friend. And, that was exactly what I needed during Vancouver’s Juneuary. – Erin Fernie

Where to watch it: Prime, iTunes, DVD, Blu-ray, and to relieve your youth — VHS

 

Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974)

Self-isolation is the perfect time to finally get caught up on those Criterion films I’ve missed. A masterpiece of German New Wave cinema, there’s a reason Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film tops so many best-of lists. Paying homage to Douglas Sirk’s melodramas, the romance between an older white German woman and a much younger Moroccan worker and the racism and prejudices they face are sadly still relevant almost 50 years after its release – Rachel West

Where to watch it: Criterion Channel, DVD

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The Third Man (1949)

I finally – finally! – watched Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This expressionistic noir masterpiece has somehow eluded me and now that I’ve seen it, I’m kicking myself – I wish I had made more of an effort to catch it sooner so that this last viewing would have been my hundredth. As a noir fan, I was transfixed by the skill with which Reed and his brilliant cinematographer Robert Krasker used the setting – the very atmosphere of it – to conjure a living breathing entity, an overstuffed presence that is key to this noirish nightmare.

Holly Martins (James Cotton) arrives in Vienna for a visit with his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to find the funeral procession in his honour. Martins is suspicious right from the outset and what follows is a twisted search for the truth. Battle-scarred and weary post war Vienna is the perfect backdrop for this most cynical telling of good people overwhelmed by their circumstances. The icing on the cake? Reed somehow managed to reign in Welles as an actor, who provides one of his most piercing performances as the inscrutable anti-hero. – Barbara Goslawski

Where to watch it: iTunes, DVD, Blu-ray

 

BEST TV SHOW YOU’RE CURRENTLY WATCHING:

Ramy – I can’t root for him, but I can’t root against him either.

Marcella – three seasons of excellent Nordic Noir via the UK

Avatar: The Last Airbender – our family is rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix for the nth time. It’s a marvelous adventure that sublimely blends mysticism and action.

Brockmire

I May Destroy You

Love Life

 

And a reminder that there’s plenty of new content available without leaving your home:

Who the heck has time for TV with all the movies and festivals right now???

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