Whether you plan to wind down 2017 with family time, nonstop shopping, solitude, drunken revelry, religious contemplation, or eating 10,000 calories a day, one thing is true: it’s good to take some time to veg out. Here are some highlights from this year in art-related film and television, to help you keep it highbrow through the holidays.
I Love Dick
Adapted from the lauded feminist novel by writer and critic Chris Kraus, I LOVE DICK is set in a colorful academic community in Marfa, Texas. It tells the story of a struggling married couple, Chris and Sylvere, and their obsession with a charismatic professor named Dick. Told in Rashomon-style shifts of point of view, I LOVE DICK charts the unraveling of a marriage, the awakening of an artist, and the deification of a reluctant messiah. Read Hyperallergic’s review here and watch it on Amazon.
Abstract: The Art of Design
Abstract: The Art of Design is a Netflix original documentary series that takes a sort of “Chef’s Table”-style approach to the everyday objects and structures in our lives — from the artist’s perspective. Featuring a few of the most innovative leaders in design, including New York-based illustrator Christoph Niemann, stage designer Es Devlin, and architect Bjarke Ingels, this series is a must for anyone remotely interested in the world of art, design, and architecture. With every episode, you’ll journey into the mind of an artist and discover the true art of design and the impact it plays on all aspects of life, including some you might have taken for granted. Watch the series on Netflix.
When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana — a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their conflicted emotions: Jin’s estranged relationship with his father, and Casey’s reluctance to leave Columbus and her mother. With its naturalistic rhythms and empathy for the complexities of families, debut director Kogonada’s COLUMBUS (2017) unfolds as a gently drifting, deeply absorbing conversation. Read Hyperallergic’s review here and watch it here.
Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World
Director Barry Avrich presents BLURRED LINES: INSIDE THE ART WORLD (2017), which lifts the curtain on the provocative contemporary art scene, a glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce. Go behind the scenes to discover how art is created, exhibited, and sold around the globe. The movie features insider accounts from the most influential and powerful players in the industry, including renowned artists such as Julian Schnabel and Marina Abramović, experts from prominent museums like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and art fairs like Art Basel, insiders at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and leading gallerists. With billions of dollars at stake, witness an unattainable world where the struggle between creative expression and wealth has led to today’s dizzying art landscape. Watch the movie on Netflix or iTunes.
Twin Peaks: The Return
In a long-delayed and long-anticipated return, David Lynch finally revisits his cult TV masterpiece, Twin Peaks, picking up 25 years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town are stunned when their homecoming queen is murdered. The holiday break provides you plenty of time to take in the new season, plus read innumerable fan pages expounding theories and interpretations of this new 14-hour addition to the Lynchian canon. Watch it on Amazon.
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
Literary icon Joan Didion reflects on her remarkable career and personal struggles in this intimate documentary directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne. Watch it on Netflix.
A Quiet Passion
Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon embraces spinsterhood as the famously reclusive poet Emily Dickinson in this lush biopic that follows her from her days as a gifted but insecure student through her years as an introverted adult, whose attachment to her family leads to self-imposed sequestration. Read Hyperallergic’s review here and watch it on Amazon.
All current art is fake. Nothing is original. These are some of the artist statements in artist Julian Rosefeldt’s stunning piece Manifesto (2017), the feature film version of his celebrated video installation, recently installed at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Cate Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as she transcends gender, class, nationality, and profession in a series of vignettes which draw upon manifestos questioning the true nature of art, including those from Karl Marx, Yvonne Rainer, and Dogma 95. Blanchett morphs seamlessly between characters, from a nihilistic punk to a downtrodden homeless man. Manifesto blurs the lines of conventional story, exploring the intention behind artistic expression, and ultimately the importance of storytelling itself. Read Hyperallergic’s review and watch it on Amazon.
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography
Portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman found her medium in 1980: the larger-than-life Polaroid Land 20×24 camera. For the next 35 years she captured those who visited her Cambridge, Massachusetts studio: families, Beat poets, rock stars, and Harvard notables. As pictures begin to fade and her retirement looms, Dorfman gives Errol Morris an inside tour of her backyard archive. Watch it on Netflix.
This animated biopic recounts the life and last days of tormented Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, with each frame of the film consisting of an oil painting executed in the master’s style and a plot based on letters he penned. Available for pre-order on iTunes.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for 2018 to stream a few of this year’s most entertaining art-related titles, including Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a sweet and sexy biopic about Wonder Woman creator William Marston and his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, and their lover Olive Byrne. And, of course, there’s The Disaster Artist, which fictionalizes the unbelievably bad-but-true story of Tommy Wiseau and his quest to make a serious Hollywood movie, which turns out to be seriously the worst movie of all time.
And if that’s not enough viewing material for you, consult our previous lists of art documentaries on Netflix (some of which may no longer be streamable due to the site’s shifting licensing agreements).