lana condor

6 Environmental Documentaries to Watch on Earth Day

For nearly fifty years, Earth Day has been celebrated worldwide to demonstrate a commitment to environmental protection. Originally, environmental issues ranged from cleaning up air pollution and acid rain to safety oversight over fossil fuel companies. The last few years has seen more of a concern of global climate change and the wide-ranging effects warming and acidifying oceans will have on both weather and sociopolitical dynamics around the world.

Environmental topics have been the focus of countless films, including narrative disaster films like Waterworld and The Day After Tomorrow, which sees the world overtaken by everything from giant tornados to tsunamis that freeze over. Even Pixar film WALL-E features a garbage-covered Earth that is no longer habitable to life.

Perhaps the most interesting environmental films of all are the true ones though—documentaries that portray the delicate balance of natural life on the planet, and all the ways society can upset that balance.

Here are just a few documentaries you can check out this Earth Day:

The 11th Hour

Directed by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, The 11th Hour gained a lot of buzz when it was realized for its association with producer, co-writer, narrator, and creator of the film—Hollywood megastar and noted environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. The 2007 film interviews a murderer’s row of scientists, politicians, and activists, and places a focus on the myriad problems that pose dangerous threats to the planet, while offering possible solutions that are just as varied in their strategy.

Our Planet

The high profile docuseries Our Planet is Netflix’s own take on the Planet Earth series—Netflix went as far as working with Planet Earth producers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, and hiring David Attenborough to narrate this series as well. Each of the eight episodes of the series focuses on a specific part of the planet, from seas to deserts to forests and everything in between. The docuseries has become event television this spring, with an early Hollywood screening in February moderated by NYFA Acting for Film alum Lana Condor giving Our Planet some early buzz.

Everything’s Cool

Everything’s Cool was directed by Dan Gold and Judith Helfand and was first shown at Sundance in 2007. Unlike many other environmental films, the documentary focuses more on the politics and public perception of climate change, rather than the science behind it. This important angle is especially key at a time when the world’s scientists have come to a consensus that action needs to be taken to prepare and respond to climate change, while the laws and practices of nations and private corporations have yet to catch up.

Gasland

The 2010 film Gasland was directed by Josh Fox and showcased harrowing footage of local families dealing with the disastrous effects of corporate fracking—the process of stimulating natural gas production by injecting the ground with copious amounts of liquid chemicals. The film made fracking a hot button issue to this day, and brought to light some of the shocking side effects of the drilling method, such as water coming out of kitchen sink taps that could be lit on fire with a match.

An Inconvenient Truth

The 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth helped kickstart the latest wave of environmental activism, as well as a slew of environmental documentaries that followed in its wake. Based around a slideshow given by former Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore, the film focuses on carbon dioxide’s effect on climate change, and won two Academy Awards for its efforts—Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song.

Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is an experimental film directed by Godfrey Reggio from 1982, with a score by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke, who mostly used slow motion and time-lapse footage of both urban areas and natural landscapes. The avant garde film is very much open for interpretation, allowing its viewers to lose themselves in its sometimes haunting imagery and music. While nothing is told outright to the audience, the relationship between humanity, technology, and nature is clearly the focus of the film, raising questions about how these connections affect the world around us and will affect the world around us for decades to come.

With every passing Earth Day, these questions are becoming more important than ever.

Famous Stars Who Started On Netflix

With over 137 million global subscriptions as of the third quarter of 2018 – adding nearly as many subscribers within a single year as HBO did in its first 40 years – Netflix has become an undeniable force within the film and television industry. It transformed the way in which audiences consume their media and consequently conquered the industry to the point where it earned the most nominations at last year’s Emmys. Netflix knows what audiences want and their exponential growth has not only resulted in a healthy sum of revenue for the streaming giant, but also in a healthy amount of talent.

As its CEO Reed Hastings stated in this year’s shareholder report, “we’re the new star factory.” And he’s not wrong. Hollywood is now heavily influenced by social media, to the point where follower counts on Instagram are becoming the new Nielsen ratings for executives, and actors are launching successful careers from their mobile phones.

So let’s delve in and take a look at some of those who have Netflix to thank for their current level of success – be it significantly large social media followings, endorsement deals, new roles, awards, etc. It’s worth noting that Netflix wasn’t necessarily the first gig for many of these performers, but it certainly gave them their big breaks:

Netflix Stars

Millie Bobby Brown

The 14-year-old breakout star of Stranger Things had multiple gigs since her acting debut in 2013, guest starring in ABC’s fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. However, it was her role as escaped telepath Eleven in Netflix’s 2016 science fiction phenomenon that skyrocketed her career straight from unknown into superstardom.

Brown’s meteoric rise saw her receiving in the low $20,000 range per episode in the first season to an estimated $300-$350,000 per episode for its upcoming third season. She was also the youngest recipient in history to be honored on Time magazine’s Time 100 list and has 23 total nominations in multiple award categories including two Emmys. She’s won nine awards in total, which include a SAG – awarded to the entire cast of Stranger Things, and two MTV awards.

In addition to this, she currently has 18.2 million Instagram followers* – gaining her first million in a single day shortly after the launch of Stranger Things, has a modelling deal with IMG, multiple brand endorsements including Calvin Klein, Converse, and Moncler, and is the youngest person ever appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Finn Wolfhard

Brown’s fellow Stranger Things cast member who plays Mike Wheeler, the de facto leader of the Demogorgon-fighting kids and Eleven’s romantic interest, has also seen a significant rise in fame since his Netflix debut. Like his co-star, Wolfhard also earned a whopping pay raise for the upcoming season almost 12 times his original earnings per episode in season one.

Wolfhard’s band, Calpurnia, released their first EP in April this year after being signed by Royal Mountain Records in 2017, the same year he appeared as fast-talking Richie Tozier in the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. He’s already signed on for the 2019 sequel to the horror hit, as well as snagging a coveted role in the upcoming movie The Goldfinch alongside Nicole Kidman. His Instagram following is currently at 11.2 million from a 100,000 pre-Netflix debut.


Katherine Langford

After her breakout role as Hannah Baker in Netflix’s controversial, albeit ground-breaking series 13 Reasons Why — for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination –, Langford has since appeared in comedy/drama films The Misguided and Love, Simon.

Langford is also set to star in the lead role of Arthurian Netflix series Cursed, due for release in 2019, as well as a role in the highly-anticipated follow-up to Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, expected to hit theatres in May. Her Instagram follower count is currently at 12.9 million; before her Netflix debut, it was around the 100,000 mark.


Claire Foy

The seasoned British actress was a household name in the UK with gigs on multiple BBC miniseries, but it was her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown that shot her to international fame seemingly overnight. The critically-acclaimed series is reported to be Netflix’s most expensive production yet, which has certainly paid off after winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama, as well as a Best Actress win for Foy.

Since her Netflix debut, she’s starred alongside Andrew Garfield in Breathe (2017), Steven Soderbergh’s horror/thriller Unsane (2018), Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man (2018), as well as playing iconic, tattooed protagonist Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018). Her Instagram follower count may not be nearly as large as the slightly younger and social media-savvy generation above (she’s currently with 30,767), but with the amount of coveted roles she’s garnered since her Netflix debut, there’s no question she belongs on this list.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Noah Centineo

After his role as sensitive jock Peter Kavinsky in the hugely successful teen rom-com To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB), the 22-year-old Florida native saw his Instagram followers increase from 95,000 to 2.4 million within just a few days of the film being streamed. And that number is currently at 16.1 million only a mere four months later – and counting. The film has proven a boon to the careers of both Centineo and lead actress of TATBILB and New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Lana Condor.

Centineo’s role as the leading man in another teen rom-com, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, released just three weeks after his Netflix debut, only exacerbated the dizzying speed at which his rise to fame transpired. Famously referred to as the “Internet’s Boyfriend”, Centineo is booked for the much anticipated sequel to TATBILB (release date unknown) and has three projects in the works for 2019, including a key role in the new reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which will be directed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

Lena Waithe

The screenwriter/actor/producer, named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Breakouts,” made history when she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 (and then blew everyone away with her speech).

Waithe was awarded the award for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode on Netflix’s Master of None in which she also plays Denise — the queer black woman at the center of the story who comes out to her family during Thanksgiving – a hilarious rendition of her personal experience.

She’d been writing for Fox series Bones for 12 years, but her level of success skyrocketed since comedian and creator of Master of None Aziz Ansari rewrote the character of his best friend from a straight, white male to a character specifically tailored for Waithe. Since her time in the role, she’s gone on to create critically-acclaimed Showtime drama The Chi, wrote a pilot — Twenties — for TBS, starred in Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster Ready Player One, been named on this year’s Time 100 list, and has graced the cover of Vanity Fair.

[*Note – Instagram numbers are reported as of December 2018]

5 Great Netflix Original Films of 2018

Netflix continued to dominate the television industry in 2018, coming out on top with 112 nominees at last year’s Emmy Awards, and boasted more than 60 original films released this year (and counting). From comedies to dramas — and its fair share of documentaries — a tidal wave of strong, original content coming from the streaming platform continues to make it more and more difficult for us to leave the couch.

So, for those of you with no reservations about continuously filling in those perfected couch grooves, here is a list of the great original films Netflix released in 2018:

6 Balloons

In an unexpected pivot from their usual comedic roles, James Franco and Abby Jacobson play a heroin addict and his loving-yet-enabling sister in this heartfelt drama. Barely feature-length at 71 minutes, 6 Balloons follows the siblings over the course of one night after Katie (Jacobson) finds out her brother Seth (Franco) has relapsed.

Written and directed by Marja-Lewis Ryan, the film is bleak in its deliverance of the grappling truths surrounding addiction, and poignant in its examination of unconditional love between family.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

As surprising as it may be for a teen rom-com to win over film critics across the board, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before did just that.

A big win for diverse leads in films, To All the Boys follows Lara Jean Covey, a half-Korean, half-Caucasian high-schooler in suburban America, as she navigates through the complicated events following the leaking of her secret love letters to five of her crushes. The role is winningly played by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Lana Condor, and offers an honest, endearing, and downright sweet take on the dating rituals of adolescence. In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of the ‘80s classics of John Hughes, but for the digital age.

Roxanne Roxanne

Roxanne Roxanne is a biopic, co-produced by Pharrell Williams and directed by Michael Larnell, that explores the legendary beginnings of Roxanne Shanté’s career as rap’s first female star at just 14 years old. Coming out of the infamous Queensbridge Projects in Queens, New York, the talented battle-rapper shot to fame after igniting the Roxanne Wars — hip-hop’s first recorded beef — after recording a clapback with legendary hip-hop producer Marley Marl to U.T.F.O.’s hit single Roxanne, Roxanne.

Despite being out of the limelight for many years, the story of the pioneer who paved the way for names like Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, and Cardi B – to name just a few – was worthy of some current recognition; Netflix did just that – and did it in style.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

This documentary feature by Oscar-winner and 20 Feet from Stardom director Morgan Neville centers around the last 15 years of filmmaking legend Orson Welles’ life, when he was an artist in exile. The film focuses largely on the long and laborious production of his magnum opus, The Other Side of The Wind, which was finally released posthumously this year.

Using more than 100 hours of raw material, this imaginative 122-minute cut is essential viewing for not just Orson Welles fans but any aspiring documentary filmmaker or film enthusiast. The Other Side Of The Wind was semi-autobiographical, and this intoxicating film compliments it perfectly while detailing the life and times of its subject.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Written and directed by Sarah Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher is an English remake of the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, a riveting psychological thriller about a disenchanted teacher living in Staten Island who becomes intrigued by a precocious 5-year-old boy in her class after reading his poetry.

Maggie Gyllenhaal shines in the role of Lisa, the self-deluded teacher and budding poet who, in some way, uses Jimmy, the artistic prodigy played by Parker Sevac, to live out her own dreams of becoming an extraordinary poet. The film explores the great lengths in which one will go to nurture the artistic pursuits of a child beyond what is deemed socially or ethically acceptable, as Gyllenhaal unravels and the child’s well-being comes into question.

Masterfully projecting the complexities of life as a struggling woman desperate to be heard, this film is bound to leave you affected. As Rolling Stone puts it, “for the filmmaker and her star, this movie is their poem.”