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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.”

Pilot Season 2017 Part 2: Here’s What’s Coming Your Way

Pilot season is a secret peek into TV’s future, when broadcast network execs decide which pilots go to series and which get scrapped. That trend may be changing with Amazon asking viewers to vote on their choices. Four Amazon shows already have the green light, but for the others, we’ll have to wait and see.

What follows are some trends in pilot season and some examples of shows that may be coming your way in the 2017-2018 season.

Enter Pilot Season Politics

Family dramas, comedies and police procedurals are joined this year by what the Hollywood Reporter calls the broadcast networks’ “efforts to appeal to Trump America.” NBC’s offering is a military hero drama ”For God and Country,” and CBS picked up a Navy SEALs drama, which, according to Variety’s Development Scorecard, “Follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan, and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask.”

On the other hand, ABC’s “Red Blooded,” starring Reba McEntire as a “Red State” sheriff, will have her views challenged by a Muslim FBI agent. Speaking of ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, CBS has “Perfect Citizen,” about an Edward Snowden-like character. If you prefer your politics wrapped in allegory, ABC”s “The Crossing,” where the ill-fated refugees are Americans, is for you.

Seeking Out New Stories in New Frontiers

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Another trend moves us off this troubled planet with CBS’s astronaut drama called “Mission Control,” and NBC’s comedy “Spaced Out.”

Netflix and Amazon are also in the space-race, with the reboot of beloved ’60s sci-fi classic “Lost in Space” and futuristic “Oasis,” which Rolling Stone calls a “space-madness headscratcher.”

FOX has Orville, a comedy drama set 300 years in the future, as well as the apocalyptic “Passage,” based on Justin Cronin’s best-selling mixed-genre trilogy.

Marvel Comics teamed up with FOX to create the latest from the X-Men universe. The logline for “Gifted” runs: “After discovering their children possess mutant powers, two ordinary parents and their kids are forced to go on the run from a hostile government, eventually joining up with an underground network of mutants.”

Under the Influence

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CBS picked up the idea for “Living Biblically,” about a middle-aged man who decides to follow the Bible to the letter with hilarious results, from a book by AJ Jacobs.

Fox has loosely based its office comedy “Type A” on “*ssholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.

In Netflix’s “Disjointed,” Kathy Bates heads up a ragtag and mostly stoned bunch in the legal cannabis business.

Amazon is also into the pot game with “Budding Prospects,” a show about marijuana farmers in 1980s California. That show, along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a perfect wife turned queen of comedy in 1950s New York, were given the green light to go to series by Amazon viewers.

What new shows are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about film and television production, check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy!

5 Of The Best Space Documentaries Now Streaming

What lies beyond the confines of our own atmosphere is mind-boggling in the truest sense of the word, so it’s little wonder that space—and the stuff in it—makes for compelling subject matter when it comes to documentaries.

That said, it’s a double-edged sword for students at documentary filmmaking school looking to focus on the cosmos. For one thing, space documentaries have to rely on inventive ways to represent the subject matter visually since there’s usually no direct footage or images of deep space objects or abstract concepts.

Secondly, it’s tricky to balance the writingyou don’t want to lose 99.98% of the viewers who don’t know the intricacies of Minowski spacetime, but at the same time you don’t want to patronize them with details most 8th graders know.

What follows is a roundup of titles that serve as near-perfect examples of space documentaries which manage to tick all the right boxes. Set your warp drives to maximum as we chart:

The Best Space Documentaries Currently Streaming

1. Life in Our Universe

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A six-part series lead by the hugely engaging (and award-winning) Dr. Laird Close, Life in Our Universe charts the progress of scientists and uncovers how our civilization is conducting the hunt for others. The question of whether or not life exists amongst the stars has always been an exciting one, and this series does the magnificence of the question justice.

Streaming on: Netflix

2. In the Shadow of the Moon

best space documentaries

By far the most comprehensive documentary about the Apollo lunar landings ever produced, this British-made documentary managed to do something never done before: bringing all of the key players of the moon landings together to reminisce on their experiences (even those who had previously been interview shy.)

Even those who think they know it all will be surprised at the amount of detail coveredif you loved Andrew Chaikin’s book A Man on the Moon or the HBO series it spawned (entitled From the Earth to the Moon), you’ll love this.

Streaming on: 4oD (may not be available in all regions)

3. NASA: The Space Shuttle

Just as interesting as space itself are the marvels of technology that got us there, and this YouTube documentary is both a fascinating look back at the Space Shuttle fleet as well as a celebration of its time in service (even more poignant given that the last Space Shuttle was retired in 2011.) But we can sell this documentary about rocket ships with just one line: it’s narrated by William Shatner.

Streaming on: YouTube

4. The Journey to the Centre of the Universe

In the span of just 90 minutes, this National Geographic documentary covers a lot of ground—namely, from the sands of our own planet to the borders of the known Universe. While the special effects are somewhat rudimentary by current standards, it’s nevertheless one of the best space documentaries on YouTube.

Steaming on: YouTube

5. Cosmos

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No list of the best space documentaries available for streaming would be complete without a hat-tip to Cosmos. These days Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s reputation as a compelling astrophysicist speaks for itself, and although the show has been aimed at a broad audiencemeaning the science is a little entry-level at timesit doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Extremely impressive special effects, excellent animations, and every bit as good as you’ve no doubt heard.

Streaming on: Netflix

Know of any other fantastic space documentaries currently streaming that we should be watching? You know what to do – descend on down to the comments below and jettison your suggestion!