Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A California dream.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

I loved this article about Boots and Stumpy, two alligators in Texas. I learned a little about the animals and a little more about people: “Unless there is an immediate, life-or-death situation, capturing an alligator without the proper permit is a misdemeanor in Texas. This is to prevent what one Port Aransas police dispatcher described as ‘hold my beer’ accidents.”

Have a good weekend.

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This weekend I have … 20 minutes, and I’m sensitive

A scene from “City of Ghosts.”Netflix

‘City of Ghosts’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

This new six-part children’s show combines low-key, naturalistic voice acting and animated television’s most gorgeous use of light and texture to tell snapshot stories about Los Angeles. A present-day Scooby gang of children investigate ghostly sightings across the city, and their adventures teach them about culture, history, gentrification, joy, music, celebrations, dumplings, puppetry, stewardship. If your children like “Bluey” or “Molly of Denali,” or if you like NPR podcasts or the show “Vida,” watch this.

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… two hours, and I like stand-up

James Acaster in his new special, “James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999.”Vimeo

‘James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999’

When to watch: Now, on Vimeo.

The comedian James Acaster filmed this special at the end of 2019, but its moments of beaten-down cynicism and capacity for real, personal reflection feel plenty appropriate for the pandemic year, too. You might recognize Acaster from British panel shows or from the meme of his appearance on the celebrity version of “The Great British Baking Show,” which he speaks about at length here. But his stand-up is on a grander scale; he did a four-part special for Netflix in 2018, and “Lasagne” clocks in at just over two hours. Don’t let the length deter you: Acaster uses so many different comedic techniques that each section is lively and surprising. (Watching it costs $11.27.)

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… several hours, and should I dye my hair?

Claire Danes and Jared Leto in “My So-Called Life.”ABC

‘My So-Called Life’

When to watch: Now, on Hulu.

Once “Freaks and Geeks” returned to streaming, I was optimistic that “My So-Called Life” would, too, and lo, let all the lands rejoice. Claire Danes stars as Angela Chase, a high school sophomore who recently fell in with some new pals and is on her road of self discovery. Not only is this one of the great teen shows of all time, it’s among the best dramas of the modern age, one that uses the adolescent tendency to make a huge deal out of everything as a lens for its close examination of behavior in general. There are only 19 episodes; be prepared to cry during most of them.

Your newly available movies

Jasna Djuricic is Aida, a high school teacher turned U.N. translator, in Jasmila Zbanic’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?”Super LTD

A diverse selection of recommended indies arrives this week, including “The Inheritance,” an experimental treatment of Black art, community and history in Philadelphia, and “On-Gaku: Our Sound,” an offbeat, hand drawn anime about rock ’n’ roll. More stouthearted viewers might want to try “Quo Vadis, Aida?,” Bosnia and Herzegovina’s harrowing Oscar entry about genocide in the former Yugoslavia.

Some independent films are available via “virtual cinemas,” which share the rental fees between distributors and theaters. Unless otherwise noted, other titles can generally be rented on the usual platforms, including Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. SCOTT TOBIAS

‘The Inheritance’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Grasshopper Film virtual cinema)

“The Inheritance” feels like poetry visualized. [The director Ephraim Asili] remixes Jean-Luc Godard’s style in the 1967 film “La Chinoise” to examine how people form or expand the scope of their own politics and the realities of shared responsibility and communal living. — Lovia Gyarkye (Read the full review here.)

‘Kid 90’ (Hulu only)

In interviews, [the actress Soleil Moon Frye] hints at the darker aspects of young womanhood and celebrity that creep at the edges of her frame: sexual abuse, drug addiction, mental illness. But the director is too enamored of the pixelated, lo-fi nostalgia of her celluloid memories — and too intent on crafting a rose-tinted arc of “self-love” — to dig deeper into these themes. — Devika Girish (Read the full review here.)

‘On-Gaku: Our Sound’ (A Critic’s Pick)

Expertly atmospheric, the brief film (71 minutes, not one minute too long) includes the sounds of gentle folk and smooth, lengthy sequences of, say, the friends simply walking down the street to a funky bass line. Other scenes erupt with the cacophonous crash and bash of an arena performance, as [the director Kenji Iwaisawa] uses the process of rotoscoping, tracing over real movie footage to animate the characters’ movements. — Maya Phillips (Read the full review here.)

‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Super LTD virtual cinema)

At the time, many in the West wondered how this could happen — how genocidal violence could erupt in Europe barely 50 years after the end of World War II. “Quo Vadis, Aida?,” Jasmila Zbanic’s unsparing and astonishing new film, shows precisely how. This isn’t the same as explaining why, though Zbanic’s granular, hour-by-hour, lightly fictionalized dramatization of the events leading up to the massacre sheds some glancing light on that question. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Yes Day’ (Netflix only)

Though “Yes Day” does not lack for energy, the jokes are too broad and the mishaps too safe for the movie to emerge as an honest or imaginative journey through family conflict and compromise. Dad is chased by vindictive birds, Mom picks a fight at a theme park and the kids come to appreciate that, sometimes, adults are right to say no to things — like this movie. — Natalia Winkelman (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:

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