Blood Brothers: Netflix explores the friendship that put white America on edge


Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali

If you’re a regular reader of this column you’ll know by now that I am a Muhammad Ali obsessive.

I’ll watch, read or listen to pretty much anything to do with the man and I probably know enough now to fill a book. But the friendship – and it was a great one – between Ali and Malcolm X has always had a shroud of mystery and misinformation around it.

The two men came from entirely different backgrounds, but that they would intersect at some point in the crucible of Civil Rights-era politics and 1960s Harlem was inevitable.

Blood Brothers is a compelling watch.

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Blood Brothers is a compelling watch.

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Cassius Clay’s (as he was then) shock victory over Sonny Liston to take the World Heavyweight belt made the boxer an immensely valuable ambassador for Malcolm’s Nation of Islam movement, while Malcolm’s boldness, clarity of vision and charisma made him a natural ally and friend to Clay.

The two men forged a friendship – short-lived – that terrified FBI head J Edgar Hoover and put white America on notice of what a “Free Black Mind” could achieve.

How the friendship began and the still disputed nature of their falling out is a fantastic prism through which to view a decade of American history. Blood Brothers is a treat. Great soundtrack too.

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Season 3 of Explained is now available to stream on Netflix.

Explained

This Netflix original series has been running for a few years now, and a new tranche of episodes dropping is always a good thing.

The latest batch of 25-minute documentaries cover everything from dogs to flags and How We Might Become a Carbon Neutral Planet.

Explained‘s approach is to tell us a whole bunch of stuff we didn’t even realise we didn’t know.

Like, why is royalty still a thing? And, can we actually reverse climate change with the technology we already have without destroying the economy? And then lay out possible answers in a brief and easy to grasp style, with plenty of – actual – experts on hand.

The usual problem with a Netflix documentary is that they spread a thin story over several hours. With Explained, I wouldn’t mind if they even took a bit longer.

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1917 had great success at the Baftas, Golden Globes and Directors’ and Producers’ Guilds awards in 2020.

1917

One of the strongest films of 2019 arrived on Netflix last week too.

1917 is a World War I drama from director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall) and cinematographer Roger Deakins. Mendes opted to make the film “ín real time” and also to shoot it to appear as one continuous shot.

What could have been a gimmick in the service of a weaker narrative becomes a masterstroke here, basically denying us any let-off from the tension of what is happening on the screen.

The story follows two young soldiers who are given the near-impossible task of getting orders to a distant frontline trench by crossing miles of possibly occupied land on foot. 1917 plays out as an immersive, visceral and often moving portrait of the terror of war.

On the biggest screen you can find, with the sound turned all the way up, this will be the best film you see all week.

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Cemetery Junction is now available to stream on Netflix.

Cemetery Junction

Netflix occasionally turns up an unexpected gem, and this is one of those films. It’s a rom-com, set in the early 1970s in a small town in England. All of the expected teen coming-of-age tropes turn up, but in a likeable and believable fashion.

The soundtrack is brilliant too.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant co-wrote and co-directed, loosely based on their own experiences. Recommended.



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