Viewer's Discretion: A biopic film and satirical series worth streaming

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'Maudie' (Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Vudu)

This lovely biopic of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis takes the quiet approach, an aesthetic that matches its subject and her work. Lewis was a Nova Scotia resident, stricken with a debilitating arthritis and blessed with an artistic drive that didn't let her physical pain stop her from expressing her soul. The film follows Lewis from around 1938 to her death in 1970 and largely concerns her relationship with husband Everett, a rural fishmonger who she first met when applying for a job as housekeeper, and her efforts at painting, which eventually lead to wide recognition.

As portrayed by Sally Hawkins, Lewis is brought to life as a sly and subtle person, with a lot going on in her brain that is only allowed to seep out in small portions as needed — a comment here, a whisper there, always showing that her grasp of the human condition is keener than she lets on. As her husband, Ethan Hawke adds a lot of sympathy to a troubled man beset with anger and lacking the faculties to express and expunge it from his being. Despite his attempts to maintain the appearance of dominance in the relationship, it becomes apparent that Maud is not only the guiding force in his life, but also perhaps does a little speaking for him through her actions and art.

Speaking, in context of the film, isn't necessarily something done with voice, but rather through those actions and art that Maude proves so adept at. And yet, rather than ruminate on the particulars of what her images might convey, director Aisling Walsh and screenwriter Sherry White prefer to offer Lewis as a kind of living figure from her own work, allowing viewers to experience the artist as a creative work requiring care and contemplation in order to encounter her at her most vivid.

'W1A' (Netflix)

When the comedy series "W1A" appeared, it was an odd concept for a show. For instance, it was a sequel to the show "Twenty-Twelve," about the behind-the-scenes committee bringing together the Olympic Games in London, which had run for two seasons. "W1A" took two of those characters and placed them in this new show, broadcast on the BBC and being about the inner workings of the BBC — and not in a complimentary way. This out-meta'd most other meta-stories I can think of. It also provided an unlikely scenario for some of the broadest, sharpest satire about the hijacking of our creative and communications systems by tepid corporate concepts and double-speak designed to prevent any decision makers from bearing any of the blame.

At the center is Ian Fletcher, BBC Head of Values, in a key comic turn by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville. He's tasked with the job of handling BBC-brand-destroying crises after crises by often thinking things through when no one else cares to stick their neck out.

Among his staff is publicist Siobhan Sharpe, played with air-headed gusto by the brilliant Jessica Hynes. Sharpe never met a digital fad she didn't think was a world-changing phenomenon, and Head of Output/Head of Better Anna Rampton, a deliciously and coldly focused Sarah Parish, who never appears to understand what is being devised even as she responds to it.

The dialogue of the show has a beautiful rhythm, often made of a cascade of pat responses rather than anything of substance. The inability to deal with anything has its own way of setting initiatives into motion and creating problems. It creates a cycle of not doing much very effectively as a quick bandage for the result of not doing much very effectively. It's a glorious, hilarious spectacle depicting a plague of flaccid inability in leadership, and it just might explain more about why the world is the world it is than you expect.

John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me


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