Desperately waiting for the next episode of Breaking Bad, Homeland, even Elementary? Sitting there in front of your wonderful new TV system, maybe even in a home theater lair, daunted by the thousands of entries on Netflix or Hulu? Afraid you’ll pick a clunker?
A gem that no one you know has ever heard of is currently available, and once you take the plunge, it’s hard to get out. With all the style and tension of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes a series set in Stockholm made by the producers of the Millennium Trilogy. More picturesque and less gloomy does not mean less taut for this newsroom/crime drama named for its intrepid hero, Annika Bengzton: Crime Reporter.
A young mother of two has to juggle family life and her elegant man with the demands of her job, which can send her to grisly scenes at a moment’s notice. The viewer quickly becomes absorbed by both the personal and professional storylines. Played by Malin Crépin, Annika is imbued with a wicked wit, keen investigative reporting sense and an intense beauty that is neither plastic nor too glamorous. (For me, she’s a Scandinavian version of the traitorous wife in The Americans.) The newsroom surrounding her has a bunch of eccentric but believable characters, played by notable Swedish actors. Adapted from the novels of Liza Marklund, six crime films in the 2012 series are now available for instant viewing. The climate may be chilly, but this crime drama sizzles.
ONLINE BONUS: Feature Film Pick, Not One Less.
Most folks if asked could not say the name of China’s greatest director. But nearly all have seen his work: the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. Zhang Yimou has also directed such memorable movies as To Live, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero and House of the Flying Daggers (all worthy of gold medals themselves) but one magnificent film of his has flown totally under the radar. Not One Less (1999) could not be farther from the themes of Daggers or Annika, but is a chance to journey to remote China for one of the most remarkable stories you’ll ever see. When the teacher of a village school is called away by family illness, the mayor can only find a literate 13-year-old girl to put in charge. She is told that when the teacher returns there should not be “one less” student in the room. Imagine that in America? Make your children watch this one. The cast, all amateur actors, was chosen from the region where this was shot, partly in documentary style. Without giving more away, let’s just say you’ll be enchanted along the way and cheering or in tears at the end.