Outside, it's growing even colder. We've just lost one of the most revered and prolific musical visionaries in Leonard Cohen. Donald Trump has been voted in as the 45th President of the United States… Yep, some of us are still well and truly struggling with our November-induced PTSD.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. November has also brought with it a wealth of film and TV material whose warm glow we've been bathing in as we gently remind ourselves that – historically – it’s conditions of darkness and depravity that best allow creativity to flourish.
It's also well and truly Oscars season. And with film’s busiest time of the year now upon us, the industry is moving out of summer’s silly season and toward the serious and somber part of each year, rolling out a breadth of high quality produce in order to build buzz for February's Academy Awards. November certainly has some strong contenders.
So, without further ado, here are our top 10 picks from November’s strongest film and TV offerings.
Director: Tom Ford
Release date: November 23
Fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford asserted his credentials as an auteur at Venice Film Festival this year, as his second feature (after A Single Man) received its world premiere. Speaking at a press conference before the screening, he said: “Style always has to serve substance. Believe it or not, I am not just about style, especially in filmmaking.” Nocturnal Animals proves it.
In the flick, an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is haunted by her ex-husband's (Jake Gyllenhaal) novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. It isn’t just beautifully made; Nocturnal Animals also asks much of the viewer – we’re left to interpret and distill. It does what art does best: gets you thinking.
Manchester by the Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Release date: November 18
It was really hard to begin writing about Manchester by the Sea, because this film sunk into my bones so deeply that it’s hard to extract. The insanely beautiful, all-American tale from Gangs of New York’s Kenneth Lonergan delves deeply and masterfully into the black hole of grief. At times, it’s emotionally overwhelming. But isn’t that a) characteristic of a great movie, and b) exactly the kind of escapism we need from entertainment in a post-Trump election world?
Watching Casey Affleck battle his demons is worth the ticket price alone. He plays Lee, a handyman with a habit of mouthing off at his clients and a penchant for picking fights. He also has a dark secret that’s keeping the weight of the world on his shoulders. But most refreshingly, he’s also hilarious; Manchester by the Sea would probably be hailed as one of the year's best comedies if everybody in the audience didn't spend half of it wiping snot and tears from their face.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Release date: November 17
The new movie centers on the famous “magizoologist” Newt Scamander, whose portrait can be seen hanging in Dumbledore’s study in the massively successful Harry Potter movies. After nine years spent travelling the globe in search of magical monsters, Scamander wrote the textbook which Potter and his pals study in their first year at Hogwarts.
After eight previous Potter movies, audiences beyond the core fanbase could easily have decided that they’d already had enough of Rowling’s wizarding cinematic universe. On the other hand, it’s been five years since the final HP flick, stoking pent-up demand and bringing to the party a whole new generation of kids. A debut screenplay from Rowling herself was another bonus for Fantastic Beasts, while director Yates behind the camera provided reassuring continuity – he directed the last four Potter films.
Bad Santa 2
Director: Mark Waters
Release date: November 23
Bad Santa 2 returns Billy Bob Thornton to the screen as America's favorite anti-hero, Willie Soke. Fueled by cheap whiskey and a good dose of cynicism, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.
“Happy endings are bullshit,” he says at the beginning of the flick – and don’t we just know it after this month. A seedy villain in a Santa suit may be just the face to epitomize our troubled times. But, the embarrassingly enjoyable movie also yields a satisfying look at the feel-bad movie model that made its predecessor such a fun, twisted flick… The script will make you uncomfortable at your own laughter. It’s okay.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release date: November 11
Amy Adams is on form, this month. When mysterious spacecrafts land across the globe, her elite team of expert linguists are brought together to investigate. Mankind teeters on the verge of global war (again, we’re seeing patterns reflected in politics…) and Banks and the team race against time for answers. To find them, she’ll take a chance that could threaten her life.
Some of us have been kind of agnostic about this kind of movie lately, after the slight disappointments of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special. But Villeneuve – the guy behind US-Mexico cartel drama Sicario – brings us a dreamy, freaky, audacious drama that actually makes us interested in another movie about what to do if aliens show up on Earth. It’s neat.
New to TV
Creator: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Channel/streaming service: MTV
Release date: November 15
Sweet/Vicious is exactly the kind of upbeat and slightly crude show you’d expect from an MTV comedy drama. It’s set on a college campus, it has sarcastic vibes, and one of the protagonists smokes weed with a six foot-long device called “LeBong James.” It follows Jules and Sandra, a superhero duo who come together to fight on-campus rapists whom their college has failed to prosecute.
Despite the goofy, comedic tone you’d expect from a saga about mismatched new pals, the core concern of this show is the epidemic of sexual assault in U.S. colleges; a subject which has come to the fore recently, in light of the Brock Turner case. The show never loses sight of those contentious issues, yet it deals with them in a refreshingly enjoyable way.
Creators: Michael Showalter, Charles Rogers
Channel/streaming service: TBS
Release date: November 21
Search Party is a comedy-drama-thriller about narcissistic New Yorkers who become fascinated with the disappearance of a college friend. Come primarily for the show’s intentionally boring protagonist, Dory (if you have good taste, you’ll recognise Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development), trying to find out what happened to her missing friend, Chantal; stay for the searing mockery of the self-absorbed Brooklynites.
As TV viewers find themselves with more and more viewing options, TBS – a network once primarily known for Seinfeld reruns – has fully embraced the TV binge. Search Party’s already revealed itself in entirety and we can tell you: the finale manages to bring it all together in a way that is genuinely chilling… Check it out.
New on Netflix
Creator: Peter Morgan
Channel/streaming service: Netflix
Release date: November 4
Award-winning writer Peter Morgan turned down the opportunity to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace in order to maintain his independence writing this biopic TV piece. He was also given a CBE this year for his services to drama. What’s more, The Crown supposedly had a budget of over $100 million. Those three things combine to mean that this new Netflix drama, covering Queen Elizabeth II’s epic reign, is definitely one to watch…
The first season kicks off in 1947, with episodes featuring high drama and emotion including Princess Elizabeth’s wedding, King George VI’s death, a nation in mourning, Queen Elizabeth acceding to the throne, and an aging Churchill as her prime minister, all while both Britain and the monarchy are in postwar decline.
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing
Release date: November 1
Ewing and Grady's celebration of the veteran producer revisits several episodes of Norman Lear’s life, including his unhappy childhood, when at nine-years-old he watched his father being carted off to prison. The high-profile documentary may well end up in the Oscars race, too. The two filmmakers persuaded the recent memoirist that there was no time like the present to allow them to present a bio-doc on him. He gave them total creative control.
For influential producer Lear, the key to his groundbreaking comedies (All in the Family, Sanford and Sons, The Jeffersons) was reflecting on screen the debates raging in real-life society and politics. In a scene from the new documentary – answering a question from the audience about Donald Trump – he says, "It’s the American people saying ‘screw you’ to leadership."
Tales by Light
Creator: Abraham Joffe
Channel/streaming service: Netflix
Release date: November 11
Bringing together exploration, photography and the natural world, Tales By Light follows photographers from around the world as they push the limits of their craft and work to capture the perfect images to show us our world in brand new ways.
The six-part series is a collaborative effort between Canon and National Geographic. Season one follows photographers Art Wolfe, Darren Jew, Richard I’Anson, Peter Eastway, and Krystle Wright on their journey to some of the world’s most “extreme and fascinating environments.” This may just be the most visually pleasing show on Netflix.
I, Daniel Blake
Director: Ken Loach
Release date: December 23
If there’s one film you need to see this year, it’s I, Daniel Blake. Although the film doesn’t get a U.S. release until next month, the Palme d’Or winner has already been garnering attention on the international film festival circuit and has premiered at both Denver International Film Festival and the American Film Institute’s film festival this month. Expect to be hearing a lot more about it.
I, Daniel Blake follows an ailing British carpenter and a struggling single mother as they join forces against the systems keeping them down. It packs a hefty punch, both personal and political, as it illustrates the effects of decades of neoliberal policies on individuals and society – and blends effortlessly into the political landscapes surrounding Brexit and Trump.
If you're in need of some more viewing recommendations, October's best movie and TV releases are still as solid as when they first came out.