Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A doc, a town hall, and free movies.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

The comedian Roy Wood Jr. tweeted a 2019 sketch this week that I thought was very funny, especially as someone who has watched about a million cop shows.

Have a safe weekend.

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This weekend I have … an hour, and I need a makeover

Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Jonathan Van Ness.Ryan Collerd/Netflix

‘Queer Eye’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

The “Queer Eye” feel-good empowerment formula is pretty locked at this point, and this new batch of episodes, filmed in Philadelphia, has all the life-changing haircuts you could hope for. Of course I cried many times. Sometimes, though, there’s something uncomfortable about framing healing as entertainment. “For me to get Noah to a place where he can accept his present and start working on a better future, he has to resolve the trauma from his past,” Karamo Brown says in the first episode, which is true and significant — but also strange to hear in the intonation of a game show host who’s encouraging you to come back after this commercial break.

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… an hour, and I have young children

A scene from a CNN-"Sesame Street” town hall from April about the Covid-19 pandemic.CNN

‘Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism’

When to watch: Saturday at 10 a.m., on CNN, or on CNN.com.

This is the second CNN-“Sesame Street” town hall; the first was in late April, called “The ABCs of Covid-19,” and it was gentle and educational if also totally shattering in its own way. This new installment, moderated by Big Bird, Van Jones and Erica Hill, will answer viewer-submitted questions. If you don’t have young children but still want something informative this weekend, there’s “Race Matters: America in Crisis,” a PBS NewsHour special, Friday at 9 p.m. (check local listings).

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… two hours, and I like martial arts

Bruce Lee, the subject of the new documentary “Be Water.”Bruce Lee Family Archive

‘Be Water’

When to watch: Sunday at 9 p.m., on ESPN.

This “30 for 30” is an often fascinating biography of the martial arts legend Bruce Lee, tracing his life and work with ample context and wonderful archival footage and photography. There are plenty of ideas here that could probably make for their own stand-alone pieces, but “Be Water” does an elegant job of threading Lee’s specific narrative with stories on broader subjects, including the origins and legacies of anti-Asian racism in America. If you are in the market for a satisfying, thoughtful and surprisingly relevant documentary — which I always am — this is your jam.

Your weekend double feature: ’90s Black Cinema

Clockwise from top, Trula Hoosier, Barbara-O and Alva Rogers in “Daughters of the Dust.”Cohen Film Collection

‘Daughters of the Dust’ and ‘Down in the Delta’

Last month, I recommended “Cane River” and “Losing Ground,” two little-seen and recently rediscovered independent films from 1982, each by African-American directors whose careers were shortened by early deaths. Those films, along with a wealth of titles by other black filmmakers, are now available free for nonsubscribers on the Criterion Channel, as part of an initiative announced this week to amplify black voices and support organizations fighting racism in America.

Among those films are two indies from the 1990s, directed by black women grappling with the pasts and futures of families rooted in the Deep South. Set in 1902, Julie Dash’s landmark “Daughters of the Dust” balances the poetic with the visceral in evoking a pregnant moment in the lives of the Peazants, who have remained on an island off the Georgia coast since their ancestors were brought there as slaves. As many of the Peazants pack for the mainland, and amid all the fear and possibility the move represents, Dash reflects on the cultural traditions they still carry from West Africa and the anxieties of separating from the island and from one another.

In “Down in the Delta,” the poet Maya Angelou, who directed the film, places a heavy significance on a silver candelabrum that has been passed through a black family since it was bartered in a slave trade. The heirloom gets pawned early in the film, when a substance-abusing single mother of two (Alfre Woodard), living with her mother (Mary Alice) in the Chicago projects, is at a particularly low moment in her life. Her fortunes lift when she and the kids move to rural Mississippi to live with her uncle (Al Freeman Jr.), who brings them closer to their roots and toward a more simplified and dignified life. This was the first and only film Angelou directed; like Dash, she taps into the beauty and harmony of an isolated locale and the restorative value of family. — Scott Tobias

Stream “Daughters of the Dust” on the Criterion Channel.

Stream “Down in the Delta” on the Criterion Channel.

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

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