What Swann is Watching from Home

Finding yourself at a loss for what to watch while social distancing? During this time, Swann is working remotely, which means our commuting hours can now be spent catching up on favorite films. Take a look at what our specialists and staff are streaming right now!


Altered States, 1980

John D. Larson, Specialist – 19th & 20th Century Literature

What could be more ‘socially distant’ than tripping on hallucinogens and enjoying a nice sojourn in an isolation tank? Well, Altered States takes one man’s misanthropy disguised as primal determinism to the (il)logical conclusion as he reconstitutes as Proto-Man clear through to uni-cellular inchoate consciousness. If this sounds like a bunch of pretentious hooey, it’s because it is. However, even if the pudding is rather over-egged (this is a Ken Russell film after all), it is also a lot of fun. And I’m not giving away the ending to say that Eros eventually smiles upon our hapless traveler. May we all enjoy that gaze soon.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986

Jessica Hunter, Cataloguer – Photographs & Photobooks

My pick is a classic and is available on Netflix. This movie has always been a feel-good movie for me. Not only could we all use a little humor, but we can also live vicariously through Ferris’ day-out activities. Even though we can’t visit a museum like Ferris, you can always virtually explore one, using this list by Travel + Leisure as a springboard.

Okja, 2017

Wren Krisztin, Digital Media Manager

Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer), and available on Netflix, Okja is a satirical sci-fi update to the classic tale of Charlotte’s Web, with plenty of chase scenes and a mercifully bright beginning and end. The hero of the film, Mija, is a young girl from rural South Korea, hellbent on rescuing her best friend, Okja, an enormous genetically-modified superpig, from an American conglomerate corporation. Featuring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal as morally ambiguous villains.

Documentaries & Docu-series

Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix

Christine von der Linn, Director – Illustration Art

Though few would suspect it from general conversation with me, I’m a Motorsport racing fan, and of Formula 1, in particular, so I’ve been greatly enjoying season two of the Netflix documentary Formula 1: Drive to Survive, which was released just in time for isolation! I love the team dynamics, the design and engineering of the cars, and the challenges of the various Grand Prix courses as well as their often exotic locations. And I’m a horribly impatient person, so both the length of a race and an episode of the series suit me perfectly.

Muscle Shoals

Florence Poynor, Administrator – Photographs & Photobooks

When I am feeling stressed or low, I turn to music. I recommend streaming the documentary Muscle Shoals on Amazon Prime to gain insight into how some of America’s most beloved albums were recorded in an unexpected studio in small-town Alabama. If you like Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones, it’s got some super fun tunes!

Bonus: Searching for Sugarman (available on Netflix) is an incredible, inspiring, and surprising story about an obscure musician in Detroit.

TV Shows

Better Things

Lauren Goldberg, Specialist – Vintage Posters

My recommendation for a favorite show that’s streamable on Hulu (the fourth season is on FX currently), is Better Things, written by and starring Pamela Adlon. It’s about a single mother and voiceover actor raising her three daughters in Los Angeles, loosely based on her own life. Incredibly filmed, with witty banter, poignant moments, lots of sarcasm, and terrific cameos that I won’t spoil.

Doctor Who (yes, ALL of it)

Alexandra Nelson, Communications Director

If not now, when? I’m a dedicated Whovian, and may or may not have a thirteenth doctor action figure floating around the house, but I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never done a full watch of the first eight doctors. And if my husband and I can do epic rewatches of the Marvel movies or Lord of the Rings, I know I have the fortitude to watch a lot of classic Dr. Who.

Bonus episode suggestion: I’ve been cooking way too much lately and started contemplating an endeavor to perfect the art of the soufflé, inspired by the 2012 season-starting episode “Asylum of the Daleks,” which features a quarantined future companion, Clara Oswald, known as “Soufflé Girl.” I could be Soufflé Girl for a few weeks while we all practice social distancing.

Documentary Now!

Meagan Gandolfo, Cataloguer – Prints & Drawings

A laugh-out-loud series of parodies created by SNL alumnae, based on well-known documentaries. If you need your art fix, the episode “Waiting for the Artist” in season 3 is a satire on Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, which is a great real documentary also worth checking out.

My Brilliant Friend

Kelsie Jankowski, Public Relations Associate

My pick is My Brilliant Friend on HBO. The first season follows Book One (My Brilliant Friend) of Elena Ferrante’s four-part series: The Neapolitan Novels, and chronicles a complex friendship between two women—Elena and Raffaella—as they navigate life in their poor neighborhood outside of Naples, Italy. Opening in the present day with an elder Elena learning that Raffaella has disappeared, the first season (and book) takes you on a journey into their friendship, beginning as girls in the 1950s, through adolescence, as the audience is left questioning what happened to Raffaella in the present. The series paints an incredible picture of female relationships, portraying the realities of envy, competitiveness and comparisons, as well as unwavering love, compassion and acceptance that exist among women (in success with school/work, with parents, and… among the affections of men).

The second season, My Brilliant Friend – The Story of a New Name, recently aired its first episode on Monday, March 16, with new episodes airing every Monday at 10 pm EST, and, much like the first season, will cover Book Two (The Story of a New Name) and take us through Elena and Raffaella’s lives into their early 20s. The best part is if you get left wanting more… you can always read the books!

Pride & Prejudice (BBC, 1995 miniseries)

Deborah Rogal, Associate Director – Photographs & Photobooks

I was overjoyed to learn this week that one of my all-time favorite miniseries is on Hulu. The original (and best!) screen version of Pride & Prejudice (from the BBC) stars a smoldering Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and an irresistible Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy Bennett. I think it captures the novel beautifully—could anyone ever forget that incredible finale scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, or the wonderfully simpering rendition of Mr. Collins? I first watched the series as a 12-year-old in London in 1995 when my father was on sabbatical there—a time that also reminds me that forced family time at home can last in kids’ memories for years as the very best of days.

The Wire

Paul Blank, Information Technologies

I highly recommend The Wire, a five-season oldie-but-goodie series from ancient days, 2002-2008. It takes place in Baltimore; each season is concerned with a different city institution (school system, police, the waterfront, etc.). Starring Dominic West, in a performance that fits him much better than his stint in “The Affair.” A show that’s only grown in popularity since its release.

Nicho D. Lowry‘s Recommendations

Never a minimalist, our president and principal auctioneer couldn’t choose just one TV series, so we’re giving him his own section:


The “based on real events” story about a multicultural group of Nazi hunters in New York at the end of the 1970s. Colorful, comic-book like, exciting and well-acted, Al Pacino playing a Concentration Camp survivor is exceptional and so natural that it makes you feel his talent has been wasted playing Italians so frequently throughout his career. The show is compelling and the perfect distraction from the outside world.

Peaky Blinders

A tale of a criminal family in the north of England in the years following World War I. A superb collage of history, fashion, music, characters, acting and violence. The show may not be for everybody, not least because everyone’s accent is very thick (hint: use your subtitles), but Cillian Murphy puts in a star-turn as the aloof, cold, charismatic head of the Shelby family.

Downton Abbey

Truth be told I haven’t started watching this until recently. It only took nine years and the influence of just about everyone I know telling me I have to see it. You are going to recognize a theme here with me, but the costumes, history, setting and interiors have completely won me over, and it helps to have such a great array of characters and a solid narrative to hold it all together.

Reality TV

Beat Bobby Flay / 90 Day Fiance: Pillow Talk

Devon Eastland, Senior Specialist – Early Printed Books

For me, it’s cooking shows. Watching Bobby Flay beat everyone on Beat Bobby Flay restores balance to the universe. Also, since we can’t go out to eat, maybe it will provide some new recipe ideas? We also watch competitively to make it more interesting. Everyone picks a chef during the opening sequence so we have more skin in the game. It’s more fun than it sounds, really.

Our guiltiest of guilty pleasures is 90 Day Fiance: Pillow Talk. The show normally follows a couple consisting of one American citizen and one citizen of another country. The hapless lovers hope to get the international partner into the U.S. in order to get married. The K-1 visa allows 90 days between the time it’s granted and the wedding day. Not enough time, you say? How could anyone make a big life decision with such limited information? Is someone taking advantage? Strangers meet, language barriers loom large, cultural differences seem insurmountable, and hilarity ensues! The show is bonkers to begin with, but in this rendition, former subjects of the show (contestants? stars? actors? fiances?) cuddle up with a partner or friend in bed or on a comfy couch to have a snack, maybe a glass of wine, and watch the show together, reacting to the outrageousness in real time. It’s like we’re all watching together. Aw, unity! The reactions and observations of the watchers is as amusing as the show itself, which has been nicely edited down to eliminate the repetition and lagging pace from which the show sometimes suffers.

The Great British Baking Show

Laura Polucha, Cataloguer – Illustration Art

For comfort in times of uncertainty or stress, I often turn to The Great British Baking Show. Watching Britain’s best amateur bakers compete against the clock as they attempt to tackle everything from simple loaves of bread to elaborate pâtisserie may not seem relaxing, but the idyllic pastoral setting outside the tent balances the drama of the competition. It is encouraging to witness the shared passion and collegial atmosphere amongst these bakers who help one another while also pushing themselves to their limits in hopes of winning the “grand prize:” a cake stand, bouquet of flowers, and the title of “Star Baker.” This binge-worthy show promises to lift the spirit while also teaching and inspiring new skills and pastimes that will come in handy now more than ever, such as knowing how to bake your own bread.

For the Kids

“Lunch Doodles” by Mo Willems

Laura Polucha, Cataloguer – Illustration Art

For parents hoping to inspire creativity for their home-bound kids, I recommend “Lunch Doodles,” livestreaming on the Kennedy Center’s website each day at 1 p.m. EST. Hosted by the beloved author and illustrator behind bestsellers like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, the doodling exercises are fun, but the real joy comes from Mo Willems giving insights into his own creative process by showing viewers around his studio and discussing his preliminary sketchbooks and “dummy” drafts of favorites like the Elephant & Piggie series (episode 02). It’s inspiring for kids to hear about how their favorite books and characters were created, and as a cataloguer for Illustration Art, it’s fun for me to hear the artist explain the various notations and markups used to communicate changes throughout the publication process.

The New York International Children’s Film Fest

Alexandra Nelson, Communications Director

Like many nonprofits at this time, The New York International Children’s Film Festival has had to cancel some really important fundraising events. Last week, they did a donation drive and rewarded donors with a link to their “Best of the Fest” reel. There were some really amazing shorts on there, which kept our toddler giggling and occupied through a couple of hours while we worked from home and did chores. Every moment of entertainment counts with a two-year-old! Inspired by all the positive feedback, the festival has launched an #athometogether newsletter, which I know will provide regular infusions of high-quality programming that we wouldn’t have otherwise found.

Outside the Box

Streaming the Met Opera

Marco Tomaschett, Specialist – Autographs

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, The Metropolitan Opera is streaming at no charge a popular opera each night for a limited time. Although art is no substitute for bread or medicine, the idea of self-improvement that accompanies the appreciation of art is a hopeful one. The Met’s free opera is bringing to many one of the achievements of civilization that has only been accessible to the few, and in the midst of a crisis, I say it’s not a moment too soon.

eBay (gasp!)

We’re not going to judge if you spend your downtime browsing auction catalogues or trolling eBay and online aggregators. It’s no secret that plenty of our specialists are themselves collectors. Harold Porcher (Director, Modern & Post-War Art) submitted that he’s been spending his time browsing eBay.

Looking for more entertainment? Browse our Summer 2019 Reading List.

March 19, 2020
Category: Swann