Netflix Review: American Crime Edition

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The cast of  “Orange is the New Black” gets ready for the fifth season of the Netflix original series.

Mara Stein

Crime stories are captivating yet creepy, exciting but concerning. The following television shows and films are testaments to this notion. They both entertain and invite discussion, calling on viewers to question not only issues of prosecution and imprisonment, but also the ways that crime is portrayed in the media. Check them out on Netflix – it would be a crime if you didn’t.   

13TH

In this thought-provoking documentary, director Ava DuVernay critically examines mass incarceration in America. Though the 13th amendment granted freedom to slaves, DuVernay charges, the United States has continually perpetuated patterns of black criminalization. Throughout the film, professors, activists and politicians provide testimonies about the U.S.’s prison-industrial complex. They ultimately illuminate the centuries-long process that has classified black citizens as second-rate. A paramount contribution to the study of racial history in the U.S, “13th” is both important and timely.

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

If you didn’t catch FX’s critically acclaimed mini-series last spring, fear not: the “trial of the century” has finally hit Netflix. The show blends entertainment with true crime, constructing a gripping courtroom narrative that will prove addicting to even the most familiar with O.J. Simpson’s murder case. It is most successful in its representation of the trial’s principal characters: Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown particularly shine in their portrayal of prosecution and defense lawyers. Nine Emmys and two Golden Globes prove this series is not one to miss.

Memento

Maybe you’ve heard the film mentioned during Intro to Psych, or maybe it’s been your favorite for years. Whatever your familiarity with “Memento,” the psychological thriller joined Netflix’s roster on March 1. Kick back – but don’t relax – as you follow Leonard Shelby’s investigation into his wife’s death, all while he suffers from short-term memory loss.

Amanda Knox

When she flew to Italy for a semester abroad in 2007, Amanda Knox planned on “finding herself.” Instead, she ended up at the center of what became an internationally-known murder trial. Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, Amanda Knox is particularly notable for its testimonies from all parties involved. Filmmakers draw on statements from Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, British journalist Nick Pisa and Knox herself to produce a complex narrative that simultaneously indicts and promotes understanding each interviewee.  

Orange is the New Black

Netflix will release the fifth season of everyone’s favorite prison drama on Friday, June 9. In the meantime, a re-watch couldn’t hurt. Amidst crime and comedy, OITNB consistently questions the United States’ prison system. While many critiques of the system concentrate on statistics, OITNB distinguishes itself by profiling – and thereby humanizing – the women of the fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your while.