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From a coming-of-age to a cookbook, 3 creative takes on familiar formats

Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations

Photo: Elevation Pictures
Photo: Elevation Pictures

Closet Monster

You think you know what Closet Monster will do, but you don’t exactly. After all, it has the familiar beats of many coming-of-age stories: the (hopefully) last summer at home, a pending college application, a desperate crush. But director Stephen Dunn has spun these clichés into a fresh take based on his experiences growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and it is clear from the film’s opening scenes that this story is personal. We meet Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup) as a boy, in the apparent bliss just before his parents’ separation and before he witnesses a brutal hate crime that will saddle him with mental and physical stress for years to come. Oscar copes by retreating into fantasy worlds (the hamster keeping him company voiced by none other than Isabella Rossellini), and it’s in the film’s twists and turns of magical realism and slight body horror that it really shines. Dunn portrays the dissonance between heart and mind, and what that can do to the body, in a beautifully dark and imaginative way. Oscar’s story culminates in a powerful ending wherein the shame that haunted him throughout adolescence becomes the very weapon by which he asserts his right to be. It’s a story of self-actualization that rings well beyond a queer audience. And luckily, it’s streaming right now on Netflix. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Joe McAdam’s analog Twitter

On one hand, Twitter is the backed-up garbage disposal of the internet. On the other, it’s a perfect delivery medium for jokes. And comedian Joe McAdam (who, full disclosure, I’ve known for a few years now) has found a way to share the joy of goofy one-liners without having to expose yourself to a bunch of hateful egg avatars in the process. McAdam’s “analog Twitter” costs $1 per month through his Patreon account; every month, subscribers get a printout of McAdam’s pithiest thoughts of the month rendered in 140 characters or fewer—an analog Twitter feed, in other words—with the jokes that he composed while drunk rendered in bold to explain their quality. (There’s no time stamp, after all.) It’s a delightfully weird concept that, if one wanted to be pretentious about it, one could read as a commentary on the strange ways that social media fragments our thought processes. But really, it’s just fun to get mail. Plus, every “feed” is embossed, and McAdam spent $36 on that thing. Plus shipping! [Katie Rife]

Photo: Katie Rife

Dinner: Changing The Game

Collecting new recipes from Melissa Clark, staff reporter for The New York Times’ food section, Dinner: Changing The Game helps answer the ever-present, occasionally daunting question of what’s for dinner. Most of the cookbook’s more than 200 recipes are meant to serve as dinner in their entirety. There is, for example, a “Salads That Mean It” section and, revealing Clark’s feelings over whether or not the dish constitutes a meal, a dozen recipes for soup. As in many of her recipes for the New York Times, these are simple meals meant for everyday cooking, which she heightens through small but significant creative adjustments, jazzing things up with perhaps a few extra or unexpected spices or a small, additional step like caramelizing or crisping aromatics to serve as garnishes for soups, stews, and dals. Speaking of which, her red lentil recipes are especially tasty and satisfying, and a very simple green bean salad with a fresh and piquant caper vinaigrette was a delightful surprise. While these recipes might not “change the game,” as it were, they will make answering the dinner question worlds easier and the everyday meal much less mundane. [Laura Adamczyk]