5 things to read, listen to, and watch this weekend

Image: Libby McGuire
Image: Libby McGuire

The book to read

Elif Batuman (Photo: Beowulf Sheehan)

Elif Batuman, The Idiot

“Elif Batuman’s debut novel The Idiot, is an impressive debut with a ridiculous amount of charm and a protagonist so relatable she’s almost impossible to forget. Set in the first year of college’s magical realm of exploration both personal and external, a young woman at Harvard tries to find herself as desperately as she’s trying to understand others. The book follows her through a first year of self-discovery with precision and an impeccable wit.”
Read the rest of our review here.

The podcast to listen to

The Treatment, “Jordan Peele: Get Out

Photo: Universal Pictures

“By now, most people who have seen or are excited to see Get Out have already heard all the reasons why it’s fitting for a comedian to choose a horror film as his directorial debut: Comedy and horror are two sides of the same coin, both utilize tension and release, etc. That’s all touched upon in Elvis Mitchell’s interview with Key & Peele’s Jordan Peele, but the really interesting aspect of this conversation is the two men’s back-and-forth about how fundamental race issues are to the heart of this film. In the hands of a less thoughtful filmmaker, the story of a black guy spending time at his white girlfriend’s parents’ house could very easily devolve into a gimmick, and an offensive one at that. But it’s very clear that Peele had the necessary vision to make a transcendent work of horror. He understands the mechanics of a horror film as well as he does that of a comedy sketch, speaking with a comfortable confidence unusual to first-time directors.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.

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The movie to watch

Taipei Story

Photo: Janus Films

“For years, those who did actively seek out his films often had to make do with dismal video bootlegs that only made it harder to appreciate Yang as a formalist. The most revelatory aspect of the World Cinema Project’s striking new 4K restoration of Taipei Story, then, is its visual clarity, integral to the nighttime scenes to which Yang always attached so much thematic importance. Yang was interested in filming modernity, like Michelangelo Antonioni a generation or two earlier. His movies pop with the industrial and commercial scenery of his adopted hometown of Taipei (like many of Taiwan’s notable directors, he wasn’t born on the island), and his camera and characters have a distinct way of regarding the unfurnished spaces of a room. Taipei Story, which was only his second film as a director, was an important step, both for Yang—who would next make The Terrorizers, his best early film—and the film movement that we now call the New Taiwanese Cinema or Taiwanese New Wave. It may not be the complete masterpiece that it has sometimes been hailed as—only a terrifically accomplished and affecting film that is one of many possible entry points into the work of a great filmmaker.”
Read the rest of our review here.

The TV show to watch

Trial & Error

“[John] Lithgow is a one-man gag machine, backing up those three Emmy wins for 3rd Rock From The Sun with his portrayal of Larry. Playing an accused murderer who’s also a lovable kook is a formidable task, and Lithgow rises to it. He plays the right level of dumb with his damning statements (“There are subtle reminders of Margaret everywhere,” he says, standing in front of the window her body fell through) and throws his lanky body into scenes involving Larry’s “rollercising” regimen. (Not roller skating, mind you: rollercising.) He sets the tone for the show’s unique (and volatile) mix of menace and mirth, and as the investigation takes its twists and turns, he presents a sympathetic figure in spite of everything else the camera picks up. So go ahead and laugh at Trial & Error. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be funny. But there’s a lot of talented people hard at work on this show making sure that Trial & Error is presenting nothing that resembles “normal circumstances.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The album to listen to

Sorority Noise, You’re Not As _____ As You Think

“To say that Sorority Noise’s third record is a somber listen is an understatement, but it’s not dour simply for melodrama’s sake. There’s a latent, hard-earned hopefulness running counter to [Cameron] Boucher’s lyrics, as he uses his pain to propel him forward. In ‘A Better Sun,’ he uses his friends’ words to help him carry on, highlighting the fact that these introspective, insular works can be therapeutic not just for the performer but also for anyone else in need of such a salve. ‘Disappeared’ may be the most concrete example of what makes You’re Not As _____ As You Think so effective. Close your eyes and you can picture the band jumping up and down on a stage, blasting through a big, gooey pop-punk song. It’s a joyous little scene that makes it possible for a line about Boucher’s friend hanging himself to go in one ear and out the other. But if you catch it, it doesn’t ruin the mood. Instead, it exemplifies the record’s two-pronged approach.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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