Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
John Mulaney
Photo: Netflix

The comedy special to watch

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous At Radio City

“Like a lot of stand-ups, John Mulaney’s comedy traffics in unmasking absurdity. But he is unmatched at building his dissection of ludicrousness (school assemblies, college, aging, manners, church) on an escalating series of hilariously observed, unerringly specific details… Mulaney has a booming delivery that nonetheless remains resolutely grounded in his humanity, an energetic stage persona that never feels showy so much as delighted to sweep us up in his happy, knowing bafflement.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The movie to see


Tully is a clear companion piece to the other two [Diablo] Cody/[Jason] Reitman films, and just as wonderfully complicated about where to even locate its central conflict, never mind how to resolve it. It’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as Juno nor as lacerating as Young Adult, and in some ways feels like a recombination of those movies’ elements: nostalgia, child-bearing, mistimed coming of age, remixed. But Reitman and especially Cody approach the material with the freshness of filmmakers still learning new things about themselves, still figuring out how to reconcile their grown-up selves with who they may have been in youth.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The book to read

H. Jon Benjamin, Failure Is An Option: An Attempted Memoir


“Packed with chapter after chapter of [comedian H. Jon] Benjamin’s easygoing tales of failure and inability to follow through on stated goals, the book’s biggest and most meta joke is its thoroughgoing rejection of the widespread American tradition of a can-do self-help mentality that permeates most memoirs. If the average published life story is an account of someone’s best-foot-forward tale of striving against impossible odds, and rallying when things are darkest to overcome adversity and gain success, Failure Is An Option considers that possibility and then decides, ‘Fuck that.’ As he explains in the prologue, not only is most of life not defined by success, but most lives don’t properly register it as a key ingredient.”
Read the rest of our review here.

The album to listen to

Jon Hopkins, Singularity

“Tracks like ‘Emerald Rush’ and ‘Everything Connected’ pulse and clatter with rapturous power, [ambient-techno producer Jon] Hopkins layering choral harmonies and rocketing synth swells to create outsize moments that also manage to feel introspective. Like [2013’s] Immunity, the album balances that dance-floor euphoria with armchair contemplation, the simple piano lines and twilight atmospherics of ‘Feel First Life’ and ‘Recovery’ offering respite amid the rush. There’s no prescribed narrative, but Singularity still tells a grand story—a synesthetic evocation of how it feels to be alive.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to

Caliphate, “The Mission/The Reporter/Recruitment


“Two and a half episodes in, and The New York Times’ ambient, immersive, and ambitious podcast about the workings of ISIS is vivisecting the deadliest cell on the planet. The cold open of the show’s prologue offers an ISIS member’s rationale for all the killing he’s ordered to perform. It’s the same justification that was used in the beheading of journalist James Foley four years ago, which introduced the horrors of ISIS to many in the West, even though the war on terror was by then more than a decade old. There are more terrorists now than there were before we started, notes reporter Rukmini Callimachi, narrator and chief subject of Caliphate.”
Read more about this week’s best podcasts here.

The video game to play

Black Room


“Designer Cassie McQuater describes Black Room as a feminist dungeon crawler, but the dungeon you’re crawling through is your internet browser, here reconfigured to represent a subconscious mind. You will kill zero skeletons, loot zero chests, upgrade zero pieces of equipment. What you’ll find instead are dense, haunted images comprising clip art, pilfered sprites from classic games, hallucinatory assemblages of found footage, and luminous GIFs. Lyrical texts scattered throughout evoke a sort of mental exercise meant to induce sleep, and Black Room frequently evokes that master of dream art, David Lynch, with rooms full of blue flowers and nightmarish spaces presented with unnerving grace.”
Read about what else we’re playing this weekend here.

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