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What I'm Watching: Tiny Beautiful Things, Beef, A You Must Remember This-Inspired Lineup, and More
On five shows, two podcasts, a movie, a book, and an essay.
Ali Wong, Beef, Netflix
Here’s the rundown on everything I watched and wrote about this week:
The new Hulu series Tiny Beautiful Things, which stars Kathryn Hahn as a woman who starts ghostwriting an advice column despite the deep dysfunction in her own life, yanked on my heartstrings in a way that few shows do these days. Based on an autobiographical essay book by Cheryl Strayed, it’s a story that isn’t afraid to look unflinchingly at all the most shameful, painful parts of grief and self-destruction. Despite that description, it’s also funny and sexy and clever and rapturous. You should really just watch it! Here’s my review.
I was also blown away by Beef, an upcoming Netflix show that I’ll be reviewing ASAP. I’ve been sharing the trailer for this one with people all week because it defies easy explanation. In fact, nearly every episode of the Steven Yeun and Ali Wong-led genre-blender felt completely and utterly unpredictable to me. It’s relentless in its dark perspective, but it also might be the most creatively audacious single-season story Netflix has put out since Maniac.
I’m traveling this week, so I haven’t carved out much movie time, but I was able to check out Henry & June last week as part of the American Cinematheque’s new weekly series in conjunction with Karina Longworth’s latest You Must Remember This podcast arc, Erotic ‘90s. Longworth’s show is like catnip for anyone who likes film history and deep research, and Erotic ‘90s is set to talk about how censorship, feminism, politics, and more impacted sexuality on screen in the ‘90s. Henry & June, a passionate if overlong (and oddly edited) film about Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, was included in the series because it was the first-ever movie to bear the NC-17 rating. I’m not sure if I can recommend Henry & June, but I certainly recommend You Must Remember This. I’ll be going to several more screenings in this series for the next two months, so I’ll report back!
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I’m wrapping up the audiobook edition of Everything Now: Lessons From The City State of Los Angeles by Rosecrans Baldwin, and I’m really into it. The book reads like a hybrid between the quirky-character-filled cultural mind maps of How To With John Wilson and the richly researched and humanizing local history of Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. If you’re into LA, or even curious about it, this is an engrossing read.
Marya E. Gates’ Cool People Have Feelings, Too is always great, but I especially love an essay she shared this week titled “Where Have All The UFO Movies Gone?” As a UFO-loving kid, I relished the joy and fear of watching stuff like Signs, Spielberg films, and Unsolved Mysteries, and aside from Jordan Peele’s Nope (my favorite film of last year), this magical microgenre seems to have vanished. Here, Marya traces its lineage over the decades, offering plenty of excellent recommendations alongside her own plea for the safe return of the UFO flick.
Odds and ends:
I don’t always get to do research deep dives at Slashfilm, but when I do, I absolutely love it. This week’s journey through the depths of Google Scholar comes courtesy of the latest episode of Yellowjackets. I wrote about the climactic scene, but not in the way you might expect; instead, I dove deep on what that ancient Greek imagery might mean.
Now, for a totally different type of research: I rewatched about 30 seconds of every episode of Community this week to chart the history of the show’s background whiteboard gags.
As Succession finds its footing again, I wrote about the possible motivating factors behind Logan’s oddly “nice” trip to ATN.
Since listening to and recommending Sam Fragoso’s Longform episode last month, I’ve decided to start catching up on Talk Easy, which – in case you missed it – is an excellent interview podcast that I worked on several years back. I’ll keep sharing favorites from the back catalog as I find them, but so far I’ve really appreciated Sam’s insightful interviews with Natasha Lyonne and Pedro Pascal.
There’s a lot wrong in the world, but I feel tremendously lucky to be writing this week’s newsletter from the comfort of a friend’s house after a long Sunday spent eating chocolate chip waffles, bargain hunting at yard sales, and playing low-stakes video games. It’s been a peaceful (and, probably not coincidentally, very offline) few days for me, and I sincerely hope everyone reading this gets to experience their own little pocket of peace soon, too.
I’m signing off for now, but as always, feel free to comment and let me know what you’ve been watching (or reading, or listening to) lately. I’ll see you here next week: same time, same place, more Succession-related screaming.