Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Favorites: May 2017

Favorites is a monthly feature that offers up quick thoughts on media, both new and old, that I've recently enjoyed for the first time.

Raising Arizona (1987)
People on Twitter seem to rank Coen brothers films once a month, but I rarely ever see anybody list their sophomore effort, Raising Arizona, near the top of the list.  I finally got around to watching it this month, and I absolutely loved it, to the point where I think it's a top three film of theirs (along with No Country for Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis).  Sometimes I have trouble getting on the Coens' comedic wavelength, but Arizona feels perfectly calibrated for my sensibilities.  It's funny, madcap, oddly sweet, and features one of Nicolas Cage's best performances.

As president of the Riley Keough fan club, I've been dying for Lovesong to become available for home viewing, so I jumped on it as soon as it appeared on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.  So Yong Kim's indie drama starring Keough and Jena Malone focuses on two best friends who reconnect after three years of distance, following an impromptu road trip that lead to a moment of physical intimacy between them.  The film bifurcates its runtime between the road trip and three years later, gracefully sketching out the moments of silence and fraught glances that characterize the deep and confusing feelings between Keough and Malone.  Lovesong is light on incident, but so lovely and deeply felt.

Charly Bliss - Guppy
We're so deep into the era of bands reviving the 90s alt rock sound, that it's hard to imagine anybody doing something new with it.  Well Brooklyn band Charly Bliss does just that, by mining a corner of the 90s that feels relatively unexplored: the bubblegum grunge of bands like Letters to Cleo.  Their debut Guppy is an absolute blast of sickly sweet 90s style hooks,  (Even the album cover looks like it's straight from 25 years ago).  Something tells me this will be in steady rotation for the rest of the year.

Jay Som - Everybody Works
My favorite kind of album is the one where every song sounds completely different from one another, while still cohering into a unified sonic vision.  Jay Som's second album Everybody Works is the first one in a while that effectively does so, bouncing from dream pop to scrappy garage rock to psychedelic reggae from track to track.  It takes a little while for its beauty to set in, but this album is a truly special collection of shimmering tunes.

Vince Staples - "Big Fish" video
Vince Staples' new album Big Fish Theory is dropping on June 23.  Get hyped for one of the most exciting voices in rap with the awesome, playful video for his lead single.

Dear White People
Justin Simien's 2014 film of the same name was solid, but his new Netflix series blows it out of the water, going wider and deeper in its exploration of race and identity in the black community at a largely white Ivy League university.  The Barry Jenkins directed fifth episode is a particular highlight of this nuanced and vibrant freshman season.

Samurai Jack
I was a casual viewer of this cartoon when I was younger, but I recently went back and watched every episode on Hulu in preparation for its final season, which just finished last weekend.  The original series was excellent in its own right, but the return has been some of the most breathtaking, astonishing television I've seen all year.  The move to Adult Swim allowed auteur Genndy Tartakovsky to get darker and more meditative, but he was smart enough to not go overboard, retaining the charm that made the show so great in the first place.  While the end might have been a little rushed, this season was an absolute dream come true.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It's not necessarily my favorite comedy on television, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is certainly the show that makes me laugh the most whenever I watch it.  In creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's mind, the joke is king, and that relentless quest for laughs sometimes leads them into territory that ruffles people's political sensibilities.  But I find their approach so admirable that I can't help but give in to the power of the comedy.

Comedy Bang! Bang!'s 8th anniversary episode (podcast)
I've been a listener of Comedy Bang! Bang! since the beginning, and sometimes I find myself missing the freewheeling, "anything goes" mentality of the podcast's early days.  The anniversary episodes always capture that spirit, none more so than this year's chaotic laugh fest.  As more and more guests pile in, the joke ratio just gets higher and higher.  It's truly glorious.

I used to be the kind of person who hated the idea of personality tests and scoffed whenever somebody rattled of their Myers-Briggs type, but all of a sudden I've fully embraced them.  What I like about enneagrams is that they feel alot more flexible with their typing -- each of the nine personality numbers have three subtypes -- which allows for a higher chance of finding something that fits you.  Will I become someone who loves astrology next?  Anything's possible.

Poppy (art)
This is just an opportunity to plug my piece on genius/performance artist/musician Poppy.  Let Poppy into your heart.  You won't regret it.

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