We’re all in this together.
We here at Spectrum Culture understand that the world is a scary place right now. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s time to stay home. As one meme states:
We’re here to help. This feature is a running list of all music, film and books that we’re consuming while housebound. We’ll be updating it daily and hopefully giving you some ideas of how to pass the time.
Feel free to recommend what you’ve been listening to, watching and reading. We’re all in this together.
Carrie [Streaming on Amazon Prime]
Brian De Palma was at the peak of his powers when he composed this classic horror thriller. The titular Carrie is a bullied dullard struggling through high school while burdened with a religious fanatic mother. Once Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic powers, she finally begins to seize some sense of control over her own life, overcoming out her mother’s overbearing rules and gaining some confidence. But it all comes too late; the bullies have it out for her. As with most decent high school movies, the final showdown takes place at Prom and it is quite a climatic turn of events! – Ryne Clos
Ordinary People [Streamed on Amazon Prime]
As the Best Picture victor (controversially, some would say) at the 53rd Academy Awards, the conversation surrounding Robert Redford’s Ordinary People was for a time about the film’s and its director’s accolades over the likes of Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, which competed in the same category. On its own, though, Redford’s directorial debut is an extraordinarily sensitive and truthful tale of an upper-class family’s gradual undoing in the seeming idylls of suburbia. The story, adapted from Judith Guest’s novel by Alvin Sargent, surrounds a family of three – Calvin (Donald Sutherland), Beth (the late Mary Tyler Moore), and their son Conrad (Timothy Hutton, who won Best Supporting Actor for this role) – who were once four. An older son died some time ago in a sailing accident, and in the throes of grief or guilt, Conrad tried to take his own life. Calvin and Beth have barely been hanging on, but their concern is almost entirely with Conrad, who begins to see Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch), a psychiatrist, to get to what’s truly troubling him. The answer to that won’t be surprising, but the extraordinary thing lies in how Redford and Sargent refuse to treat the source of that pain as some puzzle-box mystery to solve. This is more about Conrad’s complex guilt, and Hutton is extremely capable of communicating that strain. Sutherland is also very good as a father clinging to loyalty to his son, but Moore is the real story here among the actors, giving us a magnificently nuanced performance almost entirely built out of cautious reaction shots (including one, late in the film, that follows a hug which Beth clearly and devastatingly cannot fully process). The film resolves itself in ways that are far from simple or happy, so ready those tissues: It is enough to jerk tears, yes, and it earns every attempt. – Joel Copling
The Naked Gun [Streaming on Netflix]
By far the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in the past week was to watch The Naked Gun–one of the zaniest movies ever made. Every scene is packed with sight gags, from the opening credits to the final frame. Every line of dialogue contains a joke wrapped in a pun spiked with innuendo. It all rides on Leslie Nielsen’s deader-than-deadpan delivery as gaffe-prone LAPD detective Frank Drebin as he carves a trail of destruction through the city in preparation for a visit from the Queen of England. There’s a sweet innocence to the idea that behaving scandalously in the presence of the Queen is actually worthy of scandal. Even more jarring is the fact that O.J. Simpson is downright hilarious as an eager-to-please cop who keeps suffering Rube Goldberg-esque accidents at the hands of his bumbling colleagues. They variously pump him full of bullets, set him on fire, fling him out a window and knock him down the stadium steps in a wheelchair, and you can’t help feeling nostalgic for a simpler time then the sight of O.J.’s body pinwheeling through the air like a stuffed dummy was simply funny on its surface and not because you know the guy actually deserves it. Some of the set-pieces, like Drebin inadvertently destroying the office of the bad guy (Ricardo Montalban) while a player piano in flames cranks out a loony ragtime, are so damn funny you might need to press pause to catch your breath from laughing. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of break I need these days. – A.C. Koch
Big Time Adolescence [Hulu]
On “SNL,” Pete Davidson typically just plays different versions of himself, his most notable appearances consisting of Weekend Update segments where he forgoes playing a character altogether. His nonchalance toward his craft carries over to his stand-up as well, as his recent Netflix special felt mostly like an occasionally humorous rough draft of someone just riffing behind a mic. Not so in Big Time Adolescence, the recently released coming-of-age Hulu film where Davidson’s college dropout character, Zeke, provides warped mentorship to impressionable 16-year-old Monroe (Griffin Gluck). Monroe has idolized Zeke since he was much younger, when Zeke dated Monroe’s sister, Kate (Emily Arlook). The film hits the usual coming-of-age beats, especially when excessive partying and eventual drug-dealing are involved. Jon Cryer shows up as Monroe’s exasperated father, who’s horrified by his bright son wasting time with a group of twentysomething burnouts. Nothing is surprising about this film, and yet it manages to charm the viewer largely on Davidson and Gluck’s rapport and on Davidson actually doing some real acting for once, even if his portrayal of Zeke is entirely on-brand amid a haze of weed smoke. – Josh Goller
Hobbs and Shaw [HBO Max]
If time could be measured in empty calories, the 137-minutes it takes to watch Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw would be a family-sized package of triple stuffed Oreo cookies. You tell yourself that you will only watch the first few minutes, maybe the first action sequence, and then you’ll turn it off because this sort of junk food blockbuster is bad for your mind and soul. Suddenly, you’ve eaten two-thirds of the cookies, and The Rock has led the Jason Statham to his family home in Samoa for their last stand against Idris Elba. You look at the remaining cookies, pour yourself a big glass of milk and say “Fuck it.” You’re going to feel horrible in the morning and make a promise to kick the habit. You’ll never, ever do it again until Fate of the Furious and No Time to Die make to a streaming service someday. – Don Kelly
The Politician [Streaming on Netflix]
This series had been on my Netflix list quite literally since the first season came out last September but I just hadn’t made any time to watch it, mostly because I’m surprisingly bad at watching things on Netflix. Sometimes I will just buy the DVD because unless I have a physical copy staring at me in the face that I just spent money on, I will not watch it, but you can’t do that with Netflix original programming. So, during this time off from the world, I decided “The Politician” would be the first thing I would sit down and watch and I’m really enjoying it so far. Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk of “Glee” and “American Horror Story” and starring Ben Platt (whom I love to death) as aspiring politician Payton Hobart, the first season follows Payton as he runs for student body president at his high school. It’s very melodramatic and reminiscent of Glee in the sense that everything feels like the end of the world (news flash: life does go on after high school) but enjoyable nonetheless. The first season is only 8 episodes and a second season is currently in production. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange also appear in supporting roles. – Jeffrey Davies