Hello, everyone.

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.

The Terminator [Streaming on Netflix (in Ireland)]

One of the big gaps in my personal film-viewing history was the post-Star Wars ‘80s sci-fi action thrillers. I had never seen films like Blade Runner, Videodrome or even The Terminator. I never bothered because it just is not one of my genres. Over here in Ireland—where I am currently on lockdown—many of these films are streaming on Netflix. So I have been trying to watch some of these films over the past several weeks—because every cinephile should see these—and I have managed to confirm that the ‘80s sci fi movies just are not for me. Until The Terminator}. Here is one that I really like, the exception that proves the rule that ‘80s dystopian thrillers just are not for me. The Terminator is a good film, self-aware of its own inherent silliness but earnest enough to make the viewer truly consider the dynamics of time travel. There is good analog special effects and action stunts and Schwarzenegger just as he was emerging as a true movie star. – Ryne Clos

Blade Runner 2049

I first caught Blade Runner 2049 in a double-feature with the original Blade Runner, but the experience was so overwhelming I wasn’t sure if it was actually good or if I just needed it to be. With some time and distance–and with civilization succumbing to the kind of societal collapse that drove most of Earth’s population to flee for the Off-World Colonies in these movies–I gave it another shot. It floored me. The sequel, directed by master mood-wizard Denis Villeneuve, goes much farther and deeper than the atmospheric original, with a profoundly engaging story that digs into the themes of identity and free will that the first film only hints at.

Ryan Gosling plays his role with suppressed intensity. Is he affectless because he’s a machine, or because he’s tamping down the emotion that wants to burst out of him? An enchanting storyline with his holographic girlfriend, Joi, culminates in one of the absolutely weirdest and most entrancing love scenes ever put on film. It’s not often you get to watch a scene knowing full well that it’s computer magic, but still be astonished by what you’re seeing. After all, that’s the movie’s big idea: the vanishing border between the real and the manufactured.

One of the most haunting moments is an image of a shaggy dog, who may or may not be an animatronic robot, padding across an empty room to gaze out at the sky as its owner flies away in a hover-car. If an individual can experience love, yearning and grief, what difference does it make if they’re real or not? Now here we all find ourselves, gazing out at the dystopian world in our solitude, with apps and phones and TVs offering some of our only means of connection. Is our yearning any less real because it’s flowing through zeroes and ones? – A.C. Koch

Ugly Betty [Streaming on Hulu]

Though not much of a re-watch person myself, I came back to “Ugly Betty” a few months prior to our current quarantine. The telenovela-inspired series impressed me (again) within the first thirty minutes. In Episode 1, you see a Kristen Schall cameo followed seconds later by a proper use of the phrase “I’m gagging!”, all in 2006 to boot. Thanks to the wonderful writing of the late Silvio Horta, “Ugly Betty” continued this knowing streak for four seasons. It predicted the rise of other American novelas like “Jane the Virgin” as well as that of a ubiquitous UK superstar (Spoiler!). But even its moments of prescience are not the show’s crowning glory – it’s the cast, from Betty’s lovable nephew Justin to the brilliantly wicked Wilhelmina Slater. Every character gets their due chance in both the sun and rain, none too holy for failure or too evil for redemption. With 84 episodes, all of them lengthy, there’s plenty of “Ugly Betty” to last you through a weekend or two. – Mick Jacobs

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [DVD]

I tend to introduce my daughter to things very early, sometimes too early, and we started watching the Harry Potter movies a little over a year ago when she was a six-year-old. Harry, Hermione and Ron looked her age in the first movie, the world of Hogwarts clicked for her and I was given an option that wasn’t a Netflix cartoon. The conundrum began when the characters began to age and the movies grew scarier. We stopped at the third movie for a long time, but a rainy day of isolation in LA broke me and we watched Goblet of Fire.

This fourth entry is my favorite of the Potter films, just a tick ahead of its predecessor. The lead actors have all matured into their roles with Daniel Radcliffe really honing the relentless bravery at the core of the character. Director Mike Newell deserves a lot of credit for keeping the franchise from regressing to the low of Chris Columbus’ visual tedium and extending the artistry laid down by Alfonso Cuarόn. The film also carries the resonant theme of change as the characters reach young adulthood and in the narrative where Lord Voldemort finally returns as a real physical threat. To some degree it is The Empire Strikes Back of the Potter franchise.

In one hindsight, David Tennant wouldn’t have been cast as a minor villain, but he was months away from taking over fandom as Doctor Who when the movie came out. In another, the film is completely inappropriate for seven-year-olds and if mine has nightmares tonight know that this will be my last article for my wife is about to kill me. – Don Kelly

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