Best New Stuff – June 2018

Well golly, that was one helluva Pride wasn’t it? When we started the month everything seemed like a wide-open horizon. Now…well, it’s been a long month.

Writing about culture, in times like these can seem trivial. Unlike others, I don’t have any grand statements to opine about empathy machines or revealing who we really are; right now culture feels like a thing to do, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like the thing to do. I find more and more that I am explaining to people what actual representation looks like. It’s not always the stories in front of the camera, sometimes it’s the people behind the camera too — and the people who green light these things, and the people who shape political landscapes our art is born onto. That’s representation that we need to fight for, and that needs fighting for at the moment.

That being said, here are some things that just gave me life this month:

Nanette

Wow. There’s so much to say about Hannah Gadsby’s daring, groundbreaking, and gutting comedy special, but to put it succinctly: While the rest of the world was talking around talking about how to appropriately deal, as a society, with men who have hurt others, Nanette tackles it head on, forcing the issue in your face and elegantly circling the horses around you. By the end of the hourlong special, I was rapt, and the feeling has consumed me for days. Run don’t walk to your nearest Netflix outlet to hear on why Hannah Gadsby is the comic special to watch.

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The Good Fight

It’s become tired to say that something is (or will be) an important artifact of the Trump era. But leave it to the Kings (the writers behind this and The Good Wife) to find a way to make it wired, and—most importantly—fun. For all its pointed politics that can sometimes misstep or mis-swing, perhaps no scene has summed up like under this administration quite as much as a (liberal) judge getting a push alert to his smart watch, and uttering “Oh! This world!” and then continuing about the scene without a second thought. The Good Fight doesn’t always win its battles (its continuing blindspot for race relations, despite focusing on a Black law firm, is proof of that), but it did manage to be a fun 23 episodes, that didn’t pull back from the pulled-from-the-headlines nature the first show embraced—even as the headlines get more and more ludicrous.

For a Good Time, Call…

It’s hard to pull off a platonic love story between two female friends without it seeming too queer baiting, and For a Good Time, Call… definitely indulges those tendencies too. But by the end of this fun film, it’s clear that—on whatever level these women choose—they are soulmates, through and through. And their fights, to-dos, and deep affection finally reflect that of women friendships I know.

Plus, my god, they are funny.

APESH*T – Everything is Love

The release to end all releases. Once again Beyonce has stopped the world with a few Instagram posts, a video, and a full-fledged, long-awaited album with her husband. Everything is Love is neither of the artists strongest work, and coming off an album as strong and powerful as Lemonade it certainly falls short, just by nature of being more experimental and less nuanced. But the album has deceptive depth, and—honestly—all the songs are bops, in their own way. It would probably be better received if it had followed the self-titled album, but Everything is Love will likely hold more of a place in the zeitgeist than its initial response may reflect.

Also, I mean, this video, my god:

Ocean’s 8

It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal, and it won’t fix anything. But good lord did I need a movie full of competent women wearing kick-ass outfits pulling off a heist. I now own a velvet blazer, so Cate Blanchett’s propaganda worked.

1528406019661-3e6935b8e43ce5e189a9309d47097a4bHonorable mention: 

Incredibles 2

Fahrenheit 451

The Assassination of Gianni Versace

The Color Purple (the musical)

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Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comedians

It’s been two weeks and this Amy Schumer story won’t die, so I guess that means it’s time for my two cents.

Like seemingly every other comedian, Schumer is experiencing the double edged sword of virality: Sure your talents are exhaulted, but then people find your old stuff. Your non-PC stuff.

In Schumer’s case it’s about race, and the problematic blindspot she seems to have for at least latinx people. And in the grand tradition of comedians on social media, Schumer jumped in to defend herself.

There are many arguments I suppose one could make for Schumer here: Stand-up comedy is always a sort of hit-or-miss medium, and often times comedians judge their success in the moment after a joke is told. Digging through any joker’s past is sure to illicit a few skeletons and jokes that bombed (or should’ve, or would if told today).

The difference is, Schumer was so beloved because of her unabashed focus on taking on controversial issues (like rape, equal pay, and feminism in the media) and punching up. And if you look at that list of things she’s tackled, the most successful ones are where Schumer is speaking from her own lane: White womanhood. From here, Schumer is able to root in (presumably) her own experience and voice and stick it to the man.

So what makes Schumer’s response so disappointing is that she’s defending material that ultimately isn’t coming from her own viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of an ally who believes they’re servicing the greater good. But here’s the thing about being an ally: You don’t get to decide when you’re in the right. You sit down, shut up, and listen when disenfranchised communities tell you they feel wronged by you.

Arguably Schumer’s response is that of a comedian, dismissing complaints as people who might not understand her “edgy” comedy, instead of hearing what are essentially critiques of her job performance. If Schumer took the time to hear the complaints, she could make herself a stronger comic, and an unstoppable force in today’s needlessly PC-phobic world of comedy. Instead she’s just telling 1995 edgy comedy to a 2015 club. It’s not falling on deaf ears, but we don’t need to hear more of it.