November 5, 2020

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

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Two days after election day, votes are still being counted and the race has yet to be called, though the results are starting to become clearer. Some of our readers are probably feeling pretty good right now, some are feeling pretty bad, and a few are probably in between. Thus, our recommendations today include something for everyone (comedy, noir, and offbeat). We’re doing our best to be a source of calm / distraction while the democratic process unfolds, and look forward to diving back into our usual coverage next week.

If you can't tune out entirely, here are some good reads:

Some useful links:

What to Stream

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Amazon Prime):

In the aftermath of the Civil War, a fortune in gold is buried in a cemetery and the race to recover it is on between three men: a drifter, a bounty hunter, and a bandit. Starring Clint Eastwood, featuring a classic score by Ennio Morricone, and full of gunfights, drama, and standoffs, this Spaghetti Western is a staple of the American Western genre. You'll come to understand that there are two kinds of men in the world: those with loaded guns, and those who dig. Guess who digs.
- Joe Vigliotti

The Long Dumb Road (Netflix, Amazon Prime):

While on a road trip to art school in California, Nathan (Tony Revolori) picks up an offbeat mechanic, Richard (Jason Mantzoukas), to join him on his trip through the American Southwest. The movie follows their antics through the ensuing journey as they muddle through while reflecting on their lives. But this is more than just mindless slapstick; the main characters have surprising depth and several scenes are unexpectedly intense.
- Ronni Winter

Chinatown (Amazon Prime):

Winner of the 1975 Academy Award for best screenplay (and nominated for 10 other Oscars), this classic follows Jack Nicholson as a private detective in 1930s LA whose investigation into a cheating husband leads him down a trail of corruption, perversion, and murder. Nicholson tries to do the right thing, but with the city’s elite arrayed against him, will it be enough?
- Jihan Varisco

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix):

Directed by the Coen brothers, who are known for creating unique films such as The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and Burn After Reading, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a collection of multiple stories all taking place within the Wild West with A-list actors scattered throughout.  Beyond the humor and parody that’s common in the Coen brothers’ films, the soundtrack was nominated for an Oscar and is something I come back and listen to more often than I thought I would!
- Ken Schneider

Solaris (Amazon Prime, Kanopy, HBO Max):

Something is amiss aboard the space station orbiting the enigmatic planet, Solaris. Psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives to conduct an assessment of the station's skeleton crew and learns they are besieged by hallucinations. Or so it seems until he awakens to the sight of his long departed wife smiling across the room. The crew of seasoned scientists works to unlock the secrets hidden within the eddies of the swirling mists on the planet's surface that are inexplicably linked with the flesh and blood apparitions fueled by their own memories. In this film, Tarkovsky elevated contemporary science fiction as a platform for reflecting on the limits of nature, desire, and reason.
- Monica Felix

What to Read

A Short Walk In the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby (Amazon, Bookshop):

One of the best humorous travelogues of all time, this short novel chronicles novice mountaineer Eric Newby's bumbling 1956 attempt to make the first ascent of Afghanistan's Mir Samir (5,809 m / 19,058 ft) in Nuristan Province. A classic tale of mishap and adventure on the mountain, this is a great book for armchair travelers to get a taste of an era of travel decidedly more wild than the one in which we now reside.
- Brian Bellinger

The Days of Abandonment, by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Amazon, Bookshop):

This novel atomizes a woman's descent into crisis. The narrative follows a hyper-interiorized view of Olga's emotional journey in the aftermath of a divorce that leaves her shattered. Every movement and action in her life resonates with an underlying hum of anxiety that swells into a crescendo of panic as her son and her dog suddenly fall ill. As Olga grapples with threats to her sanity and household, she finds herself locked in her apartment after jamming her key in the door. Ferrante's masterful drama achieves a rare but honest gaze into the precarity of our emotional lives while offering hope to those weathering the storms of their own minds.
- Monica Felix

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum (Amazon, Bookshop):

Published in 1985, this novel features two parallel narratives, following a human data-encrypter’s efforts to fulfill an illicit contract and a stranger’s arrival in a town without minds or shadows. While the story feels somewhat off-tempo, its blend of the fantastical and everyday produces a surprisingly intimate narrative concerned with human consciousness and identity amid its odd elements (including unicorns and brief musings on French literature). A lighthearted and entertaining way to spend an evening.
- David Canada

What to Do

LA Noire (Steam, Playstation, Xbox):

This game is similar to Grand Theft Auto, but instead of a mafioso you play the role of a rookie cop in post-WW2 Los Angeles. Drive (or race) around town, interview suspects, catch (or shoot) bad guys, and attempt to discover if the city’s elite is deliberately hiding the existence of a serial killer.
- Jihan Varisco

Bananagrams (Word Game):

This fast-paced Scrabble-style word game is perfect if you need to kill a little time. Games can be quick, especially if there are more players, so it’s great if you’re in a competitive mood but can’t commit to an hours-long board game. Basically you make words with letter tiles like Scrabble, except instead of taking turns, you race. Best to have a dictionary or decide on house rules ahead of time, because there will of course be countless debates on what counts as a word!
- Brian Bellinger

Cards Against Humanity (Card Game):

An irreverent party game in which players complete statements using cards with offensive/politically incorrect words and phrases. It’s Apples to Apples for grownups (though I don’t suggest playing it with the grandparents… )
- Annafi Wahed

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