Photo: Lester Cohen/Netflix

The comedy specials to watch

Dave Chappelle, Deep In The Heart Of Texas and The Age Of Spin

Photo: Lester Cohen/Netflix

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“Since both shows were taped before the 2016 presidential election, neither deals at all with Donald Trump and his race-baiting, misogynistic rhetoric per se, but both outings see the comic delving into the politics of sex, race, and gender in ways that dig deeper and carve broader than mere character assassination or political critique. [Dave] Chappelle digs to the very human bedrock and holds up what he’s discovered—whether you want to look at it or not. And sometimes, people do not. Both specials outline various times where Chappelle has been under attack, and both provide ammunition for yet more. Incidents like the time a racist audience member threw a banana peel onstage at a show in Santa Fe or an abortive 2015 Detroit set provide Chappelle with a chance to not so much tell his side of the stories as hilariously and provocatively broaden the context.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The book to read

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Kory Stamper, Word By Word

“Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster dictionary, pens an educational, fascinating, and surprisingly funny ode to the words in the dictionary. Between describing the strangely hushed office culture and the obsessive process by which words are entered into the dictionary, Word By Word is part memoir, part loving defense of the messy, chaotic English language. It’ll even make you reconsider how you feel about the word ‘irregardless.’”
Read the rest of our review here.


The album to listen to

Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked At Me

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“Death is greater than the end of life. It’s an irreversible lacking, a gaping absence, and an unfathomable pain all rolled into one. It haunts by its ability to make the immediacy of vanishing so apparent, and that invisibility permeates every inch of Mount Eerie’s new album, A Crow Looked At Me, in which Phil Elverum grapples with the death of his wife, Geneviève Castree Elverum, who died from pancreatic cancer last July. Pain is the crux of Elverum’s career, and without resorting to any of his brutally stark instrumentation, he offers his most sobering full-length to date, and likely of all time. The irony isn’t lost on him, as irony can’t play a role in something as somber as the loss of a partner, but he addresses it in one blunt swoop anyway: ‘Conceptual emptiness was cool to talk about back before I knew my way around these hospitals.’”
Read the rest of our review here.


The game to play

NieR: Automata

“At a recent PAX East panel, NieR: Automata’s creative director Yoko Taro was asked about the decisions informing his protagonist’s look. He spoke a bit about what it means to design for something so far in the future we have no conception of it, and then explained that ultimately ‘the biggest reason is that I just really like girls.’ That kind of summarizes the underlying philosophy behind all of NieR: Automata. There may not be one beyond what you feel invested enough to provide. After all, PlatinumGames, the developer responsible for this iteration, made its reputation by delivering bizarre aesthetics with inscrutable meaning, which could be a letdown, except at some point in the game you’ll stumble into a nest of machines that have broken free from their rigid programming and begun pantomiming human behavior. One robot frantically rocks an empty crib, while nearby, two others vainly attempt to have sex by slamming their smooth metal torsos together. NieR: Automata demonstrates that it may not be saying anything profound or possibly anything at all, but its absurdity is so entertaining and confidently delivered that it ultimately doesn’t matter.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The podcast to listen to

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The Last Podcast On The Left, “L. Ron Hubbard Part One: Grub Hubbard

It seems like everyone is producing their own investigation of Scientology these days, and the boys at LPOTL are the latest to look into the founder of a secretive, elitist, alien-based religion and see the makings of good entertainment. So begins a multipart biography of L. Ron Hubbard, the prolific author, devout occultist, and legend-in-his-own-lunchtime self-promoter. There’s no end to the debate about Hubbard’s early life, and the hosts plumb many of the usual sources for fodder, like Hubbard’s autobiography and contradicting military records, but the real standout stories come from the diaries of satanic psychedelic rocket scientist Jack Parsons. After getting out of the U.S. Navy, Hubbard came to live at Parsons’ counterculture compound in Pasadena, California. The pair collaborated on many lighthearted Aleister Crowley-inspired black magic rituals, such as summoning the antichrist. Sadly, the bromance was not to endure. Hubbard and Parsons’ girlfriend, Sara—who’d been sleeping with Hubbard for some time at that point—absconded to Florida with a chunk of Parsons’ life savings, forcing Parsons to follow them and use weather-manipulating black magic spells in an attempt to catch up with the pair.
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The movie to watch

Life

Photo: Sony

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Life is a B movie on an A budget, an old-fashioned creature feature that delivers its cheap thrills expensively. From a visual and technological standpoint, one could call it post-Gravity: Most of the film is set within a high-tech orbiting spacecraft, and director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) takes the weightlessness of the environment as inspiration, his camera floating constantly around the characters and down long passageways, pivoting upside down, catching majestic glimpses of the cosmos in the corner of the frame. Conceptually, however, it’s of an older breed. Like, 1979 old. Think of a vicious shape, blurring across the foreground and blipping across a radar screen. Think, too, of airlocks in the third act, and of tentacles wrapping tightly around bodies.”
Read the rest of our review here.