My social media guilty pleasure is checking in at the theater each time I see a movie. I do so without revealing which movie I’m seeing to bait discussion. I realize that sounds odd, but I don’t mind, because it recently led to my discovery of MoviePass. Recommended by a Facebook friend, MoviePass is a subscription-based service that allows you to see up to one 2-D movie every 24 hours for a fixed monthly fee. This past week alone I managed to see a total of six movies in theaters, three of which were covered by my free, two-week trial of MoviePass. All I had to do was sign up online and wait for my membership card to arrive in the mail. Once that showed up (about a week later), I was able to use MoviePass’ app to check into the theater of my choice and select my preferred movie. By the time I got to the ticket counter, MoviePass had already loaded the exact amount of the ticket onto my card, and then, just like a normal debit card, it was swiped and I was off to enjoy my heaven on earth. Prices for this service vary by city, but Chicago costs $35 a month, which means seeing one movie a week already makes it a deal. MoviePass works in nearly all movie theaters that accept Discover Card and there are no blackout dates on theater showings. [Becca James]
The Fall, season one and two
Those looking for something to hold them over until Hannibal’s return this summer should curb their hunger pangs with The Fall. The second season of the Ireland-set BBC crime drama recently made its way to Netflix, and it satisfies many of the same cravings as NBC’s Hannibal (but not the same cravings as Hannibal himself because, ew, gross). We’re introduced to serial killer Paul Spector in episode one and are dared to empathize with him, despite his violent streak. Much like Mads Mikkelsen’s take on the iconic cannibal, our “villain” here is a soft-spoken gentleman who no one considers a threat at first glance. Played by Jamie Dornan (soon to be known as “Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Jamie Dornan”), Spector is a strikingly handsome family man with some dark habits he can’t contain. On the flip side of The Fall’s cat-and-mouse is another connective thread to Hannibal: the magnificent Gillian Anderson. As Stella Gibson, the senior detective on the case, she’s competent and confident, but gives the sense that she could crack at any minute. Anderson’s hushed, tightrope-walk of a performance anchors the narrative. By removing the whodunit element, the show has time to bask in its beguiling lead actors and make pointed commentary on sexuality and physical attraction. Both Gibson’s and Spector’s good looks can either give them power over others or rob them of their agency, depending on the situation. If that sounds a bit shallow, that’s exactly the point. The first season is a taut slow-burn that builds to the most climactic anti-climax possible and the second season (despite its tendency to lean into the show’s pulpier sensibilities) keeps the torch burning by drawing Gibson and Spector directly into each other’s orbits. With only 11 episodes, it’s the perfect apéritif for Hannibal’s return. [Cameron Scheetz]
Masscult And Midcult: Essays Against The American Grain, by Dwight MacDonald
When Gore Vidal died in 2012, there was much hand-wringing about the fact that America had lost its foremost cultural critic. I mostly agreed with this assessment, and spent the next several days bemoaning the loss to various colleagues. One of them—I can’t remember who, but I’m eternally grateful—handed me a copy of Dwight MacDonald’s collection, Masscult And Midcult: Essays Against The American Grain, saying, “This should cushion the blow.” I brought it home and began reading, and by the end of the night, I was a full-blown convert to the church of MacDonald.
Re-reading the title essay this past week, I was reminded of just what a colossal talent MacDonald possessed. Like Vidal, he was urbane without being unbearable, arrogant without being repellant, and his sentences read more like brawling than writing. (Vidal himself paid MacDonald the highest compliment by slinging the essayist a brutal insult: “You have nothing to say, only to add.”) A writer for Partisan Review and elsewhere before settling in at The New Yorker, MacDonald was a polymath whose restless mind attacked any and all subjects with equal vigor. His favorite subject was the state of American culture, in whatever form it may take, and for a brief period in the ’40s and ’50s there may have been no one who did it better. He manages the rare feat of making it seem like you’re familiar with topics you aren’t, merely because he so evocatively describes them. And best of all, he’s damn funny. (He described a typical Life magazine as containing pages of Renoir paintings followed by a roller-skating horse, concluding, “…and the final impression is that both Renoir and the horse were talented.”) Like all great cultural critics, his arguments seem as relevant today as they no doubt did upon publication. Those interested in smart, incisive writing outside the pages of contemporary journals like N+1 or The Baffler would do well to pick up this collection from one of America’s great public intellectuals. [Alex McCown]