Vague Visages Writers’ Room: Weekend Vibes 2.23.18

Weekend Vibes is a Friday column about streaming recommendations, new release hype and entertainment events. 

Marshall Shaffer (@media_marshall)

Full disclosure: my contributions to this column are likely going to be a billboard for the Film Society of Lincoln Center for the next few weeks. They’re beginning a series of consecutive programs that are an exciting snapshot of global cinema, staring with Film Comment Selects this weekend. This small lineup of iconoclastic films holds tremendous potential for discovery. I’m looking forward to checking out Antonio Méndez Esparza’s Life and Nothing More, a neorealist drama about contemporary black American life, as well as Gutland (Vicky Krieps alert!) and hopefully the French teen drama Wild Boys. It’s truly exhilarating to have that rare viewing experience where you know next to nothing about the titles and can get truly transported.

Leslie Hatton (@popshifter)

I was a huge fan of Talk Soup back in the day, when it took pleasure in roasting the plethora of talk shows that clogged the 1990s airwaves. Yet the most recent iteration, The Soup, which starred Joel McHale and aired every week on E! for a little over 10 years, was my favorite. After transitioning from the waning years of the talk show into the heyday of the reality show (a heyday that shows no signs of ending), The Soup was sharper, faster, funnier and more out-there than its previous incarnations. The last four years without The Soup were lonely and remarkably less funny, especially in a pop and political culture that was ever-increasingly ridiculous. So it was with much anticipation that I tuned in for Netflix’s The Joel McHale Show  (which includes Paul Feig and Soup alums K.P. Anderson, Brad Stevens and Boyd Vico as producers). And I was not disappointed.

After a cold open featuring a YouTube video where a cute dog barks at and jumps on a sleeping pig, McHale appears with a big smile and the line “Let’s see… where were we? Oh yeah, The Bachelor!” before launching into 29 minutes of clips and jokes, including good-natured jabs at Netflix itself. Because it’s on Netflix, curse words aren’t bleeped out, and McHale and company are free to unleash profanity as they see fit, even incorporating it into the gags. You want guest cameos? The show’s got ‘em. The first episode features Alison Brie and Jim Rash from Community, and actors from Netflix staples like Stranger Things and Fuller House. Oh, and when Mankini showed up (now dubbed “One-Piece Man”), I may have shed a tear or two. There are 12 more episodes scheduled for the inaugural season of The Joel McHale Show, and I hope it gets picked up for more. We need it now more than ever.

Devika Girish (@devikagirgayi)

Want to catch up on this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries before March 4? Three out of five nominees are currently streaming on Netflix, and they’re all worth your time.

If you’re in the mood for something searingly personal and quietly devastating, Yance Ford’s Strong Island is an excellent pick. Ford weaves together photos and interviews with family members, directly addressing the camera to construct a powerful and memoir-ish investigation into the death of his brother William — an African-American shot to death in 1992 by a young white man who was ultimately never indicted. Examining the psychological impact of William’s tragedy on his family, Ford — who is the first ever trans director to be nominated for an Academy Award — offers a different, engrossingly subjective take on a narrative that’s unfortunately become almost jaded today.

If you’re looking for urgent and immersive war reportage, then check out Last Men in Aleppo, Firas Fayyad’s impeccably-crafted vérité doc about the White Helmets in Syria. It’s the sort of film that will both affirm and destroy your faith in humanity, but beware of truly soul-crushing glimpses of the carnage of war — including a scene in which rescue workers extract the corpse of a dead baby from debris.

I like Bryan Fogel’s Icarus the least of the three because of my personal aversion to exposé-style docs, but if that’s up your alley, the film will make for a gripping (and very topical) watch. Fogel starts out by filming a Super Size Me-esque experiment: he takes performance-enhancing substances in the months leading up to an amateur cycling event with the intention of proving that sports anti-doping tests are bogus. Midway through the film, however, he discovers that the scientist advising him — Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping lab — is embroiled in a massive, state-sponsored doping scandal. As Fogel becomes inextricably involved in the case, helping Rodchenkov escape to the United States and expose Russia’s decades-old system of deceit, Icarus transforms into an up-close portrait of a whistleblower à la Citizenfour.

Colin Biggs (@wordsbycbiggs)

When watching Mindhunter, True Detective or The Alienist, it’s difficult to avoid seeing the influence that Michael Mann’s Manhunter has had on crime procedurals. Originally a box-office flop, Manhunter has only grown in stature thanks to word of mouth and the increasing popularity of the Hannibal Lecter series. In the lead performance, a relatively unknown William Petersen captivated viewers as a criminal profiler using forensics and psychology to hunt down killers. Will Graham was plagued by his inability to shake the job at the end of the day, with his unique gift for getting inside the headspace of killers being perhaps just a little too honed. This character was a far cry from the detective films of the time that relied on clues, slip-ups and a quippy lead to relieve the tension. Without Petersen’s turn as Graham, there wouldn’t be an Agent Holden Ford or Rust Cohle to enjoy on television. Manhunter doesn’t have the reputation of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, nor does it have the horror aesthetic, yet it absolutely stands on its own as a crime thriller. Make amends now on Amazon Prime if you haven’t seen it.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough)

Last night, my Annihilation experience didn’t go as planned. Fifteen minutes into Alex Garland’s film, four teenagers plopped down in front of me, flipped on their phones, whispered for five minutes and ruined my movie theatre vibe. So, I didn’t quite reach my ultimate viewing “zone.” Overall, Annihilation didn’t disappoint, though I wasn’t entirely blown away. On Twitter, many writers have focused primarily on the gender/performance aspects, while others have made comparisons to filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Stanley Kubrick. Today, I’ll experience Annihilation for a second time and won’t necessarily be looking for anything specific — ala themes that relate directly to my own life experience — though I will be paying extra attention to narrative details within “The Shimmer.” And I’ll make sure that nobody is seated directly in front of me.