KRWG

Glen Weldon

This week kicked off not with a bang, but with a series of turbulent tweets announcing the winners of the Golden Globes, after a year in which the awards have been mired in controversy. The soundtrack to Encanto reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and the Library of Congress announced the 2022 Gershwin Prize winner: Lionel Richie.

It's impossible to watch actor, comedian and singer Bridget Everett in action on a cabaret stage without surrendering to the experience and goggling like a fool. She's hilarious, filthy and so supremely comfortable with her voice, her body and her sheer, scintillating presence that she casts a spell over the audience. There's also the fact that to watch her in action on the cabaret stage means watching her in action off of it — she spends a good deal of her act gleefully prowling the crowd to flirt, accost, challenge, embrace and rebuff audience members, one by one.

There are a lot of jokes in the new HBO Max series Peacemaker, a spinoff of last year's The Suicide Squad. Let's say that much for it.

The problem — and it turns out to be a big, insurmountable one — is that they all take precisely the same form:

CHARACTER A: [Says something.]

CHARACTER B: Wait ... what? [Repeats what Character A just said.]? Seriously? How would that even work?

CHARACTER A: [Attempts to defend what was just said.]

This week, viewers commemorated the finale of HBO's Insecure and the film world mourned the loss of director Jean-Marc Vallée.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

In 2021, movies tentatively returned to theaters. Television production stopped, and started, and sometimes stopped again. Movies and TV seasons that had been delayed were finally seen, and projects that would once have shown up only on big screens appeared on small ones.

With all that in mind, NPR's critics have rolled our movie and television picks into one big — and grateful — list of the things we most enjoyed watching this year, whether we were in or out of the house, with others or on our own.

This week, the Golden Globes announced its nominees — but it left many wondering: Why should we still care about this awards show? Time Magazine named Elon Musk its Person of the Year, and Station Eleventhe TV adaptation of the 2014 novel – began on HBO Max.

Your personal threshold for pandemic fiction, at this stage in our ongoing global kaleidoscopic bacchanalia of doom, may have dropped precipitously since the post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven became a sensation in 2014. If so, you may consider the prospect of sitting down to watch a viral pandemic wipe out most of humanity over the course of ten hourlong episodes on HBO Max to be akin to that of attending an immersively tactile theatrical experience called Root Canal: The Musical.

This week, Steven Spielberg's West Side Story was released in theaters and Sex and the City characters (well, most of them) returned to television in And Just Like That.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

This week, NPR Music shared their picks for the best music of the year, ELLE banned fur from its pages and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia returned for its 15th season. It's the longest running live action sitcom on TV.

This week, Baby Yoda flew above the streets of New York at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Ridley Scott's House of Gucci made its debut and the Grammy nominations were announced. Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

In the Marvel series Hawkeye, the stakes are low. Comfortably so. Cozily so, even.

The planet isn't in peril (well, any more than baseline), and the multiverse doesn't hover on the brink of extinction. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), the sad-sack Avenger, just wants to get home in time to celebrate Christmas with his family.

This isn't the article about Amazon's adaptation of Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time that you were supposed to be reading right now.

It isn't one I'd planned to write.

This week, a 1949 self-portrait by Frida Kahlo shattered an auction record, Eddie Vedder released a new single called "The Haves," and the cast and crew of Harry Potter announced a 20-year anniversary reunion. Oh, and Adele released a new album.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

It was the week that Carole Baskin sued Netflix and Royal Goode Productions over the upcoming Tiger King sequel. It was also the week that the first Harry Potter film turned 20 years old.

Eternals is the latest film belonging to that great, teeming, not-so-riotous achievement in cross-platform multi-vertical corporate synergy/narrative cat-herding known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You perhaps read the above and rolled your eyes. Maybe you muttered something unkind under your breath as well. If you didn't, you assuredly know someone who did. That's just simple statistics: Superhero films have become our cultural furniture; they're the steady, unceasing hiss of universal background radiation none of us can escape.

Edgar Wright set out to make a trippy fever-dream of a movie. Last Night in Soho, the film he has made instead, is merely febrile: insistent, overworked, maddeningly repetitive and — like the most intense fevers — by turns sweaty and chilly, and keenly unpleasant to experience.

The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson's tenth feature film.

This means, even before the lights go down in the theater, you know two things about it already, and for certain:

Thing One: It will be meticulously, painstakingly constructed. A rigorous attention to detail and an exacting eye for a highly defined personal aesthetic will come baked into its every frame, from the set design to the cinematography to its color palette(s) to its dialogue to its performances. Also,

Most of us who've read Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune have experienced it in the form of mass-market paperbacks so thick and dense they could double as wheel chocks for a Cessna. If you've made it all the way through even once, the spine on your personal copy will have been battered into submission such that it takes on the appearance of the Bonneville salt flats — rough, faded, riddled with spidery cracks.

By now you've likely heard.

He's queer now.

Yep: Superman, Champion of the Oppressed, the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, the Last Son of Krypton, the Big Blue Boy Scout, Mr. Not-A-Bird-Nor-A-Plane Himself.

Queer. All of a sudden.

And at 83 years old, no less! Bless his heart.

But that's not what's happening here. Comics being comics, the truth is a lot more granular.

1. His name's Phastos

You've never heard of him. He's an Eternal — one of a band of super-powered immortal beings who have lived among us for over 7,000 years, tasked with protecting humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants.

No, he's not exactly a household name. Neither, for that matter, are any of the Eternals, which you might think would have Marvel worried. But it's not the first time they've sunk a lot of money and marketing into a film starring deep, deep-bench Marvel characters/raccoons/barely-talking plant creatures.

Let's get this out of the way: It's uneven.

There.

Any anthology series has episodes that work better than others. Star Wars: Visions is an anthology series; some of its episodes work better than others.

Which episodes work better for you will depend entirely on what you come to the Star Wars franchise for.

It's time to find something good to watch.

Maybe you didn't have exactly the hot vaccinated summer we were all hoping for. While we can't fix the big stuff, our critics do have good news about staying entertained — and challenged, and invigorated, and curious.

Q-Force is nicer than Archer.

By "nicer" I mean exactly what you think I mean: It's warmer, kinder, more interested in showing how much its characters care about, and look out for, one another.

If that surprises you, you're not alone. Come sit here by me.

In Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, two veteran comedians bring to the table the clearly defined personae that they've firmly entrenched in the public mind: Steve Martin often plays men who are self-impressed, even pompous, and a bit uptight, while Martin Short plays smarmy show-business phonies turned up to 11.

At first, the actors slot easily, even predictably, into their respective roles: Martin is Charles, a washed-up actor living off the royalties from his old cop show, and Short is Oliver, a flailing theater director who hasn't had a hit in decades.

The trippy, lurid and defiantly weird Netflix series Brand New Cherry Flavor wears its influences on its blood-flecked sleeve. Scenes involving a character periodically vomiting up spoilers, or discovering a new orifice on their torso, aspire to the exultant body horror of David Cronenberg.

Whenever Catherine Keener's mysterious witch Boro suddenly appears — grinning, watchful, still — amid crowds of people at parties inside swanky art galleries or Hollywood Hills homes, you are meant to recall David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway.

Well. That's over, at last.

After 80 long years, the fusillade of sneers, slurs and innuendos are finally done with. For decades, homophobes looking to land cheap jokes and queer fans aching to see themselves in the comics they love have shared an unlikely common goal — to shove Robin, Batman's trusty sidekick, out of the closet.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On the excellent, very silly yet dry-as-vampire-dust series What We Do in the Shadows, a bunch of vampire housemates are constantly followed by a documentary crew capturing their mundane everyday (everynight, technically) existence. WWDITS hews closely to the established, familiar mockumentary format — handheld camerawork, a sense that the subjects of the series are only too aware of how they're being perceived, and frequent cutaways to "talking head" interviews with isolated characters.

Summer is well underway now, with big movies — such as Black Widow -- opening, summer songs blasting out of car windows, and books accompanying vacationers to beaches. We're listening, watching, reading and otherwise absorbing everything we can.

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