What's Making Us Happy: A Guide For Your Weekend Watching, Listening And Reading
Weekly recommendations from Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts and guests
It was still yet another of those weeks when the weekend could not arrive fast enough. We've had ... quite a spate of them. But it's here now, along with this gentle reminder that it's probably more useful to think of the things you love to watch and read and listen to not as "guilty pleasures" or as "escapes," but as respites. Brief, pleasurable, and periodically necessary. You're not ducking responsibility or shutting out the world, you're finding temporary shelter for yourself. This week we've got some good recs to see you through 'till Monday.
What to watch
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Netflix
Sometimes when life gets really hard and the news is really tough, I like to watch cartoons, something really light. I've been watching Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. I love Scooby-Doo. It's a version of Scooby-Doo with a connective storyline. It's set with the gang in Crystal Cove and there's this ongoing mystery. There was a group of kids years before that disappeared — another Scooby gang — and we don't know why. I love this because in Scooby-Doo there aren't really "real" mysteries. I will give a warning there are some trite teenage love stories and sometimes portray women in very misogynistic ways, but I get past that. If you like Scooby-Doo and you just want to get away from Afghanistan and all the bad stuff happening in the world, it's a nice little show. -- Ayesha Rascoe
Enlightened, HBO Max
I tried to start Mike White's, White Lotus and I'm still going to finish it, but it made me want to go back to his previous show, Enlightened. It was this really wonderful and intimate show that sticks out to me because it just finds this great drama from the everyday and the mundane.
It stars Laura Dern as a sales executive who has a nervous breakdown at work and then comes out of rehab trying to be a better person. She becomes this moral crusader but is also kind of insufferable as a person. The show is really unconventional. It's more literary than television. The epiphanies are more emotional than plot driven. I find such rich drama and insight into those kind of little moments about what it takes to just get through a day. I feel like that resonates for me today when everyday feels like an uphill battle. I feel like the show really understands that in a way that I think anybody can relate to. Also, it's really funny! -- Marc Rivers
Movies at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival
I've been covering Fantasia Fest out of Montreal. It runs for 20 days and shows dozens and dozens of films, generally in the science fiction and horror genre. The movies I've seen are so good. There's an exorcism movie called Agnes by an Oklahoma filmmaker named Mickey Reece. You must see this Spanish vampire film called All the Moons by a guy named Igor Legarreta. There's a Japanese time travel movie called Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, by Junta Yamaguchi, and it blew my mind. It's all done in one take. It's about these idiots that discover monitors that show a two-minute time gap and they're able to see two minutes into the future. I think a lot of these movies are being picked up by places like Shudder or other streaming services, so hopefully we'll be seeing them on a broader platform. But, you know, especially something like Hellbender by this family of filmmakers. Unbelievable! I mean it's so good. It's this is witch movie with like a riot girl theme. There's some really, really exciting stuff going on in genre filmmaking right now — and I got to see so much of it. -- Walter Chaw
What to listen to
"Vax That Thang Up," YouTube
This song and video came out in July and it was a collaboration between Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, Mia X and BLK, a dating app for singles. They updated the "Back That Thang Up" song to be about vaxxing that thing up. I love how it's part safe sex and also part safe COVID. So in honor of the Food and Drug Administration finally approving the Pfizer vaccine this week and hopefully approving others soon, this is my pick. It's just making me so happy that it exists, especially after Busta Rhymes came out as anti-mask this week. -- Aisha Harris
Household Faces, Apple Podcasts
The actor John Ross Bowie's new podcast, Household Faces, has him interviewing his fellow character actors about the life and culture of character-actoring. What could so easily devolve into obscure, jargon-studded, actorly shop-talk instead comes off as lively, knowing banter about the business side of show business. Bowie's the perfect host – deeply knowledgeable, of course, but also sincerely curious, and he's striking precisely the right balance as he interviews actors whose work you've admired, getting them to open up about the roles that got away and the many everyday indignities and triumphs of being a working actor. -- Glen Weldon
What to read
Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow
Once and future PCHH panelist Kat Chow's got a book out this week – her debut memoir's called Seeing Ghosts, and it's about grief, memory, family, taxidermy and a whole lot more. It's filled with a kind of assured, hard-won wisdom about navigating loss, and the prose is so achingly precise and elegant – it's beautiful, but never showily or self-consciously so – that you'll be surprised every time she articulates an insight with a clear, implacable weight that finds you, and lands on you hard. Trust me, it's like getting sucker-punched by Tilda Swinton, every time. Um. In the best way. Even if you haven't lost a parent, you'll find the book intimately relatable and warmly familiar. -- Glen Weldon
"How a Board Game About Birds Became a Surprise Blockbuster," Slate
I tend to get frustrated by complicated, European-style board games, with their each-turn-consists-of-four-rounds-and-during-each-round-you-may-take-one-or-more-of-six-possible-actions nonsense, and the only birds I care about are the kind that come deep-fried and served in buckets. But dang if this Slate article by Dan Kois didn't convince me to give the hit board game Wingspan a try on a vacation I'll be taking over Labor Day week. It might be a fool's errand, as it's tough to convince my husband to play any game that doesn't involve deft deployment of the triple-letter-score, but fingers – and feathers – crossed. --Glen Weldon
What else has been making us happy recently?
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