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AISHA HARRIS, HOST:
For a year, many of us have found ourselves planted at home with a lot more time on our hands for movies and television. Perhaps you're feeling stuck in a rut. You already finished the umpteenth binge-watch of your favorite show, or you're just in a very different headspace than you were a few months ago and need some viewing inspiration. So we teamed up with the hosts of the "Movie Therapy" podcast, Kristen Meinzer and Rafer Guzman, to help a few listeners out with personal recommendations.
I'm Aisha Harris. And today on NPR's POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR, we're taking your questions about what to watch next, so don't go away.
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HARRIS: Welcome back. Joining us today are Kristen Meinzer and Rafer Guzman. They are the co-hosts of the podcast "Movie Therapy With Rafer & Kristen." Rafer is also Newsday's film critic. And Kristen is also the co-author of "How To Be Fine." Welcome to you both. It's great to have you on.
RAFER GUZMAN: Thanks, Aisha.
KRISTEN MEINZER: Oh, my gosh. It's so great to be here. Thanks for having us.
HARRIS: Yeah. So on your show, you basically give advice to your listeners as to what they should watch based off of their personal conundrums or their personal feelings and moods at the moment. Can you talk just a little bit about what's fun about that and sort of the challenges that might come from doing that show?
GUZMAN: This is really Kristen's brainchild. You know, we had a show many years ago at WNYC called "Movie Date," and Kristen came up with this segment. And it's a great way to, you know, kind of connect with your listeners. And it was really a great time for her to bring this back because, like you say, you know, we're all just sort of stuck at home and desperate for some kind of entertainment, especially, I think, feel-good entertainment. And, you know, people have problems, and they want something to kind of help them solve it, make them feel like they're not alone. So it's been great. It's been a lot of fun.
MEINZER: Yeah. We feel really lucky to be hosting the show together because, honestly, we weren't going to necessarily host another show like this. But old listeners of "Movie Date" started reaching out to us at the beginning of the pandemic and saying, would you get the gang back together because we don't know what to watch? And we're so sad. We're so mad at our children. We want to divorce our spouses. Everything's terrible.
MEINZER: Tell us what to watch to get through this.
HARRIS: Well, like I said, there is no better time to do that than now because I think so many people are in very different places in their lives at this moment. And so let's just jump into it. So we asked our listeners at PCHH to send in some of their conundrums, and we've got three here that we will present. And Rafer, Kristen and I will each give our recommendations. And so let's listen to this first one.
CAROLINE: Hi, POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR and "Movie Therapy" friends. I was recently laid off from my job, so what movies should I watch to give me a little bit of comfort and perhaps some inspiration in this tough time? Thanks so much. Bye.
HARRIS: Well, first off, I think we all want to, you know, extend our condolences for the loss of your job. And I realize that can be very, very difficult. And hopefully our picks will bring you some sort of comfort and inspiration, as you asked for. So, Rafer, what is your pick for her?
GUZMAN: Yeah, this is a question that we've gotten from people on "Movie Therapy" before as well. And I want to reiterate what you said, Aisha, that, you know, my heart really goes out to people who are struggling with that 'cause that can be a real blow to people.
So the movie I've chosen is "Chef" from 2014. It's a little labor of love from Jon Favreau. He's the big, you know, Marvel guy, the guy that basically introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe to us. But this was his attempt to kind of go back and make a small, kind of indie-style movie.
He plays a guy named Carl Casper. He's a chef at this posh Brentwood restaurant, doesn't really pay that much attention to his young son from his previous marriage. You know, he's really focused on work. One day, he serves the wrong meal to a famous food critic, who writes this scathing review. Carl has a meltdown in the middle of the restaurant, which, of course, goes viral.
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JON FAVREAU: (As Carl Casper) You realize how many people have read this? I'm up to 2,000 followers since last night.
BOBBY CANNAVALE: (As Tony) You're trending, bro.
FAVREAU: (As Carl Casper) They're sending me messages. They're goading me into responding.
CANNAVALE: (As Tony) Don't do that.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO: (As Martin) Don't do it. Don't do it, man. Don't respond. Take the high road. It's fine. Don't do it.
FAVREAU: (As Carl Casper) I know, but half the people are saying he's right.
CANNAVALE: (As Tony) Yeah, but half the people are saying he's wrong. That's the Internet, bro.
LEGUIZAMO: (As Martin) That's right. Listen to him.
CANNAVALE: (As Tony) That's social media. You on Twitter?
GUZMAN: Carl's fired. He's out of options. Nobody else wants to hire him. So he takes his fate into his own hands and he buys this run-down, old food truck and starts serving Cuban sandwiches on the street. It kind of seems like a humiliation. You know, people are kind of thinking, oh, my God, you've fallen so low. But he actually turns out to really love it. And then he gets the idea to drive the truck across country, brings an old friend along, brings his son along to gin up some social media PR because, you know, old guys like Carl don't know how to do that.
And it's - you know, it's your classic story. You know, I know it sounds corny, but, you know, he's on the road towards something he hasn't found in a long time, which is happiness. And he discovers it by going back and doing the thing he loves in a new way and doing it by sort of starting fresh, taking things into his own hands. It's one of the things I really liked about the movie.
HARRIS: Yeah. I remember seeing this film around the time when it came out, and it's just such a really delightful movie. And I think it's a really good choice for this kind of question because, like you said, it is about finding yourself after, you know, a setback or a stumble. So great choice, Rafer. Kristen, what about you?
MEINZER: All right. Well, Caroline (ph), first off, I just want to say I'm so sorry. I've lost jobs before, too. I have so many friends who have lost jobs during this pandemic. I know it sucks. And I got to say, any time I've been in a tough moment over the last 15 years or so, I've turned on this movie that I'm going to prescribe you, and it helps lift my spirits every time. It's called "Last Holiday" from 2006, starring the great Queen Latifah. Now, I know, Aisha, Rafer, you've both seen this movie. I see the smiles on your faces right now, the delight you'll feel when you watch this.
Georgia - this is the character that Queen Latifah plays - is a woman who's working in a department store in New Orleans. She's essentially just demonstrating cookware and getting paid very, very poorly for her work. And she always dreams of doing bigger things. She has this little wish book where she puts all of her dreams for the future.
But then she gets a diagnosis that could be fatal. She may not have very long to live. And she decides - you know what? - I'm not going to be just sitting here waiting for my dreams anymore. And she quits her job and goes off and chases her bigger fantasies of, you know, meeting a celebrity chef. I'm sorry, Rafer, if this is too much of a copy of your movie here.
MEINZER: Another movie where she just wants to cook, and so she flies off to Europe to stay at this very fancy resort where Gerard Depardieu is the famous chef there. And she cooks with him. She goes to the markets with him. She eats food with him.
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GERARD DEPARDIEU: (As Chef Didier) You and I, we know the secret of life.
QUEEN LATIFAH: (As Georgia Byrd) Well, what is that?
DEPARDIEU: (As Chef Didier) The secret is butter.
QUEEN LATIFAH: (As Georgia Byrd, laughter) Butter? Butter.
DEPARDIEU: (As Chef Didier) Butter, yes.
MEINZER: And she also does all sorts of other crazy things, like, you know, diving off of cliffs and snowboarding for the first time and gambling and getting makeovers and having an adventure and really realizing that sometimes when bad things happen to us, they're really reminding us this is an opportunity to change things. It doesn't matter if the news is terrible. It matters what I do with it.
And so I always love this movie 'cause it reminds me, you know, even in the worst of times, there's joy to be had, and we can try to look for opportunities to grasp something new and something better.
HARRIS: Nice. Very nice pick. And I'm sensing a theme amongst our picks because mine also tangentially involves food.
HARRIS: My pick for our listener is "Support The Girls." It came out a few years ago. It was one of my favorite movies of 2018. And it stars Regina Hall as the general manager of a Hooters-like establishment, a restaurant where all the servers are young women, attractive women, and they wear, you know, barely-there clothes. But she is like sort of the mama bear of this business and really looks after them.
Most of the film takes place over the course of a single day, and it's just a series of misadventures and mishaps. You know, Regina Hall's character, Lisa, is dealing with a lot of baggage, a lot of personal baggage with her home life. On top of that, she's taking on all of these issues that her various servers are having. And it's just a really lovely film.
When I think about a film where you see women really supporting each other and showing up for each other, I think of this movie in particular just because it does all that, it shows all of that without it feeling too ham-fisted. It has a very sort of clear-eyed vision of, like, they are all in a really crappy situation, but they are able to, you know, get by even just a little bit based off of being with one another and really supporting each other.
And it's also, like, occasionally pretty funny. And there are a lot of great moments. And the very end of the film also has just a very cathartic scene that I think might resonate with our listener. And so I highly recommend it. It flew under the radar - "Support The Girls." It was directed by Andrew Bujalski. And Regina Hall is just, like, an absolute pleasure in this film. So I hope it brings you a little bit of comfort and hope if you choose to watch it.
And again, you have "Chef," which is streaming on Netflix; "Last Holiday," which is available to rent or buy; and "Support The Girls," which you can find on Hulu.
Let's get to our next question.
MICHELLE: Hi. This is Michelle (ph) from St. Louis, and my daughter, who is a senior in high school, has I know unfortunately for her, but gloriously for me been trapped here at home most evenings and weekends during this pandemic. And I am woefully behind in terms of sharing movies with her. So I would love to know if you have any recommendations of what movies a mother and daughter should see together before we get to the end of the summer and I'm going to have to send her off to college and out into the world. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
HARRIS: Well, I love a good mother-daughter watching experience movie. Kristen, what is your pick for Michelle?
MEINZER: Wow. Michelle, I'm just going to have to apologize upfront because I decided to not give you what you wanted. You said you wanted a movie. I decided on a TV series instead. This is on Amazon Prime. It is called "The Wilds." It just came out a few months ago. And it follows the stories of girls who crash on a desert island. They're on a plane on their way to a retreat. And, you know, on the surface, it may just look like, oh, this is a mash-up between "Lost" and "Lord Of The Flies." But that's not really what this is. What we realize very early on is that the tragedies that are taking place on this island are nothing compared to the tragedies that all of these girls were dealing with back home.
HARRIS: Yeah. I haven't seen "The Wilds." It kind of flew under the radar, I think. But it sounds very, very fascinating.
MEINZER: Oh, yeah. I binged the whole thing in under three days. And I absolutely just love the cast. Some of the cast are complete newcomers. It's very diverse, includes actors who are indigenous, who are Black, who are white, storylines that include eating disorders, you know, stories of consent, of race, of all sorts of other issues that teenage girls deal with right now. And the reason why I'm recommending this is because I'm hoping that, Michelle, when you and your daughter sit down and watch this, not only will you be taken on a great adventure together, but maybe it will open you up to have certain conversations that you want to have with her before she goes off to college.
Or maybe it'll open the door for her to ask you certain questions that maybe she hasn't really known how to ask you up until this point, because I don't know about you guys, but I have had many great conversations over the years with friends and family members because a TV show piqued it. And, you know, maybe I didn't want to ask that question initially. But the TV show or the movie presented that. And I hope that's what it does for Michelle here.
HARRIS: Yeah. And it's only one season. So I know it kind of ends on a cliffhanger, from what I understand. But it seems like it'll be very entertaining for a mother-daughter watch. So thank you for that, Kristen. Rafer, what is your pick for Michelle?
GUZMAN: Well, as Kristen knows, I'm a little bit more of a movie guy than a TV guy. So I did go for a movie from 2017 - might be a little bit obvious. But I think it really fits the bill here, and that's "Lady Bird."
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LAURIE METCALF: (As Marion) Christine.
SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Lady Bird) My name is Lady Bird.
METCALF: (As Marion) Well, actually, it's not. And it's ridiculous because your name is Christine.
RONAN: (As Lady Bird) Call me Lady Bird like you said you would.
METCALF: (As Marion) Just - you should just go to city college, you know? With your work ethic, just go to city college and then to jail and then back to city college. And then maybe you'd learn to pull yourself up...
GUZMAN: It's a great mother-daughter story. She plays a high school girl named Christine, who pretentiously calls herself Lady Bird. And she's just a classic teen heroine right on the border of going to college. She's smart. She's got artistic aspirations, little bit of a cynical streak, thinks she's kind of too good for Sacramento, which is the town where she grew up, wants to go to a fancy, East Coast college, can't wait to get away from her family. But meanwhile, she is stuck in the present, you know? She's still got to try to make it with the cool crowd. She's fallen for a cool boy. And her mom, Marion, who's played by Laurie Metcalf, who is great in the role, is driving her insane. And Lady Bird's going to have to figure out if she can get through this period. It's a great pre-college, coming-of-age story.
HARRIS: Yeah. And it is the type of movie that (laughter) I feel like needs to come with a warning that if you are a parent, or if you are a daughter or a child getting ready to go away to college, it will get you in your feelings. Like (laughter)...
MEINZER: Oh, yeah (laughter).
HARRIS: I still think about that final scene a lot.
GUZMAN: Yes. Yes.
GUZMAN: Well - and it's that mother-daughter relationship that's really the heart of the film, you know? They really do realize that in spite of anything, they're always going to be in each other's lives. And they're always going to love each other. And that's one of the great things about the movie.
HARRIS: Yeah. Well, those are some great picks. My pick is also bringing us into Greta Gerwig territory (laughter). And it is "20th Century Women." It's directed by Mike Mills. It came out a year before "Lady Bird." This is, actually, a mother-son relationship in some ways. But there are a lot of women involved. And, I think, despite the fact that this is a mother-son story, it really translates, I think, to just what it feels like to be a parent feeling like you're losing touch with your child as they grow older. And it stars Annette Bening, who is fantastic as Dorothea Fields. She is a woman who is born - lived through the Great Depression. It takes place in 1979. She had her son, Jamie, who's played by Lucas Jade Zumann. And they live in a giant house in California.
They have some borders there who include Greta Gerwig, who plays Abbie, a photographer, and Billy Crudup, who is playing a carpenter who kind of does a lot of handywork around the house. And basically, Dorothea feels as though she's losing touch with Jamie and wants (laughter) both Abbie and Jamie's best friend, Julie, who's played by Elle Fanning, to help raise him. And so there are lots of just all these really fantastic scenes and moments of these three women sort of trying to help mold Jamie. And he's learning about feminism. And there's, like, a lot of generational divide between Dorothea and Jamie. And it's just a really heartfelt story. There's a great scene early on in the film that really encompasses sort of the questions and themes that are happening throughout this film about parent-child relationships.
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LUCAS JADE ZUMANN: (As Jamie) Do you think you're happy, like, as happy as you thought you'd be when you were my age?
ANNETTE BENING: (As Dorothea) Seriously? You don't ask people questions like that.
ZUMANN: (As Jamie) You're my mom.
BENING: (As Dorothea, laughter) Especially your mom. Look; wondering if you're happy, it's a great shortcut to just being depressed. Give me that.
HARRIS: So yeah, this is another movie with a lot of feelings and emotions involved. But I think it's just - there's just so many great things that are happening. And I think it'll really touch you, Michelle, and your relationship with your daughter in ways that you might find surprising and might also feel very, very familiar. So once again, we have "The Wilds," which is streaming on Amazon, "Lady Bird," which you can find on Netflix and "20th Century Women," which you can also find on Netflix. Now onto our final question.
ALICE: Hi. My name is Alice (ph), in Detroit, Mich. I'm looking for a comforting, bingeable TV show. At the beginning of the pandemic, I really liked "Call The Midwife." Every episode is usually tied up by the end and generally ends on an up note, not to mention there is something very comforting about highly competent nurses riding bicycles and solving problems all over London. So something in those lines with a little bit of drama but overall just a comforting ending point would be great.
HARRIS: So, Kristen, what do you have for Alice?
MEINZER: Well, Alice, first of all, I have to say I agree with you. I think "Call The Midwife" is a delightful show. And I tried to come up with another show that takes place in the U.K. that also includes a bunch of young women from different backgrounds getting together to save the day. In this case, it's the same time period. But rather than save the day through helping to birth babies, what they're doing is helping to grow food during the terrible ration period, World War II, in the U.K. And the show I'm talking about is "Land Girls," which you can watch on Netflix and Acorn TV. Where it transports you to is actually the 1940s, you know, watching girls be competent, watch them grow food, watch them get up to no good, watch them accidentally end up at a dance with the wrong kinds of sailors or soldiers, maybe dealing with class confrontation, race confrontations and so on. So most of it is just delightful and pretty, but it does touch on real issues, just like "Call The Midwife." So I hope, Alice, that you find this comforting and bingeable and very, very easy. It's an easy show to watch.
HARRIS: Thank you, Kristen. Rafer, how about you?
GUZMAN: Well, this is definitely not like "Call The Midwife," this series that I've chosen, but it's a Netflix series, new one called "Lupin" - L-U-P-I-N. Please forgive my bad French. I don't speak it. But it's a really fun little series. And it's gotten some pretty good reviews. And I think it's been pretty popular. But it stars Omar Sy as a guy named Assane. He's living in Paris. And when you first meet him, he appears to be, like, an ex-con and, like, he's just gotten his first job out of jail, and he's a janitor at the Louvre. And that's not great because it doesn't pay that much, and he owes some bad guys a lot of money. The bad guys are after him. And Assane gets this last-minute idea, like, hey, let's rob the Louvre. There just happens to be a necklace going up for auction. And I know the ins and outs of the place and how the janitors work, and we'll do it that way.
And when I saw the first episode, I kind of thought seems like a pretty big heist to pull off at the last minute. This seems like kind of a stupid series, but, of course, it's not last minute. Assane has been planning this whole thing all along for years, maybe even for decades. There's a whole backstory to why he wants that necklace. It's got this kind of "Count Of Monte Cristo" feeling to it. And the reason I chose it, even though this is kind of an action heist series and not really a drama, is because it's just really fun and frothy and slick. And, you know, this listener wanted kind of comfort food with an upbeat ending. And this is really it. It's directed by Louis Leterrier, the guy who did "Now You See Me" who's also just a completely ridiculous, fun film. And this has got a little bit of that vibe - very bingeable and very fun.
HARRIS: Well, I think it's a great choice for this kind of question because, like, it'll suck you in.
HARRIS: Apparently, Netflix announced that the second half - because it does end on a cliffhanger. The second half of the series will be airing later this summer. So my pick is the wonderful series "One Day At A Time." This is actually streaming in two separate places. The first three seasons are streaming on Netflix and the fourth and final season is streaming on Paramount Plus. But it's such a really fantastic show. It's about a Cuban-American family. It stars Justina Machado as Penelope, who is a war veteran, and she is a single mom. She lives with her two children, Elena and Alex. And also they have, like, a kooky landlord named Schneider, played by Todd Grinnell.
And it's just a really lovely, frothy sitcom in which really outlandish things happen. There is a laugh track, but there are also some really touching moments. I especially think of the final episode of the first season where Elena comes out to her father. And there's a really, really heartfelt moment at her quinceanera for her 15th birthday, and it's really lovely. Rita Moreno plays their abuela. And I think it'll make you feel really happy inside. And it'll also bring a tear to your eyes occasionally maybe. It did for me anyway. So once again, we have "Land Girls," which is streaming on Netflix, "Lupin," which is streaming on Netflix, and "One Day At A Time," which is streaming Seasons One through 3 on Netflix and Season 4 on Paramount Plus.
GUZMAN: I'm really glad to hear they kept the guy's name Schneider because Schneider was a classic character from the original. I'm old enough to remember the original with Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli.
MEINZER: And anything with Rita Moreno, I want it.
HARRIS: Absolutely. Well, Kristen and Rafer, it was a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us. And everyone can check out the "Movie Therapy" podcast wherever you find your podcasts. And thank you so much to you both.
GUZMAN: Thanks, Aisha.
MEINZER: Oh, it's been so much fun. Thanks for having us.
HARRIS: And we want to know what you are watching while you've been home this past year. Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter - @pchh. And of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. We'll link to all of these recommendations in our newsletter. And if you are so inclined, please subscribe to our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter. And we will see you all tomorrow.
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