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The much-anticipated “Borat” sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” is as politically timely as it is funny. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and directed by Jason Woliner, the film, released Oct. 23, outdoes its predecessor with its bold, high stakes pranks and rich political satire. At its core, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” makes a powerful critique of how misogyny is frequently overlooked in President Donald Trump’s America.
Over the past few years, former YouTube star George Miller — better known as Joji — has become one of the most popular internet artists in the mainstream world of music. Given his background, a career in serious music sounds unlikely; under his YouTube personality “Filthy Frank,” Joji was known for his dark, gross-out humor and his wild alter ego, Pink Guy. However, Joji’s transition from fringe YouTube comedian to mainstream R&B artist was more successful than anyone could have imagined.
“Enola Holmes” — one of the newest entries to Netflix’s catalog, based on the young adult series by Nancy Springer — is a fun, adventurous and action-packed film that brilliantly reinvents the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, “Enola Holmes” centers on the life of the youngest Holmes sibling, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), and her journey to reunite with her missing mother while forging her own sense of freedom. While the film contains some elements of the classic Holmes mysteries, it adds a new twist with its focus on social activism and female intellect. From start to finish, the film successfully creates a world that places a strong-willed heroine center-stage, offering a timeless lesson on female empowerment.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s New York Times best-seller “Mexican Gothic” is a lush, moody story brimming with horror and mystery. With all the trappings of a Victorian novel, “Mexican Gothic,” which was released in June, calls upon notable doomed heroines in the literary canon, from Ophelia in “Hamlet” to Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” in order to place readers in its melodramatic prose. “Mexican Gothic” is your favorite Brontë novel, but better.
With their self-titled 2008 debut, Fleet Foxes established themselves as an indie folk outfit with achingly sincere, pastoral lyrics and a penchant for vocal harmonies. And unlike many folk rock artists emerging out of the late 2000s, they have remained fresh, while managing not to make a major departure in style on any of the three albums they have released since their debut. After a six-year hiatus, their third album “Crack-Up” dove headfirst into progressive folk, with denser instrumentation, longer songs and unorthodox song structures. With “Crack-Up,” Fleet Foxes proved that they could work within their established style to create a challenging, dense album of music that defied accessibility. With their newest album “Shore,” released on Sept. 22, Fleet Foxes have proved the opposite: Their music can be equally powerful with simpler instrumentation and more accessible, catchy songs.
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her American Book Award-winning 2016 debut “Homegoing” is “Transcendent Kingdom,” a novel alternating between past and present in the life of Gifty, a Ghanaian-American neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and former self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak.” Throughout the book, Gifty, who studies impulse control in mice, reexamines what led her to a life of empiricism after growing up in a deeply religious immigrant family in the Bible Belt. Grappling with Gifty’s experiences growing up “sticking out like a sore thumb” in her predominantly-white town and “as Ghanaian as apple pie,” the novel is both accessible and urgent.
In late 2018, the production crew of “Mulan,” the latest soulless Disney live-action remake, began filming in the Xinjiang province of northwest China, home to the Uighur people. At that same time in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party continued to sharply expand internment camps for ethnic Uighurs, camps that had already incarcerated up to one million members of the predominantly-Muslim minority group.
Katy Perry’s fifth studio album, “Smile,” arrives on August 28. To generate buzz, she hosted a Zoom question and answer press conference with college reporters. I clicked out feeling underwhelmed, and I’m trying to pinpoint why.
When I first watched “Indian Matchmaking,” I didn’t frown upon the premise of the show. Instead, I laughed at hilarious scenes between Indian American families redolent of my family. Released on July 16, this Netflix original is produced by the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Smriti Mundhra, who communicates a middle way between arranged marriages and modern dating. “Indian Matchmaking” has polarized viewers, with some seeing it as perpetuating colorism, sexism and the caste system, while others perceive it as a lighthearted take on contemporary Indian culture that destigmatizes arranged marriages. I am in the second camp and let me tell you why.
Dominic Fike’s debut album “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” is the antidote to a lackluster summer. Released on July 31, Fike’s album presents an eclectic collection of musical ideas well-packaged into 14 songs. This 34-minute listen is full of pleasant twists and turns that make for an engaging and kaleidoscopic record.
Just when I thought Taylor Swift had surpassed every semblance of an expectation, she proved to be even more of a superwoman. The release of her eighth album, “folklore,” on July 24th comes only 11 months after the cheerful and flowery “Lover.” Written and recorded entirely in quarantine, “folklore” is a testament to the singer’s creativity as a musical powerhouse. “Folklore” stuns with its ethereal beauty and maturity, expressed through intelligent lyrics and gentle, haunting melodies.
It can be difficult to acknowledge the near-ubiquitous prevalence of sexual abuse when victims are nameless, shapeless and unfamiliar. Released on June 24, “Athlete A” forces a recognition of this rampant abuse, as the victims are the young women that America champions as Olympians. Through the bravery of the female gymnasts and the brutal, but necessary look into the bleak world of USA Gymnastics, “Athlete A” is an illuminating, tear-jerking, must-watch documentary.
“The King of Staten Island” is not a good movie. There. I’d like to get that out of the way. Unlike the 136 minutes stolen from me watching this snooze fest, it will only take me a second to get to the point of this review: “The King of Staten Island” is incredibly boring, self-indulgent and not worth your time or money.
Director and producer Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” released two weeks ago on Netflix, is an impactful Vietnam War story about the Black experience, following the journey of four middle-aged, Black veterans in the present day. In the film, the group returns to Vietnam to recover the body of their fallen captain and the buried treasure they left behind during the war.
Varsity, a five-person indie pop band from Chicago, has solidified its place in the genre of indie pop with its new album, “Fine Forever.” Composed of lead singer Stef Smith, guitarists Dylan Weschler and Pat Stanton, bassist Paul Stolz and drummer Jake Stolz, Varsity released “Fine Forever” on May 29 through independent record label Run For Cover Records. While the album’s self-aware lyrics touch on themes such as loneliness and heartbreak, the cheerful instrumentals infuse their songs with an optimistic quality. In “Fine Forever,” Varsity layers complex anecdotes with upbeat indie-pop sounds to stress a message of positivity amid the difficulties of life.
Charli XCX’s latest album “how i’m feeling now,” released on May 15, is her most conceptually cohesive and emotionally vulnerable album yet. Created entirely during the COVID-19 lockdown, the album portrays the loneliness, fear and hope that she has encountered while isolated from the world.
In a genre as old as folk, it can be hard for anything to stand out against the large body of work comprising the genre’s canon. Artists like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon cultivated the sound that became associated with folk singer-songwriters in the middle of the 20th century. While the sounds they played were by definition based on earlier American musical styles, these artists sounded novel and each presented a unique brand of folk. In recent years, however, artists like Ed Sheeran have figured out how to soullessly manufacture the singer-songwriter formula by repeating the same tired sound again and again. Faced with a barrage of mediocre music, modern folk singer-songwriters have been forced to innovate in an attempt to stand out.
On May 1, Netflix released Alice Wu’s “The Half of It,” a film that follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) as she navigates love and personal identity as an Asian American teenager. “The Half of It” transforms the common teen romance narrative into a funny, relatable and heartwarming work of art by pushing the boundaries of representation in mainstream romantic comedies.
Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes released their latest project, “What Kinda Music,” through the jazz label Blue Note Records on April 24. Their collaboration is an experimental album combining the upbeat, polished chords and production of Misch with the jazzier, more experimentally inclined sound of the drummer Dayes. “What Kinda Music” is Misch’s first project since his 2018 album “Geography” and is also Dayes’ first album release since 2017. “What Kinda Music” is exactly what the name implies — a genre-defying album, incorporating the best of both Misch and Dayes. It’s a project that’s part electronica, part jazz and part hip-hop. Dayes’ experimental inventiveness melds with Misch’s catchy chords and pitch-perfect voice (and a well-rounded range of featured artists) to create an original UK sound.
On April 10, Netflix released Alan Yang’s “Tigertail,” a film inspired by the experiences of Yang’s father that follows the life of Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma), a Taiwanese-American immigrant. Despite a few flaws, “Tigertail” shares a touching, authentic and relatable story about the Asian-American immigrant experience.