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Every 20 years, like clockwork, American culture repeats itself. This does not mean that the same exact trends are recycled in an endless loop. Rather, after about 20 years, outdated culture becomes “retro,” and nostalgia for past decades shapes new styles and artwork. The 1970s had “Happy Days,” and the 1990s had “That ’70s Show.” In a more abstract sense, the infatuation with the glamorous lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy in the 1980s inspired reality television and “Gossip Girl” in the 2000s. As we enter the 2020s, the music stylings of the early aughts are making a comeback. Artists like Charli XCX and Slayyyter evoke Britney Spears-style pop, while Poppy and Grimes both recently released music that is heavily reminiscent of nu metal.
As a wave of states introduced abortion restrictions last year, abortion rights have increasingly come under fire. Now, in the age of COVID-19 — with abortions deemed non-essential in some states — the right to choose is especially pertinent. With this in mind, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and can now be purchased on Amazon Prime, is even more timely than it would’ve been just two months ago.
After eight long years, 1990s teenage pop sensation turned reclusive savant Fiona Apple has released her fifth album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” As longtime fans know, Apple’s album release schedule is erratic; she has only released five albums since her 1996 debut “Tidal,” which she released when she was 18 years old. Apple’s prodigious talents as a writer are apparent even on her first album, but her teenage immaturity and naivete are also obvious. While the 90-word title of her second album, often shortened to “When the Pawn …,” initially annoyed fans and critics when it debuted in 1999, the complex, jazzy instrumentals and tremendous lyrical improvement won over most listeners. A protracted dispute with her label created a six-year gap before the release of Apple’s third album, “Extraordinary Machine,” in 2005, which introduced full orchestration behind her music.
The Netflix docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak” offers six episodes to binge-watch during self-isolation. If you have already seen the drama of Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Outbreak” or are searching for a documentary perspective, “Pandemic” may be the show for you. Following the lives of doctors in the U.S., Asia and Africa as they combat flu viruses, the show reveals the challenges of preventing a deadly outbreak of influenza. Although “Pandemic” is flawed in its false advertising and dwells too long on its depiction of doctors’ personal lives, it still presents an overall interesting and accurate account of influenza epidemics and pandemics.
Have you ever been invited into a space that feels so uniquely intimate and fragile that you observe it as carefully as possible, hoping to not miss a moment? That’s what watching Netflix’s “Unorthodox” feels like.
It’s been so long since the explosive conclusion of “Breaking Bad” in 2013 that “Better Call Saul” — the 2015 prequel spinoff created by “Breaking Bad” masterminds Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould — feels like its own show. And I’ll admit, I was wary of its ability to stand out from its predecessor, most of all because Saul Goodman, the smooth-talking, comb-over-sporting strip mall lawyer played with electricity and heart by Bob Odenkirk, was largely a one-note side piece in the original show. A skeevy lawyer who helps criminals hide their money and avoid jail time — end of story. It didn’t seem substantive enough for its own show, and it seemed like “Better Call Saul” would be doomed to the spin-off junk pile in the wasteland of failed TV shows. But I had faith in Gilligan and Gould, so I approached “Better Call Saul” with tepid hope. Now, five years and almost five complete seasons later — the fifth season is currently underway — part of me loves “Saul” even more than “Breaking Bad.”
On March 27, English pop artist Dua Lipa released her sophomore album “Future Nostalgia” one week early, in the midst of the global pandemic. With millions around the world quarantined in their homes and looking for a way to pass the hours, the timing couldn’t be better. The album’s upbeat sound is exactly what the world needs in this time of uncertainty and confusion.
“Tiger King'' is one of the wildest true-crime stories Netflix has given us so far — so much so that its larger-than-life characters eclipse the documentary series’ initial mission of shining light on animal rights issues. The show follows the eccentric Joe Exotic (whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage), a self-described “gay, gun-carrying-redneck with a mullet” who created one of the biggest wildlife preservation centers for exotic cats, along with his menagerie of exotic animal owner colleagues who prove even wilder than their pets. The directors of “Tiger King,” Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, untangle the complicated and at times surreal world of Exotic to deliver a must-see story of a zookeeper who lands himself in jail for a murder-for-hire plot targeting his long-time rival, big cat activist Carole Baskin, who is shrouded in her own felonious controversies. Despite its mild attempt to address ethical questions about animal rights, “Tiger King” is, at heart, a true crime documentary that spotlights outsized personalities.
At the behest of a friend, I recently watched the sequel to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” on Netflix. Titled “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” I found that even though I didn’t think the movie was particularly good, I still managed to find a kernel of satisfaction in watching it.
“The Sweet Science of Bruising” had its American premiere in Moore Theater last Friday. Written by Joy Wilkinson, the play is set in 1869 London. It tells the story of four women from a variety of backgrounds who find their way into the boxing ring to literally fight for their right to freedom and gender equality.
For Claire Boucher, the last few years have marked a massive change in popularity. Between the critical and commercial success of her 2015 album “Art Angels” and her high-profile relationship with billionaire Elon Musk, Boucher, better known as Grimes, has become a genuine celebrity. Her prodigious rise to stardom probably comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with her work since the beginning — which was full of obscured vocals and avant-garde goth-punk — especially since it took four albums for her to become a household name.
Over the last decade, Kevin Parker has used his solo project Tame Impala to create incredible anthems of loneliness and isolation. Ever since his 2010 single “Solitude is Bliss,” Parker has pushed himself further and further away from society, using his lyrics to present himself as an outsider looking in. Even the album cover of Tame Impala’s 2012 album “Lonerism” depicts people picnicking on the other side of a fence, just out of reach. During the production of his next album “Currents” in 2015, Parker withdrew even further, working meticulously on each track. And while these songs dealt more with interpersonal relationships than any of his previous works, the lyrics made it clear that Parker felt more alone than ever.
After taking center-stage in the 2016 film “Suicide Squad” as the charming ex-psychiatrist-turned-supervillain, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) returns fiercer than ever as she introduces a new version of herself — one separate from the diminutive label of “the Joker’s girlfriend.”
“One Child Nation,” directed by award-winning documentarian Nanfu Wang, is one of the first documentaries to delve into China’s one-child policy. While it does so in an innovative way, the film lacks objectivity and coherence in telling the story.
Mac Miller’s posthumous album “Circles,” released on Jan. 17, is a fitting end to his respected rap career and eclectic body of music. Miller began his career at the age of 15 in Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene, and over time became an almost entirely different artist. He evolved from his beginnings as a fratty pop-rap artist to boldly experimenting with his sound, all the while growing immensely as a rapper, producer and singer.
Thanks to surprise wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture — Drama at the Golden Globes, Sam Mendes’ bold cinematic experience “1917” has been a buzzy film, garnering a spike in attention it hopes to carry into the Oscars in February. Set during World War I and focusing on two British soldiers in the trenches of France, “1917” is shot and edited to look like one take. This is much like Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s masterful 2015 Oscar winner for Best Motion Picture of the Year, “Birdman.” Unlike “Birdman,” though, “1917,” lacks a scintillating script or multifaceted characters, but it makes up for some of that loss with the sheer grandeur of its cinematic vision.
In many regards, the advent of the Internet has changed the landscape of music more than anything since the invention of the phonograph. From the explosion of microgenres such as vaporwave and cloud rap in the 2010s to streaming services allowing immediate access to just about every song ever recorded, the music industry is almost unrecognizable to what it was pre-Internet. One of the more significant aspects of the new music industry is the now meteoric pace at which stars can rise through the use of websites such as SoundCloud, Bandcamp and even YouTube — all of which allow anyone to find an audience much more easily than in the past.
Penn Badgley once again delivers as the serial killer that a part of you just doesn’t want to hate in Season 2 of Netflix’s “You.” The season’s 10 episodes follow Badgley as Joe Goldberg in his new life in Los Angeles. Fleeing from the mess he made in New York — murdering his ex-girlfriend and publishing her book posthumously — Joe falls right back into his old habits in Los Angeles, fixating on a woman and indulging his psychopathy. This includes periodically imprisoning people he views as potential threats in a glass cage and keeping them as his captives.
I always look forward to winter break for many reasons, an unexpected one of which is Oscar-bait. Oscar-bait season is the first three weeks in December, when movie production studios are racing to put out their “best” films of the year before the Oscar qualification deadline on the last day of the year. Typically, films that receive Oscar nominations are released between August and December.
From start to finish, 2019 has been a whirlwind year for music. It has been a year of innovation and excitement in nearly every genre, whether it be hip-hop, folk, pop or any other. While there were dozens of albums that could be recognized for their brilliance this year, I’ve had to narrow it down to only 10 for this list. These 10 albums have all introduced new ideas into their respective genres while still being an enjoyable listen from start to finish. In a way, all of them manage to reflect the issues of the time while still sounding distinctly human.