Is there a more guaranteed crowdpleaser than a horse racing movie? They truly have it all: real-life inspiration, an underdog (horse?) to root for…oh, and that quintessential scene when the horse is wildin’ until the jockey places their hand on the horse’s snout and says “easy girl” and they touch heads while the music swells I mean c’mon it gets me every friggin’ time. Anyway, I bring this all up cuz the Kentucky Derby is this weekend y’all. To those of you who don’t know, this is an extremely important southern holiday for sipping mint juleps, wearing crazy hats, and betting on an animal whose weird name you didn’t know until you looked it up that morning. It’s also a good excuse to fire up a great horse racing movie this weekend. Here are the five best for pre-or post-Derby viewing. Don’t let me down Hot Rod Charlie!
Anyway, here’s what’s new and noteworthy this week!
In 2015, a fire engulfed a nightclub in Romania, killing 27 people. Over the next few months, dozens more died due to hospital malfeasance. Collective tells the story of the local journalists who investigated and uncovered a web of healthcare fraud, corruption, and maladministration that turned an isolated incident into a nationwide reckoning and caused the ruling party at the time to resign. Consider me biased as a journalist, but this a riveting Fourth Estate documentary that can compete with Spotlight. If only someone would investigate how tf the octopus doc beat this out for Best Documentary at the Oscars...now THAT would be a scoop. Available on Hulu.
Other Notable Releases: In Stowaway (Netflix), a three-person crew—Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, and Daniel Dae Kim—on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board. In the martial arts fantasy Mortal Kombat (HBO Max), adapted from the classic video game, Earth’s greatest warriors fight the enemies of the “Outworld” in a battle for the universe. It’s likely to get very bloody.
TV: Cruel Summer
Well, they finally named a TV show after a T Swift song. After undergoing a deep plot and lyrical analysis of the two cultural artifacts, though, it appears that any similarities are just that, yes, everyone involved is just having a real BUMMER of a summer. Cruel Summer the TV show is a twisty YA mystery following a shy, average Texas teen who may be involved in the disappearance of a popular classmate, and over the course of several summers starts to take over her life. Prestige TV this is not, but there will always be a place in my heart for pulpy thrillers (and tbh, those are often way more fun). Available on Freeform (RIP ABC Family).
Other Notable Releases: In Shadow and Bone (Netflix), a fantasy series adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha novel trilogy, sinister forces plot against a young soldier after she reveals a magical power that may unite her world. In the new Mike Schur (Parks and Rec, The Good Place) comedy Rutherford Falls (Peacock), two lifelong best friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), find themselves at a literal crossroads when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wake-up call.
BOOKS: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever
I’m pretty sure I never give the same answer whenever someone asks me the classic “which five people would you invite to a dinner party” question, but there’s one person who makes the cut every time: Anthony Bourdain. God, I miss that guy. From writing Kitchen Confidential to hosting Parts Unknown, his self-deprecating humor and culinary curiosity were truly one-of-a-kind. Luckily, even after his passing a few years ago, there are still new Bourdain wit-filled musings to discover. In World Travel, Bourdain introduces readers to some of his favorite places—like Borneo and Tanzania—alongside a handful of essays from friends and family, all assembled by his former colleague Laurie Woolever. Now that travel is finally opening back up, who better to be our guide than Bourdain?
Other Notable Releases: Indie rocker Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast fame expands her viral New Yorker essay into the memoir Crying in H Mart about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of Interpreter of Maladies and The Lowland, is out with her first novel written in Italian and translated into English herself, Whereabouts, about a woman questioning her place in the world in an unnamed city.
MUSIC: Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince
Y’all I can’t emphasize it enough, this album demands your attention. I had never heard of Arooj till a few days ago and a mere 15 seconds into the first track on this album I was ON THE FLOOR. This exquisite collection of songs influenced by jazz, Hindustani classical, and folk music is bound to be one of the most gorgeous things you’ll listen to this year. It features recitations of poems and themes of grief and existential yearning within a soundscape of violins, harps, and wistful guitar. Sounds like a downer, I know, but Arooj’s soothing voice sweeps you away toward the light.
Other Notable Releases: Dance/electronica wunderkind Porter Robinson’s loooong-awaited second album Nurture—his brilliant debut, Worlds, was released in 2014—featuring euphoric synths and moody ambient compositions. Over on the folk scene, Birdy—known for her mesmerizing cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” releases her stripped-down breakup album Young Heart, which I believe is required of every folk artist.
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Have a safe and culture-filled weekend,