Strictly Platonic Edition

Featuring: Nerd-thrillers, a new kind of romcom, and the weird and wonderful world of Eurovision

For years, one of the most important and iconic global cultural events has received scant attention in the States. Sure, we have singing competition shows aplenty from The Voice to the bizarro hellscape of The Masked Singer. Still, none can compete with the multilingual spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, thanks to Fire Saga, it may finally get the American audience it deserves. A full explainer is worth a read, but here are the basics. Every year in May, around 40 European (and some non-European) countries select a singer/band to represent them in the competition. Just consider it the singing Olympics. The best part? It doesn’t get more over the top than this. The most memorable performances typically feature a bombastic pop ballad paired with elaborate staging and outlandish costumes. The glitz and glamour are truly on another level. The finals this year are set for Sat, May 22 at 3 p.m. EST. Here’s how to join the fun. You can also catch up with clips from each eountry’s entry song and start picking your favorites. My money’s on Malta’s absolute BOP.

Anyway, here’s what’s new and noteworthy this week!

MOVIES: Together Together

Look, I get that some of you may not get hype for a romcom (get over it), but hear me out cuz this absolute gem features a rare type of love story rarely seen on screen. That’s because, well, the two leads—Anna (breakout comedian Patti Harrison) and Matt (Ed Helms)—are just friends. That’s right, for the whole movie! Matt is an unmarried, middle-aged app-designer, Anna an adrift barista in her twenties. The two meet after Matt chooses Anna as his surrogate and form a deep and tender bond as they navigate the pregnancy and their unlikely friendship. It has all the jokes and charm of your typical romcom, but the platonic love at its core makes it transcend the genre. It’s so nice, you’ll watch it twice (I did), so call your bestie ASAP and fire this one up. Available on VOD for $6.99.

Other Notable Releases: In the animated sci-fi flick The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Netflix), the world’s weirdest family on a cross-country road trip must save the human race from a robot apocalypse. In Those Who Wish Me Dead (HBO Max), a thriller starring Angelina Jolie and directed by the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, a teenage murder witness is pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness while a forest fire rages. 

TV: The Underground Railroad

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, written by Colson Whitehead, is one of the most celebrated books of the past decade. Barry Jenkins, the director of 2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight, is one of the most exciting auteurs working today. Combine the two and, well, that’s a formula for a truly special work of art. The 10-hour miniseries The Underground Railroad follows two young slaves who escape their Georgia plantation on a literal train to freedom while a slave catcher pursues them. It’s a stark and unflinching epic that perhaps only Jenkins, known for his distinct visual style and tender touch to traumatic subject matter, could have pulled off. Critics are hailing the series as a “triumph” and a “staggering achievement” sure to be one of the most memorable depictions of American slavery since Roots. No TV show demands your attention more this year. Available on Amazon Prime.

Other Notable Releases: The inimitable Jean Smart plays a legendary Vegas comedian mentoring an entitled, outcast twenty-something in the half-hour dramedy Hacks (HBO Max). In the miniseries Halston (Netflix), the iconic American fashion designer Halston (played by Ewan McGregor) skyrockets to fame before his life starts to spin out of control.

BOOKS: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Computer programmer turned nerd-thriller novelist Andy Weir loves to strand a man in space where the only path to rescue is SCIENCE. Remember The Martian potatoes? Curious how method Matt Damon went with that diet...anyway, after a middling sophomore effort, Weir is back with another equation and Dad-joke spewing astronaut, only this time he’s got amnesia and is hurtling toward an unknown destination. The stakes are pretty high. The sun is dimming. Extinction is just a few decades away. But wait, how did a high-school science teacher end up as humanity’s last hope? Discovering the answer is just one of many twists in Hail Mary, which levels up the weird and the science in The Martian when a “wacky new roommate” moves in. This suspenseful space yarn is a lot of fun, though I must warn y’all, much of the science went over my head. Just accepting the fact that I would die within 10 seconds if I got stuck up there.

Other Notable Releases: In the historical thriller Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian (author of The Flight Attendant), a young Puritan woman–faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul–plots her escape from a violent marriage. In Eric Nguyen’s debut novel Things We Lost in the Water, an immigrant Vietnamese family settles in New Orleans and struggles to remain connected to one another as their lives are inextricably reshaped.

MUSIC: St. Vincent - Daddy’s Home

Annie Clark, known professionally as St. Vincent, is a rock star, plain and simple. Few can shred so well and look so chic doing it. Her Bowie-esque, chameleonic style also means every album she puts out offers a whole new sonic world to explore. In her last album MASSEDUCTION, it was a pop-infused vision of the future. Daddy’s Home looks to the past for inspo, particularly the psychedelic funk of the 70s. Come for the nostalgic aesthetic, stay for another masterclass in versatility and surreal storytelling from one of the most consistently compelling artists working today. She even makes her own guitars. C’mon Clark, leave some cool leftover for the rest of us!

Other Notable Releases: Speaking of rock, The Black Keys are out with a cover album of Mississippi hill country blues songs, Delta Kream, celebrating the band’s roots with their hallmark soulful swagger. Over in Americana, mandolin wunderkind Sarah Jarosz releases the lovely and meditative 11-song cycle Blue Heron Suite inspired by childhood memories and the Gulf Coast landscape.

That's it for this week! If you have a friend who might like this, please forward it along, and if you got this from a friend, you can subscribe below.

Have a safe and culture-filled weekend,