What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend viewing
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
Alice in Borderland, Season 2
I have been watching Alice in Borderland and just finished the second season. A lot of people were watching Squid Game on Netflix, which posed a very good hypothetical: What if this thing happened where you either had to fight for your life or win a lot of money? Meanwhile, Alice in Borderland really explores the emotional relationships between all these people who are forced to play these games for their lives in a kind of post-apocalyptic universe. It's a science fiction thriller, it's on Netflix, and it's entirely in Japanese — which I actually enjoy because I feel like I don't really get the opportunity to watch a lot of foreign language properties. I just sit down and just blaze through this, enjoying every single minute of it.
— Ronald Young Jr.
Aftersun and After Yang
I am going to recommend two films from 2022 with similar titles, but are unrelated to one another except thematically they kind of are. The first one is Charlotte Wells' drama Aftersun and the other one is Kogonada's sci-fi drama After Yang. So Aftersun is a father-daughter drama. It's about a grown woman looking back on a vacation she took with her dad, played by Paul Mescal, about 20 years prior to the main action of the film. After Yang sees Colin Farrell in another one of his great performances, along with The Banshees of Inisherin last year. He plays a father in a family whose android has stopped functioning. His daughter is particularly attached to this android, so he needs to figure out what to do about it. I was so moved by both of them.
— Chris Klimek
Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Based on my general read of social media, there are a lot of us who have started going through some of the films that appeared on the recent version of the once per decade Sight and Sound poll of the Best Films of All Time. There was a lot of stuff about how the poll was shaken up and things got moved around. I mean, why wouldn't they every 10 years? I have a New Year's resolution to watch more movies that came out before I was born. I actually shifted that to movies that came out before I was 10 years old, because I realized I was not watching movies that were coming out when I was a small child.
So I started at the top, and I watched Jeanne Dielman, which is a movie from Chantal Akerman that came out in 1975. It's about a woman who is raising a son. She's a widow, and she supports herself by doing sex work in the afternoons before her son comes home for dinner. I did not look really into what this film was before I started watching it, nor did I look at how long it was. So I started to watch it, and I was like, wow, I've been watching this woman do chores for like half an hour. It's a pretty interesting movie and I'm really enjoying it. I wonder how much of this movie is this woman doing chores? Then I looked up how long it was, and it's three hours and 20 minutes.
If you listen to this show, you have heard me express frustration with overly long movies many, many, many times. My delight with this was that I was never bored by it. I never felt like I wanted to stop watching it. I never felt hurried, because in order to understand what happens to this woman in this film, you have to see her go through these rituals of making coffee, making dinner and folding the laundry. There's a long sequence where she peels potatoes. There's a long sequence where she breads veal.
Not only did I really enjoy watching this film, but I also really have enjoyed reading a bunch of different interpretations of it, some of which I agree with and some of which I think are a little bit off. It immediately began to resonate with other things that I was watching, in terms of the dignity of domestic labor and what gives meaning and value to different kinds of work. In some ways it's a movie about work. I think it can be intimidating to jump into a movie that feels very different from what you normally watch (this is very different from what I normally watch), but I want people to give it a try. I was not bored by this. I did not feel like it was a chore. I felt like I understood what the director was getting at. Right now it is on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.
— Linda Holmes
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
The Hollywood Reporter has done lots of these awards-season roundtables, but this year's round of actors — including Colin Farrell, Jeremy Pope, Ke Huy Quan, Austin Butler, Brendan Fraser and Adam Sandler — has some very nice moments.
In directing you to this very funny clip, I want to make it clear that I do not fault the Miss World contestants at all for how these moments came out. They have clearly been coached to be enthusiastic to the point of absurdity, and sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.
The celebrated film director Hirokazu Kore-eda created, and directed some episodes of, the new Netflix series The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. Based on a manga series, it's about two teenagers who go to Kyoto to become maiko, or apprentice geisha. (Geisha are entertainers who perform traditional songs and dances.) One of them discovers that her true calling lies in the preparation of food, and if you've seen some of Kore-eda's films (for instance, his moving 2008 drama Still Walking), you will not be surprised at the exploration of cooking as a calling as well as an act of communion. I'm only a couple of episodes into the series, but I'm enjoying it very much.
NPR's Teresa Xie adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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