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Five for Friday - May 14, 2021

Preston Sturges: The Criterion Channel has several of his films leaving at the end of the month, so I have been making my way through them. What is immediately clear is how much of a debt modern entertainment owes to his absurdist comedies. You can hear echoes of his approach to dialog and humor in Gilmore Girls, The Simpsons, 30 Rock and more. The pace at which Sturges fired off jokes is such that you almost have to rewind to catch them all. The Palm Beach Story has always been a particular favorite, despite the various aspects of it that are very much of its time (i.e., sexism and racism). Some of the films have supplements that add helpful context. But if you want to understand how we got to Swartzweldian humor, this is a good place to start. Speaking of rapid-fire comedies.

Girls5Eva: the ol' 'let's get the band back together' conceit, but with a millennial girl group twist, this is very much an incisive look at entertainment and how disposable much of it is, not to mention the women who are often the faces, and voices, of it. Everything about this just clicks. The pop culture satire. The withering takes on industry (and societal) sexism. The song parodies. Even the emotional payoff of the overarching storyline. Like Sturges, it can be a bit too fast paced at times, and the jokes sometimes overpower the plots. But there is real heart and optimism that runs through all of it. And it is the supporting and recurring cast that really shines, especially Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, and Dean Winters. All the more reason to sing its praises.

The Crime of the Century: Alex Gibney's latest documentary is a four-hour exploration of the opioid crisis in America. Although it doesn't break much new ground, it covers a lot, almost to the point where it feels a bit overstuffed. But along the way, Gibney constantly draws attention to the addiction that underpins a tragic phenomenon that has claimed thousands of lives: pure greed, whether that is the pharma companies who manufactured the pills or the politicians who took money from them and then clawed back regulations. There is no shortage of villains here. What is in short supply is solutions.

St. Vincent - Daddy's Home: The advance word on this was that Annie Clark had been listening a lot to her imprisoned, but now released, father's record collection and that meant stylistic nods to funk artists like Sly Stone. The final product has the signifiers of R&B--clavinets, electric sitars--but it is very much 70s art rock from the UK, like Pink Floyd and 10cc. Thematically, the narrative is human imperfection and how we try to get by, which is very on point for our pandemic times. But the music also feels like pandemic music. It is insular. It languishes. It is kind of hazy. I've only taken one pass through it, so my impressions are hazy too, but overall the album does adhere to the general ethos of the 70s music that inspired it. By that I mean it would sound really great in a shag-covered basement rec room festooned with lava lamps and Dark Side of the Moon posters.

Victor Willis writes open letter to The Weekend: This week, the 'cop' from the Village People, who also co-wrote their hits Macho Man, In The Navy, and Y.M.C.A., took the Blinding Lights singer to task for his boycott of the Grammys. In the letter, Willis told The Weeknd 'Young man, there's no need to feel down.'


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